Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jane Hamsher is Right

Forcing taxpayers to send trillions to private insurers for junk insurance is just plain wrong.

Anyone who thinks that mandating payments to insurance companies is healthcare reform should get a mandate to do a stint in reform school.

This non-partisan message is right, too:

If the current healthcare bill becomes law, it will be a healthcare disaster for the citizens of this country.

Q >>>

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Shopocalypse Now

Once again, ‘tis the season in which I celebrate not celebrating Christmas. It’s a personal tradition, begun 20 years ago, that’s only gotten easier over time.

Distancing myself from Christmas wasn’t something that happened all at once, it happened in increments as I abandoned one destructive Christmas ritual after another until none remained. Call it “tapering off,” if you will.

You see, Christmas is a holiday tradition that no longer works for me, primarily because it’s touted as a religious tradition and there’s no room in my life—or in my philosophy—for religion. A second reason is that Christmas has devolved into a shopocalyptic spending frenzy that’s become a cash cow for corporations at the expense of everything else.

If shopping ‘til you drop, then working ‘til you drop to pay the tab is your thing, go for it. But count me out. I prefer to celebrate this holiday season in observance of my new tradition—blogging about how and why I kicked the old tradition.

Harry Kwanukkahmas!

Q >>>

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

December 21st: The winter solstice, shortest day of the year.

This is also my shortest post of the year. Serendipity? Or synchronicity?

Q >>>

Friday, December 18, 2009

When Public Education Fails, Useful Idiots Proliferate

One of the drawbacks of lower tax revenues is that education is always among the first of public services to take the hit. As tax revenues decline, the quality of education goes down. School districts, deprived of essential operating funds, react by gutting curricula, laying off teachers, shortening the school year, expanding student-to-teacher ratios, and—in extreme cases—closing schools. The net results are a general dumbing-down of the population and a plentiful supply of useful idiots to provide the labor necessary for wealth creation.

Because most corporations don’t volunteer to fund public education (and usually vehemently object when it’s suggested that they do so), I can only assume that they want workers who are just smart enough to do the work, but not smart enough to ask questions or think independently.

This is yet another way corporations game a system they’ve been instrumental in contriving. Once again they reap all of the benefits without incurring any of the costs. But, with their sole raison d’ĂȘtre being to assure maximum profits for their investors, it’s probably foolish to expect corporations to act in contravention to those ideals.

Q >>>

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A World in Transition

An excerpt from the novel, Pipeline, by Peter Schechter:

“. . .. The Americans are shortsighted; they won’t see that a long-term dependency on Russia is a strategic trap. They can’t get beyond their big cars. Their crazy use of water. Of electricity. Spend, spend. Consume, consume. The United States is incapable of change. It survives on a mountain of overconsumption and debt. They can’t change their culture, so they will jump at any chance to keep things the way they are.”

[Note: Italics are mine]

We Americans are an arrogant lot for the most part. Enamored of our ingenuity and cleverness, our privilege, we blindly stumble toward the future without regard for the consequences of our actions or critical analysis of probable outcomes resulting from the choices we make. Short-term profits override the need for long-term survivability, and critical topics like sustainability, economic stability, species extinction, environmental degradation, climate change, infrastructure repair and replacement, resource depletion, food and water security, energy independence, healthcare reform, fair elections, and myriad others are backburnered because vested interests wish to maintain the status quo.

This short-sighted approach to the future by business and political leaders—they’re virtually one and the same—all but guarantees that the U.S. will continue down the road to third-world status. But that’s probably a good thing. We Americans have been resource hogs and energy spendthrifts for far too long. Getting knocked back a peg or two will do us all some good, and give each of us pause to consider where we, as a nation, are heading, and how we plan to get there.

