Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New home for the New Decade

I have been very busy with the move and getting out of here so there has been little action on the writing front. The cleaning has been difficult physically and There has been almost zero help. I hope to take some time this weekend to reflect and hit the beach one last time before heading south. Looking forward to starting another new adventure. In the meantime check out some Robins in the rain.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

My post speech analysis

I gave my prespeech perspective here is my post speech wrap up. Needless to say by my last line you will be sure that I remain unconvinced.

My analysis of the program. The President is planning to increase troop strength by approximately 1/3 in the hopes of reversing the trend in return to Taliban control. 18 months from now having stabilized the situation we will begin to pull out in Jul 2011. We will have trained the Afghan security forces to replace us at providing protection for the local population from said Taliban. We will increase our efforts at creating an economy based on something other than narcotics and root out the corruption in the central government. We will then get completely out of Afghanistan in terms of combat operations at some future date dependent on conditions on the ground.
This I am sure in his opinion is the best of a bad lot of options. He used the usual fear tactics and military props to sell it and he gave a pretty lackluster speech to roll it out. I will leave it for the Daily Show and Jon Stewart to put together the side by side comparison of Bush selling us the Iraq surge with the same rhetoric. He tried to tell us this wasn’t the next Vietnam while trying to fight it like Iraq, another place it is not. Always fighting the last war isn’t that the problem?
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I will begin with point 1. Afghanistan and its’ citizens did not attack us on 9/11. The hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. The mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohamed was born in Kuwaiti of Pakistani refugee parents. Osama bin Laden the leader of this criminal band was another Saudi. In case you are not seeing the pattern here there are no Afghans on that list.
The history of The United States drawing all these criminal men to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians and then leaving them trained and heavily armed to prey on the populace should be well known Perhaps that is why the President left it out of his history narrative. I am only bringing it up to give the proper time horizon. Afghanistan has not had a functioning educational system in all that time. They have a 20% literacy rate, very bad but the bulk of the reading is taught at religious schools that instill fundamentalism, even worse.
Looking at the president's claim that a false reading of history leads to the Vietnam analogy. I contend that all analogies to past wars are pointless as no two situations are ever the same but the lessons learned still apply. Then he sets out points that are themselves a false reading of history. We had the entire west bloc from the cold war with us on the Vietnam war when it came to votes in the UN and world opinion. Our partners in the Vietnam war contributed huge numbers of troops. South Korea provided 320,000 troops to the war effort, more than all the contribution of the coalition of the willing in Afghanistan. We are sending 30,000 troops at a cost of roughly 60 billion dollars total, assuming you meet your withdrawal target. The Brits are sending an additional 500 while the Canadians are doing the smart thing and leaving. Half truths when it comes to war are inexcusable. The belief that soviet style communism posed a threat to the world unparalleled in the history of civilization prevailed in the world at the time so again the distinction does not exist.
The South Vietnamese government was deemed illegitimate by the world after the murder of Diem. Who did what isn’t the point so much as now the whole world knows that The current Afghan government is illegitimate. They stole the election and we went along with the Vietnam Coup.
Waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 rings false to me for the reasons I have already stated above but there is again an untruth in the Presidents statement. We had been viciously attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Of course that turned out not to be factually accurate as well.
The war lords and the Taliban have been fighting over the area for 30 plus years so the home grown insurgency argument may hold up the best of any of his points. The hero status of Ho Chi Minh among his followers remained intact throughout the war. The terrorism took much of the luster off the freedom fighter image of bin Laden. The war lords were horrible when they were in charge. The Taliban was religious horrible leading to the degradation of women and unbelievers. After 9/11 we hired the warlords as mercenaries and put them back into power. Now we have the war lords losing power once again because they are horribly corrupt and the people hate them again. The possibility exists that can win the people in Afghanistan there was no way in Vietnam.
Now as to why it isn’t like Iraq and Surge 2.0 Af/Pak is the last war. Iraq was a fully functioning nation with lots of educated urban people. The level of entrepreneurship and innovation was much higher even though they operated under a pretty brutal dictatorship. The countries economy weakened by years of sanctions was still much stronger than Afghanistan and with the oil fields able to raise cash rapidly after they were stabilized. The parts of Afghanistan we need to recruit the police forces and security forces from are the least educated portions of a horribly uneducated land. In 8 years we have still been unable to build an effective security force in Iraq, We still do not have all of our combat troops out. How can you expect to have anything like a functioning force in 18 months?
The myth that the Surge worked. The violence that occurred in Iraq post, "mission accomplished" was mostly ethnic cleansing. The once integrated sections segregated over time through violence against a foreground of terrorist Al Qaeda types fighting our troops. They unleashed the pent up hatred of the suppressed majority on the oppressors and unlike South Africa in Iraq we got Liberia.
The violence had already begun to decline before the new troops arrived in Iraq so the idea that they caused the reduction is in question. We have been paying off vast numbers of the players all along in the Afghan operation. In Iraq we began paying them to not fight as a change in strategy. At first we made every effort to ensure that no American monies went to anyone that had fought against our troops. It was not until that policy was changed that we began to have some success. The promise of jobs with the police and security forces. We are running out of patience for paying them off and they are not getting the promised jobs in the Iraq government and violence is ticking back up. In Afghanistan we have been paying bribes to build bases bribes to drive on roads, bribes for information and bribes for safe conduct of our supplies since the very beginning. The development money has been sucked up by corruption much the same as in Iraq but as it was a significantly smaller number the amount that trickled down to the population was correspondingly small.
I have no way to verify all of the rumors about The CIA and their paying off of President Karzai’s brother and how much of the 15 billion we bribed the Pakistani’s with went to the other side so we have no non corrupt partner in the region.
I Give the President some credit for at least trying to put forth arguments and justifications for his plan as opposed to The Bush pattern of the lies about babies being thrown from incubators as Bush 41 did or Lies about Uranium yellow cake and mushroom clouds as Bush 43 did.
He failed to answer what went wrong with his last escalation. He has deployed 31,000 troops to Afghanistan already in his short presidency. Why did that escalation fail and what changed that that makes you think doubling down will work now?
It is important at this point to look at the goal of the other side here. They want to cause us to spend so much money that our system collapses. They believe that this is what they did to the Soviet Empire. I would submit another misreading of history.
There were vague statements about paying for the war. No commitment to pay for it. With this President if it is not explicitly spelled out he will not honor his pledge. Even when it is explicit he will not necessarily honor it as in the case of FISA immunity. The General in charge has been proven to lie to the nation as a propagandist so he cannot be trusted, Google Pat Tillman cover up. It was Gates that was Secretary of Defense when the requested troops were not sent. Rumsfeld had been replaced with the man you kept when McKiernan's requests were denied. You cannot use half truths to lie us further into war you must tell the whole truth.
As in Vietnam we will get more people killed and the end result will be the same failed stalemate we could have gotten 3 years earlier. The other alternative is that we continue to fail at securing the country and three years from now we are force to throw more blood and treasure into a failed enterprise. I will leave you with this question. Hey, Hey LBJ How many Kids will Obama Kill Today?

Monday, November 30, 2009

On the Eve of Destruction.

