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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why is this allowed?

Yesterday, the price of gas near my office was $1.78 per gallon.

Today?

$1.92

A 14 cent jump in less than 24 hours.

We all see this and, for those of us who pay attention, we wonder "why?" And we wonder this again and again and again.

I watch gas per barrel fairly closely and haven't seen any extraordinary swings in the price of oil lately.

What's to explain these swings? Why do we, as a country, put up with this?

Oh, that's right. We love the free market, capitalist system.

So now I see, fresh off the news, that oil has jumped above $51.00 per barrel today, on news and hopes that the recession is cooling.

Get ready for a screwing folks.

Saturn?

Last evening, I was watching "The Colbert Report", as usual, before I went to sleep and what should I see but a Saturn car commercial.

Saturn?

Are you kidding me?

Isn't it already a foregone conclusion that GM is closing down Saturn, along with Pontiac and saying "adieu" to the whole bunch?

Then, get this--the commercial went on about "Saturn Total Confidence" (love the capitol letters, don't you?).

Saturn Total Confidence.

That killed me.

I guess they have to sell cars, sure, but they'd have to be virtually giving these things away for me to want to purchase one, since the company is disappearing. Sure GM will support them, I guess, but who knows how.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The very racist United States of America

Let there be no mistake.

We can't pat ourselves on our collective backs any longer.

First, there was Douglas Blackmon's book, "Slavery by Another Name," out last year, that received a Pulitzer Prize last week, about the United States true and until now, ignored and really, unknown history of a second kind of slavery for African-Americans after the Civil War.

There was untold cruelty, punishment, unfounded incarceration, what could easily be described as torture, rampant, sanctioned discrimination and even murders, all passing under the eye of local and Federal government. And it lasted from after the Civil War until deep into the middle of the 1900s.

Now, the country's Supreme Court is considering throwing out the Voting Rights Act of 1964 because parts of it only apply to what we understood was always known as the more racist "Deep South."

What a travesty.

And in Missouri?

Our Republican representatives are trying to push through a constitutional amendment that would require a government-supplied photo identification in order to vote.

Gee whiz, to use a phrase.

Could we get more "Jim Crow" about voting and disenfranchisement?

Clearly, this is an attempt to make it more difficult for the poor, minorities and the elderly (read: Democrats) to vote, let there be no doubt.

So on both the national and local/regional level, the conservative, clearly Republican groups are trying there hardest to make discrimination and disenfranchisement the law of the land.

It's pitiful.

It's pathetic.

It's sad.

It's tragic.

It's brutally unfair and should be made clear this is what's going on.

Ask yourself--why don't we vote on Saturdays?

Wouldn't that make sense? Wouldn't it be a great deal easier to get large groups of people in polling booths than how we do it now?

And the answer is, unequivocally, resoundingly, yes.

We don't vote on Saturday because the powers that be don't want us all voting.

These national and state attempts to change these laws are at least partially, if not completely, for one of them, racist in their attempt, let there be no doubt.

We are the racist United States of America and we should be far better than this.

Links to stories:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103610184
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kbia/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1499514§ionID=1
http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/

It was already scary out there

Now, I think, it's getting scarier.

This whole Arlen Specter becoming a Democrat and getting the country closer to a filibuster-proof Democratic majority has really brought out further ugliness, it seems, and out-and-out fear and anger on the part of the far right.

A guy in my office came in today and told me a prediction of his I can't even repeat.

I tell you, the anger, frustration, fear, hate and ugliness out there against this President and the country is palpable.

The ability to spread half-truths and even out-and-out lies and/or misinformation on and by the internet makes it so easy to do and people are believing every ugly word of what they see.

It makes me concerned, absolutely, and I'm not one given to emotionalism when it comes to national, social events and trends.

And the list of these people's concerns are long, too:

--Illegal Aliens
--High taxes
--President Obama
--Congress, collectively
--the Senate
--the House of Representatives
--gays/homosexuals
--African-Americans
--Mexicans
--Islamists
--Muslims
--people from India
--people of color
--the border and the fact that they see it as "open"
--climate change and people who are for fighting it
--people who are for taking some power and maybe even profits from corporations
--environmentalists
--Liberals
--Democrats

I could go on, and on.

My point?

These people are angry and have a lot of people and things, in their minds, to be angry about. They don't like what they're seeing--at all.

And they have guns.

And they're buying more.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Someone needed to tell W and Dick

Can you imagine W quoting an Athenian lawmaker? Can you imagine Dick Cheney allowing openness in government he ran?

It just keeps happening

Just some of the headlines this morning:

3 injured in shooting at Hampton University in Va.
Officials: 2 Fla. sheriff's deputies fatally shot
Net cast for US prof suspected in fatal shootings

Here's the first one:

HAMPTON, Va. - Three people at Hampton University were hospitalized after a shooting in a dorm, a spokeswoman for the school said Sunday.

Police believe the shooter is a former student who was one of the three injured early Sunday, spokeswoman Yuri Rodgers Milligan said.

In the second:

CRESTVIEW, Fla. - A man accused of beating his wife killed two north Florida sheriff's deputies who caught up with him at a shooting range, then fled across the county line, where he died in an exchange of gunfire with deputies, authorities said.

The third:

ATHENS, Georgia - Authorities from Georgia to Texas had little to go on Sunday as they searched for a University of Georgia professor suspected of shooting his ex-wife and two other men to death outside a theater near campus.

Neighbors watched Saturday as SWAT team members, guns drawn, swarmed their tidy middle-class suburb about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the campus looking for 57-year-old George Zinkhan.

My point?

