Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Are People Celebrating Women Outnumber Men at High Council As Progress?

I am somewhat perplexed by a host of Salvation Army blogs and other blogs by Salvationists that are making a big deal out of the upcoming High Council having more female representatives than male. They make it sound like this is a sign of great progress.

What gives? When did we stop thinking? Has our bloviating shut down our ability to reason? When did we settle for a shadow of the real thing?

Last decade, once the General elevated the spouses of TCs to the rank of the spouse, every High Council going forward was bound to have females equaling or outnumbering males. It is a demographic reality. Rarely are male TCs single, and even then, their wives are deceased. Single female TCs or IHQ department heads are a much more common occurrence than single male TCs. Hence, it takes only one female as a TC or IHQ department head to bring about females outnumbering males at a High Council.

A big measure of progress on female equality about which to crow would be either a) one of the married female High Council attendees being elected General rather than the husband, or b) that a female married officer is appointed to be a TC rather than the husband.

For well over century, theoretically both "a" and "b" have been possible but neither has happened, and it is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future. How many Salvationists truly believe that one of the married women at the High Council will be nominated ahead of her husband? How sad it is that none of us envision that happening. Does this mean that we do not have highly gifted females who are married to men who may have skills and talents, but less so than the wife?

I do not take such a dim view of our female officers. As Catherine Booth noted, it is not due to lack of nature on the female's part, but a lack of nurture and opportunity that married female officers are not in a position for either "a" or "b" to happen. Once either "a" and "b" happening more often we then will have something to celebrate.

Even before the wide spread of the suffrage movement the Army had female leaders. We had a great start and were well ahead of the crowd, but now where are we? It is unfortunate the western world has long passed us with regard to female leadership and equality so much so that we brag about females outnumbering males at the High Council.

Sigh!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

We Have Been Victimized Again By a Great Fraud

What a laugh. I guess Evie and I will need to think twice about planning a trip to Greece. We are all victims of a great fraud. This was the precursor to the global warming conspiracy and fraud.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/historians-admit-to-inventing-ancient-greeks,18209/

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Preflight Presentation

Monday at 6:30 AM I fly to Cleveland for some meetings, including dinner in at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. I return home late Tuesday night. On both flights it is unlikely that I will be watching the preflight safety presentation as I have heard it so often.

On the other hand, if the presentation is like the one below, I may well watch for the entertainment value.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Neat Little App

Two weeks ago I bought an iPad. One of the free apps I downloaded is a handwriting app that allows me to write on the screen using my fingure, save the note and even email the note to myself or another. By using the different font colors I can even have a crude filing system by nature of subject. What a neat way to take a quick note at the meeting, out on the road or wherever and then email it out.

The following was a practice effort that I did a few days ago on the number of electric sites in state parks...they are relatively too few to the overall total. I emailed out the note to see how it would look. I is sent in a photo format. It is a neat little app.




Thursday, September 09, 2010

Email Received

The following is an email we received. It reflects the attitude of a large number of fundamentalists and the more conservative evangelicals…a group that makes up a large component of the Tea Party movement.

The spirit behind the email boldly reflections what is termed as “American exceptionalism”….that America is the most enlightened country in the world, that it was created by God, whatever America does is right and the best, and its mission is to bring American democracy Republican democracy to the world. It also means that Americans cannot learn from other countries. as such cannot learn anything from other countries.

Though the content of email is posted as received, the font size was more than three times what follows.


WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR ANY U.S. PRESIDENT, DEMOCRAT REPUBLICAN,


OR WHATEVER, GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?


'My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of the Iraq & Afghanistan regime has been completed.

Since Congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq & Afghanistan is complete.

This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq & Afghanistan. This action will be complete within 30 days.. It is now time to begin the reckoning.


Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the

names of countries which have stood by our side during this conflict This list is short .. The United Kingdom , Spain , Bulgaria , Australia , and Poland are some of the countries listed there.

The other list contains every one not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war. THEN EVERY YEAR THEREAFTER It'll GO TO OUR SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM SO IT WONT GO BROKE IN 20 YEARS.

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.

Need help with a famine ? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France ..

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations: Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France or maybe China .

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France , and Russia . Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well.

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin

towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York.

A special note to our neighbors: Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change.

Mexico is also on List 2. Its

president and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple thousand extra tanks and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security.

Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty - starting now.

We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska -which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come. If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there.

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens.. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, 'darn tootin.'

Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet It is time to eliminate hunger in America . It is time to eliminate homelessness in America . To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thank you guys. We owe you and we won't forget.

To the nations on List 2, a final thought : You might want to learn to

speak Arabic.

God bless America .. Thank you and good night.'

If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.

(Please forward this to at least ten friends and see what happens! Let's get this to every USA computer!)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Toronto Pictures

Following are a few pictures from Evie and my trip to Toronto a week ago. The first picture is made up of three pictures.





































Saturday, August 21, 2010

Surprise Delivered

This weekend, to the surprise of my parents, Evie and I have been in Toronto. They did not know we were going to be in town until they arrived for dinner at the Royal York's Epic Restaurant.

The surprise started in May when we received a letter from Sue, Ron Sears’ wife, informing us of a surprise birthday for Ron who was turning 70 this weekend. With Dad’s birthday being one day removed from his baby brother we decided to do something for Dad. The last time I was able to do anything special for my father’s birthday was in 1984 when I took him to a Blue Jay game. Since then we have not been around for his birthday. Attending Ron’s party and surprising dad seemed to be a great idea.

Cathy hosts each year after Christmas a family reunion. The last one we attended was in December 1999 when my position allowed me to be away between Christmas and New Years. With Evie having a job where she cannot take a day off between Christmas and New Year, and with my office having to be staffed from December 26 through New Years, I not able to get away for more than a day. Henbce we cannot attend the reunion.

With sufficient notice and the date is free of other events, attending summer events are possible. This past May’s event was not possible as it fell on the weekend Josh was flying to Texas and the weekend of Jonathan’s engagement party. This particular weekend was free of all conflicts and we would not have to be concerned about snow across the Penn Turnpike or along the shore of Lake Erie as we do in winter.

Evie and I offered to pay for Mom and Dad to stay Friday night at a hotel in Toronto so as to allow them to travel from up from London the Friday before Ron’s birthday instead of traveling both ways on the same day. We booked them into the Royal York, the grand dame of Toronto’s high end hotels, and where the Queen stays when she is in town. We also told them that we had arranged for them to have dinner at Epic, a classy restaurant in the hotel.

We withheld from them that we planned to be there too. I explained to a Royal York official what I was doing and why, that it was a surprise for my parents and that they would not know that we were there until dinner. The hotel not only assigned them to a room on the 15th floor, one of the premium floors with its own elevator, and a room with a lake view, but they also sent them a fruit and cheese basket. The staff of the Royal York was wonderful.

Evie and I took Friday as a personal day. We left Washington at 3:30 Thursday and traveled party way that night. We arrived at the Royal York early Friday afternoon, just an hour or so before Dad and Mom, and made sure their room was on our card. For us, the rest of the afternoon was spent touring the waterfront. We learned later that when Dad and Mom arrived they spent time walking around the area where Dad spent about 40 years of his professional life. Apparently on the way into town they went looking for the homes where Mom lived, and they took a picture of the home in which she was born. I think it was great for them to reconnect and recall their past.

