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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New GOP ticket order - Ryan/Romney

Ann Romney gave a good speech and after hearing her, I'd vote for her...for HER. But she didn't tell me anything about HIM, and he's the one running for President. 

Chris Christie sounded like a high-schooler giving his first public address to the student body. It was embarrassing, and since I'm an Independent, I really didn't care if he embarrassed himself. That's an indicator how bad his performance was.

This morning, I'm still embarrassed for him.

But the pundits are right about one thing, the ticket has flip-flopped such that now, it's a Ryan/Romney ticket instead of a Romney/Ryan one. Looks like the GOP have picked yet another real winner for VP candidate. 

After the election, maybe Mr Not-Vice-President Ryan and Mrs Not-Vice-President Palin can start a club.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong: A hero not fallen, but risen

As I sit here, this morning, sipping my coffee and listening to 'CBS Sunday Morning', I have to keep picking up a tissue and blowing my nose and wiping my eyes. 

I'm a child of the 1960s, going to school not even an hour away from the Cape. When any mission launched, we stood in our front yard - as our neighbors stood in theirs - eyes cast to the east, awaiting the bright flame that men rode to take them to space. I remember every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission that launched in my cognizant-childhood because we followed them at home, and we followed them at school. We grew up in an era fed by the intellectual curiosity of a race - the human race - that wouldn't be chained to only one planet, but a race that yearned to journey among all the planets, among the stars. 

I remember the day that Neil Armstrong stepped forth on the Moon, and I remember that it was also the day that my parents announced to me that they were divorcing. 

The latter passed, but my curiosity never waned for the former.

Yesterday, a hero not just of one country but of all countries, not just of one celestial body but of two, passed away. With him went a part of our genetic makeup, that part that serves to drive our race forward. 

I sit here, this morning, in a stunned daze and I wonder if that moment of heroic achievement wasn't our finest. Have we fallen so far and devolved into the bitter rancor that has become the norm for how we get along with each other? Will we ever have the will to step forth again even on the same body that Neil Armstrong stood on over 3 decades ago? Will we have the willpower, the desire to show our technological prowess again, to boldly go to yet other planets?

From the viewpoint of politics, it seems not. We've given over the reins of the nation to cowardly know-nothings who would rather see the nation fail than the man who leads it succeed. 

From the viewpoint of technology, we seem to want to hand over the role of leader to any other country with the common sense to educate its children in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

And from the viewpoint of leadership, we've abdicated that role completely, not even bothering to find a replacement.

Neil Armstrong was a hero of international - nay, interplanetary - dimensions. Who now will be our hero?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Comment on excellent 'The Atlantic' article, 'The Cheapest Generation'

I've been following these trends carefully with an eye to both the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest, both of whose mid-sized urban areas are downsizing housing and autos. Serenbe, the bespoke ecologically-minded community a half-hour south of Atlanta is the new paradigm for this movement.

A still-small-but-growing trend is the Tiny House movement with houses which may be +/-150-500 square feet, or so. Some are even smaller, even while the national average is over 2500 square feet. I've decided to go the Tiny House route when I fully retire. All that's required is a postage-stamp-sized piece of land (mine will be high-altitude) with connections to utilities, although the housing industry is fighting this trend tooth and nail. The early adopters in that home-building business will probably be the winners. And the feet ** and knuckle- ** draggers will be left behind in the (saw)dust.
The Today show recently aired a segment on tiny spaces in Manhattan, all that a recent-grad might afford. Some are finding that it's all they need anyway. 
In late-1984, I specially-ordered and bought a 1985 Honda Civic CRX HF, a 59-mpg 2-seater in an era of road boats. By today's safety standard, it probably left much to be desired, but I had a ton of fun with it driving the winding backroads of the Southern Appalachians. My heart has always been with the small and fuel-efficient and I'm glad to see a return to that. 
Hey, I'm also all for luxurious cars, and I'm glad to see Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Chevy, Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, and all the other makers playing Up-The-Mileage. That's smart of them, and good for us. Even better will be when the day comes when not a single car on the road relies on greenhouse-gas-producing fuels.
These Gen Y kids are smart, a hell of a lot smarter than my generation is. They're completely revamping work rules, and they're still efficient and productive. They're saying, 'Why do I need 2000 square feet to clean when I'm only going to live in 500 square feet of it?", and they're right. They're using car-sharing rather than car-buying because for the hour a week that they drive, it's just a grocery hauler, or maybe a go-see-some-nature conveyance, and why would anyone want to pay a grand a month for that?
Smart. I'm proud of my generation's accomplishments too, but we threw caution to the wind and left our toys scattered and the playground soiled. I think the Gen Y'ers will be the ones to fix what we broke, and I thank them in advance.
The excellent 'Atlantic' article, "The Cheapest Generation" by Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann can be found here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Response to BBC article, link at bottom

Democracy is an experiment two-thousand years in process. The American version is a constitution-based federal republic with a strong tradition of democracy. The very description of our type of government gives a hint that reason need not play a part in it. True democracies can have the effect of marginalizing minorities, a blow against reason, although reason would seem to favor a true democracy. But reason isn't the metier of the masses, at least not when they act like a mass...or mob.

