Sunday, June 29, 2014

Company wants to offer anti-masturbation kit to parents

A large American corporation wants to make sure youngsters don’t make masturbation a hobby.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide Monday whether the for-profit Southern Baptist owners of Hobby Lobby can pay health insurance that includes the so-called “Anti-masturbation cross.”
It is sort of a giant chastity belt, and is called a cross because a young boy would lie on it on the floor or ground. His arms would be strapped in to make sure he could not use his hands.
It is the most direct way Stop Masturbation Now has found to block this practice, which can grow hair on hands and make practitioners sexual predators.
Of course the child could watch movies.
Lego users are expected to come up with a model soon.
If the corporation wins its case opponents fear it could open the floodgates. Parents would be able to refuse to give vaccinations required by schools because they violate their religious beliefs.
There would be no more court orders, like there was 10 days ago in New York, allowing schools to send home students without vaccinations when certain diseases were present.
Equally, people opposed to war for religious reasons, at least in theory, could withhold from their federal taxes whatever portion would go to war.
Workers could refuse to show up Sunday if it violated their beliefs. For Jews it would be Saturday.
David Gans of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center said, "corporations cannot pray, do not express devotion and do not have a religious conscience." Therefore, he argued, "The justices should reject the notion that a corporation is a person that exercises religion."
“If Hobby Lobby were to prevail, the consequences would extend far beyond the issue of contraception,” Walter Dellinger, a former acting United States solicitor general, told the New York Times.
Hobby Lobby argues its religious rights would be violated if it were forced to provide contraception as part of its insurance.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have suggested a way out. He suggested very small, closely held companies could be exempted from the Obamacare regulations.
On the other hand, the court has already ruled that corporations are effectively persons. Such an argument is often put forward by people and organizations that say the fetus has rights from the moment it is born.
And yes, the masturbation cross was a hoax that quickly was getting views on the World Wide Web.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Is Malaysian Airliner still up there on autopilot?

The Australian government has decided the Malaysian Airliner was still on autopilot when it disappeared. Was it this century’s “Flying Dutchman” or the second warning this week that technology is now the master, and doesn’t have to explain what it is doing.

Is humanity paying the cost of handing over too much control to computers?

Australia says the plane crashed. "I still think the plane may land on some island or land, there is still some hope for our relatives," Beijing businessman Liu Weije said Thursday.

It clearly will be a Wagnerian task to sort this all out, and it won’t be over until the fat lady sings.

In opera, the Flying Dutchman has been condemned to circle the seas forever because he tempted fate when he condemned God’s storms around the Cape of Good Hope. Unfortunately the Devil heard him. Now he is allowed to land once every seven years to look for a beautiful woman who will relieve him of his endless chore, pledging her faith.

Australian officials, during a visit Thursday to
Beijing, released a 64-page report on their findings.

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told a news conference in Canberra that "certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel." There was no word on when the autopilot was engaged.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced this week that the crew of an Asiana jet that crashed into an airport seawall in San Francisco on July 6, 2013, was still using automated controls even as it was near the ground during landing.

"The flight crew over-relied on automated systems that they did not fully understand," acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said. in "As a result, they flew the aircraft too low and too slow and collided with the seawall at the end of the runway."

The world likely will never know but it would be the height of irony if there was no hijacking, attempted hijacking or any untoward crew activity of any kind. Could it have been simply that the plane’s computer systems were too complicated for mere man?

English scientist Stephen Hawking this month warned HBO comedy show host John Oliver that artificial intelligence had gone too far.

He told Oliver computers can no longer be defeated because they are as smart as man.

Hawking said the first question scientists asked an intelligent computer they had built: “Is there a God?” The computer replied, “There is now,” then a bolt of lightning struck the plug so it couldn’t be turned off.


USA Today

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Americans guarding their right to be poor