For Evie and I it was a gratifying surprise to deliver. We shared a lovely quiet dinner with Mom and Day. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast together before heading to Cheryl’s home for Ron’s surprise party. It was also great to see my uncle and aunt Eva, and a host of cousins. Between Saturday and the trip in July I have been able to visit with each of my siblings.

As I write this it is Saturday night and Evie and I are in North East PA. In the morning we will to travel home and hope to get to Maryland before the heavy home bound traffic coming out of the mountains of Maryland. No doubt by the time we get home we will be an exhausted from the long and quick trip, but it will be a satisfying exhaustion.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Public Education Is Not A Republican Priority

Falling housing prices, lower tax revenues are forcing state, local governments and school boards to cut expenses. Towns are turning off the neighborhood street lights, closing pools, playgrounds, parks, and libraries, limiting the distance a police car can drive in a day or sit idling. Fire stations are being closed, or rotating fire department station closing from day to day which Philadelphia is doing (three different stations in the day and three in the evening). Roads badly needing repaving are not only not being repaved, but towns and counties are taking the cheaper option of removing the asphalt and turning the road back into a low cost maintenance gravel road.

With schools across the country opening this month, 116,000+ teachers who were in the classroom last year have been told that their positions were eliminated as if there were not funding. Today the Democrats House of Representatives with the support of a handful of Republicans passed a bill which the President signed three hours later to save teachers jobs.

The same bill provides four months of Medicaid expenses for medical expenses of those who are low-income and the unemployed. States would be funding Medicaid without federal funding but in the process states would be laying off tens of thousands of fire fighters and police officers. The funding allows States to provide medical care without laying-off public safety personnel.

It would seem that the bill would have strong Republican support. Instead the Republican leadership said keeping teachers employed was a waste of money. One Republican leader pontificated that schools, local and state governments have been blotted for decades and it is time to downsize them all and thereby once again demonstrating that the Republican championing that they are compassionate conservatives is disingenuous and empty marketing. The Republicans politicians and their dominant deep pocket contributors are more than happy to substantially increase public school class sizes while sending their own children to private schools. For a party that boasts to be the party of Lincoln, this position is a far cry from where Lincoln stood on education...though he was self educated he advocated for a strong public education system for all citizens.

To keep police on the street, the majority of the Republicans in the House would have been happier to remove the expectation that States are required to fund Medicare and care for their poor citizens so are not concerned about healthcare of the common worker.

The costs of the bill are being paid by closing loop-holes that have allowed American based companies not to have to pay taxes on money earned oversees which the average citizen is not allowed to do and which have encouraged them to move jobs to other countries. By calling this bill a wasteful special interest bill the Republicans are indicating that they lack of interest in the needs and priorities of the middle class.

I am one independent voter who is quickly seeing that the Republican Party party is not fit to govern, that regardless of what their slogans and soundbits may claim, they lacks compassion for the blight of the avearage citizen and undermining the value and strength of the middle class.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 Crossmen Show

Following is the link to the 2010 Allenton Crossmen show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErnhxJZ96Vo

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Pre-Performance Work

Following is a clip that gives you an idea of what takes place ahead of each performance a DCI Corps undertakes. The caravan here is representative...for the Crossmen to vehicles are missing, the souveneir truck and trailer, and the volunteer van.

Josh is seen several times in this clip, once early as he walks towards the camera in yellow/gold shorts.

After the show, all the equipment is packed up, they change, they hang out and eat, take in the remainder of the show and then leave for the area of the next show...and sleeping on the bus and then on a gymn floor when they arrive between 2 and 6 AM in the morning.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Truth Turned to a Lie: A Noble Woman's Story Maliciously Twisted

A fundamental law of communication, context of any statement is critical to understanding a statement or story. A statement or phrase taken out of context is can readily be twisted to mean not only something contrary to the message delivered by the speaker.

This fundamental law is understood by journalists, historians and preachers alike who have long learned that proof-texting is not only a dangerous exercise but one which should be avoided. Whether one is interpreting the Bible, an ancient Roman text, Shakespeare, the writings of Madison, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Sir John A McDonald, or the statements of a friend or spouse, appropriate analysis of the full text, understanding it in is context is a time honored process. Functionally we all understand the law and for the most part follow it. I dare say that if we did not follow it, how many of us would be fearful to utter much more than two or three words at any given moment.

In the last week we have had a perfect example of a violation of this law. Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger and operative who looks for “gotcha” opportunities, took a video clip of an address by Shirley Sherrod and creatively edited the clip and intentionally feed it via various channels into the conservative electronic media. The clip is edited in such a way that leaves Sherrod sounding like a racist and the NCAAP audience sounding like cheerleaders for her racist attitude.

We have come to understand the full story, that the “gotcha” opportunity has rightly and justly blown up Breitbart’s face. His malicious and mean actions have exposed his heart and created a wake of damage. Not only have they maligned a woman who if the whole story had been told had an enlightening and noble experience but should be commended for telling the story in the first place. This lady whose family had been the victims of racial attacks, some violent, had at that moment when dealing with the farmer a confrontation with her own pain and an opportunity to lash out.

In the following link, Scalia in her post at 3:31 PM on Monday regarding th Breithbart video raises questions about the clip as it appears that there is something more to the story and that Sherrod was setting the audience with the rest of the story. Breithbart who later claims not to have had the whole clip evidently lacked the ability to see what Scalia noted. Further he failed to do what CNN did when they saw the video, take a deep breath and dig deeper. Breithbart and various officials were blinded by the their own biases and accepted the video without any critical evaluation, without attempting to put it into context or seeking to hear the full speach.

Instead Briethbart feed a gullible Fox and his ultra-conservative friends his edited story. He claimed that the video is proof the the NAACP is a rasist organization and that Obama has racists in his administration. When the context is understood and the full tape heard, Sherrod is far from being racist. Likewise, the audience was not affirming any racist actions. Rather the audience were nodding and vocalizing their understanding of her feelings and her temptation to respond in a racist manner and then lauding her for not doing so.

Not only are Breitbart’s actions to twist and misuse the truth despicable, so are those of the conservative media and blogs for swallowing the story whole, making their judgments without any journalistic integrity, without seeking for any response and shamelessly being anything but fair and balanced. Their bias and rush to judgment was atrocious.

On Monday evening Hannity on commenting on the story stated, “My only thing is they [the administration] weren’t the ones that caught it. It was on Breitbart.com and it happened some time ago. So it’s interesting that it took the new media to expose this.” Various commentators that evening and the next day complained that the "liberal media" was slow to jump on the story and call out racism that is on the tape. These critics of the silent media seemed not to fathom that the other organizations would take their time to investigate the story to make sure it was a true story. These other organizations appear to have the wisdom to know that in today's electronic media, that pictures, videos and audio clips can readily be redacted and altered for nefarious reasons. These other organizations have the common sense to know not to accept uncritically what is feed to them and they knew they needed to understand the context and fuller story before putting out a twisted part story. In other words, the other organizations by being slow were doing proper journalistic work.