That's a lot of stories--3--for one Sunday morning, all concerning people with guns, going on rampages.

We simply have too many guns, they're way too easy to get and we're much too violent a culture.

It's not even Summer yet.

Wait until the combination of heat,humidity, unemployment, anger and guns comes together.

I wouldn't want to be a police officer this year.


Link to stories:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/us?guid=20090426/49f3dc40_3421_1334520090426261909398
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/us?guid=20090426/49f3dc40_3ca6_1552620090426-849977251
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/us?guid=20090426/49f3dc40_3426_13350200904262125072383

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'll write a few things this weekend. This was too good, true and important not to put up

The New York Times
April 25, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

A Culture Soaked in Blood
By BOB HERBERT

Guns.

Philip Markoff, a medical student, supposedly carried his semiautomatic in a hollowed-out volume of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Police believe he used it in a hotel room in Boston last week to murder Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old woman who had advertised her services as a masseuse on Craigslist.

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a 12-year-old boy named Jacob Larson came across a gun in the family home that, according to police, his parents had forgotten they had. Jacob shot himself in the head and is in a coma, police said. Authorities believe the shooting was accidental.

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

When the music producer Phil Spector decided, for whatever reason, to kill the actress, Lana Clarkson, all he had to do was reach for his gun — one of the 283 million privately owned firearms that are out there. When John Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, went on a killing spree that took 10 lives in the Washington area, the absolute least of their worries was how to get a semiautomatic rifle that fit their deadly mission.

We’re confiscating shampoo from carry-on luggage at airports while at the same time handing out high-powered weaponry to criminals and psychotics at gun shows.

There were ceremonies marking the recent 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, but very few people remember a mass murder just five months after Columbine, when a man with a semiautomatic handgun opened fire on congregants praying in a Baptist church in Fort Worth. Eight people died, including the gunman, who shot himself.

A little more than a year before the Columbine killings, two boys with high-powered rifles killed a teacher and four little girls at a school in Jonesboro, Ark. That’s not widely remembered either. When something is as pervasive as gun violence in the U.S., which is as common as baseball in the summertime, it’s very hard for individual cases to remain in the public mind.

Homicides are only a part of the story.

While more than 12,000 people are murdered with guns annually, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (using the latest available data) tells us that more than 30,000 people are killed over the course of one typical year by guns. That includes 17,000 who commit suicide, nearly 800 who are killed in accidental shootings and more than 300 killed by the police. (In many of the law enforcement shootings, the police officers are reacting to people armed with guns).

And then there are the people who are shot but don’t die. Nearly 70,000 fall into that category in a typical year, including 48,000 who are criminally attacked, 4,200 who survive a suicide attempt, more than 15,000 who are shot accidentally, and more than 1,000 — many with a gun in possession — who are shot by the police.

The medical cost of treating gunshot wounds in the U.S. is estimated to be well more than $2 billion annually. And the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, has noted that nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays.

The toll on children and teenagers is particularly heartbreaking. According to the Brady Campaign, more than 3,000 kids are shot to death in a typical year. More than 1,900 are murdered, more than 800 commit suicide, about 170 are killed accidentally and 20 or so are killed by the police.

Another 17,000 are shot but survive.

I remember writing from Chicago two years ago about the nearly three dozen public school youngsters who were shot to death in a variety of circumstances around the city over the course of just one school year. Arne Duncan, who was then the chief of the Chicago schools and is now the U.S. secretary of education, said to me at the time: “That’s more than a kid every two weeks. Think about that.”

Actually, that’s our problem. We don’t really think about it. If the crime is horrible enough, we’ll go through the motions of public anguish but we never really do anything about it. Americans are as blasé as can be about this relentless slaughter that keeps the culture soaked in blood.

This blasé attitude, this willful refusal to acknowledge the scope of the horror, leaves the gun nuts free to press their crazy case for more and more guns in ever more hands. They’re committed to keeping the killing easy, and we should be committed for not stopping them.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Insanity, defined

There is an article out right now on the internet, at alternet.org, asking the question of whether or not it makes sense for California to switch to ethanol for fuel, instead of using so much oil.

Far from it.

Back in the 70's, when I was in college, my professor pointed out that it was insane--and he's right, think about it--to tie a country's food supply (corn, whatever) as an energy source.

Once you do, guess what happens?

Two things, really: 1) the price of that food crop goes up, at minimum, and people don't want that--hell, can't afford it and 2) if/when there is ever a drought--and there invariably are droughts, if we wait long enough, we know that--people starve.

Not go hungry.

People starve. As in no food.

Ethanol is insane.

Using corn to create fuel for cars is in no way a good, intelligent, useful answer.

Ironically, too, ethanol also doesn't solve our problems because you're still burning things--in this case corn and/or corn stalks--to create the energy so it's both polluting and adding to possible climate change. It also doesn't solve anything because the scientists have shown that ethanol doesn't put out as much energy as it takes to create it. Finally, if those 2 points aren't enough, if you haven't seen or read anything online, on TV or in a newspaper or magazine lately, we are running out of water, folks. Ethanol adds to that use of and reduction in water supplies.

Let me say one more time--the only thing that makes sense as a replacement for oil is solar power through photovoltaic cells.

It solves all the problems and answers all the questions.

It's nearly infinitely renewable (until the sun disappears), it's almost completely clean in that it doesn't pollute and doesn't emit carbon dioxide so it doesn't contribute to either pollution or climate change, we don't get it from the Middle East so it doesn't contribute to the insanity that is the Middle East war, lo these thousands of years and, finally, it stops the transfer of wealth from here--the US and the West--to that backwards, ignorant, mostly fundamentalist region of the world.