Perhaps there should a national lobby to zealously guard the right to be poor in the world’s richest nation. A federal appeals court thinks so.
Cities throughout the nation do not like the poor on their doorsteps, and pass laws to hide them. Such laws prevent homeless people from living on streets.
The US Court of Appeals in San Francisco says Los Angeles has gone too far by barring people from living in their cars.
Supporters of such laws say the issue is complicated because such people can become a public safety issue. Sometimes they may become threats police will not be able to respond too before crimes are committed.
Tristia Bauman, senior attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, told the Los Angeles Times the ruling would affect any city in California with a vague ban similar to Los Angeles.
"We're seeing a dramatic uptick in these type of laws. Cities have a goal of reducing visible homelessness rather than taking constructive actions,” she said.
There is no doubt that the lack of a fixed abode, to use a legal term, becomes a problem. That puts it in with mental illness as a problem that is going to ignored or dealt with haphazardly. Some poor people do not want to be inside, in some cases because they have mental problems. It is not an easy problem to solve.
Trying to find the source of the problem goes against the grain for many governments, and not just in the United States.
Los Angeles Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel said urban areas need to find new strategies.
"Honestly, these policies are bad,” she said. It raises questions about what that Hollywood sign above the city stands for.
Denver maintains it is trying. It has been a center for homelessness for decades, since the days Jack Kerouac [Unlink] was “On the Road,” because it is the largest metro area between the West Coast and Midwest. The city’s phone answering system is set up to connect the homeless with people who can help.
But in most cases it is only a makeshift solution that does not end the problem.
It may surprise people to know that Denver has found that a third of the area’s homeless have jobs.
The 9th Circuit said the Los Angeles response in barring people from living in cars was far too broad.
"The City of Los Angeles has many options at its disposal to alleviate the plight and suffering of its homeless citizens," wrote Judge Harry Pregerson. "Selectively preventing the homeless and the poor from using their vehicles for activities many other citizens also conduct in their cars should not be one of those options."
Los Angeles Times
Denver Homeless Plan
National Coalition for the Homeless

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Medical Marijuana's Untold Story

Perhaps the industry doesn’t want people to know that there are two types of medical marijuana generally available, one makes users high, the other does not.
Put in more precise terms, one is psychoactive. That one is medical marijuana that has a high THC content.
Many medical marijuana products are high in CBD, which is not psychoactive.
The distinction is rarely made in stories about the tide of medical marijuana legalization sweeping the country.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seems to think, wrongly, that the distinction between the two products has to do with whether they are smoked.
The New York Times reported Cuomo agreed to not veto a pilot medical marijuana program because “no smoking of the drug would be permitted, though a variety of other options — including edibles and tinctures — would be. Patients would also be allowed to inhale if the drug was vaporized, similar to e-cigarettes.”
Indeed, some CBD products are smoked, and the issue is not lung cancer.
The media, always willing to hype marijuana stories, would have Americans believe that edible marijuana can make you paranoid. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that she freaked out after eating much more than was ever intended by the seller. She said there were no instructions on the label.
She wrote that the edibles had effect immediately but in a short time: “… I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.”
Dowd apparently survived this experience though we never found out what happened to the room service.
                                                      The gateway drug most used
It may not be in the interest of medical marijuana users for people to know too much. If they do, some might insist that there is no need for medical marijuana that can get you high.
Some insist they need such products. And clearly it has not been proven that only CBD-based products are needed. Little is certain where marijuana is concerned, other than it is not a gateway drug, does not lead to violence or brain damage.
According to some, CBD, because it does not get you high, is not the evil weed. In other words, not marijuana at all.
“According to this political pretzel logic, marijuana gets you high, but CBD-rich marijuana doesn’t get you high; therefore, CBD-rich marijuana is not marijuana.
“This is not medical marijuana. It’s just an oil derived from that plant,” according to Wisconsin GOP state representative John Spiros, a former police officer who voted to approve CBD-only legislation. Gage Froerer, a Utah state legislator, weighed in with similar rhetorical gimmickry about CBD: “It’s not a drug. It’s not medical marijuana,” reports Project CBD.
When Florida became the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana it specified that it only be strains with a low THC count. The District of Columbia also has legalized medical marijuana.
CBD Only Stampede
Maureen Dowd Gets Stoned

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The sky is falling, no it's just a drone

These days things that seem to be falling from the sky could be real: most likely drones or even wi-fi balloons.
This week was capped by a report from New Zealand that a Google wi-fi balloon had tumbled into the ocean, prompting a mistaken rescue attempt.
Earlier in the week, the Washington Post reported: “More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic…”
The Post obtained 50,000 pages of drone accident reports the US Freedom of Information act.
So far, no one has died in a drone accident, including a mid-air collision with a US Air Force transport. But crashing drones have narrowly missed people on the ground.
Air Force jets have had to shoot down errant drones. A crowd celebrating the Stanley Cup victory of the LA Kings knocked down a drone that was observing. It is shown in a Youtube video.

“All I saw were tents, and I was afraid that I had killed someone,” Air Force Maj. Richard Wageman said. He lost control of a drone in November 2008 that crashed on a US base in Afghanistan. “I felt numb, and I am certain that a few cuss words came out of my mouth,” he told investigators.
Authorities in the US and other countries are being pressed to allow private companies to use the unmanned devices to make deliveries, view real estate or observe crops. The University of North Texas has built drones to help by providing communications in disasters. The United Nations wants to use them on peacekeeping missions.
In the military, drones were introduced to avoid risking lives of pilots in operations aimed at killing terrorists. For civilians, drones can save money both by avoiding paying wages to drivers, but by avoiding traffic congestion.
Google, meanwhile, has promised to pay a New Zealand rescue agency back for the cost of an unnecessary rescue operation.
The chopper was dispatched after a Google wi-fi balloon ditched in the ocean near Christchurch.
A pedestrian saw the 39-foot tall balloon plummeting and thought it was a plane. Some drones are much smaller, more like model airplanes.
Google is using balloons to provide high-speed wi-fi on remote areas. It has launched 30 in the New Zealand area alone. Usually Google says it is usually able to direct the balloons to landing areas when their 100-day life runs out.
More than 400 will be launched around the world. Hopefully none of them will be mistaken for one carrying a boy, as happened in Colorado in 2009 between Denver and Fort Collins. That turned out to be a hoax.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vietnam redux

The Duffelblog said it this way: "This is not what we tortured Iraqis for."