What did the slower to report media discover? There was not story to be caught in the first place. If the whole tape were shown, and the story of how she helped the farmer save his farm regardless of her past and the farmer’s attitude to her, it demonstrates that Sherrod is just the type of person to have government. As the farmer has stated, she helped him save his farm. She did the right thing, helped. What does she get for doing the right thing, being besmirched by Breitbart and a conservative media blasts the twisted falsehood to the nation, and for pontificators like O’Reilly to demand, “And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately” even though when he was accused of sexual harassment loudly proclaimed for people not to rush to judgment on the initial claim and statement from his accuser.

Not only is the conservative media’s conduct shameful but so was that of her boss Tom Vilsack. Newt Gingrich commended Vilsack for his quick actions, “Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing. I mean I often disagree with this administration. But firing her after that kind of vicious racist attitude was exactly the right thing to do.” A former Speaker of the House commending Vilsack for by-passing due process and making a snap judgment when there has been no time to let the dust settle and examine the facts is atrocious. Given that as Speaker of the House he was second removed from the presidency, I am deeply bothered by Gingrich’s stance and lauding Vilsack for not following due process for an employee. For seeking political gain he has demeaned the fundamental right every American citizen has with regard to due process.

Even when the Atlanta Constitution's and CNN's coverage was showing Tuesday morning serious issues with Breithbart's video individuals like Laura Ingraham continued to ignore the warning signs while contratulating the unethical Breithbart for doing "a great piece on the whole thing. That afternoon though the news wires were showing more cracks to Breitbart's work and claims Limbaugh hailed Breithbart's lie as a "great work" and therefore signaled that his statements are may well be more based a strong dose of bias than anything else. Limbaugh and Ingraham seem to be more interested in bias spin than they are upon understanding truth and reality.

Breitbart's malicious damage is done. He has stood on tall hill, taken a knife, ripped open a feather pillow tossing them to the wind. While some of feathers can now be gathered, many more will never be gathered back up. I hope that in the end, Breitbart will be marginalized...but I fear that he will lay low and in a few months conservatives, including Fox News, will again be feasting uncritically upon what he produces.

Following is the link to Media Matter’s tracking of how the false story quickly spread.

http://mediamatters.org/research/201007220004

Thursday, July 15, 2010

For A Laugh

Three men hiking through the forest...






















across a raging and violent river they needed to cross.

Each prayed to God.


The first prayed, "God give me strength to cross the river." God miraculously gave him extra strong legs and arms. He struggled in the current, he walked where he could but most swam his way. Two hours later and almost drowning several times he made it to the other side.


After witnessing the near death of the first man, the second man cried, "God, give me the strength and the tools to cross the river."
And God gave him a kayak, strong arms, strong legs and agility,







After fighting the river for an hour and almost flipping four times, the second man arrived on the other side exhausted.

The third man seeing the struggles of his friends prayed differently, "God grant me strength, tools and intelligence to cross the river."
And God generously granted him his prayer and within moments he was transformed into a woman. With new insight, the map was carefully checked.

She noticed that there was a bridge two hundred yards upstream. She hiked two hundred yards and crossed the river with a smile on her face.





Guys, when you don't first succeed, take a deep breath and do it the way your wife first suggested.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Sobbering Letter

The following taken from June Wandrey's, a WWII nurse, letter home regarding what she saw after a German Concentration Camp was liberated the American Army. The quote is taken from Bedpan Commando, The Story of a Combat Nurse during WWII I have just finished reading the book.


6-4-45 Allach, Germany

Dearest family, I'm on night duty with a hundred corpse-like patients, wrecks of humanity...macerated skin drawn over their bones, eyes sunken in wide sockets, hair shaved off. Mostly Jewish, these tortured souls hardly resemble humans. Their bodies are riddled with diseases. Many have tuberculosis, typhus, enterocolitis (constant diarrhea) and huge bed sores. Many cough all night long, as their lungs are in such terrible condition. They break out in great beads of perspiration.

Then there is the roomful of those that are incontinent and irrational. It sounds like the construction crew for the tower of Babel...Poles, Czechs, Russians, Slavs, Bulgarians, Dutch, Hungarians, Germans. What makes it so difficult is that I understand only a few words. Their gratitude tears at my heart when I do something to make them more comfortable or give them a little food or smile at them.

One of the day nurses had a patient that kept leaving his cot and crawling under it to sleep on the bare wooden floor. She decided to put his mattress, sheets and pillow under there too as it seemed to be his favorite place.

The odor from the lack of sanitation over the years makes the whole place smell like rotten, rotten sewage. We wear masks constantly, though they don't keep out the stench. There are commodes in the middle of the room. Patients wear just pajama shirts as they can't get the bottoms down fast enough to use the commodes. God, where are you? Making rounds by flashlight is an eerie sensation. I'll hear calloused footsteps shuffling behind me and turn in time to see four semi-nude skeletons gliding toward the commodes. God, where were you?

You have to gently shake some of the patients to see if they are still alive. Their breathing is so shallow, pulse debatable. Many die in their sleep. I carry their bodies back to a storage room, they are very light, just the weight of their demineralized bones. Each time, I breathe a wee prayer for them. God, are you there? In the morning the strongest patients have latrine detail, it takes two of them to carry a commode pail and dump it. They also sweep the floors and carry out the trash. Many patients are only seventeen. Our men sprayed the camp area to kill the insects that carried many of the diseases.

We were told that the SS guards who controlled the camp used to bring a small pan of food into the ward and throw it on the floor. When the stronger patients scrambled for it, like starving beasts, they were lashed with a long whip. It's a corner of hell.

Too shocked and tired to write anymore. Love, June

What is sobbering, is that such suffering can happen today. The type of hearts that created this suffering still walk amongst us. We still have groups being demonized and dehumanized.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Crossmen and DCI Show in Arlington

The following is a video clip that will give you some insights as to why Josh loves the Crossmen and has not moved to another Corps.





Following are scenes from the DCI show held in Arlington on June 26. The Blue Coats and Carolina Crown are two of the strongest corps and one, possible both, will finish in the top five.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Crossmen, "Full Circle"

This evening Evie and I took in the DCI show that took place at Wakefield HS in Arlington. Though the seating was packed and parking was a challenge for those who did not arrive more than 90 minutes before the show, the show itself was very good and entertaining. We cannot wait to see how the performances will improve over the next month.

From work on Friday we traveled to Bowie MD where the Crossmen were staying. We caught them rehersing and the run through. As you can see from the first photo the field in Bowie was in rough shape and dusty. We visited with Josh for 5 minutes and gave him a care package before he had to run off for a shower (they are given assigned times).




Below are pictures from the Arlington show. Josh is in each picture. In the first he is in the center of the picture...in the second he is the one moving.










In the above and below picture he is in center of the picture but in the back beside the contra-base.




Evie and I enjoyed the Crossmen show. We really enjoyed the show from two years ago entitled "Planet X". We think this year's show, "Full Circle" is stronger and more entertaining than "Plantet X".

We did not get to see Josh today...we did not expect to do so with the crowds and all the logistics that take place. Seeing him before is impossible as they are warming up and remained focused on show preperation. Catching him after a show is most difficult as they are packing equipment and getting ready to leave.