This was a great old tune by a guy named Barry McGuire

It seemed apropos to today as another Barry is about to give us his decision on pouring more lives down the rat hole of war. The leaked number is 30,000 more troops. I have no reason to believe that number and the actual number is not that important in the long run. The cost of 30,000 troops will be an additional 30 billion dollars. That is thirty billion dollars every year for as long as they are there. In February of this year the President already escalated the war to a total of 34,000 troops. Combat troops with their support units.This was done in a deceptive manner in my opinion but I have made no bones about my opinion of this administration and the truth. Charlie Gibbs and Dana Perino lie with equal alacrity and as Dana’s lying netted her a cushy job in government why not?
I have been working on writing fiction in a furious and frenzied attempt to write a novel in a month and so I may tend to ramble but to the topic at hand. The Graveyard of Empires that is Afghanistan and A deeper issue, what as a nation do we value?
Last year we spent 130 billion on hot wars along with another 750 billion on the military industrial complex. Another 30 billion on top of that seems like chicken feed. It does until you consider that 160 billion is twice what the estimated cost of health care reform will be. 840 billion over ten years.
This does not take into account the fact that we are financing the enemy as well we have to bribe the Taliban to let our convoys through to resupply our soldiers. For a frame of reference The gross domestic product of Afghanistan in 2008 was 11.7 billion dollars.
The escalation of our part in this war not including the money and men contributed by NATO is three times the entire countries economy.

Much like In Iraq no one is counting the number of civilians we are killing on a regular basis. We may never no how many people are dying to keep a corrupt government in charge of a failed nation. We have no more right to murder the citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan then the terrorists conducting their attacks on 9/11. We could have done it right but we hired the awful scum that were so terrible to their own people that welcomed the Taliban with open arms to get rid of them and are shocked when they screw everything up.
We have the same criminal crony capitalists in charge of the money supply that destroyed our economy impoverishing only those at the bottom. The Rich are doing quite nicely in the same old story.
Now the Same criminals that tortured and lied under Bush are Torturing and Lying under Obama, Gates and McChrystal.
We were told during the campaign that it was foolish to trust those that drove us into the ditch to get us out, Of course we were also told that the guys that screwed up the Financial system and lost all the poor folks money were the only ones that could save us. The scientific approach of a god waddder that thinks prayer will solve everything.
Since you are evidently not the smartest man on the planet I will say it slowly for you.
There are no good wars.
Your are murdering people everyday in these wars and in our own country by wasting resources on the continued American love of killing brown folks.
You are about to do your usual half assed compromise crap and lose politically as well as get a shitload of people killed for no good reason.
You are going to get creamed by the right for not giving the Generals all the tools to win and when you lose it will be your fault. You cant win with the left without ending the war.
You lied about federal wiretaps you lied about Guantanamo you let the war criminals walk with impunity and now you will kill thousands more before you fail again. Hey, hey LBJ how many kids did Obama kill today?
Do I think this screw-up will be the end of the world? Probably not but the folks in the Kremlin probably didn’t think it would destroy their country either.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some frantic rantings

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Have been frantically scribbling away at my Novel in a Month "the Socrates Code" here is another taste.
Chapter4
Over coffee and muffins the next morning each of the four scientists
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had a new method of inquiry to bounce off the others.
Sefton wondered aloud if they could get another crack at the originals. “There might be some pollen grains that could be isolated.”
“I think that will be problematic.” Anna replied glancing in Dunbar’s direction. “And it has nothing to do with the famous J. Alan Dunbar contempt for padres even though it was on display. But it might be possible to get a look at the shelf space they occupied.” She shrugged, “that would be a best case scenario.”
Writing sample comparisons was Anna‘s idea. “If it is the work of one of the known scholars we may be able to find similar writing in a database. We have a time frame to work with.” she laughed “J. already has a guess.”
“Do tell us Dunbar.” Sefton said in a voice dripping with satire. “Let us bask in your intuitive genius.”
Laughing slightly, “Hypatia of Alexandria. No reason other than I happened to be staring at her likeness in a painting the other day. That and she fit’s the time line. Not to mention that she had access to the best database the world had at that point in time.”
Anna noted that J. had expanded his argument but it was still thin to the point of anorexia. “What about you Dr. Fontaine, what do you think?”
“The isotopic distributions of the vellum. That could narrow down the possibilities.”
“I like that.” Dunbar added. “If it turns out to be an unknown that may be all we ever know.” That put a damper on the conversation for a few seconds. “Of course we are all ignoring the obvious answer.” He looked across the table at Dr. Fontaine and smiled. “That Dr. F. was right last night and this is an elaborate hoax to save the embarrassment of having a Nazi Pope.”
The other three looked at him questions forming but he put up his hand to stave them off. “They have all the equipment, access, motive out the wazoo and Balgus was too good a scientist to have not seen what was on those pages.” he said ticking off the points on his fingers. “You have to admit that seems a lot more plausible than the alternative.”
“Wait a minute Dunbar.” Sefton beat the others to the punch “Weren’t you arguing just the opposite position before?”
“Not exactly, I was arguing that the data were correct and I still say they are.” He took a sip from his coffee. “I am just saying the hoax angle is still the most likely explanation. Before we get into a holy war perhaps we should confirm on a second set of instruments.”
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“J. Dunbar the voice of reason when it comes to religion.” Sefton laughed, “Isn’t that the 5th sign of the apocalypse, right before the rain of frogs.”
“He is jut being contrary. Last night we were all skeptical except him now that we are onboard.” Anna trailed off trying hard not to start laughing again. “He is right first thing is to pick a confirming lab. “Do we have enough stuff left to test?”
“The Livermore guys have equipment good enough to make do with what we have left.” Dr. Fontaine said musing almost to herself. “I’m sure someone at the FRED has connections there.” She looked at Dunbar, “but you don’t fool me for a minute. You are every bit as convinced as the rest of us.”
A sheepish grin was his only reply.
“Well I have data to analyze,” Anna said rising and giving Dunbar a peck on the cheek. “Coming Sefton?”
Dunbar watched her walk away wistfully and then the others were saying good bye as well. He asked the concierge if he could find him a bicycle and the tall stern looking young man assured him it be his pleasure. 5 minutes later he was riding out into the city trying to work the stiffness out of his knees. 20 minutes later he was hopelessly lost in his own thoughts as well as in real life.
The phone brought him back to reality a couple of hours later. Anna was letting him know his presence was requested for lunch with the Man with No Name and the rest of their team back at the hotel. His French was good enough to get him directions and his German good enough to read the road signs. He assured her he would arrive on time. He didn’t have to ask about her results. If anything had changed he knew she would have led off with that.
His calculations had not factored in time for a shower and he was late arriving to the table. “Sorry guys,” he said hope you haven’t been waiting too long?” he said genuinely apologetic.
Anna gave him a smile, the others non committal waves and grunts as they were examining the menu intently. The waiter appeared and he ordered sliced fruit, some pasta and 2 liters of water when the others had finished.
“I hope you got to see the city Mr. Dunbar?” the nondescript man in the charcoal suit began. “ We have reservations for San Francisco departing this evening.”
Dunbar sipped at his water and looked at the others in turn. “I guess it
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Will have to do then.” he said returning Anna’s smile. Then over her shoulder he thought he recognized some one. It was Sarducci out there in the lobby. He was in a suit rather the vestments but it was him. And the he was gone.
“Something wrong J.?” Anna asked.
Dunbar shook his head, “thought I saw puddy cat.” he laughed. “Thought I saw that priest out there Father Sarducci. Sorry been an odd couple of days.”
The nondescript man looked toward the lobby then he took out a notepad and scribbled a few lines. “Probably nothing but it will be looked into. So you think we are being served by the “God Squad” that the gist of it Dunbar?”
He had been considering that question from every conceivable angle for the last two hours on the bike. “Yes at this point that seems much more likely than the alternative.”
The others look at him and the at each other. “I have to concur.” it was Sefton spoke up first and the others quickly concurred.
“Have you figured out how?” The nondescript man asked.
“Haven’t a bloody clue mate. The question is are they going to get away with it?” Dunbar looked around the table. “I for one am going to do what I can to see that the answer to that question is an emphatic no.”
Again the others were quick to concur.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Brick in the Wall

