Archive for July 2012

No Sh%t Sherlock

Just a couple of examples of our deep depth of denial and the arrogance of the right:

There was a tragic story in the NYT yesterday about the death of Sabrina Seelig in The Short Life and Lonely Death of Sabrina Seelig. To make a long story short she took a diet drug, felt sick, called the poison center and was blown off, finally got to the hospital, no one knew she was there, and through a lack of diagnosis and neglect, she died. Asked what lesson might be taught by Sabrina’s death, Ms. Gibson (her mom) said there was one. “No one should go to a hospital without someone with you — no one,” she said. “Don’t go unless somebody at least knows you’re there.” Yep, the best medical system in the world. You would not think that if Sabrina were your daughter.

The other wakeup call for the morons of the world (there just isn’t any nicer word anymore) who still deny Global Warming is the admission by Dr. Richard Muller, professor of Physics at the University of California, a darling of the deniers, that after extensive studies (heavily funded by the Kock brothers) that not only does Global Warming exist, but the predictions of its impact are not exaggerated, and it is man caused (Skeptic changes his mind on climate change). Another no Duh moment as the idiots who lead the “Greatest Country in the World” do nothing to plan for our future. These would be conservatives and it just boggles my mind that we tolerate them in polite conversation any more.

Last but not least, Uruguay may move to create a state-run marijuana industry. Recognizing reality and wanting to cut the legs out of the illegal drug trade, they are responding to the reality. Here in the greatest country on earth we just continue to use punishment as a failed policy of choice. Even those “backward” countries in Central and South America can figure it out, but we can’t. Oh, and Vietnam may legalize same sex marriages. Is this a great country or what?

The Best Congress Money Can Buy

But the worst country:

“Despite warnings of a potentially crippling cyberattack, a group of lawmakers led by Senator John McCain has successfully weakened bipartisan legislation that the Obama administration said was crucial to protecting computer systems responsible for operating the nation’s critical infrastructure. Strong opposition from Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, and others on behalf of the business community forced Democratic and Republican supporters of the legislation to drop provisions that would have given the federal government the power to enforce minimum standards on systems that run power plants, air traffic control systems, dams and similar facilities…But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbyists strongly objected, saying that such regulations would create a costly and cumbersome process. The measure now before the Senate makes the minimum standards optional, dealing a significant setback to the administration, which had made legislation to safeguard computer systems a top national security priority this year.”

No Virginia, what is best for business is not necessarily good for the country and now you understand why this country will never be great again. But we have the best politicians the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can buy. Is this a great country or what? (Senators Force Weaker Safeguards Against Cyber Attacks)

It’s the Economy Stupid

“U.S. Economy Slowed to a Tepid 1.5% Rate of Growth”

Growth was curbed as consumers limited new spending and business investment slowed in the face of a global slowdown and a stronger dollar” (NYT).

This is a surprise? Exactly what are we doing to grow our economy that we haven’t been doing for the last 12 years since Bush came into office? Tax rate is at a record low, deficit grows because of the slumping economy, the rich are richer, business made record profits which they are sitting on because there is no demand, Europe continues the stupidity of austerity (and note we are following suit with our continued cuts at the state level), and government is shut down by Republicans who want more cuts. Note that morons like Ron Paul want a strong dollar, maybe go back to the gold standard while that strong dollar kills our exports.

As I have said many times in this blog, we are on the road to disaster and we do nothing and expect things to just get better. Could it be we are on the wrong track and strong government action is the only thing that will save us? Could Paul Krugman be right? Oh, why do I bother?

London and the Olympics

I heard Chris Mathews wonder what is it about the British Press that they are all over Mitt Romney for his gaffs. As they call him, “Mitt the Nit”. The answer of course is quite simple, we are seeing a press that is unafraid to actually call stupidity, stupidity. They don’t have to worry about access to Republicans or a corporation who might censor reality so they can just report what Mitt actually does and label it according. We used to have a press like that, but now you look around at the outright ignorance of the average voter, and you see what our kind of press has wrought.