“In the future, our children’s understanding of what we broadly call “energy” will differ greatly from our own. How we, as citizens, relate to what we use to drive our cars, fuel our factories, heat our homes, and brighten our computer screens will change radically over the next twenty-five years. America’s leaders face choices today that will decide whether tomorrow this transition will be traumatic and impoverishing or deliberate and enriching.” —Peter Schechter

Q >>>

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Message Worth Repeating

Many thanks to mahakal, at Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, for posting this video. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t duplicate someone else’s efforts, but these are trying circumstances and perilous times, and the message contained therein is one that’s worth repeating, again and again, until the small-minded weasels who purport to be our leaders get a clue and actually lead instead of dictate.

See how simple life can be?

Q >>>

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chew on this!

For every 100 Americans saying, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it, anymore,” there’s an arrogant, filthy-rich motherfucker saying, “I’m glad as hell, and I’m going to take as much as I can get.”

Q >>>

Monday, November 9, 2009

Medical Marijuana: It IS “The Cure”

This is the cure that the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical establishment don’t want you to know about. Certainly these groups are doing everything in their power to deny people access to the medicine that can cure them.

Watch the video Run from the Cure. In just under an hour, you can learn some startling truths about medical marijuana and the underlying “reefer madness” that keeps the gift of life out of people’s hands.

Q >>>

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Law of the (Asphalt) Jungle

Too many people assume (wrongly, in my opinion) that laws are put in place to protect them. In practice and in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. Laws do nothing to protect you from the actions of anyone who willfully or ignorantly violates the law.

Laws against murder do not prevent people from being murdered, laws against robbery do not prevent people from being robbed, laws against drunk driving do not prevent drunks from driving, nor does all manner of traffic laws prevent people from being involved in all manner of traffic incidents. In short, don’t count on laws to save your sorry ass.

The primary purposes of any man-made law are to protect those who have power from those who have none, and to provide a means for those in authority to apprehend and punish those who violate the law. Another function of law is as a revenue raising device, whereby governments and corporations extract money from ordinary citizens in the form of fines, permits, legal fees, taxes, etc. Each time legislators pass a new law, they create a new class of criminals, thus lending support to the ever-growing bureaucracy of the criminal justice system.

I raise the issue of laws because of an incident last Sunday evening in which two pedestrians were struck by a car as they started to cross S.E. Foster Road in a crosswalk. One young woman was killed outright, the other critically injured.

Elly Blue, an editor for the BikePortland blog, posted an article about this incident on Monday, and Jonathan Maus, BikePortland’s founder and editor-in-chief, followed up with another article on Friday. Together, those articles generated more than 100 comments (as of this writing) from interested readers. Sadly, a large percentage of those comments expressed the idea that lower speed limits, stricter laws, harsher punishments and better enforcement might somehow, magically, reduce or altogether eliminate serious injuries and fatalities in, on, or about our common transportation infrastructure.

Sorry to pop your bubble of self-delusion, but you’re dreaming if you think that laws do anything more than provide a means for dealing with a bad situation after the fact; laws have never been able to regulate personal behavior on a reliable basis. Regardless of legalities, rights-of-way, blame assessment and all the rest of it, expecting someone else to look out for your well being when you do not is suicidal under the best of circumstances. Abdicating responsibility for one’s safety to others is beyond comprehension.

Keep in mind that the laws of man can be (and often are) broken, but that natural laws—physical laws—cannot. If you’re on foot or on a bike and you tangle with a car or truck, you lose by default (I’m pretty sure that e=mc2 has something to do with it).

Please, people, maintain a high level of situational awareness; pay attention to your surroundings and all that’s going on around you, and disabuse yourselves of the notion that laws are a good substitute for good sense.

Q >>>

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Intelligent Design?

Ferraris, maybe. Certainly not humans, despite what legions of believers on the religious fringe believe.

Any organism that requires more maintenance than a Formula One Ferrari for its day-to-day existence and continued survival cannot be logically argued to be a product of intelligent design. Nor can any organism sporting (or sprouting) hair around its anus.

But there are other design flaws, as well. What’s with teeth that need a near-constant regimen of brushing, flossing, scraping, picking, grinding, drilling and filling to keep them relatively healthy and pain free for the duration of a normal human life span? Intelligent design would incorporate natural chemicals and chemical processes—delivered via saliva glands and activated by tongue action—to keep your teeth their whitest white and make you wonder where the yellow went, wouldn’t it?