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Having A quiet day building the Socrates Code word by word, brick by brick much the way a wall is built. It can be a physical wall or a wall of waves in the middle of nowhere. So enjoy a little Floyd and chapter 3 of the Socrates code


Chapter 3
His shot at redemption would be delayed he thought as he saw the nondescript man in the nondescript charcoal suit sitting at one of the café’s tables. He and Anna shared a quick glance before sitting down at his table. Dunbar looked for the waiter but he was nowhere to be found.
“I trust thing went well.” the man said glancing at the laptop Dr. Foucault placed on the table.
“Yes, quite well.” Anna answered him beating J. to the punch. “We have everything we should need to serve both agendas.”
“Excellent.” the man said tenting his fingers in a perfect Monty Burns.
That sent all three of them laughing. “The lab in CERN has the closest facilities. We think it best to get these out of the area quickly.” the man said his face returning to nondescript in the flash of an eye, “The delicate nature of removing samples without permission, all these nasty antiquities regulations and such.”
The guy was again all business as if the moment of levity had never happened. Getting out of Dodge suited Dunbar just fine. At least the Swiss coffee would be easier on his stomach. “What time does the train leave?” he asked finally catching the waiters eye.
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“Just enough time for a drink in this place”, the man laughed as the waiter approached. “Midnight.”
Anna handed the man a flash drive along with a small case containing the physical samples she had collected. “You two go ahead, I’ve a few things to attend to.” With that she was off.
Dunbar and his companion, “The Man With No Name” J. was beginning to call him in his head, shared a glass of a rather lively cabernet before he extricated himself to pack. There was also the matter of a certain back in need of scrubbing.
He slept better on trains than planes and he felt pretty fresh when they stepped onto the platform in Geneva. That and Swiss service made breakfast in the Hotel President Wilson dream. Sausages with potato pancakes smothered in lingonberries and a steaming mug of cocoa. The Man With No Name had disappeared on the train and Dunbar fully expected to never see the man again. The address and time of their meeting at the lab had been waiting for the at the Hotel in another God is Dead-gram. He had chosen food she had chosen yoga. He hoped she was as pleased with her decision as he was with his. If he hurried back to the room perhaps they could discuss it in the shower.
Later as she was enjoying the fruit and rolls he had brought for her stretched out languidly on the bed she decided to broach the subject of the symbols. “You don’t think there is any chance those are authentic do you?”
“That a 4th century scientist beat Herr Bohr to the structure of the atom or that it has been sitting in a file cabinet since the 30’s without anyone noticing?” he asked pulling on his jeans.
“Be nice.”
“Actually what was bothering me was that I kind of half believe it.” he ran a towel over his shaved head. “The second part is almost certainly true. Our collaborating cardinal hadn’t a clue what he was scribbling on.” He joined her on the bed and began gently rubbing her feet. “I’m thinking some novitiate used some old parchment to do his chemistry homework on. They recycle or so I’ve been told.”
“Entirely rational and entirely boring, no pun intended.” She giggled. They do recycle old parchments but I’ve never heard of recycled ink.” She pointed to a particular set of lines on the spectrographic readout. That set of lines tells me that it is old 12th century at least.” she smiled and stood up and began dressing. “ I like the Idea of a forger. It’s not anymore likely but infinitely more interesting.” With that she ended the discussion by switching
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On her blow dryer and beginning to brush her hair.
“No fair” he said. “You looked at the data.” I thought we were still at the wild speculation phase.” He laughed.
He looked back at the screen and the data with one eye while watching Anna put on her stockings with the other. An iron oak ink with that isotopic breakdown was indeed of the same period she had pegged the vellum to. Curiouser and curiouser he thought rolling off the bed to finish getting ready to go for what he hoped wouldn‘t be down the rabbit hole.
6 hours later he was convinced that they were all the way through the looking glass.
The parchment dated to 415 CE. As did the ink. Of course that was plus or minus 5 years. Most of the ink had aged away but the 3d scanner revealed the extent of the writings. By every test they could think to run the symbols had been laid down 1600 years ago. They also confirmed that a certain cardinal had assisted the Nazis in laundering the proceeds of the Holocaust. But that had been an after thought.
The Mad Hatter moment had come when the team had broken out the white boards in an attempt to decode the writing. Detailed orbital diagrams of 65 different elements. Dunbar would have said 67 but two of the diagrams were incomplete. By the way they were arranged he was sure there was at least one other piece. Two if they new about the Actinides. They were looking at what had to be the first periodic table of elements. First by 1500 years. At this point Dunbar was the only one prepared to believe it. Anna was almost with him but she argued that he ancient numbering system could have been astrological data. She was not prepared to say which astronomical bodies but when Sefton had put the idea forth she had liked it.
Dunbar admitted that his explanation was out there but the numbers were too perfect. No chemist could fail to see it no matter how impossible the idea was. He would be patient and let them debunk the idea themselves. That and Dr. Fontaine’s theory that their instruments had all malfunctioned at the same time in the most perfect Heisenberg cluster cataclysm predicted by the Mayans come 3 years early. Dr. Fontaine had a very well defined sense of the absurd.
Having decided the best use of his time would be spent verifying the accuracy of the data while Sefton and Foucault searched the sky charts for this particular pattern. The ritual of repeating the experiment would free him up to wrap his head around the most fantastic discovery he was ever likely to be a part of. This would be their Champollion moment. All they needed to
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do was figure out who wrote it. Piece of cake.
At dinner that evening the four of them ate little and talked less. There were several aborted attempts to start conversation but they all led back to the tea party and it seemed everyone was under the spell of the Queen of Hearts. The software would continue the search through the night but even Sefton had concluded that there was nothing visible that could account for the patterns. Instrument failure had not been totally ruled out but much to Dr. Fontaine’s relief the end of the world was not imminent as everything we tested passed.
“Perhaps we should call it a night,” Dunbar finally said “Good nights sleep and back at it fresh in the morning and all that.” his cheesy British accent got a groan from Anna, the other two were kind enough to ignore it.
“You can sleep?” Sefton asked. “When I get something like this my mind wont let it go until I get it or I drop.”
J. couldn’t remember why everyone just called Sefton, Sefton. It had always been thus. I didn’t mean actual sleep I simply want to go stair at the ceiling over my bed for a while. My back is killing me and the look on you guys faces is starting to creep me out.”
“Fair enough, I think I will hit the pool for a few hundred laps.” Sefton stood up, “good night all.”
“Good night,” Dunbar replied also standing to leave. “You ladies will excuse us,” he smiled and followed Sefton into the lobby.
He was still thinking about the Rapheal Fresco of the philosophers when Anna joined him several hours later. Which one of you guys was responsible for this he thought as her arms engulfed him and his thoughts turned to the feminine.
When they finished making love they both lay awake her head on his chest. “Hypatia of Alexandria“, Dunbar said softly. “She’s the one I’m betting on.”
“Really? Any particular reason behind that or is it just the cool sounding name?”
“Thin as it is she fit’s the time line.” He could feel her smile. “The name is kind of cool though isn‘t it?” he chuckled.
“I don’t think the others realize that the real work starts tomorrow.” With that Anna rolled over and went to sleep.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why I fight for what I fight for


