Friday, April 30, 2010

Oil Spill In The Gulf of Mexico

American politicians (including the Obama administration) and the news media are focusing entirely on the wrong part of this disaster. They have already started playing the “blame game” trying to find someone evil to blame for not doing more to prevent this crude oil from reaching Louisiana. The sensationalist part.

This is more than just a total waste of energy and effort. Everyone involved is doing all they can do, which basically is not very much at all. This crude oil is going to foul the beaches and kill the shrimp and other wildlife in one of the nation's most beautiful and wild areas. The government and the media shouldn't be demoralizing everyone involved in the cleanup by already playing this negative-energy blame game.

Oil booms don't work in choppy sea waters, and dispersants are just chemicals like the laundry detergent that you put in your washing machine. Pouring many millions of gallons of these dispersant chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico may well end up harming the wildlife and being as much of an environmental disaster as the crude oil itself is.

Instead of this unproductive “blame game” the focus of attention should now be on how we as a society are going to change the regulatory environment and the laws in order to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. No doubt deregulation and self-regulation played a big part in this mega disaster. We must not forget that only a month ago the Obama administration opened up the flood gates for more offshore oil drilling in vast areas which had been prohibited for the last twenty years.

America can learn a lot from other oil countries like Norway. There are things that we can insist that the industry do which can make oil drilling much less likely to cause future pollution nightmares like this one. If we can briefly get over our national know-it-all and arrogance of thinking that we know more than anyone else about everything, we might learn something from the other advanced countries around the world.

We have been hearing a lot recently about polluting ground water by industry fracturing rock to recover more natural gas. The law of the land protects these people from having to worry about polluting the country's groundwater. We must prevent the problem from happening in the first place. Slamming the barn door after the horses have already escaped may make us feel good, but honestly it is pretty dumb.

Yes, the American government must be supportive and helpful to all the people whose livelihoods will be destroyed by this oil well blow out. Including funding their benefits adequately. Providing enough income to them to continue their existing standard of living. Equally important is to make certain that we stop this kind of pollution from oil drilling from ever happening again.

Please note that at the same time we need to also be focusing our attention on the downside risks of nuclear energy. Not just old underground pipes leaking radioactive water into the ground water, or core melt downs. But also decommissioning of these nuclear power plants, nuclear waste transportation and permanent storage, and the genuine terrorist threat of a dirty bomb. The risks from nuclear power are very real, and we need to face up to them.

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Environmental Disasters Just Waiting To Happen

The well blow out in the Gulf of Mexico near to Louisiana has shown me again that advanced degrees from famous universities don't make a person smart or teach them good judgment. Don't forget, George Bush Jr. graduated from Yale and Harvard Business School.

Barack Obama is intelligent and is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School. But he doesn't have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot.

Anyone with half a brain knows that opening the floodgates to offshore oil drilling is a guarantee of environmental disaster. The same goes for giving enormous government subsidies to the nuclear power industry so they can start building more nuclear power plants. For a politician to support either of these anti-environment policies, he has to be pretty naïve and not real bright, or he is on the take from the corrupt capitalists.

Sometimes I think that Barack Obama is just a Republican wannabe. He certainly is not a liberal or a progressive. If he were he would have supported single payer or at least the far weaker government option. And he would not have radically increased the killing and wasteful spending in Afghanistan. This fellow has not done much to advance the causes of women, poor and middle class people, or people of color. He loaded up his economics team with Bush and Wall Street liars and criminals, and he has followed their sick right-wing advice.

Obama talks a good game. He gives eloquent speeches. But talk is cheap. That old actor and red neck politician Ronald Rayguns could read his lines too; and the guy gave great speeches. The only problem was that his ideas were hard core right-wing and only favored the wealthy.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Texas Governor Perry Shoots A Coyote

As a third generation Texan I consider it both my right and my obligation to point out that our Governor, an ignorant red-neck by the name of Rick Perry, is not very bright and is a right-wing fanatic.

I disagree with him on almost all issues.

Recently he was out jogging early in the morning. A coyote will not attack a human unless he is rabid. This coyote was expressing an undue interest in Governor Perry's dog. The Guv had to shoot the poor coyote with his laser sighted hand gun in order to protect his canine buddy. I doubt that he enjoyed it much, even considering that Perry is a creep and a red neck.

I also take the dog out in the early mornings for some exercise. With the late stage leukemia I no longer jog, but we do walk well out into the desert. I once had to shoot a rattlesnake with the laser sighted concealed hand gun I carry because my doggie was far too interested in being aggressive with the snake. I felt really bad. It was my dog's fault, and yet the snake paid the price.

Then recently a pack of three coyotes stalked me and the doggie for several hundred yards as we were walking back to our Prius. I'm sure the coyotes viewed him as a potentially tasty little fat snack. Fortunately I didn't have to shoot the coyotes, but I was holding my laser sighted gun out in the open until the dog and I were actually back inside the car.

So lets be fair about this. Perry is a jerk-off and an asshole. He is not smart, and he is arrogant. Bush is a class act and is smart as hell compared to Perry. But I can't fault him for being armed, nor for killing a coyote who was endangering his doggie.

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Abuse of Illegal Immigrants

A young lady I know who has never lived outside of America recently brought to everyone's attention the fact that laws like the one recently enacted in Arizona make it much more likely that people who are in America without proper authority or permission will be subject to abuse and discrimination.