And what about all those organs and other parts that humans seem perfectly capable of living without? You know, tonsils and adenoids, the appendix, sometimes the spleen, and—far too often—the brain. It’s kind of like adding extraneous parts to the bodywork, undercarriage and suspension of a Formula One Ferrari just so there’ll be something to fall off during a race. So much for intelligent design.

Speaking of brains, I really must take exception to the packaging of the human CPU. Were any actual intelligence involved in designing an effective housing for the brain, that fragile organ would be packed in Styrofoam peanuts before it’s inserted into the skull. As things are, it’s free to slosh around and bang against the inside of the skull at every forceful impact or sudden deceleration—occurrences that often cause cerebral hemorrhaging, coma, permanent brain damage, and even death. How intelligent is that?

6.7 billion prototypes (not counting those billions that have already been scrapped and gone to graveyards, every one), and human beings still aren’t ready for production. It’s enough to send a rational, intelligent designer back to the drawing board—with a fresh approach and a clean sheet of paper.

Q >>>

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Revolution or Renaissance? Why Not Both?

The whole damned system is broken. International bankers and financiers broke it. Corporate capitalism broke it. Bought-and-paid-for politicians broke it. Cronyism, insatiable greed, lust for power, willful ignorance and more than a little insanity broke it. But let’s not forget that mindless consumerism and devotion to celebrity culture contributed their share to the breakdown, too. Nothing sinks a participatory democracy faster than a disinterested, apathetic public.

Everywhere you look, the underpinnings of a stable society are crumbling. Education is dumbing down, joblessness and homelessness are on the rise, infrastructure is in disrepair, crime is on the increase, soaring healthcare costs put healthcare out of reach for many, wages are flat or diminishing, job security is nil, the Constitution is under attack by those who have sworn to defend it, and hope for a quick turnaround is plunging at freefall speed into the basement of despair. Add to these the imminent collapse of the nation’s currency and you have the perfect recipe for serious trouble.

For additional background information, see these videos featuring Gerald Celente, founder of Trends Research Institute, who calls ’em like he sees ’em. Most of the time, he’s right.

The reality is that nothing less than a full-scale revolution comes anywhere close to providing the means to fix this mess. Although essential to bringing about widespread changes throughout society, a cultural revolution need not necessarily lead to the violence, bloodshed and destruction typically associated with civil war. A peaceful revolution is possible, but it requires a second component. Along with a revolution in human thinking there must come a renaissance of human imagination.

One provides the means for change, the other shows the way.

Q >>>

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Golden Rule

If you think that the U.S. President is the most powerful person in the world, you’re in for a surprise. If you think that President Obama runs the country, you’re in for another surprise. Yeah, I know this series of nine videos probably comes close to information overload, and that at roughly 10 minutes running time each it will take you at least 90 minutes to play them all. But where else can you learn so much vitally important information in so short a time? Get a preview of your future while you can.

Joan Veon, When Central Banks Rule the World

[Okay, that didn’t work out so well; the damned YouTube videos obliterated the whole page. Click on the links, instead. That works, too.]

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Joan stays pretty much on track right up to the very end, and then she runs completely off the rails. If you think that crying out to God is going to solve anything, you might just as well chug another glass of the kool-aid and go back to sleep.

Q >>>

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sanity Alert

A case of sanity broke out in the Obama Administration, today.

Let’s hope it leads to an epidemic.

Q >>>

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Marijuana: The Good . . . (there is no Bad or Ugly)

"Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country." —Thomas Jefferson

"Make the most of the hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!" —George Washington

As intelligent men living in a world where oil was yet to be discovered, our founding fathers knew and understood the vital role that hemp played in a vibrant economy. So necessary was hemp to the well being of their embryonic nation and all its citizens that they enacted laws commanding farmers to devote a portion of their cropland to growing hemp.