We head out on a camping trip in the morning. We delayed heading out of town to see the DCI show.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Co-opting of Language

The primary meaning of a word can evolve over decades so that a primary definition in one age becomes a secondary in another with a new primary understanding. An example of that is “faggot”, a word that transitioned in the 1950s and 60s to have a new primary meaning and then transition out from common communication in the 1990s. The word’s historical meaning referred to small branches and sticks that one gathered to start or keep a fire going. By the mid 60s the word was used as a derogatory term to refer to a person who was gay. Due to its derogatory nature, it moved out of polite conversation and then out of acceptable conversation in the 1990s and today is rarely used.

In the past year I have become increasingly concerned about the co-opting of a word in such a manner that the word itself is in the process of being redefined in the United States. The word is, “patriot,” which is a word that means one who loves, supports and defends one’s country. The word is being co-opted by the right wing of the conservative movement in such a way that it is implied, and sometimes outright stated, that if you do not agree with their view that you are not a patriot. In other words, if you do not agree with their social and political agenda then you may well be a traitor.

One’s passion for one’s country can take various expressions. In the United States democratic processes and freedom of expression are highly valued. People are encouraged to debate, to disagree passionately with each other in a civil manner as it helps strengthen ideas, allow its citizens to arrive at a more informed decision, and in the process build a better society and nation. Accepting and encouraging widely differing perspectives, and all points in between, are not only welcome but are the safeguards against tyranny of a single viewpoint and the expectation that all will adhere to that one viewpoint such as is found in tyrannical monarchies and dictatorships.

A person who is far removed from my social and political viewpoint can be just as patriotic as those who agree with me. Though opinions differ, through the exchange and debating of ideas, each of us is ardently fighting in a civil manner to build a better and stronger nation. Hence, my alarm over the co-opting of “patriot” by a political movement that implies by the use of “patriot” that only they are correct and those who disagree with them do not love, support and defend their country. The co-opting of the term brings subtle and not so subtle pressure to conform to that movement’s point of view. The co-opting of the term and its ongoing association with a narrow set of political ideas means that in the coming years, and for the coming generations patriot will no longer mean being a lover, supporter and defender of one’s country but as one who holds a defined set of political doctrines. If we were all to be patriots in keeping with how the term is being used and its implied meaning, the United States will have moved towards the tyranny of a single mindset which the nation rebelled against in 1776.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photocopier and Security of Private Information

Scarry thoughts about photocopiers. Check this link out.


http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6412572n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

Monday, June 14, 2010

Family News

After a busy Spring my schedule is settling down. There were stretches where I was in the office only one day in ten. For the next month I will be more or less in the office four or five days a week.

We have been so busy that it was not until ten days ago that we pulled the cover off the RV and took it out of storage. It has had its annual Virginia inspection. Now we have to clean it up and air it out before going out.

This past weekend, Josh flew back from Texas for 36 hours. Oakton High School's Symphonic Band was debuting "Atlantic Odyssey". Alum who performed "Hymn of the Highlands" in 08 were invited to participate in the first performance of the work. About 20 alum, give or take one or two, returned for the playing of "Highlands" before debuting "Odyesey". The crowd was strong and the music the band's performance was strong indeed.

Once again Josh made the Dean's list. Starting in September he will be attending George Mason which is a few miles from home. Their music program has become a top quality program in the last five years. Attending Mason means he will have a stronger student teaching experience in a northern Virginia school (Louisianna high schools are amongst the worse in the country) and will better position him to get a teaching position in VA.

Josh is inheriting Evie's convertible. This had been planned for over two and a half years. Evie and I are in the process of short listing the desired models. Initially we had some two seat convertibles on our short list but with Josh living a home a used two seater is out. So the Nissan Z, Audi TT and Honda 2000 are no longer being given consideration. The Prius has also been eliminated...not sure that it is a comfortable vehicle for a long distant road trip.

The Crossmen will be performing twice this season in our area, in Arlington at the beginning of the season on 26 June and at George Mason in Fairfax in early August. Hence we will get to see the show in its early and late forms. Business responsibilities will preventing us from attending the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis.

Josh says that the show this year has them at points moving at a 240 beat rate. I found this little clip on Youtube. The clip is of learning the drill and gives a glimpse of that pace. To this they will add the music.




Memorial Weekend Jonathan and Maggie had an engagment party at Fair Lakes Park. This week they are with Maggie's parents enjoying the shores of the Outer Banks.

On 27 June we will be taking a week's vacation in Maryland. We are staying at to MD state parks...Cunningham Falls and then Greenbrier. We will be back home for two weeks before we take another week's vacation.

We have yet to decide where we will go for a week's vacation in September. We may not settle on a location until mid to late August.

Denise and Erma have received a new appointment...York PA. This appointment brings them to within a half hour of Evie's mother and step-father. I know Mom and Paul are happy that they will be so close. Evie and I are looking forward to seeing them frequently too.

I am happy that Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and the Hersey Bears the Calder for the second year in a row (Hersey is the Washington Capitals farm team).

Friday, June 04, 2010

Why Are Evangelicals Silent

Within a few decades of the American Revolution, the American political environment has gone through cycles of intense animosity and division. The bitterness ahead of the election of Thomas Jefferson and during the Andrew Jackson era are particularly notable periods if division. Of course the most divisive period was the fifteen years before the start of the civil war. America has cycled back to age of nastiness and where doing anything to gain political advantage over the other is viewed as expedient, justifiable and rationalized as good for the country as it keeps the enemy out of power, or frustrates the enemy’s legislative agenda.

As evidence by the governor’s race in South Carolina, the nastiness has spilled into internal politics where Nikki Haley is running against Andre Bauer. Haley, a woman who converted to Christianity from the Sikh religion has been called a “raghead” and her conversion many years ago questioned as been part of a great subterfuge to put a Sikh into the governor’s mansion. Out of respect for her parents, Haley occasionally attends Sikh ceremonies for which she has been criticized.

To undermine her credibility, without offering any proof two men have come forward saying that they had affairs with her. Innuendos and the subterfuge claim are intended to undermine her credibility. She denies the charges and though there is no evidence Bauer has outlandishly argued that she should take a lie detector test.

The party which proclaims to be the family value party and cries for honesty frequently turns to such tactics such as unfounded character attacks, use of derogatory terms, subterfuge, obfuscation and other negative attacks as a tool to destroy an opponent. And this from the party that aligns itself with the Christian Right and the Christian Right staunchly supports. What is further unfortunate about the Christian Right is that they not only remain silent on the use of such tactics, or say “that is them but not us,” the evangelical community is often the tool being used to help spread such attacks rather than being a tool to criticize their use.

Evangelicals should not be silent, but they are. Where is the outrage? Just as they were silent on the abuses and unethical actions of the Bush administration, evangelical leaders and pastors by enlarge remain silent. To those outside the church's influence it appears that they support the telling of lies and unethical attacks and conduct. It says to the world that religious beliefs take second place to helping their person get elected.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Venice 2010 - Part two

On our first full day in Venice we traveled to Murano, an island just north of Venice, which is well known for its glass factories and glass artisans. Our concierge arranged for us to travel via taxi down the Grand Canal and to have a private tour of the factory, its museum and grand showrooms. The grand showroom has some of the most exquisite handmade glass I have seen, ranging from chandeliers that are a quarter of million dollars to vases costing up to $20,000, to drinking glass sets trimmed in gold. Below are some pictures taken at Murano.