Ethanol is decidedly not the answer.

Solar power isn't perfect but it comes darned close.

Link to story:
http://www.alternet.org/environment/137578/will_california_say_no_to_ethanol/?cID=1195532#c1195532

Monday, April 20, 2009

Maybe one day soon we can all be protected against hate crimes

Have you heard that the hate crimes bill is coming before Congress again?

I hope you'll join me in sending a message to Congress: we can't wait any longer for a federal law to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from violent hate crimes. Take action at:

http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/hate_crimes

Ordinary people are living in fear for their safety and their lives every day, in small towns and big cities. Hate crimes against LGBT people are on the rise, but the federal government has no direct authority to investigate, prosecute or help local law enforcement crack down.

We can't let this continue. We can't let friends and neighbors become targets for violence simply because of who they are.

Congress passed the hate crimes bill in 2007, but because of George Bush's veto threat, it never became law. And now, right-wing extremists are once again making outrageous claims that the bill would criminalize preachers, end free speech, and so on.

Will you help make sure their lies aren't the only things members of Congress are hearing about this bill? Please click below to send a note urging Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard Act.

http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/hate_crimes

Thanks for your help, regardless.

Did you see this? All of it?

AP IMPACT: Tons of released drugs taint US water

By Jeff Donn, Martha Medoza and Justing Pritchard, Associated Press Writers
Mon Apr 20, 1:45 AM PDT-

U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water — contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking: For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.

Federal and industry officials say they don't know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them — as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories.

As part of its ongoing PharmaWater investigation about trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, AP identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists: the EPA monitors them as industrial chemicals that are released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water under federal pollution laws, while the Food and Drug Administration classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients.

The data don't show precisely how much of the 271 million pounds comes from drugmakers versus other manufacturers; also, the figure is a massive undercount because of the limited federal government tracking.

To date, drugmakers have dismissed the suggestion that their manufacturing contributes significantly to what's being found in water. Federal drug and water regulators agree.

But some researchers say the lack of required testing amounts to a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy about whether drugmakers are contributing to water pollution.

"It doesn't pass the straight-face test to say pharmaceutical manufacturers are not emitting any of the compounds they're creating," said Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an EPA enforcement officer before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney.

Pilot studies in the U.S. and abroad are now confirming those doubts.

Last year, the AP reported that trace amounts of a wide range of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in American drinking water supplies. Including recent findings in Dallas, Cleveland and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans.

Most cities and water providers still do not test. Some scientists say that wherever researchers look, they will find pharma-tainted water.

Consumers are considered the biggest contributors to the contamination. We consume drugs, then excrete what our bodies don't absorb. Other times, we flush unused drugs down toilets. The AP also found that an estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging are thrown away each year by hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Researchers have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of drugs harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species. Also, researchers report that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs. Some scientists say they are increasingly concerned that the consumption of combinations of many drugs, even in small amounts, could harm humans over decades.

Utilities say the water is safe. Scientists, doctors and the EPA say there are no confirmed human risks associated with consuming minute concentrations of drugs. But those experts also agree that dangers cannot be ruled out, especially given the emerging research.

___

Two common industrial chemicals that are also pharmaceuticals — the antiseptics phenol and hydrogen peroxide — account for 92 percent of the 271 million pounds identified as coming from drugmakers and other manufacturers. Both can be toxic and both are considered to be ubiquitous in the environment.

However, the list of 22 includes other troubling releases of chemicals that can be used to make drugs and other products: 8 million pounds of the skin bleaching cream hydroquinone, 3 million pounds of nicotine compounds that can be used in quit-smoking patches, 10,000 pounds of the antibiotic tetracycline hydrochloride. Others include treatments for head lice and worms.

Residues are often released into the environment when manufacturing equipment is cleaned.

A small fraction of pharmaceuticals also leach out of landfills where they are dumped. Pharmaceuticals released onto land include the chemo agent fluorouracil, the epilepsy medicine phenytoin and the sedative pentobarbital sodium. The overall amount may be considerable, given the volume of what has been buried — 572 million pounds of the 22 monitored drugs since 1988.

In one case, government data shows that in Columbus, Ohio, pharmaceutical maker Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc. discharged an estimated 2,285 pounds of lithium carbonate — which is considered slightly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and freshwater fish — to a local wastewater treatment plant between 1995 and 2006. Company spokeswoman Marybeth C. McGuire said the pharmaceutical plant, which uses lithium to make drugs for bipolar disorder, has violated no laws or regulations. McGuire said all the lithium discharged, an annual average of 190 pounds, was lost when residues stuck to mixing equipment were washed down the drain.

___

Pharmaceutical company officials point out that active ingredients represent profits, so there's a huge incentive not to let any escape. They also say extremely strict manufacturing regulations — albeit aimed at other chemicals — help prevent leakage, and that whatever traces may get away are handled by onsite wastewater treatment.

"Manufacturers have to be in compliance with all relevant environmental laws," said Alan Goldhammer, a scientist and vice president at the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Goldhammer conceded some drug residues could be released in wastewater, but stressed "it would not cause any environmental issues because it was not a toxic substance at the level that it was being released at."

Several big drugmakers were asked this simple question: Have you tested wastewater from your plants to find out whether any active pharmaceuticals are escaping, and if so what have you found?

No drugmaker answered directly.