But that was then and this is now. Current economic and environmental problems continue to fester because our leaders of today are men and women who lag far behind the times, who lack imagination and vision and are so firmly bound to the status quo that it blinds them to hemp’s many potentials. Consumed by greed and avarice, they routinely overlook or dismiss easy, pragmatic and affordable ways to achieve economic and environmental stability and sustainability—all of which could be attained by re-legalizing hemp.

Then, there’s the matter of soaring healthcare costs, but re-legalizing cannabis would help alleviate that problem, too.

"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care ... The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."
— DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, September 6, 1988

Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Q >>>

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Reader's Night Out

Having written reviews of a couple of Timothy Hallinan’s books (A Nail Through the Heart, Breathing Water), and having corresponded with Tim—either by e-mail or by virtue of blog comments—on several occasions, I eagerly awaited his arrival (Wednesday night, September 30th) at Murder by the Book, in southeast Portland, as he blew through town on the last leg of his Breathing Water book tour.

Determined not to let this opportunity to meet Tim slip by, I’d begun planning for the event in early June, when I first learned that he’d be on tour in September. I diligently organized my own affairs so as to avoid conflicts with Tim’s scheduled appearance; checked the progress of his tour almost daily on his blog; reserved a Zipcar (more than three weeks in advance) to meet my transportation needs for the long-awaited evening event.

It was probably more by design than by accident that I arrived at the appointed place an hour earlier than the appointed time, but having an hour to kill gave me both opportunity and excuse to peruse a large selection of new and used mystery/thriller/suspense novels—many of which I’ve read and many more which I have not—including offerings from Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Tami Hoag, Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci, Steve Martini, Tess Gerritsen, and quite a few others. It’s comforting to know that there will never be a shortage of reading material in the fiction genres I prefer.

Upon his arrival, Tim apologized profusely for being late (seems he was trapped for 20 minutes, on the wrong side of the river, by a bridge in the raised position), but he could have been later and still been early. I cleverly introduced myself by forgetting to introduce myself, launching instead into an immediate discussion of his long trip (then over 8,000 miles), the kind of car he drives (an Infiniti), and his on-board navigation system (named Doris, but which might have better been named—to borrow from Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast—Gay Deceiver), which led him into an anti-climactic but humorous confrontation with a pair of underzealous Kansas cops.

One of the things I most like about Timothy Hallinan is his affability, his congeniality, his willingness to engage with his readers (okay, three of the things I most like about Tim). Yes, he’s a gifted writer and storyteller, but there’s more—much more. Because he’s comfortably familiar with his subject matter, he speaks without hesitation or faltering or frequent interruptions punctuated by “uhs,” “ers,” and “umms.” When Tim talks about his Bangkok novels, or the city of Bangkok, or the people of Bangkok, or the economy, government or religion of Thailand, it’s as if he’s reading from a teleprompter; the narrative flows like a river. Of course, there was no teleprompter in evidence, nor so much as a single page of notes (although, I suppose, it’s possible that Tim had his main talking points tattooed on the inside of his eyelids).

The PowerPoint presentation, around which Tim’s talk was structured, produced some stunning visuals that captured Bangkok at its best—and at its worst. The thing that intrigues me most about Bangkok is that it’s a vibrant modern city whose entire population seems to live simultaneously in the past, present, and future. But it was Tim’s mention of the disparity between rich and poor and the corruption that runs rampant at all levels of Thai government that proved particularly insightful. It was at that point that I realized he could just as easily have been talking about social hierarchies and government in the U.S.; there really isn’t that much difference (the Golden Rule—those who have the money make the rules—applies everywhere).

A natural-born teacher, Tim managed to convey more useful information in 30 minutes than my high school social studies teacher was capable of in an entire semester. Had Mr. Hallinan been the teacher in that long-ago social studies class instead of a dumb jock (wrestling coach, assistant football coach) masquerading as an educator, I’m sure I would have stayed around long enough to graduate. As it was, I had no patience for the bullshit and wasn’t about to let school get in the way of my education. An ineffective educator not only denies students an education, but is nothing more than a thief of students’ time. Life’s too short.

