Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A few days ago, newspapers published the story of a British schoolgirl who became ill and died just hours after receiving an immunization shot of the drug Cervarix. The shot is to immunize young girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. The news stories left a clear impression that the girl had died from the vaccine.
The maker of the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline, recalled a batch of the vaccine for testing, and the government health service quarantined a batch. But now it looks like everyone overreacted.
Dr. Caron Grainger, director of Coventry NHS services, said the vaccination was "most unlikely to have caused the death", and revealed that a preliminary post-mortem examination had "revealed a serious underlying medical condition which was likely to have caused death."
In plain language, the vaccine did not cause the death, but just coincidentally happened to be given right before her serious medical problem struck. The government is not stopping the vaccination program.
It did seem odd that the vaccine would all of a sudden turn into a killer. About 1.4 million doses have been given out and there have only been 4657 adverse reactions -- none of them life threatening (see chart for the specific reactions).
I hope the news organizations will give as much space or time to the news that the vaccine is not responsible for the death, as they did when inferring the vaccine was responsible. They scared a lot of people by drawing premature conclusions.
The picture above is of Greenwich, Connecticut psychic Janet Lee. According to her web site (which I will not connect to), she does tarot card readings, psychic readings, angel card readings, channeling, holistic therapy and life couching (her spelling). She seems to be sort of a one-stop shop for those that believe in woo-woo.
Ms. Lee seems to be having some problems lately. First, she claims to have been assaulted by a man working for a unknown "rival psychic". She said she was attacked outside her business, and then walked herself to a hospital, where she notified Greenwich police. She also claims to have been getting threatening phone calls from the unknown rival psychic.
But Greenwich police don't believe her. They have arrested her, and charged her with falsly reporting an incident, interfering with an officer and providing a false statement. The police think she was lying about the assault. They think she may have been assaulted by someone she knows in neighboring Norwalk.
The question I have is if she's really a psychic, why didn't she forsee the assault and call for help or avoid it altogether? Could it be that her "psychic abilities" only work when fueled by lots of customer dollars? I'll bet she didn't foresee her arrest either.
When are people going to stop falling for these frauds?
The Miami Heat have issued a rule against a team member twittering from the basketball arena (home or away). I understand that rule and I don't have any problem with it. While a player is at the arena, he is at work. And he's being paid a lot of money to keep his mind on his job while at work. Things such as twittering can be done in free time away from the arena.
But there are other coaches that are taking things a bit too far. They are denying their players the right to twitter anytime -- 24 hours a day. Take for example football coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech University (pictured).
Leach is unhappy about a couple of tweets from his players. After losing to the University of Houston last week, Texas Tech captain Brandon Carter tweeted, "This is not how I saw our season." When Leach was late to a football team meeting he had called himself, linebacker Marlon Williams asked in a tweet why "the head coach can't even be on time."
Now Leach has banned tweeting for the entire team (at any time). Leach called the players "a bunch of narcissists that want to sit and type stuff about themselves all the time. We'll put mirrors in some of their lockers if that's necessary but they don't have to twitter."
Maybe a big mirror should be put up in Leach's office as well. He seems to think he's so important that he has the right to control his players lives 24 hours a day. The coach has a right to demand whatever he wants from a player during practice or a game. He also has the right to demand the player go to class and study as necessary, and stay out of legal trouble. But when the player is own his own free time (and he's not breaking any law), then what he does is none of the coach's business.
Frankly, I thought Mr. Williams had a valid question. Why doesn't the coach have to be on time for meetings that he calls? His being late sets a bad example for everyone, especially since he'd probably punish one of his players for being late to a meeting.
A coach is a teacher or a boss (or both), and in neither role should he be allowed to interfere in a player's private life.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A few weeks ago, the rich in Honduras used their political puppets to engineer a military coup. They seized power from the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, and installed their own right-wing zealot, Roberto Micheletti. The excuse these right-wing reactionaries used for the coup was that Zelaya was trying to pass constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in power.