The answer to the "why are we here question" is not going to make the world a better place because even if you found it most people wouldn't believe it. I say this because we actually have answered it scientifically and around the world people refuse in droves to accept it.
There is no reason behind the beginning and there is nothing after the end. What we have in between, because we are sentient, is the opportunity to create a world in which we can all enjoy the fruits of knowledge. As long as we sell the ignorant on pie in the sky they will never have pie. It is my position that we could all have pie at some point if we stopped being ignorant assholes. There really is a lot of pie. We may need to have fewer people but we definitely need a more equitable pie man.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chapter 2

scan0020 Chapter 2
Morning came too soon for J. Alan Dunbar but as always morning failed to give a Damn. Yesterdays hot water supply had been an illusion designed to catch him in full lather when the shaved ice came streaming from the shower head. The café had also been a cruel deception. Forty minutes after he and his chattering teeth sat down a pot of coffee arrived at the table along with the news that the kitchen was now closed. It didn’t help that his Italian sucked, maybe the guy hadn’t referred to him as the son of a pig.
Anna would be in front of some painting with a note pad working on
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another textbook. Whenever the job brought them here she tried to get in as much museum time as possible. The place was way to Christy for her taste so she didn’t want to waste her research funds on it. The woman was naturally manic with more energy than any 3 ordinary people. The good thing was that she knew it and didn’t expect him to keep up. He chuckled to himself, she loved him in spite of his sloth.
The streets were bustling with people today furthering the bizarro world mood that had gripped him. He flagged a cab and headed for the complex temple to bureaucracy that was the Vatican.
The cabby was content to rail at the passers by leaving J. free to go over his notes on the ride. The tests were pretty straight forward. Chromatography of inks took very little material and Anna could probably date the paper with small strip an edge. This would be a diplomatic argument more a negotiation than a fact finding. Dunbar suspected the clergy already new the answer and were simply looking to save any further public disgrace. With the name he had seen that seemed impossible. Of course doing the impossible was part of the job description at FRED.
The Friedrich Nietzsche Society had been founded as a think tank in Washington D.C. to combat the wave of Conservatives and Libertarian proselytizers with hard science. Quickly realizing the futility of that move he abandoned trying to argue with the propagandists and funded research around the globe. As rich as his high tech bets had made him he couldn’t compete with the 1%‘ers that ruled politics.
He hadn’t abandoned justice though and part of the requirements for taking FRED money for your research was to provide your skills to aide the victims of ignorance whenever possible. Dunbar routinely processed DNA tests for groups like the innocence project in his lab. He had also done field work on mass graves back in the days before his accident. He did not miss that in the least. Authenticating documents was not his regular gig but he had done it on occasion. He suspected his prior relationship with Dr. Foucault had been the deciding factor in his being given this assignment. That and the fact that he had been available.
The cab dropped him on a side street and Dunbar tip the man for having the wisdom to leave him alone.
“Grazie senior, the square is right over there.” the driver said pointing to an opening in the bricks.
“Prego”, he replied crossing the street and ducking into the doorway. He walk out into St Peter’s Square with all of its’ pigeons and tourists and
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dudes in long black robes. The architecture was an impressive sight no matter how many times you have seen it before. The ultimate Palace of Presumption, Home to the self proclaimed representative of god and storehouse of documents uncounted. He spotted Anna’s teal scarf on the steps and slowly made his way through the crowd to join her.
She had selected a white blouse today under the same dark suit. That served to accentuate the vibrant color of the scarf. She waved as he approached.
“J. Alan Dunbar meet Father Sarducci and Father Balgus. They were the fortunate archivists that uncovered the documents in question.” She spoke in an ironic tone that matched the sheepish looks of the two priests perfectly.
Dunbar shook hands with the men and then followed them inside unspeaking. These guys were looking for any crack in the stones to crawl in and hide. Did taking pleasure in the squirming of the young charlatans make him a bad person? Probably but screw them, covering up for Holocaust profiteers should make one feel a bit ill at ease.
Dunbar was glad he saved his walking for inside the building as they wandered through the labyrinth of corridors turning seemingly at random. The halls at first had been crowded and with each turn the path was less used. Until they reached an office with no designation on the door.
They entered a room as modern as any lab he had ever been in. A Van Gough Pieta hanging on the wall was the one remarkable feature. A light table with several stools sat off to one side and the priests gestured for them to be seated. Father Balgus joined them while Sarducci went over and unlocked file cabinet.
The priest withdrew 3 documents sealed in plastic wrap before relocking the cabinet and joining them at the table. Balgus brought out several pairs of nitrile gloves and then began the process of unwrapping today’s little presents. Sarducci watching the whole time.
They had worked out a plan of action last night before making love with a familiarity that had been missing in the first night’s urgency. Anna would concentrate on the primary documents while J. would spend his time distracting the priests. They needed to get complete scans of both sides of these pages, if not for the crime they would simply have stolen them but they had both greed that was not an option. Anna had burst out laughing at the idea of a pope taking a perp walk through the Hague. He waited for her to have her laptop ready while making a show of reading the documents.
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His feigned look of shock as he concluded must have met with Sarducci’s approval as the man relaxed a bit. He used the tweezers to shift the documents around before asking to look at their spectrometer.
Father Balgus led him over to an array of instruments and for the first time dropped his banal façade. He was proud of his lab and judging by what he was shown Dunbar though justifiably so. The had the capacity to do long column chromatography as well as electron microscopy. Dunbar felt a twinge of guilt at what he was about to do.
Father Sarducci had ignored them his eyes riveted to the pages. J. expected that and with a bit of jealous fawning put Balgus in scientist mode from that of priest. Just as his guard dropped J. reached out and tweaked the dial of the scope causing the heavy set father Balgus to let out a pained squeal.
“No”, he shrieked as Dunbar jumped back to deliberately block the view of Sarducci. As he did so he knocked one of the reagent beakers to the floor. “I am so sorry”, he said shifting again to deny the moving Sarducci a look at Balgus who after rescuing his camera was now dancing back to keep sulfuric acid from burning the hem of his cassock.
Anna waited as father Sarducci danced back and forth in an effort to see what damage her partner was causing. Finally the man could resist no more and as he rushed to poor baking soda on the spill she deftly scanned the three documents into the computer.
“Please Mr. Dunbar, try to be more careful.” Father Balgus said taking the knob he had spun off the microscope from him.
J. adopted a chastened look and sat back down at the table. Father Sarducci regain his composure and resumed his post overseeing the operation. Balgus joined them and they both sat quietly Dr. Foucault pointed out the pertinent facts that authenticated the writings and confirmed the crimes.
It was a bit anticlimactic when the tests confirmed her statements and as they left around 4 pm Father Balgus was decidedly relived that his lab was still in one piece. Collecting a second set of physical samples for use back at the FRED had required two additional near disasters.
Father Sarducci had offered a tour of the Apostolic Palace to Anna before Dunbar had arrived. A move he was now probably deeply regretting. The father and Anna discussed the works while Dunbar listened. It wasn’t likely he would ever be invited back to the place and being with two experts of this caliber was an opportunity not to be wasted.
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They were in front of “The School of Athens” A fresco by Rapheal. The colors and detail were breathtaking. Even his experts seemed awed to silence and he just let the painting wash over him. The search for truth, what it is and how does one know when one finds it. A Neo-Platonist caught his eye as he thought about his path to truths and how very different they were. The figure was Hypatia the lone woman in the group. A mathematician from Alexandria around the time that these strange writings were laid down. Some claim she was the last librarian and the last fire of the greatest Library was a revenge for her murder.
That set him to thinking about the loss of knowledge in all its many forms. Sarducci was talking about the fresco process, The organic based pigments applied to the still wet plaster leading to unique shades. Hues that today’s artists could not replicate. It wasn’t the pigments but the plaster that they were unable to replicate. This saddened him on a deep level.
Combined with the nasty bit of business that they had spent the day proving to be more than he could bare. “You seem to take a bit of pride in that ignorance father.” He spoke in a cold quiet town. His eyes had hardened and when the fell on Sarducci’s face he looked as if he had been slapped. “Controlling knowledge, hording information and using it as a commodity always leads to an ill end.
Sarducci was taken aback. He had dismissed Dunbar as the FRED’s version of inspector Clouseau but this man had seen straight into his mind with a casualness that worried him. Then he thought of ST John the Dwarf and the Tree of Obedience and held his tongue.
Much to Anna’s disappointment the Priest failed to take the bait. Just as well, Dunbar was really pissed for some reason and that would probably end poorly. She headed toward the exits hoping that J. would take the hint and follow her.
The move worked and they were soon out on the square amongst the birds and tourists. “I need a shower,” she said. “What a smarmy self satisfied piece of filth.” She almost spit and then remembered where she was and decided to do it anyway.
“Capital idea,” Dunbar agreed, “please tell me you got everything and we don’t have to come back.”
“I guarantee, “We”, wont have to come back.” she laughed giving him her mock stern look. “Balgus would have a hemorrhage and Sarducci is praying for your horrible demise as we speak. Just remember, No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”
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He burst out giggling at the Python reference and began humming “Always look on the bright side of life” as he nuzzled her ear.
They had reached the side door he had entered and as this mornings tip had ensured a cab was waiting.
“To answer your question yes, complete scans and physical samples of everything.” she had turned momentarily serious. “I’m still a bit miffed at you for jumping on Father “Guido”. I‘ll forgive you if you do a good job washing my back.”
“I’m sorry, I let the smug little shit get to me.” He checked the cabbies face making sure he was dividing his attention between the afternoon traffic and Anna’s legs, “We were there in front of this beautiful statement about man’s quest for enlightenment and this guy was exhorting the wonder of ignorance.” He felt his anger flaring up and suppressed it with some considerable effort. “I know it was bad form pissing in his punch before I was sure you had everything but I had the utmost confidence in your skills.” he favored her with his best mischievous grin and the they both burst out laughing as the cab passed a cart with gourds for sale.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One year later