Oh, and it is not like Mitt has not been uttering absolute falsehoods and nonsense over here. Let’s see, “Obama is cutting our military” when the cuts are what the Republicans demanded when they held the nation hostage over the debt ceiling. Then there is his lie about Obama hating business or misrepresenting Obama’s statement about business success being aided by what our government has provided as foundation. Oh, and don’t forget he has shown us all the tax returns we need to know about.

But the best is his plan for the economy that will require deleting seven major cabinet positions and their associated bureaucracy like the Department of Justice. No it doesn’t add up and will further the tax cutting economic policies that have failed us so far, but the press meekly covers it as he said/she said instead of labeling it appropriately and educating the voters like the Brits are doing.

Meanwhile as I write this, the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics are taking place, but we can’t see it until tonight in prime time. I remember the 1960 Olympics where everything was live. We have come a long way haven’t we. But don’t worry. We will see what they want us to see with appropriate editing for the commercials. Is this a great country or what?

Why We Can’t Do Anything Anymore

In the previous post I made the wild claim that we just can’t seem to force our selves to make even minimal changes in failed policies, mostly because there are strong political forces that benefit (mostly Wealthy Republicans, the poor ones who just don’t get it) from keeping things just the way they are. So here is exhibit A on something that should not be controversial (Retracting a Plug for Meatless Mondays):

The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”

Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.

Our friendly meat pushers were upset that vegetable growers might have a day of their own and we might all be healthier and the planet better off. Kind of reminds you of tobacco growers back in the day when it was suggested we put warning labels on cigarette packages about the link between smoking and cancer, which of course they used pseudo science to deny. I wonder what would have happened if Catholics had a fish only Friday? Oh we did and things were just fine and there were no screams of religious intolerance or destruction of your livelihood. People could still choose or bring a sack lunch.

I mean this idea is a no brainer and would be good for everyone, but alas, it might hurt the pocket book of the established class. All we are any more is special interests and the good of the country be damned, If we can’t even endorse a good idea, what makes you think we could actually act on one?

Failure to Learn from Failure

I sit here this evening on my porch listening to the A’s shellack poor Toronto, 12 zip so far and my mind wanders to failure. When the Toronto pitcher left the game, the Toronto fans booed him. I think he feels bad enough and will work hard to improve his performance. Not so this country. I love it when people say we are the greatest country in the world and I wonder what they are talking about. Seriously, we are staring at more failed policies than one can count on both hands, and we continue to implement those policies. Is that the sign of a great country that can overcome whatever challenges that it faces? Rhetorical.

I guess we could start with the latest in the news, gun violence. It is true that gun violence is down, but its occurrence is so much more often that any where in this world that one has to wonder what we are doing different and of course the obvious answer is the easy access to guns. So with another mass murder in Denver, we do nothing. Not even the obvious live limiting clip size or getting rid of assault rifes.

The war on drugs? How many decades has nothing gotten any better and we continue the same punishment approach that fails over and over and over again. But be afraid America! If we legalized some (like marijuana) your children will have easy access. Oh wait, they already do. Good god could we be any stupider?

Do you know we have more people incarcerated per capita than any other country in the world? Why can’t the people in America figure out that harsh punishment meted out to deter crime doesn’t deter crime and is bankrupting our states. Maybe we ought to find other ways to deal with most offenders. You think?

Then there is flow down, and low taxes on job creators. We just had an eight year test of that theory and it did not work. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class may not have the disposable income to sustain a recovery in our economy. So what are we doing? Let’s do more only harder.

We continue to deny global warming or take steps to plan for its effects and then we are caught unready. In an article in the NYT (Weather Extremes Leave Part of U.S. Grid Buckling), the effect of extreme heat and cold events are starting to impact important parts of our infrastructure yet we have no planning for it.