They claimed they were trying to protect Honduran democracy by keeping Zelaya from illegally staying in power. Of course, this was nothing but a huge lie. Zelaya has repeatedly denied a desire to stay in the presidency past his elected term of office. Zelaya was about to hold a vote on some constitutional changes, but it was only a non-binding referendum to see if the people would support the changes if they were made.
The truth is that the reactionaries were afraid of the proposed constitutional changes. They knew it would create a society fairer to the poor and disadvantaged, and this might come at the expense of their vast fortunes. No longer would they be able to take advantage of those with less. So, in order to keep their privilege and position in Honduran society (not to mention their ill-gotten wealth), they organized a military coup -- just like the bad old days.
Some of the right-wing in this country has tried to defend the illegal government installed by the coup, but the actions of the Micheletti government make that harder each day. They have surrounded the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya is staying, and are now threatening to deny Brazil embassy rights in Honduras so they can seize both the embassy and Zelaya.
Now they have gone even further, and shown themselves to be anything but democratic. They have suspended the right to freedom of speech and the right of the people to congregate and demonstrate.
They have also closed a radio station (Radio Globo) and a television station (Channel 36), and seized their equipment (see picture). They did this because these two news outlets were the only ones brave enough to broadcast all of the news, including that from Zelaya and his supporters.
The so-called "democracy" of the coup government has no freedom of the press, no freedom of speech and no right for the people to peaceably assemble. How can that even be jokingly called a democracy? Can a democracy exist without these freedoms?
The illegal coup government says everything will be alright after the November elections, but even the United Nations says the situation in Honduras is not conducive to free and fair elections, and have withdrawn their election aid. There's no way this illegal government will allow the election of anyone except one of their right-wing flunkies.
Democracy is dead in Honduras. It died on the night of the military coup.
"A leading Egyptian scholar has demanded that people caught importing a female virginity-faking device into the country should face the death penalty."
According to the BBC, a virginity-faking device is be manufactured in China. The cheap device (selling for about $15) releases a liquid that looks like blood, allowing a woman to claim she was a virgin. The device is selling quite well in the Arab world, where some conservative religious communities believe a woman has no value except for her virginity.
Some women consider the device to be a cheap alternative to hymen-repair surgery, which can be quite expensive. Personally, I hope the inventor of this silly device gets filthy rich off of it. Any "man" with the huge inferiority complex and ridiculous religious beliefs to devalue a marvelous woman simply because she is not a virgin, deserves to be hoodwinked.
The pathetic "men" who hide behind their religion to force women into second-class citizenship, or even worse, virtual slavery, should not be tolerated by decent people. Although this kind of attitude is prevalent in the Arab world, it actually exists all over the world (even in the so-called "civilized" Western world).
You might have noticed that I put the word men in quotes above. That's because I hesitate to even called these pathetic creatures men. A real man has no interest in owning a woman or forcing her into a submissive or second-class status. A real man enjoys helping a woman to fulfill her full potential and assume her equal status in the family and the world.
The silly device discussed above would have no value with a real man.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The powers that be in the "war on drugs" thought they had the solution to end the use of marijuana in the United States. They would just severely clamp down at the U.S./Mexico border, and then pay the Mexican government hundreds of millions of dollars to attack the drug cartels. This two-pronged attack would dry up marijuana at the source and the "war" would be won.
I guess it sounded good to our political leaders, who know far less about marijuana than they think they do. Anyone who's ever smoked a "joint" could have known it wouldn't work. Marijuana grows just as well (if not better) north of the border as it does in Mexico.
Marijuana has been a huge cash crop in Texas, Oklahoma, California and many other states for many years now. But it was Americans doing this illegal growing. But since the border crackdown, we are now seeing a new phenomenon. The Mexican drug cartels are moving their growing operations north of the border.
Law enforcement organizations are now finding more marijuana being grown than ever before, and many of these are not "mom and pop" growers. They are large and sophisticated "grows" with many thousands of plants. Just this moth alone, officials in Navarro county have found three crops, totalling more than 16,000 plants. Oklahoma officials have found over 30,000 plants this summer in the Kiamichi Mountains.