"Based on research that we have reviewed from the past 20 years, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are not a significant source of pharmaceuticals that contribute to environmental risk," GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Kate Klemas said the company's manufacturing processes "are designed to avoid, or otherwise minimize the loss of product to the environment" and thus "ensure that any residual losses of pharmaceuticals to the environment that do occur are at levels that would be unlikely to pose a threat to human health or the environment."

One major manufacturer, Pfizer Inc., acknowledged that it tested some of its wastewater — but outside the United States.

The company's director of hazard communication and environmental toxicology, Frank Mastrocco, said Pfizer has sampled effluent from some of its foreign drug factories. Without disclosing details, he said the results left Pfizer "confident that the current controls and processes in place at these facilities are adequately protective of human health and the environment."

It's not just the industry that isn't testing.

FDA spokesman Christopher Kelly noted that his agency is not responsible for what comes out on the waste end of drug factories. At the EPA, acting assistant administrator for water Mike Shapiro — whose agency's Web site says pharmaceutical releases from manufacturing are "well defined and controlled" — did not mention factories as a source of pharmaceutical pollution when asked by the AP how drugs get into drinking water.

"Pharmaceuticals get into water in many ways," he said in a written statement. "It's commonly believed the majority come from human and animal excretion. A portion also comes from flushing unused drugs down the toilet or drain; a practice EPA generally discourages."

His position echoes that of a line of federal drug and water regulators as well as drugmakers, who concluded in the 1990s — before highly sensitive tests now used had been developed — that manufacturing is not a meaningful source of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

Pharmaceutical makers typically are excused from having to submit an environmental review for new products, and the FDA has never rejected a drug application based on potential environmental impact. Also at play are pressures not to delay potentially lifesaving drugs. What's more, because the EPA hasn't concluded at what level, if any, pharmaceuticals are bad for the environment or harmful to people, drugmakers almost never have to report the release of pharmaceuticals they produce.

"The government could get a national snapshot of the water if they chose to," said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, "and it seems logical that we would want to find out what's coming out of these plants."

Ajit Ghorpade, an environmental engineer who worked for several major pharmaceutical companies before his current job helping run a wastewater treatment plant, said drugmakers have no impetus to take measurements that the government doesn't require.

"Obviously nobody wants to spend the time or their dime to prove this," he said. "It's like asking me why I don't drive a hybrid car? Why should I? It's not required."

___

After contacting the nation's leading drugmakers and filing public records requests, the AP found two federal agencies that have tested.

Both the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have studies under way comparing sewage at treatment plants that receive wastewater from drugmaking factories against sewage at treatment plants that do not.

Preliminary USGS results, slated for publication later this year, show that treated wastewater from sewage plants serving drug factories had significantly more medicine residues. Data from the EPA study show a disproportionate concentration in wastewater of an antibiotic that a major Michigan factory was producing at the time the samples were taken.

Meanwhile, other researchers recorded concentrations of codeine in the southern reaches of the Delaware River that were at least 10 times higher than the rest of the river.

The scientists from the Delaware River Basin Commission won't have to look far when they try to track down potential sources later this year. One mile from the sampling site, just off shore of Pennsville, N.J., there's a pipe that spits out treated wastewater from a municipal plant. The plant accepts sewage from a pharmaceutical factory owned by Siegfried Ltd. The factory makes codeine.

"We have implemented programs to not only reduce the volume of waste materials generated but to minimize the amount of pharmaceutical ingredients in the water," said Siegfried spokeswoman Rita van Eck.

Another codeine plant, run by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Noramco Inc., is about seven miles away. A Noramco spokesman acknowledged that the Wilmington, Del., factory had voluntarily tested its wastewater and found codeine in trace concentrations thousands of times greater than what was found in the Delaware River. "The amounts of codeine we measured in the wastewater, prior to releasing it to the City of Wilmington, are not considered to be hazardous to the environment," said a company spokesman.

In another instance, equipment-cleaning water sent down the drain of an Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc. factory in Denver consistently contains traces of warfarin, a blood thinner, according to results obtained under a public records act request. Officials at the company and the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District said they believe the concentrations are safe.

Warfarin, which also is a common rat poison and pesticide, is so effective at inhibiting growth of aquatic plants and animals it's actually deliberately introduced to clean plants and tiny aquatic animals from ballast water of ships.

"With regard to wastewater management we are subject to a variety of federal, state and local regulation and oversight," said Joel Green, Upsher-Smith's vice president and general counsel. "And we work hard to maintain systems to promote compliance."

Baylor University professor Bryan Brooks, who has published more than a dozen studies related to pharmaceuticals in the environment, said assurances that drugmakers run clean shops are not enough.

"I have no reason to believe them or not believe them," he said. "We don't have peer-reviewed studies to support or not support their claims."
___

Associated Press Writer Don Mitchell in Denver contributed to this report.
___

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate (at) ap.org

Dedicated to all the business people in the world who put money before all else

Sunday, April 19, 2009

That's what hate and ugliness can get us

Today is the anniversary of my Mom's birthday.

And why do I mention that to you, here?

I mention it because it's also the anniversary of the bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Builing in Oklahoma City, all those years ago, in 1995 that killed 168 people and injured 500, all by one Timothy McVeigh.

Ever since this event, I resented Mssr. McVeigh's incident in my own small way, for having his action be associated with her day.

Silly, sure, I know, when put next to all these people's losses but I felt it was something that was very fair, too. My biggest sense of outrage from his actions were for the people lost and hurt that day but this was one more important way, for me, to mark the day and event.

It wasn't fair what he did and I thought then and still do now, that we each need to keep these things in our memories, just like the Holocaust, so we see they're not repeated.