Duh! Yes, this is one of the problems with refusing to obey the rules and regulations of the dominant society. You become an outlaw. And living in the shadows you no longer are given all the protections that the society provides to its legal residents and citizens.

For 15 years I chose to live as an alien in a foreign country. I couldn't read the newspaper or my income tax form. I didn't speak the dominant language, so I had no idea what the TV newscaster was saying on the nightly news. I know from personal experience that anyone who wishes to immigrate to another country better be prepared quickly to learn to speak and read the dominant language of the host country. Anyone living in France but not speaking French, or living in Germany and not being fluent in German is at a terrific disadvantage. Its the same all over the world.

And if on top of that you are also in the country illegally, you have a major problem. Fortunately I was a legal resident alien, but I was a card carrying alien, for real. Periodically I had to go in and get grilled by the alien police. As long as I behaved myself I was allowed to remain in their country. But as soon as my employer was sold and I was out-of-work, the government told me that I would have to leave and return to my own country. They didn't want me abusing their generous social safety net.

I have worked immigrants for many years. Vietnamese who moved to south Louisiana, Mexicans who came to El Paso, and Tunisians who moved to the Netherlands. People who are willing to leave their country to better themselves and their families are for the most part exceptional people. But those individuals who refuse to assimilate and are determined not to learn the new language are doomed. Big time. My advice to these people who want to keep all of their original culture but take advantage of all the the opportunities in their new country is: Don't be a loser. Just stay home. You will be better off. So will your family. Honest.

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Avatar


Avatar was finally released on CD this week. I just finished watching it. I can see why it is the highest grossing movie of all time.

There simply are not enough superlatives in the the English language to do justice to this movie. I can't add anything on to what everyone else has said. James Cameron has rung the bell, that's for sure!


LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)


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Offshore Oil Drilling

The continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico near to New Orleans is now being called the “biggest oil spill in the world.” NOAA says the latest estimates are that at least 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day of crude oil is gushing into the water about 50 miles (80 km) from Louisiana's coast.

Take a look at this map made by the U.S. Government. Particularly note all the wildlife reserves which are nearby. This is an incredibly beautiful area. When I was Plant Manager of the nation's largest sweet potato cannery I lived on the Gulf coast in far southern Louisiana. I scuba dived in the Gulf nearby. The area is very sensitive environmentally.

Same subject, just a different chapter and verse. I worked in President Obama's campaigns in both the primary and general election campaigns. But in the past 1-1/2 years I have come to be very embarrassed by having supported the man.

He gave up on single-payer and the far weaker government-option in health care without even a small fight. He has provided a great emotional boost and billions of dollars of financial support to the nuclear power industry. He has radically increased troop staffing levels in Afghanistan, and he has not closed down Guantanamo much less all the secret jails and the torture still taking place. Many people worry that all the killings by our unmanned drones constitutes a war crime, but this ex-constitutional lawyer doesn't seem to be one bit worried about it. He loaded up his economic staff with ex-Wall Street and Bush capitalist liars and crooks; Obama stopped listening to and then ran off all the progressive and liberal economists. He has not supported internet neutrality. So far not even one reform to the excesses of Wall Street has been mandated.

And most recently President Obama opened up vast stretches of close-to-shore areas for oil drilling. Even George Bush Jr. and the fanatic right-wing didn't have the balls to do this! The positions that President Obama has supported are those that the Republican party was taking a very few years ago. Barack Obama is not a liberal or a progressive. He may talk like one, but this is simply dishonest spin. Obama's actual behavior is that of an ignorant, red neck Republican. Talk is cheap Barack.

So Mr. Obama, watch real close to what is happening with the oil spill in the Gulf. This is what your policies will cause. Get your head out of your ass President Obama!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Massacre in Mexico Continues


The massacre in Juarez, Mexico is continuing to grow. Comparing the period January through April, the deaths due to the corruption and drug violence were 2008 – 267; 2009 – 552; 2010 – 786.

What we are seeing is the ultimate response to rampant government dishonesty and corruption, and a complete disregard for the rule-of-law.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The National Debt

Politicians and some economists are concerned about the long term effects of America having so much national debt. They are wringing their hands and setting up commissions to try and figure out what needs to be done.

It is simple. Honest.

The Roman Empire and many other world powers eventually lost it because of their out of control spending on foreign military entanglements. Useless and unnecessary wars. Pretending to be the world's policeman. America is well on its way down this slope.

We should cut spending on the military, military hardware and bases, nuclear and all other weapons of war, and all the various national intelligence agencies like the CIA by 25%. Almost magically the problem will be solved. Overnight.

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President Felipe Calderon vs. Arizona Immigration Law

The President of Mexico has joined the chorus of politicians, corrupt American businessmen, and people with legitimate civil right concerns in condemning the new law in the American state of Arizona which says that Police have both the right and the duty to detain people that they suspect might be illegal immigrants.

Calderon is a smart guy, but here the influence of the Mexican culture shines through clearly. In essence he is saying that it is perfectly OK for his countrymen to disobey those American laws which they don't approve of while they are visiting the USA. Just like most other civilized countries, American law says that foreigners have to follow certain well defined procedures to become a green card carrying resident alien, get permission to legally work, or eventually become a citizen.

This would be like President Obama telling American citizens that it is perfectly OK for Americans to disobey the local laws they don't like when they are living or traveling abroad. And then Obama coming out openly and criticizing the other country when they detain American visitors for disobeying the local laws. It shows that President Calderon, like most of his fellow Mexicans, has a complete ignorance and contempt for the concept of rule-of-law.