These were sophisticated operations outfitted with drip irrigation systems, and the kicker -- they were being tended by undocumented Mexican workers brought in specifically for that purpose by the Mexican cartels. The "war on drugs" hasn't stopped the cartels. It's just moved their operations into our own back yard.
And what will be the response of our political leaders? If past actions are any guide, they will just throw good money after bad. They will buy airplanes and helicopters and all sorts of technological equipment, and hire more officers armed with assault rifles. They will move us even closer to a police state -- all to stop an innocuous drug that is less harmful to its users than most legal drugs.
Now I don't want the Mexican cartels operating in Texas and other states, but this approach has already been proved a failure. Marijuana is an accepted recreational drug in this country, and pouring millions more into law enforcement efforts will not stop it. And it will not stop the cartels. What it will do is keep the drug so profitable to the cartels, that the killings so prevalent in Mexico will move into our own cities and towns -- and that is something no American should want to happen.
There is a sensible way to stop the cartels though. Simply legalize the growth and sale of marijuana in the United States. This would have several effects -- all of them good for America. First it would put the growing back into the hands of American farmers, giving them a new and profitable cash crop. This would increase their incomes and boost the economy at large (and increase the income tax they pay -- probably significantly).
It would also destroy the importing and growing by the cartels, and would take millions of dollars in profits out of their pockets. They simply would not be able to compete with the American farmers growing the crop legally.
In addition to the increased income taxes paid by growers, a substantial tax could be levied on the retail sale of marijuana. This would give both federal and state governments billions of dollars in new income (and stave off tax increases in other areas, which would benefit everyone).
The legalization would also stop the stupid and hurtful criminalization of hard-working tax-paying Americans for the recreational use of marijuana. And it would redirect police efforts toward those more vicious elements in our society.
With the drug cartels moving in to our country and the economic recession hurting our citizens, it makes more sense now than ever to legalize marijuana. And not just for medical use. It should be legalized for recreational use under the same kind of laws governing the use of alcohol.
I've always been a fan of products from Nestle Foods, and I've spent a lot of money with them. That's why I was so disappointed when I read about Nestle's involvement in Africa. It seems they are helping to prop up the regime of the bloody dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
In the past few years, Mugabe has seized many white-owned farms. He says he did it to provide land to poor Zimbabweans, but the truth is that the farms have gone to his family and closest supporters. The seizures have ultimately destroyed Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy.
One of the recipients of several of the seized farms is Mugabe's wife -- Grace Mugabwe (pictured with her husband). Mrs. Mugabe has received about 12,000 acres, including some dairy farms. She is currently selling the milk from her farms to Nestle. In fact, she is providing about 15% of the milk Nestle buys in Zimbabwe.
Buying this milk violates the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, but since Nestle is a Swiss company, they don't legally have to abide by those sanctions. Nestle sent the BBC a statement saying, "Had Nestle decided to close down its operations in Zimbabwe, the company would have triggered further food shortages and hundreds of job losses among its employees and milk suppliers in an already very delicate position."
I'm not buying that argument, and I expect it could have been used by many other companies who are abiding by the sanctions. The fact is they are profiting by their support of a bloody dictator, when their failure to cooperate could hasten his departure. That's very disappointing, and just one more example of a company putting profits before people.
I won't be buying any more Nestle products, as least as long as Mugabe is still in power.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Uranium can be enriched at different levels. Low-enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants, but uranium must be very highly-enriched before it can be used to make a nuclear bomb. So what is Iran doing? Are they enriching uranium for fuel or for a bomb?
Iran claims it is just making nuclear fuel, while Israel is convinced Iran is making a nuclear bomb. Everyone else is suspicious because they were not told earlier about Iran's newest enrichment plant near Qom, which Iran announced earlier this week is ready to begin production.
Iran believes it has complied with the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by making public notification before the new plant became operational. But others say there was a Subsidiary Agreement that required notification during the planning stages. Regardless of who is right, the plant is now complete and ready to start operations.