My bigger point today is that Timothy McVeigh's (I don't want to refer to him as "Mr. McVeigh", so I show him no respect) actions that day were an important lesson in why we should not and can not let hate and ignorance and fear of one another rule our lives and overtake our actions.

It is precisely right-wing hate that overtook Timothy McVeigh and this was the result.

So now, here we are with an African-American President for the first time in the history of our country and what's happening? People are purchasing large amounts of both weapons and ammunition, "to prepare", they say.

And there's such racism, hate, intolerance and ugliness in emails and on the internet since last November. Some of the emails, though blatantly racist, were created and sent with the thought that they were funny and/or cute and so, entertaining.

Pitiful.

President Obama has done quite a few good things for our country already, though that's debated, of course. But his theme is absolutely, undeniably correct and on target--and that is, we have to talk to one another and we have to work together for the benefit of each other and the country.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, they want to either ignore or deny that message.

I see in the paper yesterday where hate groups--neo-nazis, actually--are back to recruiting heavily in Idaho again and it's troubling, at least.

We need to keep repeating: we need to refer to all of ourselves as Americans, first and last and we need to work together to help one another and to solve our problems, no matter our place, physically, in the country, no matter our socio-economic class, no matter our color, no matter what.

"A nation divided against itself cannot stand."

Remember that?


Link to front page of The New York Times cover story that day:
http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0419.html

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/aryan_nations

Friday, April 17, 2009

What a difference a good leader makes

Three international leaders.

Three different responses.

All 3 positive.

What's it tell you?

Since President Obama became President, he has made it clear he is open to talking--talking to allies and old friends as well as people and groups perceived to be our adversaries or out and out enemies.

That said, his first goal, it seemed, was to discuss current issues with Iran's President Ahmedinajad. Recently, it seems those attempts have had a positive effect. The Iranian President and the Iranians seem to want to talk about working together to solve issues, questions and problems between the West, particularly the United States, and Iran.

The same thing seems to be happening with Cuba, the Cuban people and the Castro brothers.

It's fascinating.

The assumptions of our inability to work together and speak to one another are falling away rather quickly.

So now, today, new, incredible revelations.

President Obama and Venezualan President Hugo Chavez, who has always been considered to be purely hostile to the United States, has shown strong signs of openness to our new President and whatever his--and our--agenda is now.

It's fascinating. It really cannot be understated.

We don't have to give in.

We don't have to give away our own unique, special inerests.

But we do have to make it clear we're merely willing to talk, be open-minded and listen.

Link:
http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13350657
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090418/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/cb_summit_obama_chavez

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Once again, thank you George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all, for your incompetence

$40M fuel theft from Army prompts global manhunt

April 16, 2009 11:46 AM EDT

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - A former U.S. Army contractor convicted of stealing $40 million worth of fuel from a military base in Iraq is helping authorities search the globe for other suspects in the case.

The thefts occurred in 2007 and 2008 from Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

Former Army contractor Lee Dubois has pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing scheduled Thursday in Virginia was postponed.

A second suspect was arrested January in Guam and awaits indictment. Court records indicate other suspects have scattered around the world and that Dubois has been cooperating with investigators to locate them.

The thieves used fraudulent paperwork to withdraw tens of thousands of gallons (liters) per day from the base.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabag, schmeabag

As stated last evening on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, conservatives and Republicans who complain, now, about taxes, after 8 years of George W. Bush giving tax breaks to the wealthy while spending everything he could get his hands on are just, clearly, bloody hypocrites:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/the-weird-contradictions_b_176476.html

We need the Fairness Doctrine badly, folks

I'm telling you, after the video I saw and posted yesterday, of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, saying they want and need to buck Washington and their power and efforts, I'm more concerned than ever about where we're headed as a nation.

That little exercise of his yesterday has brought out some of the most ugly and divisive comments on the internet and I'm concerned where this is taking us.

Instead of still and always thinking of ourselves as Americans and being cohesive, we're getting more and more divided as "us vs. them", no matter who the "us" or "them" is.

And Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter and Larry Kudlow are taking us there and it's really negative and damaging to the country.

It's dangerous, folks.

We're splintering ourselves into millions of tiny, militant, angry groups, who just want to "get even."

And we need to stop it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This is so irresponsible of Texas Governor Rick Perry, I can hardly contain myself


I can just imagine all the rednecks, coast-to-coast, picking up on this, thinking they know something about the US Constitution and wanting to yee-haw themselves out of the Union.

It's dangerous.

This divisiveness and attacking is getting ugly and out of hand.

More proof: Republicans are evil; Democrats are stupid

Having borrowed this from my friend, Bryce (thanks, Bryce!), I have to give yest another example.

To wit: Norm Coleman not accepting defeat and conceding the election FROM LAST NOVEMBER to Al Franken.

Instead of doing that, and doing the right thing and making sure that Minnesota has their 2 representative Senators, what with all this financial and economic crisis, he, instead, is apparently thinking about taking the vote count to the state Supreme Court, instead.

Sad. Really pitiful.

This is all bad enough.

What's really bad, though, and blatantly hypocritical is that, if the roles were reversed and it were the Democrat who had apparently lost, the Republicans would be screaming bloody murder about what a travesty it is and how the Democrats should "do the right thing for the voters" and concede the race.

As it is, they insist they're the ones doing the right thing and seeing this thing out.

To the Democrat's credit, they aren't screaming about this as they might be both for the outrageousness of Norm Coleman and the Republicans, outright, and because of the Republican's hypocrisy.

Unbelievable. Pitiful. Again, sad.

The people of Minnesota should make it clear they've had enough of this travesty and nonsense.