The Arizona law may indeed go way too far. Perhaps it will result in American citizens of Mexican ancestry or people of color being treated unfairly. I lived abroad for many years, both in Germany and in The Netherlands. It is the law that one always carries one's passport when abroad in order to verify both who you are and also your citizenship. I got used to doing this.

Now that I have moved back to America I still never leave the house without my driver's license and my U.S. Government passport card, which proves that I am an American citizen. And I am a light skinned gringo. No policeman would mistake me for a Mexican, but I carry this identification anyway. Any American citizen who is concerned about being detained or discriminated against needs to make certain that he always has proof of citizenship with him.

In this era after 911 when we are spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money fighting extremist terrorism, and we are still forcing people to remove their shoes when going through airport security, it is simply not reasonable to blandly say that it is alright for people coming from Mexico to pick and choose which American laws they will obey. The reasons Mexico is well on its way to being a failed state are (1) corruption and dishonesty, and (2) wanton bribery of government officials and disrespect for the concept of rule-of-law.

For some reason the importance of the concept of rule-of-law just never seems to have caught on in Mexico.

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Star Gazing






The dog and I went out in the back yard this morning at 3:00 a.m. so that I could try to get a couple of good moon pictures. The moon is currently in the constellation Virgo (known as the maiden), is waxing gibbous at 13.58 days old, and the disk is 98% illuminated.

I have noticed that there are two very different experiences in amateur astronomy. Sometimes I take the big telescope out at night (or a good set of binoculars and a lawn chair) to look at the planets and their moons. Here I experience the beauty and wonder of it all. Other times I go out to do astrophotography. In this instance I am focused on all the technical aspects of the camera settings, proper exposure, camera shake, etc. so that I can take a nice picture for others to enjoy. Tonight I got to experience both. I was doing astrophotography, I happened to glance up, and a really bright meteor went streaking across the night sky. What a thrill!

I own a number of good aluminum tripods, but none of them can hack it when using a really heavy and long lens and a big DSLR camera. The dampening action of aluminum is terrible. Camera shake just goes on and on. Tonight I was using a very long lens. The only usable tripod I have for this application is a massive old homemade wooden tripod, which is just as stable as a rock. I constructed it from 2x4's and then put a really fine adjustable head on the top of it.

For my fellow nerd and geek colleagues, tonight I was shooting with a Nikon D300s DSLR camera in 14 bit raw, manual exposure. Rather than using a cable release to activate the shutter (which I have found will cause lens shake) I used an infrared remote. But the D300s doesn't have this capability you say. Yes, my spare battery holder has infrared sensor built into it. The lens I used has a focal length of 2600mm, so with this camera and sensor size the focal length in 35mm format is 3900mm. I was shooting at a shutter speed of 1/60 second, CMOS light sensitivity of ISO 400, and an effective aperture of f/30. The lens is an Opteka LR1300HD with a 2.0X teleconverter.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

European Political Language

Taking the language of European politics, I certainly am not a conservative (barf). In England the labor party in some ways mimics the Democratic party in the USA. Both often behave in a far more conservative fashion than the majority of their voters would like.

The Christian Democrats don't believe in the separation of church and state, and they are filled with prosperous (read ignorant and greedy) businessmen. They don't much like foreigners or immigrants, and they deeply believe that there should be a large crucifix prominently on display in every state-run classroom.

The Green Party is nice, but it is one that has an altogether excessively narrow focus. The environment is indeed very important, but it is only one of the important issues which society needs to deal with. Of course 100 years from now when Global Warming has radically decreased the quality of life worldwide there may be people who say that this is the only issue of any importance.

Liberal Democrats is a phrase which seems to sit well. In England they are a tiny minority party, but they sure chose a nice name. I certainly am not one of those disgusting and repulsive right-wing conservatives. I am a Liberal and proud of it. I am a liberal who tries to live his life by Progressive principles.

Democracy is a pretty vague term which means radically different things to various people. But in general I take it to mean a government which is run “by the people and for the people.” The average people, not the top 1% of richest liars and thieves. People with all shades of skin color; the well educated as well as those who didn't do so well in school. Both men and women, and people who do not hold any religious beliefs as well as those moderates who do have faith in some sacred gobbly-gook and the powerful holy men who control their churches/synagogues/mosques.

The Republican Party in America has become a sick parody; a revolting joke which stands solidly in the way of almost everything. Their main belief seems to be Do Nothing, and certainly don't help anyone who doesn't have white skin and is not a Christian. They really like the Wall Street philosophy, and many Republican politicians hope to become one of them after they leave politics.

The Democratic Party in America used to be about improving society and insuring social justice and fairness for everyone. But in order to get/stay elected they have gradually shifted towards the right-wing. The Democrats now mostly appear to just be Republicans with a different name. They are no longer staunchly anti-war, pro-environment, against nuclear energy, or strongly in favor of social justice for poor people and people of color. No, I can't honestly say that most Democratic politicians behave in the manner that I feel is appropriate.

If I were King and I was going to re-do the American political landscape I would include a strong majority for the political party called the Liberal Democrats.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blood Tests

CLL or chronic lymphocytic leukemia is not curable. That is how most of the honest articles on CLL begin. Even so, informed patients find it useful to track the trends of various things in their blood like white blood cells, platelets, and the various indicators of how one's immune system is functioning. When I was diagnosed with CLL I was living in northern Europe. This is a civilized place where virtually everyone has access to health care. So for many years I kept track in a spreadsheet of my various blood tests.