Like most other people, I don't like the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons. However, I really don't see how tougher "sanctions" is going to prevent that. The only ray of hope I can see at the present time is that Iran is saying it will allow inspections under IAEA rules. I hope they are serious about this and allow full and complete inspections.
Secretary of State Clinton responded to the promise of inspections by saying, "It is always welcome when Iran makes a decision to comply with the international rules and regulations, and particularly with respect to the IAEA. We are very hopeful that, in preparing for the meeting on October 1, Iran comes and shares with all of us what they are willing to do and give us a timetable on which they are willing to proceed."
I agree with the Secretary of State. The best thing for all concerned would be for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and allow complete inspections. We already have one rogue nation with nuclear weapons -- Pakistan. We certainly don't need another one.
The Party of No and its teabagging friends have done everything they can to convince people that not only would a public insurance option be the dreaded "socialized medicine" (like Medicare I suppose), but that most Americans would be opposed to such a thing. But that's not true at all. It's just another right-wing lie.
The lie is exposed in a good post at The Osterley Times. It seems there's a new CBS/NY Times poll, and this poll shows that 65% of the American people are in favor of a public option health insurance plan along the lines of Medicare. The fact is that Medicare has worked (even though it got tougher when Republicans tried to bankrupt the program), and the American people know that.
Meanwhile, a miniscule 26% of the population oppose having an option for public insurance. The final 9% said they had no opinion. That makes the situation very clear. If the public insurance option is not included in the final health care reform bill, it won't be because the American people don't want it.
If the public option is defeated, it'll be because too many in Congress have been bought and paid for by the private insurance companies. I urge voters to vote against any senator or representative in 2010 who votes against the public option -- regardless of whether they are Republicans or Democrats.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This is a rather shocking development -- Tom DeLay, former House Majority Leader for the GOP, actually making some sense. I had always thought the man was brain-dead, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe his miniscule brain was just covered with thick cobwebs from lack of use, and maybe all that dancing on TV has shaken some of those cobwebs loose.
Anyway, I can't find a lot to argue with about the things he has to say about the Republican Party in his latest interview with PoliticsDaily.com. He basically blasted the Republicans, and said they had no chance of regaining power in the mid-term elections "barring a miracle".
He also said they were a leaderless party. In fact, DeLay couldn't name a single viable leader for the Republican Party. Other than his prediction of Republicans gaining 20 seats in next year's election (which I think is a little generous), I think his other statements are pretty much on target.
Here's what he said in his own words:
"Republicans will pick up some seats in the House, maybe 20, but not enough to take back control."
"The Republican Party doesn't have the organization or leadership to take advantage of this dire political situation that Obama is in now. We have these grassroots sprouting up, but not the party organization to use them."
"Republicans are leaderless, so we're just fighting each other instead of Obama's radical policies. There's no political leader of the party taking control. So, Republicans are just attacking each other for being too far right or too far left. Even Rush and Hannity are doing it."
"It's all the same old guys who were in leadership with me, and those old guys aren't the leaders the party needs."
This is a rather interesting post over at the Rotten Tomatoes blog. They have completed the unenviable task of listing the 100 worst movies of this decade. I appreciate them torturing themselves to compile this list for us, and I'm just glad I didn't have to do it myself. Here are the ten worst movies according to them. Go on over and check out the full list of 100 if you dare. One thing the list proves is that even really good actors and actresses can make some really bad movies.
10. Witless Protection (2008) - Larry the Cable Guy, Ivana Millicevic, Yaphet Kotto
09. Redline (2007) - Nadia Bjorlin, Eddie Griffin, Angus MacFadyen
08. 3 Strikes (2000) - Brian Hooks, N'Bushe Wright, Falzon Love
07. Strange Wilderness (2008) - Steve Zahn, Allen Covert, Jonah Hill
06. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004) - Jon Voight, Scott Baio, Vanessa Angel
05. National Lampoon's Gold Diggers (2004) - Will Friedle, Chris Owen, Louise Lasser
04. King's Ransom (2005) - Anthony Anderson, Jay Mohr, Regina Hall
03. Pinocchio (2002) - Roberto Benigni, Carlo Guiffre, Nicoletti Braschi
02. One Missed Call (2008) - Shannyn Sossamon, Edward Burns, Ana Claudia Talancon
01. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) - Lucy Liu, Antonio Banderas, Gregg Henry
This story about Gainesville High School hit home with me, because I lived in that city for several years and liked it very much. My son started his school career in Gainesville back in the 1980s and it seemed to be a good school system. If this story is true, then things have changed.