President Barrack, acting against strong national opposition, is sending troops back to Iraq.
Obama’s decision goes against public opinion strongly opposed to rescuing the government of Shitte Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Obama promised the troops would only be advisers
It all seemed like "Catch 22." The Americans would be embedded at command levels, away from the battlefields. The problem is the jihadists appear to be able to go anywhere they choose.
If the president believed support from Iran would help, Allvoices writer Saleh Sheik, based in Palestine, reported that support for the US was declared out of the question by Tehran.
“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well,” Obama said, according to the New York Times.
In his statement Obama said, “… the United States will not pursue military actions that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another. There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.”
The opposition is made up of Sunnis and jihadists, including al-Qaida and many considered more radical.
“Ending the war in Iraq was one of the best decisions President Obama has made. The decision to send in even a limited number of Special Operations forces is a dangerous and troubling development that threatens to lead to broader military engagement,” said Anna Galland, executive director of
Eleven years and 4,500 US soldiers lives later polling shows strong opposition in the US to rescuing the Baghdad regime. As many as three-quarters of the nation oppose putting US soldiers back in harm’s way.
Even right-wing Obama haters like Glenn Beck have said the invasion by Republican President George Bush was wrong and liberals were right to oppose it.
Obama himself had helped convince the US that the invasion of Iraq should never have launched in 2003.
The collapse of the Baghdad government is a bigger surprise than the fall of Saigon, and has proceeded at a much faster pace. Many critics of US policy had said it was inevitable.
It appears to be another “regime change,” with Obama hoping the Shite prime minister, nour al-maliki, can somehow persuade the Sunnis marching on Baghad to join his government and end the fighting.
Anti-war Americans will remember how the CIA engineered the assassination of Vietnamese President President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 to get a stronger and pliant leader. It was a colossal failure.
Chelsea Manning, in a federal penitentiary for 30 years for trying to blow the whistle on phony Iraqi elections and war crimes, has said the US Army got orders to help the Maliki faction.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iraq: At last, something we can't agree on

It is often said that Republicans never met a war they didn’t like. That is usually said by Democrats.
Republicans say Democrats never met a war they like didn’t like.
Leon Trotsky [Unlink] says everyone says he hates war but war loves him.
Weapons can be seductive. Once you have them you want to use them.
Some viewers must have been confused the other night, no matter how they feel about war. No doubt they thought they were watching Jon Stewart [Unlink] on Comedy Central.
But it was Glenn Beck [Unlink] saying that Liberals were right that the Iraq war was wrong.
"From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t.... Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have,” he said on his radio show.
Of course liberals wouldn’t have heard it because they only listen to FM, and usually Public Radio.
"Not one more life. Not one more life. Not one more dollar, not one more airplane, not one more bullet, not one more Marine, not one more arm or leg or eye. Not one more," he said. "This must end now. Now can't we come together on that?" said Beck.
The next thing you know drones will go on strike.
Obviously the answer is no. If we stopped wars there would be less work for pundits. Just like if we legalized marijuana there would be less work for law enforcement and the cartels.
Besides, America has lost its ability to agree on anything.
On Politico, commentator Barry Posen said, “Here we go again. Whenever there’s a crisis anywhere in the world, you can count on America’s pundit class to demand action—usually of the military variety. Don’t just stand there, bomb something! After more than two decades of unchallenged American hegemony, Washington keyboards seem almost programmed to call for intervention halfway around the globe.”
He suggested a different approach _ restraint.
Posen came up with all sorts of reasons why restraint might cost less than intervention in Iraq. The MIT professor paid special attention to safe havens, though he did not go as far as saying terrorists could find one on their laptop on Google.
He did not even mention that at this time we do not need their oil.
The US is now the leading producer of fossil fuels in the world. Put that in your pipeline Putin.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Iraq crisis could be oppportunity for energy-strong U.S. or a reason for impeachment