Link:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2009/04/14/2009-04-14_al_frankens_minn_victor_court_rules.html

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hooray! Now let's try to solve the problem

Okay, great news we got yesterday afternoon, that Captain Richard Phillips was rescued, safely, from the pirates who had kidnapped him from his ship off the coast of Somalia.

I think a common thought by many people is that they should do a movie of this of some kind.

And sure, it's got all the elements--modern-day pirates who capture innocent men on a ship at sea and it turns out well, complete with Navy Seals (I think, right? that's who killed the 3 pirates?) and a successful mission in the middle of the night.

Sure.

But you know what I'd like to see?

I think we need to have someone the police or someone, release information on the 3 pirates killed and the one held by authorities.

Don't get me wrong here--I'm no soft-headed liberal who thinks these 3 men were "victims" of any sort.

What I do think is that these 3 men were probably very uneducated (read: ignorant) and from extremely poor backgrounds, at minimum, out of this country, Somalia, that is also extremely poor and that doesn't even have a working government.

Again, let me say, this doesn't make their kidnapping, threats and any other actions they undertook any less wrong, by any means. Make no mistake about that.

I'm just saying that it's these extreme conditions of poverty, lack of education and a virtually complete lack of government and law in Somalia that has created the conditions of piracy in and around Somalia.

It would be interesting reading and should give us ideas and direction on how to possibly, solve the problems of piracy and, hopefully, poverty in Somalia and on the African mainland, with any luck.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What have we become?

Torture

I think we all know what torture is, don't you think?

Anything that causes pain of one kind or another, right, for whatever reason?

Sure.

Did you hear this?

Did you hear what some people in our government called torture, since the nightmare of the George W. Bush administration used it to "get information"?

They've called torture "enhanced interrogation."

My God.

What have we become?

Can we bullshit ourselves this much, as a people?

The little guy always gets screwed in America

So corporations scrrewed up, stole big money, screwed the country and their clients, destroyed the American economy so, after years of building up a paycheck, they turn back on their employees and ask them to take pay cuts, so the corporation can keep slugging it out.

Corporations suck.

They're killing America.

They're sucking the life, daily, out of their employees and then want to suck even more out of them (read: us) in this downturn.

Link to story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/nyregion/10hotels.html?scp=1&sq=with%20more%20rooms%20vacant&st=cse

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Encouraging

A poll out this week shows that the American people think we are much more going "in the right DIRECTION", as a country, with President Obama in the White House (and George Bush out).

Thank God there are people out there who get it. It's reassuring.

There are so many right-wingers who think we're either going straight to Socialism or Communism or who knows what. Then there are the really crazy ones who think guns and lots of ammunition are the way to go, in response to the currrent administration.

Crazy.

It's just nice to know that a good portion of the American people know that what we're doing now, through the Obama Administration is an improvement over the "you're either with us or against us" of the previous administration.

The chuckleheads.

Link to poll:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/us/politics/07poll.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

The right wing has flipped out

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What should happen

According to The New York Times yesterday, people and companies have been upset and raising some cane about the possibility of the government limiting--just limiting, mind you--short selling on the stock market.

I've said before, what should happen is that short selling should be just outright killed.

Why, you ask?

A stock is a bet, really. A stock is a bet on a company doing well, when you get right down to it. If it does well--and you hope it does, of course--you do well. If the company does not do well--if it's badly managed or whatever--you do poorly.

I ask you, does that not qualify as a financial, business bet?

So short selling, which is "the practice of borrowing stock and selling it in the hope that its price declines", is a bet on a bet, purely and simply.

To short-sell a stock, you're betting the company and the stock do poorly and that the stock price falls.

This is no way to run a stock market for two reasons, at minimum:

1) It is, as I said, a bet on a bet and it weakens the stock market and

2) It causes a decline on the stock market to precipitate and increase in its fall, once the fall starts.

If you have a down market--a bear market, to use the term--it helps make the negative side of themarket increase and so, it falls further than it otherwise would.

And check this out--the rule that the government is considering putting back in has two pretty interesting characteristics about it.

First of all, it was only taken out 2 years ago, just before this halving of the markets. This seems to indicate the effect the elimination of this rule has had, I think.

And second, this is a law that was put into place back in 1938, during the Great Depression. It was in effect that long in our country's history. I think this shows that this same law stood us in pretty good stead, over all those years and through all those markets.

Seems to me like a good time and a good idea to put it back into our system of laws--along with other ones that would separate banking from insurance from
investment houses, while we're at it. Those laws came out of the Great Depression, too, of course.

The right thing to do, for our lawmakers, is to put these rules and laws back on the books. But you know representatives in government--in the first
place, they usually show the backbone of a sea slug and secondly, there's money to be made in taking corporate lobbyist's money, instead of doing the right
thing for you, me and the country.

Get this, from the original article: "They"--the corporate shills, against resinstating the laws--"have also said that the changes in the accounting
rules and the proposals to restrict short-sellers threaten to undermine the independence of the regulators and show their willingness to buckle under heavy political pressure."

Boy, that's a beauty.

What they're, in effect, saying is that, if the government does the right thing--that is, put these rules back into place--that they'll be "buckling under heavy political pressure" and that they're undermining "the independence of the regulators." Unbelievable.

Sure there's heavy political pressure. The financial world was going to hell in a handbasket, folks. Everyone was at the lifeboats. It seems only right to fix the system, since its broken.

What they were doing there is calling the government people who suggest we do the right thing with these rules cowards, in hopes of not having any restrictions put on them. All they want to do is be able to make as much money as possible, as frequently as possible, with as little rules as possible.