The first picture has the factory on the left. The water taxi is parked in front of the sales shop where we bought some items to bring home. The water taxi took us around to Venice from the opposite direction from which we came, thereby affording us a chance to see the other end of Venice from the one we had seen coming in from the airport and on the way to Murano.








Sunday, April 11, 2010

Venice 2010 - part one

Though weary Evie and I arrived at our hotel in Venice, Hotel Bauer, Saturday afternoon around 3:30. We were to arrive just after 12:30 but just as our aircraft out of Rome was cleared for take-off a warning light went off. The aircraft returned to the gate, and we had to be rebooked to the next flight. A number of passengers were angry, but I am more than willing to be delayed rather than risk my life. The crew and Alitalia did the right thing. Alitalia even gave us a free coupon for lunch.

Out of Washington we almost missed our flight. We were there in plenty of time and were sitting at the gate almost 2 hours ahead. I nodded off and Evie with her hearing difficulties did not hear the boarding call. I awoke and was in the restroom when I heard them calling us by name…so we made the run for it and were the next to the last onboard the puddle jumper. The flight out of Boston was very comfortable, but long when you cannot sleep. Dinner was a lovely meal, breakfast was so-so. I spent much of the night reading my Kindle and listening to my iPod before trying to catch some sleep when I was too exhausted to read any more.

Though our flight was late, the firm with which we had booked our shared water taxi understood and once another couple arrive shortly after us, we were on the way to the hotel. We are staying at the Hotel Bauer, a lovely hotel that is on the Grand Canal and has its own taxi stop. Part of this upscale hotel which is a 3 minute walk from St. Mark’s Square was at one time a monastery built that was built in the early 1700s. It became a family run hotel around 1890 and ten years ago finished $38 million in renovations.

Our room is in the newer section that overlooks a small canal. We can highly recommend the Bauer if you were to visit. After taking a much needed shower and getting about 2.5 hrs of sleep we wondered down street and made our way northeast to backside of Teatro La Fenice (opera house) and up to Campo S. Angelo via small narrow streets. Just north of the campo (square) we found a lovely restaurant for dinner. We enjoyed a pleasant unhurried dinner, I had lasagna and Evie penne, for less than 50 Euros. Afterwards we wondered north a little further before cutting east via small out of the way streets to a major shopping street which we took to within a few streets from our hotel.

The visit to Venice has been pleasant to this point. The room is comfortable and the company is very enjoyable. Following are a few pictures from Venice. The first is the water taxis shots, the dock at the airport and the interior of the taxi (the back has a glass ceiling which can be pushed under the wooden ceiling, which we did to take in the sun and to take pictures).









Above, glass item in the Brauer Hotel lobby.

Below is the little canal beside our hotel...beyond in the Grand Canal. Our room is on the third flow overlooking the canal and the gondolas.























Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recess Appointments

This weekend President Obama made 15 recess appointments which has brought forth complaints from the Republicans.

The recess appointment process allows the President to make an appointment during a congressional recess to a position which required Senate approval. The device allowed for the smooth functioning of government in an era when communication was slow, travel was by horse and buggy, and when Congress could be recessed for many months at a time. The appointments serve until the next round of congressional elections.

Modern presidents have used the device to make appoints of appointees who have been stalled in the Senate, either due to the candidate being a poor choice or due to the opposition party using tactics to block the president’s qualified nominees and thereby hindering the President’s ability to be the executive in chief.

In the modern age there should be little need to make recess appointments. When a president makes recess appointments as a means to by-pass Congress or as a means to install highly questionable candidates the president is abusing the process. All parties, the press and the public should cry out against his actions. On the other hand when such appointments are necessary because a handful of Senators for political reasons are blocking qualified appointees from receiving an up or down vote by the Senate then the nation should speak out against the Senate.

It seems that the current list of appointees fall into the latter category. All have long received majority support in the committees overseeing the appointee’s area, but vote on the nominees by the full Senate are being blocked by a number of Republicans.

Speaking to President Obama’s appointments Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said the GOP would react “very strongly” if Obama bypasses the Senate. POLITICO quotes Kyle saying “It has to be done very sparingly.” This is from the man who defended the 179 recess appointments made by President Bush (that it at a rate of about 22 a year over his 8 years, about 25 if one dismisses the last eight months when such appointments are rare).

Kyle goes on to note that such appointments make it very difficult to have bipartisan cooperation when the President is arrogant with power. Kyl criticizes Obama for not adhering to the rule of the Senate while blocking the Senate from expressing its will by a recorded vote. The will Kyl is speaking about is not the majority will of the Senate but the will of a minority that is using the system to block nominees from coming forward.

Kyl needs to get a life. Would these appointments be necessary if he and his friends had allowed for an up and down vote? In the past Kyl rightly and justly argued for up and down votes on Bush nominees. Yet now that his party does not hold the White House he has demonstrated that he really did not believe in his righteous arguments in the past but that they were empty words used to score points and play a political game. If it was wrong for the Democrats to block Bush nominees so it is equally wrong for the Republicans to do the same. Hypocritically Kyl is now part of the group that keeps such nominees from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 Vacation Trips

Vacations have not been the easiest things to coordinate in our family in recent years. Between business meetings I have, periods when Evie must be in the office, other than for those real special trips it not being best for Evie to take more than one week at a time, and Josh’s Crossmen and academic calendar, finding weeks to take Evie’s four weeks is a rather cumbersome process.

This year has been no different. The last part of July is out for Evie due to reports that have to be at THQ by the end of the first week of August. ARC employees, including Evie, are not allowed to take any weeks after October 1.

The week of July 26 is off due to a business conference I must attend…fortunately it is one of the week that Evie needs to be in the office. The first week of August is out as the Crossmen are performing in the area, and so is the week going into June 26 for the same reason. The second and third week of August are out as that is when Josh returns from the Crossmen and then heads back to LSU. With taking July 17 to 25 as a vacation week, and not wanting to come back for a week and go out again, suddenly the rest of July and August are off the table.

With taking a week in a week in April we are left with two weeks to schedule, one in June and one in September. We are looking at taking the week going into July 4th and either the second or third week of September. While we have booked our July campground at a park we have wanted to visit for years, we are still settling on where to go at the end of June and in September. In September we are considering Boston for a day or two and then moving on to Acadia National Park for three or so nights. In June we may go to West Virginia or possibly to Annapolis.

Over the summer we will need to work in a few weekend camping trips in the area. My other five days will be taken here and there over the fall, mainly added to weekends to make create a few extra long weekends.