The US energy position is the best in nearly 50 years amid Middle East chaos
Before Washington Republicans rush to send US troops to die in the Middle East, or cozy up to Iran, they should consider that the nation has become the world's leading fossil fuel producer.
Wait, President Obama is sending 275 marines to Baghdad. Ever heard of mission creep. Keep it coming and the Republicans can focus on impeachment instead of Iraq and war.
The production of oil and gas in April was the highest since the record set in 1970, the Financial Times reports.
Even a few years ago dogma held that US energy production was in an irreversible decline. Fracking, like or not, is the reason.
The increase in US production has helped keep prices down while production elsewhere, with the major exception of Russia, is down.
US production is so high it makes to sense to permit exports, particularly because it will strike a blow against Russia. Exports can be begin at the same time more money is spent on alternative sources than when the time comes the nation won’t be depend on fossil fuels.
Production could peak by 2020, so there is no time to persuade Republicans to accept science and support efforts to limit greenhouse gases. Even if other countries don’t cooperate a reduction in the US will help overall. At the same time, it can make lift healthier in US population centers.
There is a chance for the nation to come together and lead the world again. As entrepreneur Elon Musk [Unlink] says, there is not even time to waste on patent wars when industry needs to work together. He is handing over his Tesla patents, free of charge.
The Wall Street Journal, which should know better, says the US is the only country that can stop the collapse of Iran and region-wide violence in the Middle. Actually, that has already happened.
The Journal thinks that the loss of US blood somehow means we should make the same mistake again.
It’s headline today is” “Only America Can Prevent A Disaster In Iraq.”
Perhaps the Journal has it backwards. It is possible that pulling back sends a message of strength and that those who always criticize America’s alleged imperialist tendencies need to try it on their own.

Where is Kissinger when we need him

A solution to the Islamic revolution is as likely to be found as that the US will win the World Cup. Where is Henry Kissinger when we need him?
Entrance stage right. Kissinger secretly meets with jihadists, preferable a comfortable place like Paris where a visit would go unnoticed. He gives them enough of what they want to stop most of the terrorists’ onslaught.
It is not a question, really, of solving the plight of Palestians, but rather of stopping a war that cannot be fought with a million drones.
Where is Maj. T.J. “King” Kong, ready to ride a nuclear bomb down on Putin. That’s not fair: to the major. The military has done more than its share.
It is too late, and there is not enough time, to devote too much of  America’s attention on how it got into the fix. Nor is there time to determine whether the U.S. ties with Israel are part of the problem or part of the solution.
At this point the only question is how to get out of the Middle East quagmire. Wasn’t the warning against a land war in Asia.
Some Republicans want to blame President Barack Obama, somewhere coming up with the idea that the outcome could have been anything other than what it has become.
This is the time for the tried-and-true French invention, triage. We need to separate what cannot be saved, ignore what likely will survive no matter what we do, and focus on things we can make a difference on.
Even that strategy has a deep flaw. How can it be assured that the right choices will be made.
For the moment, perhaps the choice is to minimize our losses in the Middle East, let the Arabs settle their own problems and deal with the Russian maverick.
It is true that this could allow Islam to be a symmetrical opponent. The US is much better suited to deal with those kinds of foes.
There are no solutions that will not be bloody, if there are any solutions at all.
One thing that is clear is that ignoring the threat of climate change, which is made more deadly by ignoring the reliance on fossil fuels, will lead no where American wants to go. In any case, standard of living standards must go down, including in the wealthy countries. Everyone knows who will bear that burden.
There may be things working in the favor of the West that are not known. How many know that the late President Richard Nixon’s visit to China was set up because Beijing and Moscow were literally at war in an obscure region few know.
Or perhaps we should turn to the French again, this time for a cosmopolitan solution. A really dirty French bomb that leaves restaurants standing.


Stop spilling U.S. blood, send Republicans congressman home

The Republican party just doesn’t get it. Their counterparts only vaguely understand. Let’s put it this way. A town called Tal Afar fell Monday in northern Iraq, and call the whole region “All Afar.”

Dozens died in Kenya, and more elsewhere.

With thousands of American veterans unable to get medical care in a timely fashion, the Republican party is pressing President Obama to do something forceful about the rising power of jidahists in Iraq.

They are even willing to talk with Tehran, though it still has more to do to prove it is not building nuclear weapons to use on Israel.

This is the same party that removed Saddam Hussein, who kept the country under control at least within its borders, from power. It is now clear that former President George Bush manipulated the American people, combining hubris and a desire for revenge for 911, to invade the country that had embarrassed his father.

Now, these same Republicans are worried that the war they started has made Iraq a breeding ground for anti-Western terrorists.

How any new intervention would make things any different is not clear.

Certainly the massacre of how many thousand US-trained Iraqi soldiers by the jidahists, is not going to help the Republicans regain the White House any more than its resistance to health care and immigration reform, support for womens’ rights, anti-government rhetoric or denial of the threat of climate change.

They were shown the door in 2008, some would say they stole the White House in 2000 or they never would have been in power for Sept. 11. Their redux was to trash a Vietnam veteran who actually served while Bush 2 was drinking beer on national guard bases in the south.