Rational principles would also seem to favor an intellect-based rule, but that experiment ended badly for the Soviet Union, and most other Leninist-Communist states.

I suspect that we'll blunder on until someone disproves the capitalistic model prevalent in democracies today, if Big Banking hasn't already done that and we're just too unreasonable to see it.

From the article 'A Point of View: The enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes' at the link found here .

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Response to a Gulf Oil spill article online

Response to National Geographic video concerning the Gulf Oil spill and the health of the Gulf of Mexico. The video is found at the link at the end of this article on

I think the bigger question is, will the Earth survive US? We're throwing common sense to the wind and pursuing a course of "prosperity" over a course of ecology. The same people who are most vociferous about protecting their children are the worst polluters and resource users. Drive through virtually any American suburb and look at the houses you see; 3000-4000 square foot monstrosities that are far above what's necessary for comfortable living and individual space. Look at the trains of trash that line up at landfills to be disposed, so much of which could be recycled, a program that goes completely lacking in many rural areas that have curbside waste removal. I live in such an area and have tried for years to have the program add a simple recycling bin to the pickup, but to no avail. The woman who coordinates the plan for the county has a sinecure. She not only won't consider a recycling plan, she refuses to initiate an online payment program, meaning that there's no option for a paper-free billing process.

Like the majority of issues accelerating the destruction of our planet, greed plays the overarching role. This woman doesn't want to see her job eliminated by automation, but she's also a staunch conservative and favors the Tea Party (she had Tea Party banners and signs in her office and on the lawn). Total double standard: Cut or deny logical, resource-saving measures while insuring that she has a job forever. The same is true for the oil and coal industries, and many more.

They would rather see the Gulf saturated with crude oil than face the loss of even a single perk. I cite as reference BP's former CEO, Tony Hayward, who was disturbed by the Gulf spill only because "I want my life back", he said. Right, a privileged life free from pollution, trash, recycling bins, or those pesky people who understand that if we continue down the road we're headed, we're going to end up knee-deep in garbage, pollution, and dirty water - if any fresh water is to be had at all. But you can be certain that Tony Hayward and those who share his opinions, regardless whether they share his wealth or not, will ride this pony until it falls over dead. Dead like much of our oceans now, including the formerly-beautiful Gulf of Mexico.

National Geographic video on found here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Privatization to its logical extension

The privatization crowd rarely show their math work. They're especially shortchanging when doing the math all the way to the likely conclusion. So let's take a look.

Assume that the entire country (has lost its mind and) has gone ultra-conservative. We privatize EVERYTHING. 

Education: Rather than having what amounts to a group discount for education, you have to purchase it on the free market. And since it's been privatized, it has to turn a profit. So, we have to jack up the price of what is factored into your taxes by whatever amount that works out to. For the sake of argument, and to be...conservative...let's say the factor is 2. 
Done - 2X

Transportation:  The street you live on will be privatized. How will that work? One assumption is that your neighborhood could purchase a grid of streets and do its own maintenance. That means that you will have to pony up your share to help buy them. Again, no single-payer discount, and since fixing potholes requires a crew to go out each time and do that, figure a factor of 2, conservatively.(Fair disclosure: My stepfather worked for a paving company for over a decade and 2X probably isn't even close, more like 5X)  (Edit note: Another option for the street you live on is for a private firm to buy it. Imagine having to pay a toll to pull out of your driveway. You'd probably have to pay, say, a month in advance, like you would for some other services. To pull out of your driveway. Having fun yet?)
Done - 2X

Health:  What you pay now will make it seem like Walmart has been pricing your care compared to where those costs would go. No single-payer for services now covered by Medicare, Medicaid, VA, other public health plans, means that healthcare prices will skyrocket. Public plans help hold down the price of healthcare by way of competitive pricing between public and private plans. It's hard to make a guess for this, but it would be safe to assume that the byzantine "coding" system of healthcare pricing would remain in effect and probably get even more complicated, We'll be ultra-conservative and call it 2X.
Done - 2X

Security: Now ALL cops are rent-a-cops. Ever see 'Mall Cop'? Ever see the fat security guard at the mall with his face stuffed into a 2083-ounce pop? Those will be your new cops. Some might say that competition will breed better cops, but if that was true, current rent-a-cops wouldn't look like Kevin James. 
Done - 2X

National security: Does anyone recall Blackwater? They changed their name to Xe, but it's still the same people doing the same things and charging ten times more than the same jobs done by equally or BETTER qualified people in the active military. Using private contractors to do the same work that military members could be doing is one of the great defense debacles of the Twenty-First Century. (Not only do we pay the contractors, we still pay the military members who are relegated to sitting on the sidelines or doing odd-jobs, so this is an 'in-addition-to' cost, not an 'instead-of' cost.)  We pay over 10 times more for a contractor to do the same thing that soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors already do.
Done - 10X

Getting a sense of where this is going? In logical parlance, the term 'slippery slope' is a conditional fallacy, so I'll try to avoid the use of that. But one human trait has never failed us, going back millennia: Greed.