Just over three years ago I early-retired and moved back to America. Of course I was declared to be uninsurable by the fu%&ing insurance companies due to having this pre-existing condition of leukemia. So I have not seen a doctor in several years.

I recently found out that one can get the same blood tests performed, without having to pay an outrageous fee to some greedy hematologist or oncologist. It is neat, you just pay for the blood tests by credit or debit card then go into your local blood lab where they draw the blood samples and do the testing. Here in El Paso, Texas I am using LAB Corp to actually draw the blood and run the tests. Then I get the test results on the web from Personal Labs.

This is how it all should work. The customer is the person with CLL. The service provider or seller is the clinic or the specialist doctor and his staff. The customer pays the bills and calls the shots. The seller does what the customer asks. Just like with a good car mechanic or car salesman. The customer is king.

For $29.95 they are doing a CBC with diff and platelet test. This includes hematocrit, hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume MCV, MCH, and MCHC, red cell distribution width (RDW), percentage and absolute differential counts, red cell count, white blood cell count, etc.

This is really a good deal. In my judgment it is one of the few reasonably priced services available in America within the medical profession. On the web go to personalabs.com

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Golden Age

I have been really lucky. I was born half way through the 20th century. We didn't know in the 1960s and 1970s that we were living in the Golden Age.

When I was growing up it was not normal for the Mother to work. It certainly was not a financial necessity that she do so in most cases. Thus kids for the most part were raised by their own parents and grandparents, not by some day care center and/or the TV-Internet.

In my childhood the company my father worked for was a good company, but not exceptional. He had a non-union job, but even so he had fully company paid health insurance which covered the whole family, and the deductibles or co-pay were trivially small. He had a good pension plan, and the company paid for this too. The workers were expected to take their vacation each year, so that the whole family could get to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Painted Desert, and Disneyland. Yes, my Dad worked hard, and he was loyal to the company. In return the company treated its employees well and always fairly.

Antibiotics were readily available, and the diseases how not yet morphed into the types of bacteria which were resistant to virtually all safe antibiotics. For us teenagers of the 1960s, female birth control and the pill were readily available, and no one had ever heard of HIV/AIDS. So for a very brief interval the concept of “free love” was a reality. Even for us nerds and geeks.

Meals were cooked at home from real food, and were not highly processed or filled with various chemicals. Kids mostly walked to school with no fear of rape or kidnapping. Priests were not sexually molesting the boys in their congregations. Clean drinking water was mostly available to everyone in the developed world, as were flush toilets and sewage treatment plants. Everyone had electricity and a refrigerator, so foods did not spoil so rapidly.

There have been real improvements made in communication namely cell phones and the internet.

But there have been many areas where we have lost ground. Employers no longer have any sort of unwritten moral contract with their employees to treat them fairly and properly. It is now clear that almost all companies only care about greed and profitability. Many millions of Americans no longer have any health insurance, and most workers certainly do not have an adequate company paid retirement program. Children are raised by day care and the TV because both of their parents have to work just to get by. Much of the country's manufacturing base has moved overseas and the good jobs which allowed workers to make a living wage have mostly gone by the wayside. In much of the country it is no longer safe for kids to walk to school.

In our idealism of the late 1960s and early 1970s we had no idea that the Golden Age was relentlessly rushing to a very bad ending.

I see no sign at all that mankind is going to do the necessary to prevent severe global warming. Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, and people keep driving their big SUVs. It is more than possible that some suicidal, religious fanatic terrorist group is eventually going to either get their hands on a nuclear weapon or a “dirty” bomb, and then actually detonate it. Capitalism and greed are making the world's economy swing through incessantly stronger boom and bust cycles as national economies become more and more unstable. What we see happening to Mexico and Greece is just a prequel to the dishonesty and corruption coming to America. Obesity is becoming the norm, and internet addiction is not uncommon. Gorillas, bonobos, dolphins, polar bears, tigers, and many other wonderful and intelligent animals are becoming extinct. The Amazon rain forest continues to be cut down to enable agribusiness to grow more soybeans for more processed foods. Coral reefs are dying around the planet as the oceans become warmer and more acidic from all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I feel genuinely sorry for the kids of the twenty first century. These are not just words, I really do feel sad that my son is not going to have as good a life as I had. I do not have a strong conviction that the youth of today have the moral strength to fix these problems either. My forecast for the future therefore is almost entirely negative. What a pity. It really could have been different.

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Saturday Morning

Yesterday I went over to a blood lab and had blood taken. They are going to run tests for the things that leukemia patients care about. I should get the results by email early next week.

This morning the dog and I went out for a walk in the desert. It was a bit cold and really windy, so I did not bring a good camera with me. We were about a mile from the nearest house. Naturally since I only had my cell phone camera we saw something neat: A beautiful bright green bird, a bit smaller than your typical little brown job. I don't know anything about birds, but it looked like a parakeet to me. I didn't even try to get his pic on the cellphone; I just enjoyed the view.

Then we went down to the flea market in Socorro, Texas. Not many other fools were there because of the cool weather and the high winds. We said hi to some friends of ours, then bought two burritos.