There are no easy answers, or perhaps any answers at all, but the US media is going to have to do a better job to retain any semblance of credibility it has. If American wants to see cheerleaders they can watch the NFL.

At the same time, Russia poses a real threat.

Even after it became clear that the Iraq war was a fraud, the US media reported the 2010 Iraqi elections as a democratic exercise of power, writes Iraq veteran Chelsea Manning from a US prison.

In a column published by the New York Times, Manning remembers being ordered to help suppress opponents of the US-supported candidates.

“I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar,” writes the whistleblower who saw a higher duty than just following orders.

Manning also writes that the issues that concerned him about the fraudulent use of US power “have not been resolved.”

Perhaps by the time his 35-year prison sentence ends the Republicans will admit climate change is real, same-sex marriage will be a nationwide right, marijuana legal and all Americans will have health care.

But don’t bet on it. A safer bet would be that there still are lines for health care at Veterans Affairs hospitals. Meantime, the helicopter blades are already whirling and the Baghdad embassy evacuation has begun.


Chelsea Manning

New York Times


Friday, June 13, 2014

Hannibal's most deadly weapon near extinction

Once the weapon of mass destruction for Hannibal, African elephants could become extinct. Despite some success in curbing their poaching, more are dying than being born in Africa.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) said more than 20,000 were killed last year, far above the birth rate.
"Africa's elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory," said Cites Secretary-General John E Scanlon in Geneva.
"Today we are confronting a situation of industrial-scale poaching and smuggling, the involvement of organized transnational criminal organizations, the involvement of rebel militia,” he said.
The possibility of extinction makes the tusks of the animals even more valuable.
Experts say the poachers are armed like drug smugglers, and sometimes use helicopters and night goggles. Some rebel groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, use poaching to pay for their weapons and food. Poachers from rebel groups in south Sudan and members of the Congolese army also are involved.
"The situation is extremely serious," Garamba park manger Jean-Marc Froment said. "The park is under attack on all fronts." A 2012 census found just 2,000 elephants in Garamba Park, down from 20,000 in the 1960s. The park is in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.
CITES issued a report Friday saying the numbers killed had declined the last two years, from a high of 25,000, but if the killing wasn’t controlled the animals would become extinct.
The worst poaching is in central Africa, said Tom de Meulenaer, CITES senior scientific officer. "If this same trend continues in the next 10 years we may lose practically all of the elephants in central Africa."
More aggressive enforcement of laws banning sale of ivory from elephants in China has helped, and Beijing has sought to satisfy the market by turning to mammoth ivory found in Russia.

Tesla surprises world again

That headline could, and should been a common sight a century ago. The Serbian-born inventor was light years ahead of more famous inventors, such as Thomas Edison, but never became rich or famous.

Though he lived to be 87, and though he was born before the American Civil War was called on to help the Allies fight the Nazis in World War 2 he is not a household name.

In addition to his most famous achievement, making alternating current power supplies possible, he also was the first to try to transfer electric power wirelessly.

Now, in a vicarious way, he may be getting some of the attention he deserved.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk, developer of the state-of-the-art electric car, is granting other companies access to all the patents his corporation has developed.

At no cost.

Musk is making the gesture to show his frustration with industry and how slowly it has moved to develop cars that will not destroy the plant with greenhouse gas emissions.

Clean, fast and efficient electric cars are no longer something from a Hollywood film, but make up only one percent of the world’s car population.

Musk said his company had guarded its patents and technological advances zealously, like Apple vs Samsung.

He said on Thursday that development of the cars was too slow to help deal with climate change and global warming.

Given that it takes years to get news cars to the market, to use a cliché, it is time to jump start the process.

“It is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” Musk said on the company blog.

Sharing technology could help. “In the long term, I hope this improves the rate at which we transition toward sustainable transport.”

He also said governments must remove the red tape that allows companies to control new technology too long.

“I do think we need some patent reform. Far too much energy,” is going into “patents that do not foster innovation.”

The South African-born Musk, known for his role in PayPal and SpaceX, explained it on the company website:

“Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Only $ will solve VA problems