For those that are interested her is our basic itinerary for Italy starting on 9 April.
Leave Friday afternoon with a connection via Boston
Sat change planes in Rome for Venice and arrive in Venice around noon
Venice, staying in a hotel three blocks from St. Marks Square
Sunday, booked a gondola serenade trip in the evening
Tuesday morning – train trip down to Rome (about 5 hrs)
Rome hotel in the heart of ancient Rome - four blocks from the Coliseum
Wednesday – tour of the Coliseum and other ancient Rome sites
Thursday – tour the Vatican and Vatican’s art museum
Saturday – late morning, return to Washington via JFK

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Outrageous Lawsuit

Just when you think you have heard everything, along comes a story about class action lawsuits against Toyota filed in Maryland, Florida and Colorado. The filing argues that Toyota has cars so badly flawed with safety defects and the recall so botched that owners of Toyota vehicles have no other option but to return the cars for a significant cash payment.

True Toyota handled poorly the initial complaints and the recall process was also fumbled, but to say that the cars are deeply flawed that they all need to be returned stretches reasoning beyond reason. Though I am not an advocate of tort reform, the arguments put forward by Hagens Berman does cause one pause to believe that some level of tort reform is necessary. That this type of suit is taking seriously show the flaws of the American legal system.

Berman is quoted as saying, "I don't know of any parent who would be willing to put their kids in a potentially unsafe car in exchange for a few hundred bucks." He also notes that "When we have talked with Toyota owners, they all voiced the same desire...to drive their Toyota back to the dealer, hand them the keys and pick up a check." Playing upon the irrational emotions of the gulable, a lawyer can guide the client into feeling "unsafe" and with a picture of big bucks in their head get them to sign onto the lawuit.

Toyota's are being fixed swiftly. I had my Camry into the shop two days after I called. I have never felt unsafe in my vehicle. My safety is more at risk from drivers who share the road with me and have not maintained their brakes, tires and other safety systems. My safety is more at risk from drivers who drive carelessly, who cut me off, who pass to closely or turn into traffic at a questionable moment. Some of these drivers who put my safety at risk may well be members firms that file these type of lawsuits.

In my view, this lawsuit is less about judicious redress than it is for a golden tongued law firm, such as Hagens Berman playing upon the irrational emotions of the gulable and the unduly anxious, to making themselves wealthy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Guns Do Not Kill People

Guns do not kill people, criminals kill people. To fault law abiding gun owners for the shootings misses the heart of the problem. The real problem is that we are not tough enough on criminals. People need to have guns to defend themselves and others against these criminals who have guns.

And so goes above the basic argument of gun rights advocates arguing against any gun control law.

Gun advocates point out that only criminals use guns to harm others. The question is, at what point did the man who shot two officers at the Pentagon become a criminal? When did the Virginia Tech shooter become a criminal? At what point do many others who use a gun in a crime become a “criminal”? Both the man at the Pentagon, the Virginia Tech shooter were law abiding citizens until the moments they used the guns for their criminal activity. Ten minutes before they opened fire they knew what they were going to do. Thinking about committing a crime is not illegal. Thinking about shoplifting, committing theft, filing a false tax return, etc. are not illegal activities. We do not convict people for having a thought. Rather it is the excursion crime that turns one into a criminal, and that is fallacy of the gun rights argument.

When police departments help the gun trafficking industry by trading and selling ceased guns to help fill their coffers to buy new equipment the nation has a problem. Would those who defend this practice advocate that an alcohol treatment organization should sell alcohol to help fund their programs? Should the police sell ceased alcohol? We would decry such a practice as helping to further the endeavors of what they are helping to fight.

Guns being sold by police departments have and will continue to turn up and be used to kill. Read this article. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100314/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_pentagon_metro_shooting_guns

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Couragous Act and Shameful Acts

Last night, March 10, the Itawamba County school board in northeast Mississippi cancelled the high school’s prom scheduled for April 2. The prom is one the major social events, if not the social event, in a high school’s social life, particularly for its seniors. School board’s have the right to withdraw prom authorizations, or authorization for any after school activity. That said, what the Itawamba County board did is disgusting and reminiscent to steps many southern government bodies went through to design and uphold racial discrimination.

Constance McMillan was planning to bring her lesbian partner to the prom. Constance would be dressed in the a traditional tux while her partner would be in a traditional prom gown. The school board has a policy that prohibits gays from bringing their partners to the prom. Constance was informed that she could attend, but could not bring her partner and wear a tuxedo. The ACLA informed that school board that their policy banning same-sex couples from the prom, a) violated the students’ rights and b) was an unwarranted and illegal discriminatory act.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) was planning on taking the school board to court. Rather than fight an unwinnable battle in the court, the school board cancelled the event. The school board, and its supporters, by the board’s actions acknowledges that they are bigots, and that they would rather cancel the prom than to be chastised by the court for their bigotry and be “forced” by the court to have their children rub shoulders with and witness the interaction of a gay couple.

There is a move afoot to hold a privately sponsored prom. The location and date would be the same. Parents would still volunteer and the fees for the prom would be the same, but there would be no school sponsorship or school funding to help underwrite a portion of the costs. If a privately sponsored prom is held, which is highly likely, the organizers will be able to invite whoever they wish and exclude whoever they wish. You can well bet that Constance will be one of a handful, possibly the only, individual(s) to be excluded.

The board’s actions are shameful. Like their foreparents they are using their elected positions to maintain shameful bigotry.

What is even more shameful are the reactions of many of Constance’s peers and the parents of those peers who are blaming Constance for the cancellation of the prom. Constance is the victim and these fellow students and their parents should cease to victimize Constance . Instead they should give voice to and lay the blame the cause of the problem, the bigotry in their hearts, in the community and which is reflected in the school board members. The school board members who voted to cancel the prom should be shamed and voted out of office.

Rather than blamed Constance should be affirmed for her courage and willingness to expose this ugly side of her community that should be confronted and expunged from their midst.

Here is a link to one of the stories, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_lesbian_prom_date

Monday, March 08, 2010

Message: Lets Not Dirty Ourselves

Last Monday, 2 March 2010, the Archdiocese of Washington DC announced that it will no longer be extending medical benefits to the spouses of employees. Those currently covered are grandfathered in but as of the 2nd of March, new enrollments can take place.

This move was taken in response to a new law that is going into effect in Washington that permits same sex couples to marry. The Church does not want to provide medical benefits to gay couples because they argue, it legitimized gay marriage, and the church does not want to recognize gay marriage in any form.

This situation goes to the heart of a fundamental flaw with the health system in the United States. Medical coverage is employer based. Employers at a whim can and make dramatic changes to what they will cover, the extent of the coverage, who they will cover, or even if they will provide coverage at all. Good performing employees who have given long service can suddenly find themselves forced out because the employer drops medical coverage or even worse, lays them off or finds a way to fire them to help reduce healthcare premiums the firm is paying.

Healthcare is the greatest social justice issue facing the majority of the nation. The Washington Archdiocese has demonstrated that the Roman Catholic Church is not that significant issue. It cries that it is not willing to fight for significant healthcare reform.

The Archdiocese in San Francisco took a different approach. It allows employees to pay for the medical premiums and add any adult in their home to their medical plan. Employees can add parents, adult children, grandparents, a friend as long as they reside in the home of the employee. They broadened who will be added at the employee’s cost.

As for legitimizing gay marriages by providing coverage, providing coverage does not legitimize gay marriage any more than providing treatment and care to alcoholics legitimizes alcoholism, or supporting and ministering to a sex offender legitimizes sexual abuse.