Gainesville is a small and beautiful city of about 15,000 residents. It is located about 90 miles north of Dallas and less than ten miles south of the Oklahoma border. It is the county seat of Cooke County (one of only four counties in Texas that voted to stay in the Union during the Civil War).
But the Gainesville Independent School District is currently being investigated by the Texas ACLU. The ACLU has requested all information on school assemblies this year. That's because some Hispanics are saying that Hispanics were singled out and brought to an assembly at the school, where Hispanics were accused of causing the school's unacceptable rating by scoring too low on their TAKS tests.
Hispanic parents believe that singling out Hispanic students for the assembly and accusation was racist behavior (and it certainly sounds that way). One of the parents, who's daughter is an honors student, said, "She felt like it should have been an assembly that was inclusive of the whole student body. I totally agree; I don't believe in segregated meetings. To me, it's a simple misunderstanding that they were discriminating against people."
Personally, I think it was not only racist, but stupid. The group of Hispanic freshmen they gathered in the assembly were not even in high school when the last TAKS test was given. They were in middle school, and their middle school received an acceptable rating from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
Also, according to the TEA, Gainesville High School students did well enough on the TAKS test to be rated acceptable. The unacceptable rating was not given for low TAKS test scores, but for not maintaining a 75% graduation rate among all groups. Hispanics had a 73.3% graduation rate, but how can incoming freshmen be blamed for that?
This was simply a bone-headed move by one or more high school officials. If the school board is smart, they'll take disciplinary action against this official (or officials) and make sure it never happens again.
Friday, September 25, 2009
One of the most effective ways the Party of No has in trying to defeat real health care reform is in scaring the American people into thinking we cannot afford the cost of real reform. They want Americans to think that health care reform will cost billions of dollars, and that will either bankrupt America or put its citizens under an unbearable tax load. Neither is true.
So, how do we pay for the reform needed. Citizens for Tax Justice has come up with a way. A way that is so simple and fair to everyone that every senator and representative should be ashamed of themselves for not coming up with it themselves.
Their idea involves a simple extension of the Medicare tax. Currently this tax is levied on all wages and salaries at a flat rate of 2.9%. Half is paid by the employer and half by the worker (with each paying 1.45%).
But wages and salaries are not the only types of income in this country, and the people with other types of income such as capital gains, stock dividends, taxable interest income and unearned income reported on schedule E (rents, royalties, S corporation income, passive partnership income and income from estates and trusts) are getting a free ride with the Medicare tax currently.
Citizens for Tax Justice would extend the small 1.45% tax to all types of income. But to be fair to people with lower incomes, the first $10,000 of non-wage/salary income for a single person would be exempt from the tax. For a married couple, the exemption would be $20,000.
About 73.2% of the extended tax would be paid by the top 1% of earners (that average $1,540,599). This group would pay an average tax of $9907. Another 17% of the tax would be paid by the next 4% of earners (that average $283,099). The average tax paid by this group would be $578.
That leaves 15% of the top 20% of earners. This group earns an average of $128,175, and they would pay an average of $62. That means the top 20% of earners would pay 96.9% of this extended Medicare tax. Here is the percentage and average tax paid by all groups:
If the tax is instituted soon, it would raise about $19 billion in 2012, and would bring in $160 billion in the 2012 through 2019 period. All of this is new money and could be applied to the reform of health care. The money currently going to Medicare would not be affected at all.
I like this idea. It would raise a great deal of money, but put almost no burden on working folks and those with smaller incomes. In fact, it is the upper 5% of income earners that would pay 90% of the new tax. These are the people who are receiving the most from this country, and it is only right they should give some back for the good of all.