There is no issue in the United States where hypocrisy plays as big a role as the failure to care for wounded and ill veterans.
TV talking heads can talk about old computers, sleezy administrators, lying congressional leaders, and a whole host of other
But the problem can be summarized in one word: money.
Many voices warned that when we sent soldiers to Iraq on America’s “even for 911 mission” it would overwhelm existing facilities.
The story goes all the way to the American Revolutionary War. Even Caesar had problems.
Closer to the present, in January 2003 a total of 236,000 vets had waited more than six months for care, according to a commission created by President George Bush.
It was a war most everyone wanted to fight but few wanted to pay for. Taxes were lowered.
Indeed, with an economic recession on the horizon, though hidden by get rich quick schemes, the spending was concomitant with a growing desire to reduce the size of government.
Nothing was exempt. Even first responders at 911 had to fight to get decent medical care, and some died before they did.
The military resisted admitting Agent Orange hurt vets who served in Vietnam. Only the overwhelming number of PTSD cases forced the military to admit what it had known since World War 2.
At the same the government put as many obstacles in the path of veterans seeking care as possible, denying, for example, that Agent Orange crippled Vietnam vets.
Retired military veterans had the equivalent of privatization done to their promised heath care.
Although it is popular to speak about protecting veterans, they only make up 13 percent of the population.
The Afghan and Iraq wars added two million more, again a very small number.
Daily Show host Jon Stewart [Unlink] made it clear that neither party is pushing to make helping veterans a major priority.
"On this Memorial Day weekend eve, we can finally admit that America has had for over 200 years a great bipartisan tradition of honoring those who have fought for our freedom by fucking them over once they give their guns back," Stewart said.
Somewhere around $54 billion is being spent now. Some had estimated the two latest wars will cost more than $2 trillion.
And even if the political will was found to pay the bill, it is not at all clear that the doctors and hospitals would be available for such loads.




Monday, June 9, 2014

A good man with a gun wasn't enough

The National Rifle Association wants the nation to believe that the only answer to a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.
Thirty-one-year-old Joseph Wilcox was one of those good men. Now he is dead.
He intervened after two crazies executed two policemen in a pizza parlor in Las Vegas and went on a killing spree.
Wilson had a concealed carry pistol and he told people around him that he would intervene.
Unfortunately he had only seen one of the killers, 31-year-old Jerad Miller. When he approached Miller, the killer’s wife shot him dead.
The Millers had already shot officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, dead as they ate their lunchtime pizza. Neither officer was able to fire back. It happened too fast.
But the killers took the time to drap a revolutionary “Do Not Tread On Me” on one of the officers.
They had already made a suicide pact so they were ready when officers chase them into a nearby Walmart.
Amanda Miller, apparently wounded by one of the officers, shot her husband and then herself.
Swastikas were found at the killers’ home of the couple as well as ties to rancher-protestor Cliven Bundy, and plans to seize the Las Vegas Courthouse and begin public executions, Batman movie style.
Advocates of gun controls have argued that arming the public won’t solve the public because the killers will have a plan and be prepared to execute it. They also argue innocent bystanders may be shot by well-intentioned people.
Wilcox’s uncle, John Wilson, told the Las Vegas Review: “He wasn’t political. But he definitely believed in the right to bear arms and the right to defend yourself and others.”
Wilson, choking back tears, said: “He basically… he heard the threat to everyone and he was trying to stop it,” Wilson said. “He wasn’t trying to be a hero. He was trying to do what he thought should be done. “

Officers executed as hate crimes spread

                                            Police officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31

Media outlets say a couple that executed police officers in Las Vegas, shooting them repeatedly, were white supremacists who had a suicide pact and wanted to execute people in the courthouse.
The killers were identified as Jared and Amanda Miller.
After they shot the officers, Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, they pinned a flag on one of the officers saying the revolution had begun.
A civilian, Joseph Wilcox, 31, who was carrying a concealed weapon confronted the killers, and was shot and killed.
The Las Vegas Review said documents found in the apartment of Jared and Amanda Miller indicated they planned to seize the courthouse.
Douglas County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, in a news conference, commended police and sheriff's forces for cornering the killers in a nearby Walmart and giving them no choice but to kill themselves. Amanda Miller, who may have been wounded by officers, shot her husband and then killed herself.
Officers confirmed the killers were associated with white supremacists.
The plan is a startling indication of the rising tide of hate in a world where major change is under way, from same-sex marriage to abortion to efforts to control gun rights and inflammatory speech on all sides.
In last week’s European elections right-wing groups made substantial gains.
Mass shootings are only a symptom.
And the killings haven’t been confined to the US with shootings at a Brussels Jewish Museum and three policemen shot dead in Canada.
The Las Vegas Sun quoted neighbors of the dead man and woman as saying they planned the next Columbine.
The Columbine killers had planned to commandeer a jet plane and crash it into New York City.
Their shooting spree claimed the lives of two policemen, killed while eating pizza.
Swastikas were found at the home of the couple, who claimed to have been at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during his standoff with federal forces over unpaid grazing fees.
"They were handing out white-power propaganda and were talking about doing the next Columbine," neighbor Brandon Moore said.
Gillespie said, "My officers were simply having lunch when the shooting started.”
There was at least one shout that a revolution was beginning before the officers were killed and their weapons seized.
The Washington Post said the killers covered the bodies of the officers with a revolutionary war flag with a coiled yellow snake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” Some in the Tea Party claim the flag as their symbol.
Washington Post
Las Vegas Review Journal