The Roman Catholic Church has the right to do what it has done but in my eyes it is contrary to the Jesus’ message of loving one’s neighbor. Like the self-righteous conservative Pharisees who criticized Jesus for visiting and sharing a meal with a publican, the Roman Catholic Church has left the banquet table rather than be “tarnished” by sharing a meal with the publican.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Palin and Teleprompters

Last weekend the current grand champion of the Republican right, Sarah Palin, at the Tea Party convention critized President Obama for using a teleprompter. In her folksy "awe shucks" manner questioned why a such an aclaimed public speaker would use such a device rather than speaking from memory or without any aids by speaking from the heart.

The gathered throng clapped and shouted at her comment. Take a look at the following pictures of Ronald Reagan, "Great Communicator", who the Republicans all but worship and quote his words as if they were holy writ. Maybe if Palin was half the critical thinker as the least critical thinker of modern Presidents she would realize a) why teleprompters, or speach cards (G.W. Bush) are used, and b) that she had also slammed Ronald Regan and every Republican President going back to Eisenhower.









Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hollywood Walk of Fame

The following have been given a Hollywood Star in Hollywood: Luis Miguel, Earetha Kitt (Santa Baby fame), Larry King of CNN, jazz singer Jack Jones, Janet Jackson of the Super Bowl outfit “accident” fame, television actress Mary Hart, and Juan Gabriel. The list goes on and on…see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stars_on_the_Hollywood_Walk_of_Fame.

If you look for Paul McCartney on the list you will not find him. Evidently is he is not considered worthy enough. Considering how many lesser lights are on the walk, what gives?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Too Quick To Judge?

We are sometimes too quick to judge. The following video though funny gives us pause about being too quick to judge.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

He Who Controls the Megaphone

Two weeks ago the US Supreme Court tossed out the limits on what can be contributed by individuals or companies to politicians and political action committees. The court also tossed out what individuals or political action committees are able to spend on political advocacy advertisements in the weeks before an election.

The Court’s 5-4 majority position is that contribution limits hinder free speech, stifle dialogue and hinder the election process. These wise judges on the Court dismiss the idea that money can influence elections. They do agree that a small group who can control the megaphone, outshout their opponents and can pour money into slick messaging will overpower the message and arguments of their opponents and in the process determine who will be in power.

Essentially their position is that minor parties who have tried to get candidates elected have not been successful because the messages of these candidates have not had any traction. Lack of access to the public forum has little to do with their lack of success.

American and world history is replete with examples of the powerful installing elected officials into office and having them function more or less as their puppets. Over the centuries various despots have learned that he who is able to control the mass communication process will control the masses. The Iranian government fully understands this principle as it used the mass communication system over and over again to limit the extent and then to quell the protests over the election process.

Over the last 13 Presidential elections since 1960 the Republicans have won seven times. Over the last 9 Presidential elections the Republicans have won five times. Rarely has 58% or more of the House or Senate been in the hands of one party. If the Court is correct there will not be a significant shift in this pattern over the next ten to fifteen years. On the other hand if critics of the Court's ruling are correct, out ten years there will be fewer Democratic victories in races for the House, Senate and White House with well healed corporations and the wealthy pouring money into candidates of their choice, most likely Republican races. Increasingly Democrats will sound like current Republicans and more Republicans will start to sound like Forbs 500 executives. The end result is that America could move towards having the trapings of a democracy with elected officials functioning as an extension of an oligarchy.

The theory that he who controls the megaphone controls the election results is about to be tested.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Financial Reform




Nations around the globe are still feeling the impact of the financial crisis that resulted from institutional and individual greed. To limit the collapse of the financial system and the impact of the damage governments pour billions into the financial system.

Leaders of financial and real estate institutions created innovated, confusing and misleading products to make billions of dollars and fleecing tens of millions of people in the process. Financial reform has been proposed but the leaders of the financial industry are resisting saying that reform is not needed and reforms will hinder their ability to generate a maximum return for their shareholders.

Various politicians, mainly staunch conservatives, are lining up to resist reform and allow only cosmetic changes be made. While it may be hard to believe there are some who are advocating for greater deregulation and blaming what regulations remain in place as the cause of our economic problems.

While various factors ranging from subprime mortgages to inflated housing prices to derivatives to deregulation of the financial industry are behind the collapse let’s be clear that the primary underlying factor was greed. Greed will always exist, and any claim that the financial industry will not repeat the same mistakes naïve thinking. Deregulation removed many of the regulations that came out of lessons learned from the Great Depression and low and behold the financial industry repeated several of the same mistakes that created the Great Depression.

When a firm has become too large to fail, the country has a problem. When a bank can hold my bank account, my loans, sell insurance, be engaged in hedge fund trading, and other highly speculative instruments, the bank a bank in name only. No firm should be too large to fail. A firm like AIG that gets into difficulty should be closed with the profitable segment/accounts sold off/liquidated by the government, and shareholder equity lost.

Banks that hold my loans and accounts should have a higher level of accountability than an investment back. This may mean that a bank would be smaller than some of the existing megabanks.

Serious financial reform is necessary. If meaning reform fails, we need to watch our pockets like a hawk and view with askance anything our financial institutions put out as claims and promises.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Auto Quality and Recalls

In this past week Toyota recalled 1.8 million vehicles in North America to correct a gas pedal problem. The recall was widened to include an additional 2.3 million vehicles worldwide. This is the second recall in recent months for many of the same vehicles. Yesterday, Honda too announced a recall of 640,000 vehicles worldwide.

While a recall if handled swiftly and correctly can indicate that a company is concerned about its customers, Toyota has somewhat stumbled on the gas pedal problem. Though the company has been aware of the problem for some time, they issued the recall only after weeks of conversations with the US government and with the knowledge that the government was moving toward issuing a mandated recalls. Their slow response is a repetition of the errors American manufacturers were making twenty years ago.

Toyota made a further misstep when word came out that the replacement parts were being shipped to factories and that they would not be sent to dealers for some time yet. This decision shows that Toyota is more focused upon selling new vehicles first and then dealing with existing customers. Toyota should have sent 55 to 65% of the first parts to dealers so that they can get the repair pipeline going.

Recalls are not new to the Japanese automakers, it is just that they have not received the news coverage in the past as they are now or as American automaker recalls. When one has a small share of market, recalls take place with little notice by the press or public. Now that Toyota and Honda have such a large share of the market place, they will have to get use to the increased press coverage.

The larger the company, the more media attention you receive and the greater the chance that there will be a problem with a part. In an effort to keep manufacturing costs down and maximize profits, problems with the manufacturing of a part or a design flaw will be increased.

The recalls do not indicate that the Japanese vehicles are inferior vehicles. Rather they indicate that they have flaws just like their American competitors. For though for last ten years Ford and GM have made quality vehicles across many of their lines that are at or near the level of the Japanese, the perception of Ford and GM of the past has continued to impact public perception. With increased attention of the Japanese recalls and their problems, Ford and GM will be viewed in a fresh light.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stunning Thoughts

The following two clips speak volumes. The thinking behind such views and comments is beyond rationality and sensitivity.



Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The They Can Get Help Falacy

In the health care debate there are those who argue that it is not necessary as people can already get medical treatment by visiting an ER as hospitals cannot deny them. This perception is both partly true and false. It is true that hospital ER rooms cannot deny a person who has a life threatening condition. They are required to offer treatment but only to the point where the person is no longer in the life threatening condition. Hence, a woman can receive care when she is starting to deliver her baby, but she cannot receive any treatment before that moment, and if the baby is born and mother and child well, they are quickly released.

Is the service that the hospital provides really free? No. The hospital will still go after the patient for the cost of the bare minimum to stabilize them. They will be billed and if the bills go unpaid and there are assets to which a lean can be attached, a lean is attached. If the person has a job, their salary will be garnered. The collections process adds costs and overhead to the hospital. What remains uncollected is still recovered by the hospital. The hospital does provide medical charity. It is a profit making venture and its losses are charged off in the fees charged to other patients.

For those who lack health insurance there is a double whammy, they get charged a higher rate for that which they cannot afford. We have several bills from my wife’s recent annual check-up. Each of the half-dozen items are discounted from 35 to 50% off which the insurance plan pays 80% leaving us with the remaining 20%. For example the one item that was billed at $323 was discounted to $170 with the plan paying $136 leaving us to pay $34. If we did not have medical insurance there would be no discount and would owe $323. Hence, those cannot afford medical insurance, or are denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or who have changed jobs and have yet to get beyond the 90 day, or 120 day or 180 day wait period, for that which they cannot afford in the first place are charged a much higher rate.

By the way, if she used a provider not approved by the plan (less than a third of the doctors in our area are approved) then the discount would be far less and our portion would be 30 or 40% depending on the nature of the item.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An Insidious Selfish Nature of a Complaint About Health Reform

Circulating amongst some critics of health care reform is that the health care system cannot handle all the extra new people who would come into the system. They state there are no provisions for increasing hospital capacity or the number doctors. Hence, there will be longer waiting times to see a doctor or get treatment in a hospital so health care should resisted.

In my August 7 blog was the first time I noted this criticism. While I touched upon it then, due to its insidious selfish nature it is worth visiting again. While expressed in various frameworks, the argument is essentially, if you are not already insured I do not want you in the system as I will have to wait a little longer to see my doctor and wait longer in an emergency room or get a bed in a hospital. While people using this argument may be good and well intentioned, I suspect that most are using this uncritically and without any thought as to its self-centered natured, that they would rather someone else not get medical care because they do not want to wait. What I have found most disappointing is that this thinking is circulating within the evangelistic community, the very community the speaks with pride about the value of sacrificing self for others, and the importance that we love and care for those in need.

As for hospital capacity, let us not forget the hospitals are private corporations that are expected by their shareholders to make at least a 20% profit annually (see my Sept 10 post). The firms that run hospitals are some of the most profitable firms on Wall Street. Like any corporation, their mission is to make as much money as possible by charging as much as they can while keeping their expenses as low as possible. As there is such competition between hospitals, they are driven to have the latest and largest machines possible, to provide décor and frills for staff, patients and visitors that are designed to make people feel more positive about the hospital in question so that they will give them their business.

If hospitals feel that they can make more money by expanding, they will do so. If expanding services does not add to their bottom line, they will not expand. As hospitals are a for profit identities, the government should not fund their expansion so that they can increase their profits. Government should only fund hospital construction when there is a clear benefit to the citizens, such as in attracting a hospital into a low income or rural community, or that there will be some control on fees charged.

As for the number of doctors, whereas in other industrialized countries governments are heavily invested in paying the majority of the costs of medical training, this does happen in the United States. Whereas in other countries the government helps to regulated how many individuals may be accepted into medical schools, in the United States this does not happen. Each medical program sets its own enrollment levels which are balanced between the demand-supply formula, attrition and the costs of producing a medical practitioner. While medical schools may get some funding from government grants, the bulk of a medical school’s funding comes from tuition and donations from the public, corporations and private foundations. A student receiving grants/forgivable loans to work in underserved communities is another matter. Ultimately, if there is a demand for more doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, and if the schools can raise the funds, and if there are sufficient qualified applicants, they will produce more medical personnel.

The United States unlike Canada and many other developed countries produces far more specialists that general practitioners. In Canada, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Great Britain, Italy a as well as in many other industrialized countries, more doctors are GPs than specialists. In these countries governments are involved in funding medical education at a much high level than is the United States. These countries allow only so many specialists to emerge from their medical schools for they place their focus upon preventive care and catching problems at an early stage. Within a financially driven system as exists in the United States the medical schools produces more specialists than GPs since specialists have greater earning potential than do GPs. In Canada I often could get into see my GP for a non-pressing matter in less than half the time it takes for me to see my GP in Iowa City or in Fairfax.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Health Care Reform and Rationing of Medical Care

Another red herring attack against health care reform is that it will lead to rationed medical treatment. Still another issue is that the reform will put the government between me and my doctor. As these are two sides of the same coin I will deal with them at the same time.

If you consult your medical coverage manual to check if a procedure is covered, you are already under the umbrella of a rationed system. If you have a list of doctors who you can visit under the plan at the full deductable and that list does not cover almost every doctor in the community, you are under already living under a rationed system. If you have to contact your provider for approval of particular procedures before receiving treatment or visiting the specialist, then you are living under a rationed health care system. If there are annual and/or life-time treatment limits in your medical plan (most plans have such a feature), you are living under a rationed system.

All but the most luxurious plans are rationed health care. The plans control which doctors I can visit with the plan covering the fees and what treatment they will cover. When my health care provider requires pre-approval, denies a service and mandates an alternate treatment be explored first a health care bureaucrat, most of whom have no medical training, has come between me and my doctor. Since living in the United States I have had more health care bureaucrats involved in medical decisions than I ever experienced under the Canadian system.

Annually my employer tweaks the medical plan in an effort to control costs. A shifting plan is a reality of the American system. Americans live under one of the most rationed health care systems in the world. The problem is that the average American is totally powerless to impact their design and shape of their health care plan. The decisions are made by the employer and the medical insurance provider as to what will or will not be covered. I could purchase off-system packages, but they are costly and full of loop-holes many of which only become apparent when I need treatment.

The average American would be surprised by the freedom and the quality of care they would experience under the German system, or the Swiss system, or the Italian, or the Japanese or the Canadian systems, all of which have been rated as having a superior system for the average system and at a less cost. In none of those countries are the range and extent of the American pre-approval processes does not exist. In those countries the plan outlines what is covered and what will not be covered, and that list is often more extensive that most American plans.

Then why would Americans strongly defend their existing system while turning a blind eye to the shortcomings of their own system? One reason is the American exceptionalist mindset. Americans, both leaders and the masses, believe that in most areas they have a superior systems and that while the world can learn from them, they have little to learn from others. American pride holds that America is the best in all areas, only grudgingly concede they are not the best in an area only when the volume of data indicates that their “best” position is no longer defensible on that matter.

In 1994 Taiwan decided to overhaul its medical system. Taiwan is a country that looks to copy the United States as much as possible. The Taiwanese initially looked at the American system and started to consult ex-patriots and second generation Taiwanese-Americans who were involved in the American system. The Taiwanese government heard over and over again, do not copy the American system as it is inferior to any other health care system existing in the developed world.