This is only one idea for paying for health care reform (although it's a very good one). I'm sure there are others that will work as well. So don't let the Party of No convince you it can't be done. They are just trying to protect their rich buddies at the insurance companies.
This is a story that should horrify and disgust all decent Americans. It seems that some nut has carried the incessant right-wing anti-government hate speech to its logical conclusion -- violence aimed at our federal government.
On September 12, Bill Sparkman (pictured), a teacher and U.S. Census worker, was found hanged in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. The perpetrator of this murder had also scrawled the word "fed" across Sparkman's chest. Sparkman had been doing census work in the rural area, and obviously came across one or more people who think it's now all right to kill anyone working for the government.
Some early news reports had said the police were trying to figure out whether it was a homicide or suicide. That's ridiculous. The Kentucky police can't be that stupid. Who's going to scrawl "fed" across their chest to commit suicide? It simply doesn't make sense. Anyway, the Census Bureau said they had been told by police that this was "an apparent homicide".
I'll be honest. I blame the purveyors of right-wing hate speech for this unspeakable crime. The hate-speakers like Bachman, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Malkin, Savage and Coulter have convinced the fringe element in this country that anyone who doesn't agree with them is a socialist and an enemy of this country.
I especially blame Glen Beck and his teabagging pals, who talk about the federal government as though it's only days away from enslaving America and sending its citizens to Death Panels who will tax them into poverty and then kill them. With the amount of vitriolic hate-speech coming from Beck and his pathetic minions, I'm really just surprised this hasn't happened earlier.
I know these people won't temper their hatred or accept any responsibility, so we can expect to see this kind of thing again. And where is the FBI? Isn't this a terrorist act against our government?
The Teabagger Socialist-Free Purity Pledge
I, ________________________________, do solemnly swear to uphold the principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word that I shall strictly adhere to the following:
I will complain about the destruction of 1st Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 1st Amendment Rights.
I will complain about the destruction of my 2nd Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights by legally but brazenly brandishing unconcealed firearms in public.
I will foreswear the time-honored principles of fairness, decency, and respect by screaming unintelligible platitudes regarding tyranny, Nazi-ism, and socialism at public town halls. Also.
I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life.
I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:
State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)
Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
US Postal Service
Roads and Highways
Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
The US Railway System
Public Subways and Metro Systems
Public Bus and Lightrail Systems
Rest Areas on Highways
All Government-Funded Local/State Projects (e.g., see Iowa 2009 federal senate appropriations--http://grassley.senate.gov/issues/upload/Master-Approps-73109.pdf)
Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
Public and State Universities and Colleges
Public Primary and Secondary Schools
Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children
Public Parks and Beaches
State and National Parks
Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services
Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)
Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)
Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro (Nazi-NASA Inventions)
Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking
Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies
If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care
I will not tour socialist government buildings like the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
I pledge to never take myself, my family, or my children on a tour of the following types of socialist locations, including but not limited to:
Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History
The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments
The government-operated Statue of Liberty
The Grand Canyon
The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery
All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in my state or in Washington, DC
I will urge my Member of Congress and Senators to forego their government salary and government-provided healthcare.
I will oppose and condemn the government-funded and therefore socialist military of the United States of America.
I will boycott the products of socialist defense contractors such as GE, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Humana, FedEx, General Motors, Honeywell, and hundreds of others that are paid by our socialist government to produce goods for our socialist army.
I will protest socialist security departments such as the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Department of Justice and their socialist employees.
Upon reaching eligible retirement age, I will tear up my socialist Social Security checks.
Upon reaching age 65, I will forego Medicare and pay for my own private health insurance until I die.
SWORN ON A BIBLE AND SIGNED THIS DAY OF ____________ IN THE YEAR______________.
Signed Printed Name/Town and State
From the excellent blog Swiftspeech.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The crises in Honduras continues to get worse. Ousted-president Manuel Zelaya has returned to the country, and is currently holed up in the Brazilian embassy in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The embassy has been ringed by Honduran troops, and the water, electricity and telephone were cut off to the embassy. They were later partially restored (whatever that means).