Washington Post
Las Vegas Review Journal

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Liberals vs science on weed

TV comedians and editorial writers for the nation’s most respected newspapers enjoy making fun of conservatives for flouting science.
In the past week the crown jewel has been opposition to vaccinations, which doctors say could lead major outbreaks.
Don’t even mention climate change/global warning.
As one doctor put it on the Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, these amateur scientists think they can learn more from an hour on Google than professionals have spent centuries studying.
And yet the flagships of these same venerated news institutions, including the New York Times and Associated Press, say “pot legalization has unleased a wave of crime, drugged driving and stoned psychopaths,” the Washington Post reports.
The city of Denver television stations rush to report any time a child appears in an emergency room apparently after eating a parent’s medical marijuana. No one was harmed. And more importantly, no one asked how many kids were in the ERs for toking their parents Jack Daniels.
Yet annually many thousands, even millions of children are admitted to emergency rooms for consuming their parents’ alcohol. Police in Britain have found children eight-years-old binging.
The stories in the Denver area died down as it became obvious how insignificant the number was. A husband who shot his wife to death after eating edible marijuana also had consumed prescription drugs.
Reports from outside media ignored the details.
A young man who became a poster boy for stoned drivers turned out to have a blood alcohol level of .238.
Jack Healy of the New York Times made it seems like Denver had become a crime zone. He quoted doctors and others about how crime use was spreading, providing no details of any kind. In fact, Healy was told crime had declined.
A few days later Times’ columnist decided to try edible marijuana because of reports users, particularly new users, had suffered paranoid and found it a very unpleasant experience.
Her narrative raises more questions than it answers. Did she seek advice, which is freely given. Clerks selling weed in dispensaries warn users not to eat an entire cook. Then there is always Google.
Here are excerpts from her horror story:
“I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop.
What could go wrong with a bite or two?
… For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.
But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.”
It was never explained what happened to the room service.
One hopes this is not the start of CIS New York Times.
After their experience identifying non-existent stashes of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq caution might be order.
During this period a headline said there were “no fingerprints” of Russians at work in Ukraine. That begs the question of the 100 dead Russians sent home to Mother Russia. Did they not have fingerprints.

Nigerian Army attacks newspapers for reporting on kidnapped girls

Western media have reported that the Nigerian Army, showing a dexterity not seen in its efforts to contain terrorists, has raided newspaper distribution centers throughout the country.

 Nigerian Information Minister Labaran Maku had warned media to stop giving “free publicity” to the terrorists and “define the lines between the urge to report the interest of our nation,” the BBC reported.

 The Nigerian Guardian reported: “A military official said the action would continue until Defense Headquarters was satisfied. He was, however, unwilling to explain what he meant.” Newspapers were seized two days in a row, the Vanguard said.

 Nigeria, since independence, has experienced conflict between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian and animist south. A war claimed a million lives between July 1967 and Jan. 15, 1970.

 Boko Haram is accused of killing thousands of bombings and assault as well as kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls. In a recent case reports said they had tricked villagers into a meeting that turned into a Johnstown-style massacre.

 Police had briefly banned protests demanding that the girls be rescued.

 On Friday, Associated Press reported copies of at least four national newspapers were destroyed.

 Five papers said they had been hit, Punch, Leadership, Nation, Daily Trust and Vanguard.

 The Weekly Trust also told AFP: “soldiers blocked a number of its worksites.

 “The soldiers, who were fully armed, insisted on carrying out the ‘order from above’ to flip through each of the several thousand copies of Weekly Trust in search of alleged ‘security risk material.’”

 Sue Valentine of the Committee to Prot

ect Journalists condemned the attacks. She said blocking news "sows the seeds of rumors and distrust".

 "While we recognize that Nigeria faces security threats, these can never effectively be addressed by media blackouts or persecution of journalists," she said in a statement. We call on authorities to respect the vital role that media play in circulating information and holding government to account."

 Allvoices correspondent Johnthomas Didymus, in a column a day ago, said there has been a "dearth of information in the Nigerian media about new developments …”

 Despite belated acceptance by President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to accept aid in finding the 300 missing girls they remain in captivity. A few have escaped.

 The US has said the Nigerian Army is so ineffective, brutal and corrupt that people are not cooperating in the search.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Can Poroshenko be Ukraine's Churchill?