After Tim’s presentation and subsequent book signing, a delightful young woman named Theresa—whom I’d met and talked with earlier in the evening—arranged an introduction to Portland novelist Bill Cameron (featured in Portland Noir, author of Lost Dog and Chasing Smoke), who also happened to attend. That introduction led me to purchase two more books—both signed by their author—and garnered an invitation to submit my contact information so Bill can put me on his ARC list before his new book comes out next year.

It may be something of an understatement to say it was a productive reader’s night out. As a first-time attendee at a book signing, my expectations had been exceeded in every possible way. As the door to Murder by the Book closed behind me and I began the long walk back to my car weighed down by a shopping bag full of books, I knew that someday soon I’d be back.

There are, after all, other books to read. And other authors to meet.

Q >>>

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surviving in the Age of Stupid

When the premiere episode of Trauma aired on NBC last night, I couldn’t help but notice that there was more than a small amount of irony involved. The series opened with a flashback (not a Flashforward) to a tragic helicopter crash that wiped out most of a trauma/rescue team—and forever altered the lives of the survivors—then quickly segued to a scene in which a drooling idiot, salivating at the prospect of sending a text message, seemed more intent on getting his message sent than on paying attention to evolving traffic conditions going on all around him while he speeds down the freeway.

The results, of course, were predictable; one just couldn’t tell exactly when the carnage would happen, or how severe it would be. As it turned out, it was pretty severe, indicating that the texter wasn’t the only incompetent driver on the road that day. Fortunately, this scenario was only a dramatization. Unfortunately, similar scenarios play out in real life, every day, on roadways all across America.

Enter the irony. A scant three hours earlier, Channel 6 News (CBS) aired the results of its daily opinion poll: 8% of respondents to the poll think that texting while driving shouldn’t be illegal. WTF?

Quick! Revoke their driver’s licenses and confiscate their cars. Those people are drooling idiots who lack essential skills (mainly attention span) needed to safely operate a moving vehicle of any kind. Get them off the road before they kill someone.

Yeah, I know, we have too many laws already, and we don’t need big brother constantly telling us what to do. Bullshit! It’s precisely because people can always be counted on to do the expedient thing, the convenient thing, the selfish thing, the greedy thing, or the stupid thing—and that they can rarely be counted on to do the right thing or even the required thing—that make some laws necessary.

Q >>>

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Case for Re-legalizing Cannabis

The following video makes a rational, intelligent and compelling argument for the re-legalization of cannabis hemp:

Hemp and the Rule of Law

Contrast the first video with this one, which stars the real-life counterparts of Beavis and Butthead:

Anti-marijuana Public Service Ad

Even though the second video is a parody, it tends to reinforce the idea that when you don’t have anything intelligent to bring to the debate, stupid is not a good fallback position.

Q >>>

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Matrix Reloaded?

This 20-minute video will change the way you think about everything. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Perceptions of Reality

Q >>>

Monday, September 14, 2009

The 51st State?

When Tarleisio—one of my favorite bloggers—posted The Politics of Childhood on MoltenMetalMama, I got to thinking about the nature of classism, the mindset of bullies, and how religion, despite being a major influence in shaping societies the world over, is as much a tool used by ignorant bullies to justify their bad behavior as it is a tool used by powerful interests to control those over whom they have power. But this is not a discourse on the pros and cons of religion; it’s a brief look into the causes and effects of ignorance.

Because ignorance is defined as a state of not knowing (and also a lack of education), it can accurately be said that everyone is ignorant to a certain degree; no one knows everything about everything. For instance, while most people might benefit from having a basic knowledge of first aid, they don’t need to learn how to make complex medical diagnoses or perform complicated surgical procedures. It’s okay for people who have no intention of becoming a doctor to remain ignorant of the things every doctor must know.