Meanwhile, the capital is under a curfew and there are police roadblocks on most major streets. In spite of opposition from nearly every country in the Americas, the coup-installed illegal government seems determined to retain power -- by force if necessary.
Meanwhile, President Lula of Brazil (pictured) spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. He believes it is time for the United Nations to act in support of Manuel Zelaya. He said, "Without political will, we will see more coups such as the one that toppled Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. The international community demands that Mr. Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."
President Chavez of Venezuela agreed, saying, "The United Nations should demand that Zelaya be reinstated to government again." In a separate action, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. has suspended giving any assistance to Honduras for its November elections. He said the conditions are not right for "credible elections".
I must agree with Presidents Lula and Chavez. The coup-installed government in Honduras must not be allowed to stand. Doing so would allow the economic elite to be emboldened to fund and stage coups in other Central and South American countries, and that cannot be allowed to happen. It would mean the end of democracy in much of the Americas.
The United States has already cut off foreign aid to Honduras. But that is not enough. It is time for the United Nations to act, and act with sufficient boldness to topple the coup and reinstate Zelaya.
If this is not done soon, we may be looking at the beginning of another civil war.
It should come as no surprise to Texans who know what Senator John Cornyn is like, but he is again telling lies and trying to scare the citizens of Texas in opposing real health care reform. He is now telling Texans that the Baucus Health Care Bill (which admittedly could be improved) will add $20.4 billion to Texas Medicaid costs over a ten year period.
Using figures he says comes from a Texas Health and Human Services report, he says the $20.4 billion cost will come from having to cover an additional 2.5 million Texans with Medicaid. Sounds scary, huh?
But the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin says the study "overstates the general revenue cost" and is based on "incomplete information." It says "There are cost savings in other areas", such as federal reimbursements that would increase under the bill.
It's not surprising that Cornyn would cherry-pick parts of the bill that support his scare tactics, and ignore other parts that mitigate those scary statistics. But perhaps the stupidest thing Cornyn said was, "Medicaid delivers poorer health outcomes than private insurance..."
Just what is he trying to say here? Does he want to cover these 2.5 million people, who cannot afford insurance, with a private insurance policy? Let's examine just what that would cost Texas in terms of dollars.
A private policy with decent coverage nowdays costs about $12,000 a year. But let's be generous, and assume that Texas would agree to a less expensive policy, covering less but still giving adequate coverage. Let's cut the figure in half, and purchase these private policies at $6,000 a year.
Just doing a little simple math, it would take $15 billion to cover the 2.5 million people with private insurance EACH YEAR! The total cost over Cornyn's ten year period would be $150 billion, and that's assuming there would be no rise in premium cost over that ten year period.
The truth is that private premiums are rising at about 10% per year, so the real cost would be much higher than the $150 billion. Even if the $20.4 billion for ten years was true, it sounds like a bargain compared to this.
But we all know Cornyn has no intention of helping these people to get private coverage (or any other kind of coverage). He's just trying to help his rich buddies at the insurance companies by scaring the people into opposing health insurance reform.
He and his rich buddies have their coverage, and to hell with everyone else. It's the Republican way these days.
On Wednesday, President Obama spoke to the nations of the world by addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations. He made it clear that the Bush policy of forcing other nations to agree with American policy, either through economic or military intimidation, is over.
We are entering a new era where America will offer leadership and cooperation, but he made it clear that America cannot and will not try to fix the world alone. Other nations must do their part -- both to heal their own nations and to heal the world at large. The huge problems facing the world can only be fixed by the cooperation and involvement of all nations.
The president is right. Although America is a large and powerful nation, we cannot and should not be the world's policeman or savior. We have tried this kind of unilateral action in the past, and it was justifiably viewed as little more than an expansion of American imperialism.
No nation, not the United States or Russia or China or anyone else, can claim to have the only voice of truth, righteousness or justice, in my own opinion. Also, no nation has the right or is powerful enough to impose its will on the rest of the world. That's why the president is right. If the world is to be saved and made a better place for all its citizens, it must be accomplished through the cooperation of all nations.