Next we went down to the central plaza in San Elizario. We were so close to Mexico that my cellphone chose to use the Mexican cellular network rather than AT&T. They are having an art fair there, and I bought two more of the custom “green man” pots. This is the weekend that they are celebrating in San Elizario the first thanksgiving in North America. This celebration by the Spanish explorer Don Juan de Onate took place on April 30, 1598. Since this significantly predates the thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims it has caused a certain amount of controversy back east. But not here. In El Paso it is just taken as an accepted historical fact.

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The Cove

I have the utmost praise for this documentary. It is without any doubt one of the most socially important movies to have come out in many years. The Cove documents the Japanese slaughter of dolphins. If you don't watch any other movie this year, see The Cove.

Ric O'Barry was the dolphin trainer in the 1960s who trained the wild dolphins who would play the role of “Flipper” on TV. Now he works full time as an advocate on behalf of dolphins. He was a leading force behind this movie.

This chilling documentary shows the slaughter of 20,000 dolphins by the Japanese every year. This is such a serious issue that it almost makes me want to give up my Nikon cameras, Toyota Prius, and Sony stereo. Honestly. These creepy Japanese bastards have no soul.

The Cove won the U.S. Audience Award at the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival in January 2009. It was selected out of the 879 submissions in the category. On March 7, 2010 The Cove won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.

In addition to Sundance and the Academy Award, The Cove has already won many other awards:

62nd Writers Guild Awards (2009) - Best Documentary Feature Screenplay (February 20, 2010)
Directors Guild Awards (2009) - Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary, Directors Guild of America (January 31, 2010)
National Board of Review - Best Documentary, (December 3, 2009)
15th BFCA Critics' Choice Awards (2009) - Best Documentary Feature, Critics' Choice Awards in Los Angeles (January 15, 2010)
Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards (2009) - Allan King Documentary Award (December 16, 2009)
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards (2009) - Best Documentary Feature (December 16, 2009)
Newport Beach Film Festival (2009) - Audience Award for Best Documentary
New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) - Best Documentary (December 13, 2009)
Sheffield Doc/Fest (2009) - The Sheffield Green Award (November 8 2009)



LINK: http://www.takepart.com/thecove

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

McAfee Screws Up

On one of my computers I was using the McAfee virus protection software. It had almost two years left on the subscription, for which I had paid handsomely. But I completely removed the McAfee software from this computer today.

Their latest update which has totally disabled many thousands of computers is completely unforgivable. The person(s) responsible of course needs to be fired. This is so serious it may well cause the death knell of the company. To replace the McAfee anti virus software I installed the AVG anti-virus software.

Some things can be forgiven, but not this. If this were a marriage you might call this an irreconcilable difference.

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The Dali Lama on Twitter


I follow the Dali Lama's tweets on Twitter. Times have changed...us old geezers feel quite comfortable with this 21st century technology.


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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dreams

Last night I dreamed I was the new Pope. I am not a catholic, so this was a bit strange.
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There was none of the perversion, negativity, or child sexual molestation going on in my dream, just me being all powerful and wonderful. Sort of like when Mel Brooks said, “Its good to be the king.”
(LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_World,_Part_I#.E2.80.9CIt.E2.80.99s_good_to_be_the_king.E2.80.9D )

Actually it was rather nice having everyone kiss my ass and see to my every need. But it was just a dream. And then I woke up because I needed to go take a pee.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Shopping Bag With Wooden Handles




This kind of reusable cloth shopping bag is far easier to carry because of the wooden handles. They are very common in Europe, and are readily available. I have looked all over the internet and I can't seem to find any of these for sale in America.

Amazon.co.uk in Britain has a couple of them listed, but they won't ship this particular item to the U.S.A. I have even found various Chinese manufacturers which make these, but not any way to buy 2 or 3 of them here in America.

If anyone knows where I can buy this style of reusable cloth shopping bag in America I would sure appreciate them contacting me.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Childhood's End


I am in the middle of reading Childhood's End which was written by Arthur C. Clarke. It first appeared as a short story in 1950 and then came out in book format in 1953. So this is a science fiction book that is as old as I am (61) and yet is not terribly dated.
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The edition I'm reading is the thirty-third printing, dated February 1976. I just realized that is the month and year that my son was born.

This is a really good book, which has had great impact on many other science fiction writers and stories.

It doesn't have very much to do with the plot or the story, but I find this quote on page 74 interesting: “The creeds that had been based upon miracles and revelations had collapsed utterly. With the rise of education they had already been slowly dissolving...” and “...a man's beliefs were his own affair, so long as they did not interfere with the liberty of others.”






LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood%27s_End

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Keep Buggering On

The latest episode of Doctor Who has the British prime minister Winston Churchill frequently uttering the abbreviation KBO and the phrase “keep buggering on.” I did a little research and found that this is absolutely true.

I sometimes am suspect of the latest in political incorrectness. America is becoming such a bunch of creepy old puritans.

Imagine President Obama frequently uttering a cute little catch phrase like KBO. This level of freedom of speech is no longer possible in America. Maybe it would be in Australia, but not in the land of the free and the brave.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Authorities Complicit in Creel Killings

This video is amazing and chilling. Its important. Please watch it.
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Paying The Doctor With Your Own Money

It is nice that the government in Washington, D.C. has finally approved President Obama's “health care ultralight” law. This law doesn't include single payer or a vigorous public option, so it is mostly a gigantic government handout to the health insurance industry. It will help some people who previously were uninsured. But for most of us who are classified as uninsurable, waiting until 2014 seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

This morning I was thinking about what a different mindset one has when one's health insurance pays the doctors, clinics, and pharmacists compared with when you are paying yourself. When it is your own money on the line, the first question you ask at a doctor's office is, “How much will this visit cost me?”