What’s not okay is for people to remain ignorant about the things all people should know: the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the basic workings of their government, the value of a good education, the necessity of not allowing blind emotional impulses to control one’s actions, the importance of respect for one’s self and for the rights of others, et al.

Whenever and wherever egregious departures from acceptable social conduct occur, ignorance attends, either as the root cause or as fertilizer for the root cause. Whenever public debate devolves into a shouting match, ignorance attends. Whenever religion becomes the “be all, do all and end all” of civil society, ignorance attends. Wherever ignorance attends, bullying flourishes, because bullying is the only avenue left open for ignoramuses to express themselves or gain attention.

The willing accomplices of ignorance are complacency, laziness, and a profound lack of curiosity. Hey, it’s easier to go along to get along, Rush Limbaugh says it’s true so it must be true, and besides, critical thinking is really, really hard. Ignorant people are content to live their lives inside the little boxes they build for themselves (or in which they allow others to build for them), because these are their comfort zones. Anything that challenges the status quo directly challenges them by threatening to push them outside of their comfort zones; because new ideas displace old ideas, new ideas and new ways of doing things must be resisted at any cost.

But ignorance is the brake that keeps social progress at a standstill. It’s the reason democracy doesn’t work as well as it should, the reason why news media have become purveyors of lies, and the reason why many legislators occupy their time dealing with trivial matters while more serious matters run amok. Ignorance is the primary reason why the U.S. continues its backward slide and falls farther and farther behind other developed countries in terms of social, economic, technological, and environmental progress.

Most discouraging of all is that the batshit crazy, doorstop-stupid barking moonbats that infest populate the Republican Party (and a small-but-growing segment of the Democratic Party) seem to take great pride in their ignorance and stupidity; they flaunt these negatives—and glorify them—at every opportunity. To make matters worse, they pass these same negative values on to their children, thus ensuring that doorstop-stupid barking moonbats will never become an endangered species. In fact, the community of willfully ignorant people has grown so large that it should probably apply for statehood.

That’s what happens when education takes a backseat to bank bailouts and war, to auto company bailouts and domestic policies masquerading as war. Maybe someday we’ll get our priorities straight, but we probably won’t. Because too many willfully ignorant people are willing to listen to and believe the misinformation and disinformation delivered by media pundits representing the status quo, too few people with way too much financial clout and political power—and too much to lose—will have the final say.

Q >>>

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Speeding Toward a Wall of Reality

Few people seem to realize that human overpopulation is the biggest threat now facing humans and other planetary life forms, and fewer still are talking about the crisis that should be—but isn’t—on everyone’s mind. We’ve run into a wall in terms of population growth and economic growth (neither are sustainable), and the sooner we accept that fact the sooner we can start a discussion about possible solutions.

The following five videos are sequential parts of a program that aired on Canadian television on May 5, 2008.

The Agenda w/Steve Paikin: Overpopulation

Part 1 of 5

The Agenda w/Steve Paikin: Overpopulation

Part 2 of 5

The Agenda w/Steve Paikin: Overpopulation

Part 3 of 5

The Agenda w/Steve Paikin: Overpopulation

Part 4 of 5

The Agenda w/Steve Paikin: Overpopulation

Part 5 of 5

Denial has never been a particularly effective coping mechanism, and it’s even less effective as a survival strategy. What we do (or don’t do) in the next few years will determine the future of the human race.

Q >>>

Monday, September 7, 2009

Calamity Jane?

Jane Goodall confronts the elephant in the room—and stays rational throughout.

More about this subject in tomorrow’s post.

Q >>>

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Preview of Coming Distractions

America in Crisis

But it’s not just America that’s in crisis; it’s the whole freakin’ world. Most of the world’s serious problems originate with overpopulation, and the profound ignorance and indifference of a substantial number of members of that overpopulation ensure that the problems will continue to worsen until they converge in one huge catastrophic event.

After all, ignorance, indifference, complacency and denial only go so far before reality takes over. The shit ain’t hit the fan yet, but it’s on its way. Stay tuned.

Q >>>