Then we have austerity. I recently heard Howard Dean (Democrat) tell the financial news network that our problem is the out of control deficit. No actually it isn’t, and our focus on austerity as a cure for the deficit is part of our problem. That problem is linking what is good for the family budget in hard times to what is good for our macroeconomy in hard times. As Europe and our own slow recovery are showing us, it doesn’t work. In a recent article in the Huffington Post (Austerities Big Winners Appear to be Wall Street and the Wealthy), the author chronicled how austerity is a big plus for the haves, and just takes more away from the have nots, yet we continue to hear this nonsense while Europe’s economies stagnant under the policy. The deficit is not the problem Howard, it is the effect of a crashed economy and until we restart it with real stimulus spending, it will just continue to grow. We need to shrink it by growing our country, not shrinking it. Oh, I know. I sound like that liberal nut, Paul Krugman, who has had just about everything right so far. What am I thinking?

I am sure you can think of other failures that we just continue to repeat, but we have all these failed policies not working for any of us and our two Presidential candidates either lightly touch on continuing them (or heavily in Romney’s case) or sling mud at each other, but there is no plan for the future. That would take political courage and we are bereft of it these days. Sadly the way forward is patently obvious, and we cannot even dare to try changing any of these policies. No Virginia, America is not number one, and we can’t overcome even simple challenges anymore.

Some Traveling Thoughts

Oh how I love airline travel. I had to be in Dallas for some meetings and I dread the trips through airports. Now Sacramento has a beautiful new airport, but that doesn’t help when you walk up to the kiosk where you are suppose to checkin (if you are checking a bag) and when you touch the screen it says “Are you a military service man” and there is no, NO button. So I push continue and it can’t find my reservation. Finally I figure out I should have pushed “English” and then could be processed normally. These people could use a little programming help from Apple on intuitive screens. Actually airports are really easy to navigate if you have done it before.

Then of course as you try to check in, the machine is all about selling you other stuff. Would you like an upgrade to first class? Would you like priority seating? Would you like access to the club waiting area? All of course for a small fee, followed by the fee for checking your bag. I always check a bag because I have stuff in there that would be a problem at security like my survival corkscrew. I just don’t want the hassle of trying to get on the flight first to find overhead space. Personally I have to wonder with everyone bringing on carry on and storing it overhead, if you did have to crash land, having your tray in an upright position would be the least of your problems as all that stuff cascades down on you. I think the Airlines Bill of Rights ought to include at least one checked bag.

Then there is boarding. Is there anybody who is not in a special category. “We are now boarding First Class, Admiral Club, Queen Club, and Minimal Frequent Flyer Club.” By the time they got to Groups 1, 2, and 3 of normal people, there were only three of us left. And since you all have reserved seats, it is really all about getting overhead space because nobody checks a bag because it COST $25 A BAG!

Arriving at DFW (Dallas for you non-globe trotters) is always interesting because after you land, the time it takes to taxi to your terminal is about the same amount of time the flight lasted. And once again, when you get your bag there is no instructions about how to get to your rental car (there is one bus for them all). Then when you figure it out and get on the Bus it is a 15 minute ride to the middle of nowhere to the giant rent-a-car mall. I will say that Avis was superb, car waiting and no standing in line. All I can say about getting to your hotel, work, and back to the airport is what did we do before GPS? Yes I studied the maps, but Jason Bourne I am not. I would have plowed the car into a railing trying to read the maps as I drove.

Dallas is an interesting city in that usually in the business parks, there are few sidewalks. Everyone just drives and I have never seen that much road construction in one place. Texas is certainly getting their share of highway funds. Their interchanges are a marvel and looks more like a Coney Island roller coaster ride. You could not build these multiple level interchanges in California because of the earthquake requirements, but they are a sight to behold in Dallas. If you sell concrete in Dallas, you are still making good money.

Return trip was somewhat simpler because now I knew the drill. But there are a ton of folks out there that either don’t know the drill or are, well, special. Even in the security line they have a “special” line. Maybe that is why we think it is okay for only a very few in this country to have all the wealth. We are getting use to special lines. By the way, does anybody know why we are still taking off our shoes? Why does my computer have to in a separate container from the rest of my stuff, and not my Ipad? I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation beside “because”, but I am afraid to ask TSA and possibly get put on some watch list.