The medical profession is not at all used to this attitude, so it is natural that they answer you with all sorts of vague (mostly dishonest) responses, none of which actually tell you with any degree of certainty how much you are really going to have to pay for this visit or this service that you plan to receive from the doctor.

When you buy most things as a consumer you are entitled to know exactly how much it will cost you before you make any purchase decisions. Whether you are in the supermarket, you are buying a house or car, a new computer or TV, in your role as the buyer you have many legal and cultural rights. The foremost of these rights is: How much is this going to cost?

After going to the dentist the other day, and basically being refused service because I have leukemia, at least the dentist gave me a prescription for some antibiotics to help deal with an infected tooth. I went to Walgreens where they wanted about $16- to fill the prescription. I declined and went to Walmart where they charged me $4- for this same medication. If insurance had been paying I sure would not have gone to this trouble.

Doctors are used to being treated as Gods. When you are using your own money to pay them you think of them as service providers. Like a good electrician, refrigeration technician, automobile mechanic, or plumber. Physicians take genuine offense at this, but that is their own problem. If they spend very much of their professional time prescribing boner pills to men who can't get it up when sleeping with old women, or anti-depressants to people who are leading boring, miserable, and unfulfilled lives I don't see a great deal of difference between them and your corner drug dealer.

Performance becomes critical when you are paying with your own money. An orthopedic doc can fix a broken bone, and a dentist can fill that cavity or extract that bad tooth. These are genuine solutions to big problems.

When the cardiologist or hematologist keeps trying out different medications in an attempt to reduce your blood pressure, and without you as the buyer (patient) having much certainty about the effect this will have on extending your lifespan, it all begins to shift a bit in the direction of black magic and blood letting. Faith, rosary beads, miracles, etc.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

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This is not your parent's Sherlock Holmes for sure. But its good...really good. I recommend it highly.

I can see why it won so many awards.



LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes_(2009_film)

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April 15

The brand new ship named the Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight on April 14 and sank early in the morning on April 15.

April 15 is also tax day in the USA.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Purple



I saw this wildflower out in the Chihuahuan desert near El Paso, Texas this morning.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arrest The Pope?

I read this morning that there is a campaign going on in the UK to arrest the Pope of the Catholic Church the next time he visits Britain. The leaders of this group say that “The institutionalized concealment of child abuse is a crime under any law.”

Just thinking about this makes me feel a little uncomfortable. But if some other large worldwide organization were violating laws regarding drugs, coal mining, the environment, automobile safety, or tax evasion there would be no reason why the group's leader would not be charged.

It seems a bit harsh, but I suppose one could paint a picture of the Catholic Church making itself exempt from taxation so that it can pursue its various goals. They certainly are very charismatic, good salesmen, perhaps even good con men. If along the way some serious laws are broken, I guess there really isn't any good reason why society shouldn't hold the top man accountable.

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Chris Rock on Bill Maher Show

You should watch this short video. It is funny and irreverent yet immensely intelligent.
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Friday, April 09, 2010

Tiger Woods

I don't care whether Tiger is yellow, red, brown, or white. His race is irrelevant. I can only see his incredible arrogance. He is the absolute worst example of a person being totally self centered. Frankly I am tired of hearing about him or seeing him. I just wish he would go away.
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video

The Economics of Global Warming

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that not only is human-caused global warming very real, mankind is facing a situation that could actually end up being apocalyptic. Before we can deal with trying to solve this problem we have to come up with an intellectual consensus on a couple of issues:

First, how much will all this cost, i.e., will the cost be manageable, or will it be so expensive that it will stop all development, thus reducing the developed economies back to lifestyle of the dark ages?

Second, China is now a larger polluter than the U.S.A., and will continue to get even more important to the solution to global warming than America. India is coming along too. So how can mankind implement policies which will have worldwide impact, not just in the economies of America and Europe?

Transportation is not the biggest part of the problem. Coal is. Whether in America, Europe, or China the burning of coal to produce electricity is growing very rapidly. This creates carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gasses. And “clean coal” is just a fantasy marketing phrase which bears almost no relationship to reality.

The Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman has written an excellent paper which in a very straightforward fashion looks at this problem. It should be required reading for all college economics students, and all science and engineering students.


LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/magazine/11Economy-t.html?pagewanted=all

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Joseph P. Garland

Joseph Percival Garland was born on September 28, 1878 in Waco, Texas which is about 75 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth. Texas had previously been a slave state, and seventeen years earlier in 1861 Texas had seceded from the United States. That of course didn't work out so well. My grandfather wasn't involved in the civil war, but his father and uncle were. They had both been colonels in the Army of the Confederate States of America.

My grandfather and his wife had many children, and in 1914 (when he was 36 years old) they had their last child. My father Benjamin Hadley Garland was born on November 19, 1914 in Paris, Texas which is about 80 miles northeast of Dallas.

In 1953 when my grandfather was 75 years old he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In private he discussed his medical situation with my Dad. You can be certain that he had felt ill for some time, and that he was well aware he had a major medical problem. After talking with the doctors, no doubt he realized that the cancer would soon spread to his brain, just like it did with George Harrison. He told my father that he didn't want his medical bills to be a burden on the family financially. With his disease being incurable his logic made a great deal of sense. No doubt he did not want to find himself in the horrible situation where his brain gave out before his body did.