Today marks one year after the Audacity to yes we can train rode to victory on the backs of progressives. I tweeted my thoughts earlier. overall I gave them a D. When you try to walk down the middle of the road you end up as the "dead skunk, stinking to high heaven" my apologies to Mr. Lennon.
As I have Said less politics and more better fiction for November so here is a little update of The Socrates Code

Chapter 1

The woman rolled beige stockings over her supple calf. The dark seams stood in stark contrast to her alabaster thighs. J. Alan Dunbar rolled over on one elbow to watch. Anna’s legs were short but perfectly shaped, and surprisingly strong . He absently rubbed at a fresh bruise on his hip.
“About time you came to life” She gently chided him. “If you are gonna wear out this fast I will have to start looking for a newer model” A crooked smile crossed her lips as she clipped garters to stockings.
“Just hitting my stride miss Foucault.” J. said swinging his legs over the side of the bed and grimacing a bit as his feet hit the cold stone floor. “Besides it’s the jet lag, tomorrow it will be my age.” he laughed stumbling toward the shower. With the speed inherent in her fluid movements she was already dressed and heading for the door. “Order the coffee my dear. I will be down in a jiff.”
“No need to rush, The holiday and all.” she shot him that crooked smile again framed with soft honey blond hair and then she was gone.
All Saints Day in Vatican City, that, “No need to rush.”, would be an understatement. On a good day service was slow in the little shop downstairs, on these feast days it was an accomplishment to get breakfast by supper time. Waiting for the water to warm up he thought that their were worse things in life than waiting for one meal in a café with Dr. Anna Foucault .
One would think a historian would appreciate the antiquity of the city but the chemist in him kept thinking about the lead poisoning theory for the collapse of the Roman Empire so he showered quickly. Easily beating the
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tiny water heater in the two room flat. He slipped into some jeans and headed for the stairs.
Amazingly a pentagonal metal pot sat on the table beside a tray of croissants and butter. Anna glanced over the top of her paper batting her lashes behind the dark frames of her glasses. She was in an awfully good mood, that meant she new something.
He sat down and spooned sugar into a cup of strong dark liquid allowing the woman her moment. The tables were empty of patrons but most had not been cleared. The waiter sat at the bar smoking a cigarette and eyeing Anna’s legs. Dunbar suspected it was a daily ritual for the young man. “OK spill it.”
“You’re no fun.” She remarked pursing her lips in a mock pout. “Just goes to show there is no rest for the wicked.” She pointed to an envelope on the table with the words, “God is Dead” printed in bold script, the Fred Society motto after it‘s namesakes most famous quote. “We’ve been summoned” she said then went back to reading the calendar page of L’Osservatore Romano.
Italian coffee and his stomach tended to quarrel on the best of days and on short sleep he was never at his best. He opened the envelope and withdrew the single sheet. Room 222 at 1pm local was printed in block type followed by another quotation. “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” “At least they allowed plenty of time to eat” Dunbar said buttering one of the flakey rolls while casting his eyes about for some marmalade.
He ate and wondered what the hurry was. The case that brought him here had been in the works for years. He didn’t see how authenticating a few documents could lead to a settlement now. He dismissed the question as he would know in an hour and turned his attention to Anna. She looked even better this morning than she had picking him up at the gate last night. A smart black skirt with a matching blazer worn over teal silk blouse. The color set her eyes a blaze behind the black glasses she had chosen.
“Any shot at catching a cab?” he asked finishing a second cup of coffee.
“Afraid it’s shanks mare today luv.” a hint of sympathy in her voice. “It is a lovely fall day for it though.” She wrapped a scarf over her shoulder length blond coiffeur before changing to sunglasses and heading for the counter.
J. held the door for her and they set out for the Vatican City office of
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the Friedrich Nietzsche Society, commonly referred to as the FRED.
They knocked on the open door to room 222 and a nondescript man in the nondescript charcoal suit looked up and gave them a noncommittal smile.
“Mr. Dunbar, Miss Foucault please come in. Thank you for being so prompt.” The older man gestured from his desk toward the two chairs. “Please sit down wont you?” Sorry to call you in on the holiday but something has come up and we felt it shouldn’t wait.”
The man offered no name. It occurred to Dunbar that they never said exactly who we were, he was however sure that we did not include him. In FRED circles people without names popped up from time to time. Those times tended to be bad times.
“When you meet with the cardinal tomorrow he will be trying to prove that these documents or should I say the original documents from which these copies were made are not what they appear to be. What they appear to be is a detailed outline of certain crimes being covered up.” The man paused momentarily as if gauging their expressions. “These crimes are of a rather distasteful nature and the individual is high ranking. The victims compensation has already been paid so money is no longer an issue. We have been asked by the victims attorneys to find a way for criminal penalties that would not involve the victims having to testify.”
Dunbar listened with one ear waiting for the shoe to drop with the other. The two of them new all this yesterday so what was all this mystery?
The nondescript man in the nondescript charcoal suit opened the folder and placed three documents on the desk. The odd sized pages
“Those look like orbital diagrams, you know the arrangement of electrons in an atom.” The words were out before he could stop them. “That doesn’t seem likely but this is Sodium and that one is Argon. It would make for a bit of an odd coincidence. How old did you say these are supposed to be?”
“The paper dates back to around 410 CE. Plus or minus 10 years. The backside ink that’s bleeding through is different from that on the front,
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much older We just aren’t sure how much.”
Dunbar looked at the man a huge question mark on his face. “It can’t be that much older, the chemistry is only a hundred years or so old.” He looked to Anna for her opinion.
“You’re right and wrong from what I can tell from this.” Her tone was hesitant. “The ink is old but we don’t know for sure when it was applied.” She smiled. Quite the conundrum.
“This is a very delicate situation, If these are authentic we can finally get these folks the justice they deserve. But the real find here would be on the other side so to speak.” The nondescript man looked at each of them in turn. The church is fighting tooth and nail to keep this quiet. These weird symbols just gum up the works but what if they are authentic?” He let the question dangle in the air.
“We were just apprized of this information and didn’t want it distracting you at a key moment.” He stood up.
The interview was apparently over.
“Feel free to stay and read these but they must be locked up before you leave. Jessup can handle that for you.” And with that the nondescript man in the nondescript charcoal suit left them.
What indeed Dunbar thought? Working in the debunking business he encountered fantastic claims often and they had always failed to withstand scientific scrutiny. He only hoped that at least the confession would turn out to be true. He supposed this time would be no different but the idea was indeed tantalizing. What if some bronze age mathematician had stumbled upon Quanta? Would they have struggled with the implications drive many in the present day physicists crazy? Later that night the same whimsical thought followed him down into sleep a contented Anna cradled in his arms. all looked to contain writing by the same hand. He looked them over making a preliminary assessment. The originals were old or had been made to look old. The fiber patterns, discolorations and some bleeding of the inks. Much older than the dates appended to the instructions. There was what appeared to be a Papal signature and most curious to J. was a series of circles and arrows from the writing on the other side visible on the margins.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Prologue