One thing you need to know about DFW is that they have five terminals so you can’t just tell the rent-a-car driver American Airlines like most terminals. You need to know which terminal your departing gate is so you can get on the right bus. I figured that out when I realized the buses for the rent-a-car companies were all labeled by Terminal. If you are not prepared, there could be a little panic when you realize you have no idea which is your departing terminal and just knowing which airlines was not enough.

I could not get a direct flight back to Sacramento so I had to go to LAX (again Los Angles for those of you who aren’t into traveler speak). Interesting. My gate for the connection was really a shuttle bus that took us across the airport to the American Eagle terminal to get in a much smaller jet (yet just as fast and in my mind more comfortable because you weren’t crammed in with 100 other people).

There was this elderly black gentleman who could not hear very well and American did a good job of getting him on the plane, but when he got to Sacramento he had no idea about the train shuttle or where baggage was. I took him in toe and it was one of the high points of the trip. He was such a nice old guy who had traveled all the way from Shreveport Louisiana. Hopefully that cancelled out all the nitwits who need to spend 30 minutes in the limited commodes on the plane or the ones who need to get up in the final approach. And turn off their cell phones? Forget that. He told me how he had been dinged $160 for an overweight bag and nobody thought to suggest he could take out something and hand carry it to reduce it back to 50#. We are now a fee for anything country.

So another fun trip through airports traveling with all the “special” people. And you wonder why I am such a fan of high speed rail?

Miscellaneous Sunday

I am always looking for a metaphor for our times and I think I hit on one yesterday. It was going to be a warm day so I wanted to get my bike ride (climb) in early so I was taking my bike down to the start of the ride in my truck. Now around here, most of the roads (Except for HW50) are two-lane windy things that traverse through the hills and valleys.  As I was coming around a corner I meet another automobile coming at me, half in my lane.  This is not an uncommon occurrence up here but gave me my metaphor for the day (yes I missed him because I was way over in my lane).  Americans are becoming more like that driver who could not stay on his side, between the lines, but expects everyone else to. Rules only apply to the rest of us.  Think about the 1%.

Why are we becoming a culture that looks like we just got out of prison? I mean, think about it. Baggy pants are still in (prison issue doesn’t fit) and we cover our bodies in tattoos. Am I just an old fogey or are we becoming a trailer trash nation.

Speaking of which, there was an article in the paper that with the economy in tatters, military recruitment is up because it offers a paycheck with benefits.  But government doesn’t create jobs right?  The good thing about military jobs is that they get training so when they get out, there are no jobs to match their skills because the private sector won’t pick up the slack.  I noticed a related article where many had turned to the Forest Service and fighting fires for jobs after their military service. Thank god for global warming and the tender boxes we are creating I guess. Once again, government jobs. Of course the Republicans want to cut that too.

Oh and in the same article about recruiting being up, it noted that in the past they were having a hard time making quotas because of obesity and lack of education. Once again, a trailer trash nation. Sadly the new recruits are older and many have families and are looking for some sort of stability in their lives and be able to take care of their kids. Meanwhile back in Republican fantasy land, their answer is to cut the budget and give those people a taste of austerity so businesses can “have confidence”. However they do want to preserve our military budgets, just give them no where to go when their service is no longer required. Note in all this austerity, they don’t suffer at all. Back to my metaphor about requiring everyone else to drive between the lines while you careen about.

And let’s not forget the debacle at a Tony Robbins’ motivational seminar where over 21 people were burned trying to walk on hot coals (no it was in the news today). Apparently a positive attitude does not help when the ground you are walking on is on fire. Maybe one ought to recognize reality and take appropriate precautions like asbestos shoes. See an analogy to the Republicans and our economy, global warming, health care, ad infinitum?

Finally, I see where Tom Friedman thinks the President has failed to use his skills to give us a vision of the future with integrated policies to get us there. Thanks, Tom. I think I wrote that blog about two years ago.