Here are some quotes from President Obama's speech:
"Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
"Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions."
"In the year 2009 - more than at any point in human history - the interests of nations and peoples are shared."
"No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. That is the future America wants - a future of peace and prosperity that we can only reach if we recognize that all nations have rights, but all nations have responsibilities as well."
"The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise."
"All of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip service."
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The death of Senator Edward Kennedy recently seemed to make it harder for Democrats to pass health care reform. That's because with some Blue Dog Democrats siding with the "Party of No" (Republicans), every vote will be precious when the health care reform comes up for a vote in the Senate.
It was not expected that the Massachusetts senate seat would be filled until a special election could be held in early 2010, and that would be too late to help with health care reform. But it looks like the Massachusetts legislature has fixed that problem. They have just amended the law to allow the governor to appoint a replacement senator until the special election can be held.
Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, is expected to approve the legislation and appoint someone to fill the seat temporarily next week. Some expect him to appoint ex-governor Michael Dukakis (pictured) to the senate seat. The Massachusetts Senate is also expected to pass a resolution asking the appointee not to run in the special election.
Whether the appointee does or doesn't run in the special election, this will give Democrats one more vote (hopefully progressive) in the upcoming health care reform egislation, and that's a good thing.
The odds are still not great that real health care reform will be approved, but they are better now than they were last week.
This certainly brings back memories, especially for an old chess nut like me. Garry Kasparov, from European Georgia, and Anatoly Karpov, from Russia, have been reunited. They are two of the best chess players to have ever played the game, and both were world chess champions for many years. Kasparov took the championship away from Karpov in 1985.
Their's was one of the great chess rivalries (like Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky before them). Now they are meeting again for a match in the Spanish city of Valencia. The 46 year-old Kasparov trained for this match with teenage prodigy Magnus Carlson in Norway. The 58 year-old Karpov prepared by playing against a computer.
The current match is composed of 12 games played in five days under a strict time limit. The match will end on Friday. Kasparov is off to a good start, having won the first two games (played with a one hour time limit).
If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Kasparov. Although Karpov was a great player, Kasparov seems to have had his number since taking the championship from him in 1985.
Still, I wish I had the money and time to see some of the Valencia games, no matter who wins.
Karpov and Kasparov are pictured above.
The average life of a computer is about two years. After that time if it is still, working it is probably hopelessly outdated and the owner is looking to replace it with a faster and more powerful new computer. Then the old one becomes e-trash.
Each year, about 2,25 million tons of TVs, cell phones and computers are tossed out each year. About 18% are recycled, while the other 82% are trashed -- usually in a landfill. A University of Houston graduate student, Benden Macaluso, thinks he has come up with a partial solution to this problem. As a part of his graduate thesis, Macaluso invented a cardboard case for a computer.
The recyclable cardboard case requires less time, labor and parts to produce, since it can be assembled without screws or fasteners. This eliminates the cost and time to produce these elements. The computer will not only be less expensive, but will be easier to disassemble and recycle. The case itself can be safely trashed or reused (depending on its condition).
Macaluso even thinks he's solved the problem of overheating. He says the enclosure uses the corrugation of the cardboard as a ventilating system. The processor has its own built-in cooling fan, and the motherboard and power supply are isolated from each other.
A cardboard case would also be susceptible to liquids, but Macaluso assumes people will think enough of their computers to avoid spilling liquids on them. The case can also be cleaned of dust by spraying it with air.
Macaluso says, "We already know that the computer will be thrown out, so I designed an object that does just that. If we were already reusing cases and replacing hardware (and software) at a mass scale, we would not have nearly the problems that we have now."
Macaluso is talking with some companies about marketing his product (which he has dubbed "Recompute"), but so far it has not been marketed. There is even some talk of selling a do-it-yourself computer kit that includes the hardware and the cardboard case.
I'm not sure what I think about this idea. I must admit I like the well-built feel of my MacBook, and that won't be achieved with a cardboard case. But who knows? There may be a cardboard computer in all our futures.