Hypatia stepped from between the marble columns out into the wan light of early evening. The soft cotton robes she wore rustled slightly as she descended the stairs of the Great Library. A light breeze lifted dark locks back from her face cooling a fevered brow. Hazel eyes darted back and forth, furtively searching the street for any of the short mans thugs. They would bear the blame for tonight’s deviltry but their actual presence would surely gum up the works. Seeing only the waiting chariot she made her way down the stairs nimbly. She hurried but resisted the urge to run.
Tonight must appear to be as any other Imbolc she thought stepping onto chariot and bracing for the jostling of the cobbles. She did not know the man that drove the perfectly matched pair of white mares but he looked enough like her usual servant as to be his brother. She chanced a backward glance and was pleased to see nothing but empty street. A wisp of smoke was rising above the building black against the sky. Following her familiar route at first they slowly made their way from the temple of knowledge that was the great library toward the throngs of the market place. She was going over the plan for the umpteenth time in her head when she spotted what she was looking for up ahead on the right.
Another simple chariot drawn by a pair of white mares. She did know the driver of this chariot and she would miss him for the rest of her life. If for no other reason she would succeed to Insure that his impending death was not in vain. They drew alongside and she looked at another stranger. A dark haired woman her size but with a dead stare in her eyes. Upon closer inspection she could see the ropes that held the woman up as they moved toward their separate destinies. Lucky that a convenient corpse had been around, at least she hoped it had been luck. One deaths guilt was all she was prepared to bare at the moment so she would not examine alternatives.
An imperceptible glance passed between the two drivers and then she dropped out of sight beneath a linen cloth and they turned sharply to the docks.
She heard the whip crack and the horses bolted forward almost tossing her out of the chariot. She grabbed the large mans leg and held on as the whip cracked again and they were flying through deserted alleys. Because of the festival most people were gone to the temple row. The remainder were members of the growing Christian community that would be waiting indoors till sundown for their feasting to begin. She had glimpsed her homeland for the final time and it stung a little as they pulled up to a seldom used wharf where she was quickly stashed below decks.
As she waited for the tide to turn she penned the tale that would pass into history. Knowing that the more lurid the story the faster it would spread she detailed the fate she was escaping by sailing west beyond the pillars of Hercules to a land that had been lost since the time of her schools beginnings was her fate now. Something deep in her animal self took pleasure in detailing the rending of flesh with shards of pottery. The alter of fire over which the flesh was charred had a cleansing effect on her mind and when she lifted pen from paper her old life was in the past and powerful winds were driving her toward an uncertain future.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Running off at the Keyboard.




Happy Halloween
Do enjoy the costumes and around our neck of the woods the,"Harvest" festivals that permeate the fall. this year I am trying something new and at the stroke of midnight I will be starting on this new project. November is National Novel Writing Month and I am participating.
The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Trying to write as fast as you can pouring out words to create? What exactly I am not sure. The rules allow you to work on an outline in advance but for the actual prose you must wait till midnight ! November 2009 to start.
I will post some excerpts here from time to time as I go to share a bit of "The Socrates Code" with you all. And yes I know that is Plato.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wind in the trees

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Home feeling poorly, watching the wind rustle the trees from an antihistamine induced fog. Seems peaceful but it could just be my state of mind. Enjoy.

A revised version with some tunes added.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

350 part 2

The vids that wouldn't load in the first post.
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350 Day Of Action



Spent the day riding around old town. Left my 350 mark. That is 350 PPM (parts per million) of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Watched the costumed children wander about and watched a little speed pumpkin carving.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A little noise on a cold day


Today is the Blog Action Day on Climate Change. We must limit our time above 350. That is 350 parts per million of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It is time for urgent action: "Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects."