Deadly enemies in World War 2, France and Germany brought Ukraine’s new president together with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France.
Although it was their first meeting since the Russian puppet government was overthrown in the spring, and lasted less than half an hour, it brought hope that talks would replace bullets.
But time after time Putin has not kept his word, and chocolate king Petro Poroshenko made it clear he was not Willy Wonka and was not willing to hand over parts of his country to the Kremlin. In his speech to the nation Saturday night, Poroshenko promised that peace, prosperity and freedom were not “Pure Imagination.” He spoke in both Ukrainian and Russian.
Of course he could not match the words of Winston Churchill [Unlink], when Britain stood alone during the Blitz. For Churchill, as for Abraham Lincoln [Unlink], a phenomenon called “asyndeton” was a key factor. Among other things it omits conjunctions.
A Churchill example: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . ."
Poroshenko said: "A real war, planned and unleashed in the Ukrainian Donbas, became an obstacle for enormous opportunities that opened for the European modernization of Ukraine after the fall of tyranny.” He said he was prepared to offer amnesties and ready to talk to real representatives of the eastern Ukraine.
'Today, we need a legitimate partner for the dialogue. We will not speak to bandits. Acting local deputies do not represent anyone there already. We are ready to declare early local elections in the Donbas.” He warned his countrywomen and countrymen not to count on NATO or the US to rescue it from Moscow’s grip.
“Our most reliable allies and the best guarantors of peace are our army, fleet, the National Guard and professional special forces!” Nobody will protect us until we learn to defend ourselves."
Most importantly, he said, “Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil.”
Turning an underfunded and ill-trained army into a fight force overnight may be as difficult a job as Robin Williams [Unlink] faced in another Hollywood movie, “Toys,” when he had to learned how to use toys as weapons.
Poroshenko speech
Ria Novosti

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Don't check a good story too closely

In journalism, it has long been a practice to not check a good story too closely.
Net neutrality is a prime example. Assuming it ever existed, and as the old saying goes: When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.
When foreign correspondents toted heavy, though small, satellite dishes around the Third World they would make them available to other writers. But for much more than the data, audio or video transfers cost.
Of course there was no record of this, and the local government didn’t get a sou.
These days the issue is whether a provider will charge some users more, and some users less.
Some call it Internet robbery.
The problem is that this will be gone in the blink of an eye. Bandwidth is increasing exponentially.
The military has developed ways to send data in bursts.
There are people out there who will figure out how to frustrate this attempt at monopoly.
So why should a user pay for a 24/7 connection when everything he/she needs can be downloaded/uploaded in a minute or two.
As shown on HBO’s hit “Silicon Valley,” data can be compressed and sent at almost the speed of light. OK. That show is a comedy. But the idea works.
What will the Comcast Weissman score be?
The season finale put the whole thing in perspective, comparing data speeds to the length of penises.
Smoke ‘em if you got them when you come back from hyper space.
Don’t wait for Scotty to beam you up back up.
Oh, for the days of the Trash 80. That was the nickname for the device that could send at 75 baud.
In those dreamy days a robot could be put together from parts in the nearby Radio Shack. “Number 5 is alive.”
Beware. You will be lucky to get a robot that does your bidding as in “Robot and Frank.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Califiornia wants to find way to get guns back from mentally ill before they kill

The Isla Vista massacre is no different. Police had met with the killer, and a search would have stopped him in his tracks.
Deputies came after his mother reported his bizarre behavior, but Eliot Rodger, in a performance is film maker father would have been proud of, conned the deputies.
For a moment, though, he was terrified the police would search his found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can't imagine a hell darker than that.,” CNN reported from his “manifesto.”
The deputies did not view the videos that had drawn Rodger’s attention.
The same thing happened in 1999 in the Columbine murders. The killers had been arrested for minor theft and it would have easy to get a search warrant. Their friends had reported the boys had threatened they were going to kill.
For some unknown reason plans for search of the homes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were dropped. An investigation by Colorado’s attorney general cleared the officers.
In most recent massacres in the past 20 years the killers have given hints of their plans, often on the Internet.
Before assigning all the blame to cops, and mental health professionals, it must be remembered that laws protect the rights of suspects or patients.
Soumaya Akaaboune, the Moroccan-born actress stepmother of Elliott, asked cops to see if he was a threat.
Fifteen years after Columbine rumors persist that the killers’ parents had threatened school officials, warning them against acting against their children.
Though there is little doubt that existing mental care in the US is not up to the task, it remains unclear that existing laws would have allowed most of these killers to be stopped. In most states they can be committed and then must be released if no major problems are found.
Without formal action no word can sent to those who register guns.
As for the deputies’ actions, the rules can be even tougher. Plus law enforcement officers go into such situations knowing their could be a threat to their lives.
California legislators say they are working on a plan that would prevent some people suffering from mental illnesses from getting guns or other weapons, and taking weapons away from those who are later found to be victims of dangerous mental health problems.
One idea is to let friends and families be allowed to report to police. However, Rodger’s wife had done that.
Psychiatrists say those identified with mental illnesses make up a very small fraction of those who later kill.
The late psychiatrist Carl Jung, in his “The Undiscovered Self,” wrote that for every psychopath who is identified there are 10 who go unnoticed.
Carl Jung
Mass Murder
Psychology Today