Let's hope our government does the right thing for the markets, the country and the American people and puts these rules, regulations and laws back into place.

As close as we supposedly/apparently came to total, worldwide financial meltdown, you would think intelligence and right would prevail.

Link to original story:
http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/some-revile-plan-to-limit-short-selling/?scp=2&sq=some%20revile%20plan%20to%20limit%20short%20selling&st=cse

Monday, April 6, 2009

What a guy

There was a fascinating, in-depth article in The New York Times yesterday, detailing CEO's pay in the last year.

The title of the article on the front page of the business section was "Executives Took, but the Directors Gave".

The Times' take on big, overdone executive pay at corporations is shown, right away, in the lead sentence for the main article and that is that "Little of the ire against outsize C.E.O. paychecks has been aimed at the people who signed off on them: corporate directors."

And while that's true, there's also the really overlooked fact that these directors are virtually always friends, buddies and pals of that same CEO so who are these little directors to not give them big, fat paychecks? "You do for me here and I'll take care of you, over there" can frequently fit the description of the relationship. That, too, has been overlooked, I think. It's a pretty chummy relationship.

A little intimidation could go a long way, too, in getting your board to load your pay, but that's another matter.

One of the most fascinating things for me, in looking over the 2 full pages of charts they printed of CEO's pay was Steve Jobs' information.

All the other CEO's listed millions of dollars to them for pay and more millions in cash bonuses, another for "perks/other" while still more listed stock awards and options awards. Virtually every column had hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars going to this or that CEO.

Who knew there were so many ways to throw money at your executive? I didn't.

Naturally, when you're looking at this list, you're drawn to who makes the biggest amounts. You're looking for, kind of, "off the chart", big pay.

So yesterday I was looking at this and I got 3 sections down on the first page and I start seeing all these zeroes. And then a "1". And then more zeroes.

And I'm thinking, what is this, all of a sudden? What does this mean?

And then I see that it's a listing of the CEO of Apple Computer.

One Steve Jobs.

And I'm knocked out.

This guy got paid one dollar last year, for his work.

Now, I don't know how much he worked--how many hours, etc., but I do know Steve Jobs is the reason why Apple exists.

I also know he's why the iPod exists and he's the reason for such cool, really beautiful and intelligent design over at Apple, since the company began.

I also know there's rumors and news reports of his being sick so who knows how much he worked last year.

But then, go a little further on the list and you see that this same Mr. Jobs has a "Total Value of Equity Holdings" in Apple of $630,409,621.00.

Yow.

That's a personal net worth of over one-half billion dollars in Apple stock only.

So, sure, he only took home $1.00 last year in pay for his work at and for his company.

But he's worth over 500 million dollars.

And yes, I keep in mind this isn't money sitting in a bank somewhere--this is what he's worth in Apple stock. Not spendable money but investments, nonetheless.

What I'm left with is, here's a guy, Steve Jobs, who doesn't fleece his company for more and more (and more dammit!) money, just so he can acquire more and more and more, for it's own sake, quite unlike his CEO counterparts.

Here's a guy, this same Steve Jobs, who thinks up and creates cool--very cool--fun products and applications and sees them all the way to production and distribution, who has helped make, really, the 21st Century a lot of the fun it is.

He helped bring us the iPhone, the iPod before it, iTunes, cool computers, a great, working software system that doesn't get viruses and bugs--in fact, in sharp contrast to Bill Gates' Microsoft Vista software, this stuff works great--and he's not bilking his own company, in the meantime.


I hope Mr. Jobs is not truly, seriously ill, for sure. I hope he's with us for a long time and with good health in the meantime.

But I will say this, one day, when he's no longer with us, we're all going to miss this man, his creativity and his personal virtues a great deal.

Here's to Steve Jobs. A great man. May he be well and live long.


Link to original article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/business/05board.html?th&emc=th

And a NYT article on Steve Jobs:
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/j/steven_p_jobs/index.html

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How bankrupt are we?

From The Kansas City Star and Associated Press yesterday, Sat. April 4--"Perchlorate is found in baby formula" with a subtitle: "Scientists think that significant amounts of the rocket fuel chemical can be harmful"

Perchlorate?

In baby formula?

In the United States?

What the hell?

This brings up so many questions I can barely contain myself.

How the hell did perchlorate get in baby formula?

Why?

Who put it there?

What did they think they'd gain?

And a heck of a lot more.

Get this:

A study was done by scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who were looking for the chemical.

Again, you're kidding me. Why were they looking for it? Did someone tip them off? Did a government or corporate snitch tell them to look for it? Why would you arbitrarily start looking for a "rocket fuel chemical" in baby formula, for God's sake? And in the United States. I can see maybe in China but not here.

Or so you would have thought.

But wait, there's more:

"The chemical has turned up in several cities' drinking water supplies."

Holy cow.

Again, why?

And then, who's putting it there?

What corporation?

What person?

And what are they to gain by doing so?

Are they merely using this as a convenient, low-cost way of disposing this?

And while the article says "No tests have ever shown the chemical causes health problems," does anyone think a rocket fuel chemical in our food or water supply could possibly be a good idea? Really, how could it NOT cause some kind of health problem or problems?

It goes on to say that "the largest amounts of the chemical were found in formulas derived from cow's milk."

Another reason to not drink milk.

"The researchers would not disclose the brands of formula they studied." Oh, hey, thanks, government, for doing what you're supposed to do and that is, keep the American public safe. Thanks, too, for protecting those corporations who are poisoning us. Thanks, loads.