October 24th 2009 is the day planned for mass promotion. check out the link and put in a few minutes if you can.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Compromise is not always a good thing


The much anticipated Senate “Gang of Six” bill was put forth today by Montana Senator Max Baucus. Follow the Link to the PDF . I took most of the day to read it and I must say I am not happy. This is not the plan we were promised during the election. If this is what passes for reform than we are pretty much boned.
There is no public option in the bill, there is a provision for cooperatives but no public option. We were promised in writing.
“Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public
insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP
nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that
want to offer insurance to their employees; “ from the Obama plan PDF page2
There is a tax placed on the reciprocation of drugs.
The Chairman‘s Mark would increase the rebate for non-innovator, multiple source drugs to 13 percent of AMP. Page 53
The Chairman‘s Mark would impose a fee on any person that manufactures or imports prescription drugs for sale in the United States. Page 217
What we were promised during the campaign.
Drug reimportation. The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is
prescription drugs.46 Pharmaceutical companies should profit when their research
and development results in a groundbreaking new drug. But some companies are
exploiting Americans by dramatically overcharging U.S. consumers. These
companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging
Americans a 67 percent premium.47 Obama will allow Americans to buy their
medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are
lower outside the U.S. from page 10.
Looks like the drug dealers made a pretty good compromise. Protectionist policies continue and now they will have a captive audience.
The worst part of the bill in my opinion.
Beginning in 2013, all U.S. citizens and legal residents would be required to purchase coverage …. “ page 31
The mandate with a fine. $750 per year. For the poor, 100 to 300% of the poverty level. However, the maximum penalty amount a family above 300 percent of FPL would pay is $3,800.
The mandate was supposed to come later and only after lower premiums failed to get everyone to purchase coverage. The trigger was supposed to be for the mandate not the public option.
The details are still sorely lacking but the general tenor of the bill is full of loopholes and grandfathering. The fees tend to kick in in 2010 and any benefits tend to begin in 2013.
Hospitals that have physician ownership and a provider agreement in operation on November 1, 2009 and that met other specified requirements would be exempt from this self-referral ban. Page 177 for example.
And the big one Pre existing conditions. This for many the point of reform. What we were promised :
“Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away FROM ANY
INSURANCE PLAN because of illness or pre-existing conditions. “
What we get under Baucus:
Within a year of enactment, any uninsured individual who has been denied health care coverage due to a pre-existing condition can enroll in a high-risk pool. Page 5
If you have cancer or other progressive type disease you might be dead in 6 months or bankrupt.
The rules for the small group market would be the same as those for the individual market, except that they would be phased in over a period of up to five years beginning January 1, 2013, as determined by each state with approval from the Secretary. Page 6 so the pre existing thing may not go away until 2018?
The ambiguities in the bill are going to lead to more government takeover nonsense but I am not going to be specific as the lunatic fringe on the right doesn’t need my help.
We are being sold out to the corporate masters in this bill. Will The President make good on his promises? We await his response. Bear in mind that the Missouri compromise preserved slavery for 40 odd years.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Town Hall

Spent a pleasant Wednesday afternoon. at a Town Hall meeting on health care reform. The event was sponsored by California Congressman Mike Thompson. The sun was shining for a change and by the time I pulled the last hill into Redwood Acres I was a bit on the sweaty side.

There was quite a line when I arrived about an hour before the scheduled start time. Most of the signs were pro-reform, actually the greatest number of signs were for some kind of single payer system but the congressmen made sure everyone knew that single payer was not even on the table when he began his remarks. This was not received warmly. There were no outrageous or even witty signs for either position. 10 people pushing Michael Moore’s film, “Sicko” on one side and Reform Health care on the other created a little levity in line when it was pointed out that they had misspelled Helth care. A quick laugh and a felt pen, problem solved. Signs were not allowed in the building but I did not see any of the radical posters prevalent at other Town Halls.



In fact the entire proceeding was pretty civil. One individual could not let a particularly odd speaker get his message out and was removed. Representative Thompson made a concerted effort that everyone have their chance be heard for about an hour and a half. In order to let as many people speak as possible demonstrations were discouraged so gauging the crowd’s position was sometimes difficult. I would put it at about a 60 40 split, single payer /pro reform being the 60. The other forty were a combination of concerned about the government taking over healthcare with a smaller percentage of, “healthcare violates the constitution “ way out types. One was wearing a , “Comrade Obama” bumper sticker on his T-shirt but there was not a lot of that type hyperbole. I went mostly to listen as for me the battle was lost when our fearless leader took single payer off the table with, “If we were starting from scratch of course single payer is better but we are not starting from scratch.”

The crowd chatted amiably waiting for the start. I spent a few minutes correcting a Reagan lover on the subject of deficits and selling arms to terrorists but all very polite. When Rep. Thompson began he laid out a few items then went right to questions. He stressed that we were not getting single payer socialized medicine and that the Government was not taking over health care. He gave his support to the public option again explaining that the public option was a premium supported alternative to private insurance and would not replace private insurance. He stressed that the reform would be paid for up front. As questions were raised he stated over and over that those happy with their Insurance could keep what they had.

The crowd laughed off the Republican woman that tried to bring up, “Death Panels” in the form of quality life year projections and the one nut yelling socialism periodically was met with derision. Of course it wouldn’t be Humboldt county without at least one person brining up legalizing cannabis. Tonight it was a young Marine that was discharged for using pot to treat his PTSD. His position was dismissed with laughter and Thompson made a bit of an ass of himself about it. There was also the obligatory protect the fetus cult member. I am sorry to say that all the house bills have the same defect in that none will cover the reproductive health of women.

Many people had nightmare stories about denied care, bankrupting deductibles and co-payments, and getting preexisting conditioned almost to death. A few had complaints about government care either the VA or military medicine but most were about insurance companies. Everyone on it was thrilled with Medicare. Mike was explaining to one individual that wanted the government completely out of health care that when it was put to a vote not one representative could be found to vote for the repeal of Medicare.

I am glad my Rep supports a public option. I am glad that my local community can have a productive dialog without the fringe hijacking the venue. That being said I am not confident that what I am hearing will go very far to solving the problems in our health care reimbursement system.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Rebut follow up