I am off to center seat hell on my way to Dallas for a couple of days to earn my keep. Don’t expect much out of me (when did you ever), as I really do need to focus on making money rather than saving the country. See I fit right in with our ruling class. I need to think about that. Too bad saving the world from itself doesn’t pay better, or anything at all.

“You People” and Guns

Okay, it is the day after so lets talk about guns. It is not just the guns, its the whole attitude around violence and fear. But the one fact, whether you can find a law that might have prevented this incident or not, is that our gun violence exceeds every other nation in the world. So let’s get more guns? That was actually proposed by one politician who wondered if the crowd had been armed, would they have defended themselves? Think about a fire fight in a crowded theater.

Here is where the “you people” comes in.  A while back, Rachel Maddow attended a NRA national convention with Meghan McCain, and then visited a neighborhood in the same city that had been decimated by gun violence (Fearing for Megan McCain). The rich who live in gated communities see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to protect themselves from “you people.” But the poor who live in poor neighborhoods see gun violence escalate until the only option is to abandon the community. It is living in two different realities and arming ourselves to make sure we never have to face the real problems outside those locked gates of our gated communities.

As I said earlier, I am not sure there is any law that would have prevented this particular incident. He did use an automatic weapon that was banned until the NRA took over Congress. But what I do know is that the 12 deaths pale in comparison to the number killed across the country in handgun violence. I know that when you look at neighborhoods where opportunity is non-existent and the space between the haves and the have-nots is growing, there you can find alarming rates of gun violence. I know that we need reasonable laws and municipalities that face these problems need the freedom to take action.

Isn’t it time we had that discussion rationally and did something about this problem? The Second Amendment to the Constitution reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Just what part of whose militia are these gun owners members of? We don’t have militia that we depend on for the security of our free state anymore and this clause is so outdated it hurts. Yet with the NRA and truly frightened politicians, the level of armament gets more and more deadly for no purpose other to further our national carnage. Can we not do better than that? But wait, this is a loosing issue and I can’t afford to alienate the middle with leadership. People’s lives are not that important when it comes to being re-elected. You want to make a difference, make one, otherwise you are standing in a long line of successful politicians that are destroying this country with their lack of leadership.

Aurora and the News

I guess I have to wonder what is the point of the 24 hour continuous coverage of the incident.  I don’t asked this because I am insensitive to horrible loss that has occurred, having lost a daughter when she was 12.  I ask it because I wonder where it is going.  What is there to learn that would make it better?  I guess I look at news and think it should inform us about things that we can learn from and apply, yet in this case I am not sure there is any.  It is a senseless mindless act and there is no making sense out of it.  I know that feeling well.

There was a terrible loss of life and there is horrible grieving.  But showing that and prying into the grieving’s lives is to my mind, well, voyeurism.  We can ask why, but there is no answer.  I guess we all want to think if “signs” had been noticed, this could have been prevented.  It gives one a sense of a measure of control in our lives, but is there really?   Maybe it gives the victims and families some solace in that everyone is watching and thinking about them.  Maybe you can argue that we will get justice, but how does that prevent one of these incidence and in the end, you are still left with your loss.  I guess you could argue that it is time to strike a cord for gun control, but really?  Is this the time to break into the politics of gun control and whether anything would have been effective to prevent this?  I think our two candidates for President showed the way, in that today is a day for reflection and if you are so inclined, prayer.

Maybe the coverage helps national grieving, but the coverage is what the shooter was counting on.  Maybe this event was a strike into the psychic of most Americans about the fragility of their lives and this coverage helps deal with that sense of loss of control.  I just don’t know.  But as I watch the coverage (because there is nothing else on), I wonder what it accomplishes other than ratings and an opportunity for the rest of us to slow down as we drive by so we can stare at the carnage.  I just don’t know.  It is a horrible, senseless act, and my heart, as everyone’s, goes out to those who just had their hearts ripped out of bodies when they lost loved ones.  I am just not sure what this continuous examination of the act accomplishes.  Did it do anything in Arizona last year?  When the smoke cleared nothing changed.  Maybe this time will be different, but I doubt it.