Get this, for reassurance, the spokesman for the International Formula Council (read: lobbying group for corporations) said "Health authorities continue to empasize that infant formula is safe."

Yeah. Right.

There's a rocket fuel chemical in some infant formula but it's safe. Don't worry. Keep buying our crap--infant formula and point of view, both.

I want to go the local grocery store now and put up a sign saying "Rocket Fuel Chemical added to infant formula."

Thanks for protecting the American People, CDC and EPA.

We're no better than China, for God's sake.

You could see this, maybe happening there, after their run-in with melamine but here? The United-freakin'-States?

What sick organization came up with this idea? what sick group went through with this? Again, why? And what sick puke is following their company's directives to follow through with this?

This brings me back to my original question: As a people, how bankrupt are we, morally and financially that we--anyone-- would allow this?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Still kowtowing to Big Business

I wrote earlier this week how hopeful I was because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy were so adamant about and pushing for true change and strong regulation, worldwide, of financial markets and now this, today--it seems the US' Financial Accounting Standards Board buckled to political pressure from bankers and their toady Congresspersons.

Bankers didn't like that so much of their assets, on their books, are so much lower in value because of this current banking crisis/fiasco. Regulations, up to now, said values of their mortgages and products would have to be whatever the real market value was.

That made sense.

Values of their products shouldn't be arbitrary, of course.

So, now that there's such a big financial crisis and everything has gone to heck, including and especially bank's assets and their values on the stock markets, they want to say that these assets are actually worth much more--in a "regular" market, which of course, this isn't.

This is insanity.

The government now, with this ruling by Congresspeople, has made it possible for the bankers to decide what the value of their assets are.

I ask you, is this not insanity?

The market no longer rules. It's not "supply and demand" deciding the value of a product. It's the banker themselves.

For some sanity, let's quote the Investors Working Group and 2 former SEC Chairmen who lead it, from their statement on this travesty:

"In order to create high-quality accounting standards, it is critical that the process be independent and free from political pressure... To the extent that these new FASB proposals reduce the free flow of transparent and reliable financial information, they undermine investor interests and weaken their ability to make sound investment decisions."

And that's the least of it. That's incredibly understated.

This is exactly the opposite of the stronger, smarter and more stringent accounting methods we should be developing right now, so we avoid big financial failures and crises in the future.

This makes us look, further, like a Third World banana republic and not responsible at all.

Here we go again

This just off the news wire:

Hostages taken, at least 6 wounded in NY state


How soon 'til we learn, folks?


Link to story:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/hostage_shooting


An update: 4:42 pm Central Time

Police: 14 killed in NY immigrant center shooting

Link:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/hostage_shooting

Hopefully Mrs. Obama will come to Kansas City with this message

It seems First Lady Michelle Obama is a big hit with the Queen of England, the British people and their tabloid newspapers.

Good for her.

Good for us.

And while it's just dandy that Mrs. Obama and the Queen were apparently so struck by each other that they showed outward signs of affection (read: hugged each other?), what's better and more important is what she did later in the day:

"Mrs. Obama visited an all-girls school in North London on Thursday afternoon. She told the 240 girls about growing up on Chicago's South side, and urged them to think of education as 'cool.'"

"'I never cut class. I liked being smart. I liked getting A's,' she said. 'You have everything you need. Everything you need to succeed you already have right here.'"

That is precisely the message that American students--regardless of all color--need, frankly.

And that's what we need in the United States, frankly. Hopefully Mrs. Obama will bring that message of intelligence and studying and discipline back home with her. Children and adults, both, could apply this message. It would be nice to get over our dislike or suspicion of intelligence and the "intelligentsia".

Stupid, for the last 8 years of George W. Bush got us nowhere good.

I hope Mrs. Obama brings that message back home to the United States for the next 4 (or, here's hoping, 8) years.

I hope she brings it here, to the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas area, too. It would serve her country well.

Link to original story here:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20090402/49d44650_3426_1335020090402-1940165394

Thursday, April 2, 2009

France looks better all the time

France, Germany, French President Nikolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all look better and smarter all the time, it seems.

They're the ones pressing the most at the G20 right now for much more regulation and restrictions in business and our ugly, out-of-control Capitalism.

Thank God.

Look where all this selfish, unregulated banking, for instance, has gotten us--all of us, worldwide. Collapsing banks. Failing insurance companies. Collapsing stock markets.

Maybe doing it all "above board" makes far more sense after all. This way the wealthy can, sure, still make money but just not fleece so many others who may or may not have that much money, all so they can be more obscenely wealthy.

They're also saying that maybe it doesn't make so much sense to throw so many more trillions of dollars at these busineses, too.

Imagine that--Socialist countries saying that maybe it doesn't make sense to soak up tax money to big institutions.

It seems backward, doesn't it?

Usually it's the free market capitalists who are saying don't throw government money at problems.

Pass those French Fries, will you?

Link to story here:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090402/ap_on_re_eu/g20_summit

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Could we stop already?

There was an article out Tuesday that Congress is sending on a bill to expand the AmeriCorps Program.

Okay, I'm a liberal and I believe we need government to solve some solutions--like bank regulation, for a great, long overdue example--but could we STOP expanding government?

PLEASE?

Doesn't anyone in Washington know we have a debt?

A BIG debt?

A REALLY HUGE debt? And deficit?

We need government, for sure, to create and pave streets and have water distribution and sewage and good schools (no connection between those last 2, by the way) and all kinds of things but we don't need an endless expansion of government.

Let's stop. Let's at least slow down. Let's do what we do right and stop making this mess we call government bigger.


Link to original story:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090331/ap_on_go_co/national_service