The factors I use above are simply back-of-the-envelope numbers pulled out of thin air, but there WILL be a multiplication factor measured in integers involved in what we pay now versus what we would have to pay if the services our government now provides were to be privatized. And the above is just a handful of the hundreds of services that government provides. Even if you could purchase some of them on an a la carte basis, you'd still end up paying many times more than you do now. If you pay 30% of your check in taxes now, imagine if the across-the-board factor was 3X. That means three times more than you now pay. So let's do some math: 30% X 3 = 90% or 30% of your current income that you now pay in taxes times the across-the-board factor of 3X equals 90% of your income to private firms that provide services that were once provided by government through the use of your tax dollars. The people who want privatization are the very same people, or cronies of the same people, who currently, or would, own the businesses once privatization occurs.

Government isn't perfect, and probably never will be. But it has the ability to purchase common goods and services on a scale that privatization would never be able to.

Think about that when you vote for someone who wants to slash government and hand that work over to the private sector.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A thought on crime

I think crime is determined by scale. If you scam one person, you've committed fraud and you go to prison. But if you scam a million people, you've committed banking and you to to Wall Street.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Neo-Naziism, White Supremacists, Dominionist Christians, and the US Military

Neo-Naziism was rampant in the military as far back as the mid-1980s, at least. Later, in the late-80s, our intelligence unit was conducting witch hunts for gays but left neo-Nazis, Aryan Nationals, and other white supremacists alone even when they had racist symbols clearly displayed. 
But that's probably due to the fact that our battalion commander was himself a racist. He despised gays and atheists and made no effort to hide it. His behavior toward service members of color was somewhat more mitigated, but it bubbled just beneath the surface on his cigar-chomping face. You could watch the muscles in his face twitch when he had to speak to any lower enlisted soldier, especially those belonging to groups he hated. 
In a unit whose roster was filled with soldiers with codeword security clearances and years spent learning foreign languages - both of which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars collectively, and millions alone individually - he set soldiers against one another to ferret out any whose least characteristics showed up on his hate-radar. Soldiers with perfect records were ousted, even jailed, for the least homosexual infraction while he permitted fraternization, even marriage, between heterosexual couples, even when one member would fall into the other's chain-of-command.
His activities eventually caught the attention of Congress, a difficult low-point to hit for a battalion commander. He had managed to achieve the worst retention rate - that is the rate of re-enlistment, a crucial goal for intelligence units because of the money spent on up-to-yearlong background checks, clearances, language training, and other training, making re-enlistment, even with a $25-35K bonus, a real bargain for taxpayers - in the entire US military. Typically, intelligence units have a very high retention rate because of the specialized training, re-enlistment bonuses, and the fact that so much time is spent in uniform to achieve the necessary skills that the lure of retirement may only be a single re-enlistment hitch away.
So, when you walked through the barracks rooms - in buildings built by Hitler specifically for his SS troops, the original Nazis - and saw swastikas and other neo-Nazi paraphernalia displayed, you knew why those displaying it could sneer at your recommendation to take it down: They had the full support of their battalion commander. 
The battalion commander was a Dominionist Christian, as well. In the 2 or 3 experiences I had with those in the military, they also sympathized with the white supremacist movement. I don't know if that's a 1-for-1 ratio or if I found some overlap, but it has always struck me that Dominionists are white supremacists, also.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our Republic Can't Stand Another Conservative President

The bulk of human progress has been made in times of liberal thought. Consider the past few centuries alone and you'll find the Age of Reason, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and more.

The President has clearly been saying in his campaign speechs that WE are the government and that WE are responsible for building our republic, not corporations, not even the small business down the street. The President has been elucidating the reality that a power greater than any company can wield, a benevolent power used to help build up our industries, our infrastructure, our educational system, and everything that it takes to create a society can be used for good, for the common weal, and to insure that we recover from the disastrous conservative policies that go back as far as Richard Nixon and continued unabated through the Ford, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidencies. The only progress made in the past 20 years has been made in the Clinton and Obama administrations. 

The two unimpeachable sources you should consult are the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office. If you do so, you'll find that under Republican rule, our nation took a step backward educationally, financially, and scientifically while those same three metrics improved under Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama, even considering the conservative-created debacles that all three inherited. 

The fact is that Republicans have set our republic back decades and it has taken Democrats to fix it.