Most animals can tolerate an amazing amount of pain. I was diagnosed with leukemia 7 years ago, and the cancer has continued to grow. I am now experiencing what sometimes is called late-stage leukemia. The immune system is compromised, and secondary cancers become far more likely now. It has become rather painful too. But whether you are a dog or a human, one can actually tolerate a surprising amount of pain and continue to function pretty normally.

My grandfather was a strong man. He decided to put a bullet in his head rather than destroy the family financially and also risk the possibility of the cancer spreading to his brain and robbing him of the possibility of self determination. I am convinced that he did not kill himself out of any kind of weakness or fear of pain. He made a logical and ethical choice that only a very strong person could make: Do what he needed to do to protect the family; and Do it before the cancer spread to his brain.

In 1953 he put a .32 caliber semi automatic to his head and pulled the trigger. This was a gun they had bought during WWII from a medic. I remember the day my grandfather died very well, complete with vivid color memories. I was three years old at the time.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

iPad Smash Video



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. My sentiments exactly.
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Monday, April 05, 2010

The Lost Room


The Lost Room is a TV miniseries which ran on the SciFi channel in 2006. I bought the DVDs from Amazon, and I have gradually been working my way through it. I just finished the last episode.

It is thrilling, and is fully believable even though intellectually one knows that it is completely impossible. The Lost Room is without a doubt one of the finest science fiction series that I have ever watched.


LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Room

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Digital Moon Photography with Nikon Cameras





The moon was looking particularly nice this morning just before sunrise at 58% of full, waning gibbous. So I decided to take a few pictures. I did them all hand held assisted, which means I was shooting hand held, but it was leaning up against a rock wall to stabilize everything and reduce blur due to camera shake.

First I used my Nikon P100. This is a new high end point-and-shoot with mega-zoom. In equivalents to 35mm focal length this camera goes out to 678mm. The sensor is a back lit CMOS which is bigger than what you have in a cell phone camera, but smaller than what Nikon uses with their DX series of digital SLRs. It has the very newest and most exotic vibration reduction built in.

Then I took the same pics with my D300s, using a 70-300mm Nikkor zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 450mm focal length. It has a CMOS sensor and is their top of the line prosumer in the DX series. This particular lens does not have vibration reduction.

I cropped and enlarged both to roughly the same size in Photoshop elements 8 and did some work on levels, desaturation, and lighting.

I can see things I like about both, but honestly all things considered I think the P100 comes really close to the D300s. No doubt if you put a 450mm VR lens on the D300s it would be better. But for this application, essentially hand held, the P100 is really almost equivalent. When you consider the amount of money I have invested in the D300s and its lens, versus the P100, it is really quite obvious which is the more prudent purchase.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Martin Luther King

The Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. That was forty one years ago.

Since then we have seen America take a very negative and destructive pathway. It became socially and politically incorrect to discriminate against negroes or use negative or pejorative words to describe them. So the racists and right wing folks took another tactic. During the Ronald Reagan administration the war on drugs began in earnest. Except the police and the courts didn't go after white middle class suburban drug dealers hardly at all; it was intentionally designed as a way to suppress black black people, disinfranchise them, and keep them in check. To make sure they "know their place."

America began imprisoning large numbers of black men for non-violent crimes like marijuana possession. The USA has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison inmates. One in 100 Americans are behind bars, but 1 in 9 African American men aged 20 to 34 are behind bars. Yet according to government statistics illegal drug use is no higher in the black community than among whites.

The most recent Bill Moyers show on PBS dealt with Martin Luther King and this issue.

Today in communities of color across America, large majorities of African American men have been branded criminals, felons for life. And as a result, many are denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to public education-- public benefits. Many of the forms of discrimination we thought we left behind in the Jim Crow Era are legal again, once you've been branded a criminal.
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Bryan Stevenson pointed out that these are not inevitable policies:
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We didn't have to incarcerate people for 10, 20, 30, 40 years for simple possession of marijuana, for drug use. We didn't have to do that. We made choices around that. And now the consequences are devastating. I think they're not only devastating from a political perspective, but — I think this is the way I think it relates to Jim Crow, as well — it's also been devastating within communities of color. Right now, for black men in the United States, there's a 32 percent chance you're going to jail or prison. In poor communities and minority communities, urban communities, rural communities, it could be 60 percent or 70 percent. You're born, you're a ten-year-old kid. There's a 70 percent chance that you're going to go to jail and prison. What does that do to you?
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This show is shattering to the idea that black people in general have made great strides since the civil rights era. There have been a few notable famous people who have done well like Barack Obama, but the average working class black person feels as helpless now as they did in the late 1950s. Maybe even worse.

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.” - Martin Luther King

If you didn't get to watch this show, you can watch it via the web. This is really important; honest. Please take the time to watch this show.

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LINK: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04022010/watch.html

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Southern Border

As Mexico continues to spiral downward into anarchy I am moving closer and closer to supporting a fence along our entire southern border. This is a big change for me, but considering the lawlessness in Mexico and the corruption in the Mexican government, law enforcement, and military personnel I think it may be the only effective way to go.

I saw the Berlin wall back when it was active, and again many years later after it fell. I now live just a few miles north of Juarez and the border with Mexico; so I have given this matter a lot of thought.

We don't need some expensive high tech “virtual” fence, not just a tank-trap fence, not zillions of helicopters, unmanned drone aircraft, and not lots of new and highly corruptible border patrol agents in their big SUVs. Just a tall, strong, honest fence. Like Israel is putting up to protect itself from the Palestinian insanity.

Border patrol agents, large tethered balloons with radar machinery on board, and most of the rest are just expenses. We spend the money now, and we have nothing to show for it next year. A proper wall is a genuine investment which will help the country over a span of many years.

It is time to give up any hope that Mexico will solve its battle with corruption. The time has come to simply try and stop the infection from spreading north to America.

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Protecting Your Children From Pedophiles

How to protect your kids from pedophile priests:




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The iPad Sucks

This is why only big time fools who are totally sucked into the Apple marketing blitz will buy this machine:

It doesn't have a card reader.
It doesn't have a USB port.
It doesn't have a true keyboard.
It doesn't have a camera.
It doesn't have a webcam.
It doesn't have a hard drive.
It doesn't support Adobe flash.

To upgrade the memory on the iPad from 16gb to 32gb the price goes up $100-. This should cost about $30 to $40.

When your battery dies, you as a mere owner, customer, or user are not permitted to change it. You send your machine back to Apple, and for $100- they send you back someone else's used machine with a new battery in it. Honest, they don't even send you back your own machine.

There are lots of small laptops for sale at the moment with about the same size screens selling for about $300 - $400. These machines have a proper keyboard and you can close the case to safely transport it. The iPad is completely bare; just asking to get broken.

You can load actual programs on these other machines. Adobe photoshop, etc. etc.

If you have any brains you will buy a 10 inch netbook. Asus, Acer, Dell, and lots of other people are making great machines. The user can change the battery on all of them, they have USB ports, card readers, web cams, and actual keyboards. You can load other company's software on them too.

The iPad is sexy proof that you have more money than brains. It appears good if all you want to do is read things. Read the news or your email. But if you want to actually do something, or create something, the performance of the iPad falls far short of these other small machines. So if you want to prove that you are both arrogant and stupid, buy an iPad and go flaunt it in a conspicuous consumption manner at Starbucks. Elementary Watson.
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Friday, April 02, 2010

Obama's Disconnect

When President Barack Obama speaks he comes across as a very intelligent, well educated, and caring progressive. A liberal Democrat who has ethics, morals, and a strong backbone. He is a great orator. His talk is real good.

His actions are the problem. Once he is out of the public's view he does a complete about-face and makes decisions which are reminiscent of an ass kissing center-right Republican who wants to please Wall Street and the super wealthy. He gave us a very wimpy health care program. Obama is heavily pro-nuclear, more pro-drilling than the oil man Mr. Bush, he still has not come through with any meaningful financial reforms, and he is a total/complete warmonger who has increased the number of troops to almost triple what we had under Bush II.

So why the disconnect? First off, Mr. Obama is not a messiah. He is a politician. Obama most certainly is not a statesman; he is merely a Chicago politician. He is most comfortable when making secret back room deals. He seems just a little bit sleazy. Kind of slimy. But really smart. In fact Obama is so smart that John McCain, John Boehner, and George Bush II all look like retards in comparison. He is so smart that he keeps tricking the progressives and liberals into supporting him.

OK, I admit it. I like Mr. Obama as a person. But I couldn't possibly vote again for a man who continually sells out progressives and liberals, and makes right wing decisions like this gentleman does.

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Needless Wars

If anyone needed any proof that President Barack Obama is really a Republican at heart, one only has to look to Afghanistan. He has increased troop levels tremendously. These are the actions of a warmonger getting mired deeper and deeper in the Vietnam like mess.

Obama's words are good. Whether on the environment, health care, Wall Street, or the useless wars. His words are fine; it is his actions that are the problem. He talks like a moderate progressive, but his actions are those of center right Republicans. He said that the war in Afghanistan was not winnable unless the Karsai government got corruption under control. Not only have they not, now President Karsai is saying that the the Americans and the U.N. were the ones responsible for all the fraud in the recent election in Afghanistan.

Obama should simply withdraw all of the U.S. troops and all of the U.S. financial aid. But of course he won't...the Obama story line will simply morph a little more.

Americans should feel horrible shame for all the killing and injuries we have caused in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

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Illegal Immigration or Immigration Reform

The health care debate was pretty easy and clear cut. If you were a Republican you did everything you could to derail any kind of reform. I want mine, and just screw all the folks who die needlessly because they are excluded from receiving basic health care. Is health care an inherent human right that all people should receive, or is it a privilege that only the harder working and more successful social classes should have access to?

Immigration reform is far more complex. Should we totally seal the southern border with tall fences and the military? Or should we be prepared to grant amnesty and American citizenship to millions of people who in some cases can't speak or read English, who ignored our laws, and snuck into America on an undocumented basis?

We should make every effort to be humane; not breaking families apart, etc. We should also treat those people who adhere to the rule-of-law better than those who scoff at America's laws. The breakdown we are seeing in Mexico is largely due to massive corruption and ignoring the idea of rule-of-law. These immigration questions invite strong emotional responses.

This is a recent newspaper article about the subject. I do not fully endorse this article, nor do I fully disagree with it. But I can certainly sympathize with both the people who live along the southern border and the people who are desperate to come north to America in order to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
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LINK: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-04-01/a-border-killing-becomes-political/full/


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