This is a follow up to my original cash for clunkers posts. For those that can’t seem to write a comment without racial or ethnic slurs, I moderate my pages on the web and delete that type of screed. If all you want to do is scream F bombs at the top of your voice I delete that type of thing as well. Bring facts to the discussion and the occasional swear is part of the language, shouting obscenities because you have no ideas is par for the conservative cause I find it tiresome.
The program was a huge success. 690,000 cars were sold in a month due to the program but auto sale were pushed above the rate of 10 million for the year for the first time since 2008. This has reduced inventories and sped up production for several auto makers. This was the primary purpose, Temporary filling of the demand gap caused by the recession. Will it last? We will have to wait and see. The car lots here are empty of New small fuel efficient vehicles.
The average fuel economy increase was 58 % from 15.8 to 24.8. We did better at 70% but the total while better than nothing is small in the total scheme of global warming.
I was surprised at the hatred shown for a couple of disabled veterans. The idea that those living on fixed incomes are some how irresponsible. The idea that a couple of guys that took responsibility for defending the nation are not responsible enough to pay their bills seems counter factual.
The economic activity that the program produced was huge but it did point out some problems that need to be addressed.
The contacting out of services has been a total disaster. The private sector is so incompetent that it cannot seem to do anything. that’s right the private sector. All this complaining about bad web site design and poor service should be directed at the Citi Group, a private contractor doing a typically haphazard job just as the private sector always does.
The car dealers that knew they would have to front the cars were typical corporate scum and screwed the consumers to the wall. It was not the government screwing up at every turn but the vaunted private sector.
The Idea that 1.4% of the market would have a devastating effect on a market that was already 22% off seems preposterous on its face. This is the CARS is killing the poor and destroying mom and pop used car dealers.
People are getting rid of all these great cars for the 4500 dollars is the most common lie I come across. In 2005 I bought X good mileage car and my neighbor bought Y gas guzzler and he can trade his in and I can’t get a new car and I am paying for his. Bull from the jump. As you only got 4500 dollars maximum the trades were crap. Every time the blue book proved them to be misinformed ,to be kind ,although most of these sock puppet commenter’s were simply lying to create propaganda.
Could it have been done better? Yes, but large bureaucratic structures are not conducive to rapid movement. The economic modelers are either no good or are not being listened to. The bill was written very craftily to encourage rapid movement and to require the industry to bear part of the risk. The Dealers being skanks was obvious to anyone outside looking in. Car dealers are conservatives, they hate the government that hands them subsidies hand over fist so they want Obama to fail but they will of course profit from it. That and gap financing would have eaten into the profits and good capitalists always externalize the cost. I can understand them not getting this as they are not the kind of people that deal with corporate scum from the bottom.
The not being ready for the panicked rush is about their models. They built in the uncertainty factor to maximize the multiplier effect. They simply would have had to include the line that all compliant deals within the time frame would be honored but they deliberately didn’t. Having taken that step not being ready for a stampede shows that they had a bad model or they ignored what the model told them. We need to find out which. These guys are supposed to be the best around but they can’t do a little math. They had $50 million for overhead, band width and servers are cheap but profit maximization corporations step in on a no bid contract and we will now never be able to find out what the truth is.
The losers in this are not entirely clear but some of the complainers would seem to be attributing things that aren’t there. The charity car market crashed when they stopped allowing you to deduct book value for cars that were trash. As soon as they began only giving realistic deductions the adds went away overnight. The crashing of the used car market was in place long before this program began. The program has not helped it but numbers do not support it.
The arguments against stimulus lost at the ballot box and in the legislature so either you do not like democracy or you are just a bunch of sore losers. Either way I do not expect the facts to have any effect on the vast majority. I can only counter with what facts I can find and see what happens.
Those that complained that they had a clunker that didn’t qualify I tend to be sympathetic to your plight. If a second stimulus bill is proposed I would alter the program to include a larger range if the improvement is 50% MPG improvement or better. I do not favor another bill. The current bill has at least 18 months remaining so it is way too early to asses the effectiveness of the total package. That and the technical economic data show that it might be working as well as it can and consumer confidence is already beginning to rebound.
As to the buy American Buchanites out there you lost that battle when Nixon went to china. Nissan employs more Americans than Chrysler . Everyone at the dealership was an American worker. Our local credit union employs American workers. The concept that one corporation is American and for America and that some other corporation is a foreign devil against us is just so much nonsense to me.
It was not a good buy from an environmental standpoint and we should have spent the money on transit or renewable energy. The standards could have been tougher but the majority went way beyond the minimum standard anyway . Taking the money for the additional 2 billion from renewable funds was a bad idea but that happens in a compromise bill. The amount of funds that could be spent quickly on transit was finite.
Poor people that have to drive shitty cars. They may have less choice in their old beaters but there will be a glut of non drive train parts. I still maintain that the percentage of the market in used cars is so small as to be negligible but when you are poor it is the cumulative effects that keep you down.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Whitewashing


Putting myself on the record as saying this is the beginning of a whitewashing of the war crimes of the Bush years. By limiting the scope and not allowing it to go up the chain to those that wrote the memos and asked for them to be written we get nothing. The way to prevent torture is to prosecute all those involved in torture. War crimes must be taken seriously and prosecuted or the spew of all those America is exceptional scumbags must cease. I am deploying the, "Rally Hamster" on behalf of human rights. Hoping he does better than he did over the weekend.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Woodnot

We had both Woofstock and A concert on the square for local treats this weekend. I opted for Moogot2 over the puppies. I was not disappointed here is a little video.
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I am a little young for Woodstock but the idea of Woodstock has always been much larger than the event. Time passes the idea of peace and justice fades and you have the corporate state that we live in today. We are back to the greatest wealth disparity in America since the gilded age. Woodstock being the mid point in time. The promise never materialized and the world has remained cold and dark for most of its' billions of inhabitants. The same people that screamed at the antiwar protesters now scream at the health-care reformers. The question is will we follow the Reagan retreads bullshit or will wetry another way? So far I am not encouraged.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Our New Car

Welcome to our new car courtesy of the CARS program. In spite of a problematic start this was a very good deal for those that qualify. With a little effort and research the program made a new car possible for us.

Let me start by saying that my roommate and I are on fixed incomes due to disability. Our vehicle while still serviceable was old, inefficient and worth very little on the retail market.
First step on the road for us was to check our eligibility. We went to the cars.gov web site. Be sure you are at a dot GOV site. This ensures you are dealing with the government. There is a list of Qualifications for your clunker. Less than 25 years old. Still drivable, street legal paper work for the last year, registered and insured. The idea of the program is to remove old gas guzzlers off the road and replace them with safer more fuel efficient cars so your combined MPG needs to be 18 or less. Our 1991 wrangler met all the requirements so we read the details, available as PDF files and then set out to find a new ride we liked and could afford. We checked a few sites like car and driver and consumer reports and talked to our insurance company to get the new rates for the top 4 finalists.
Armed with our research we went for some test drive’s
We needed maximum rebate and minimum cost so we were somewhat limited in our selection. We looked at the Hyundai accent, Toyota Yaris, Kia forte, Chevy cobalt and the Nissan Versa. We settled on the Versa base model sedan. We liked the size, feels like a mid sized, the handling was superior and our insurance company gave it it’s very highest safety ratings. The 5speed transmission shifts very smooth and the variable valve engine has horsepower to spare. The others were OK but all had some drawback for us. A tip for car designers. Back seat windows that don’t open suck. Cars that you cannot get anti-lock braking systems on are not my favorites either.
We picked our model and color then went home to wait for the rules to be set on the 24th of July.
After deciding on a car make your best deal. Keep in mind. The $4500 or $3500 ( and do your best to get the full amount. It will make the environmental part of the program more successful.), is just like cash to the dealer. A little effort that he will get compensated by the salvage yard for. He doesn’t have to sell your old car to get paid. In addition all the offers and discounts they are offering to non cars participants applied to us as well.
On the whole we liked our dealer with one exception, the trying to sell $3000 worth of insurance on a $13,000 car seemed excessive. Extended warranties are a bad deal and trying to sell me is an insult to my intelligence. We struck a deal produced the paperwork and waited for the website to approve us and that is when the fun began.
For those of you going now most of those problems are a thing of the past. The demand overwhelmed the system. I think if the 4 billion originally proposed had been appropriated people wouldn’t have been so stressed and the dealer would have been willing to deliver the cars when the contracts were signed as they were supposed to. Having to wait ten days foe the approval was not part of the deal and cast a bit of a shadow on the buying experience but we will get over it.
We got a new fuel efficient car (29 mpg combined rating is a 70% increase), that is much safer for us and everyone else on the road,( airbags and abs). The state of California gets a big chunk of sales tax. Mike and the guys at the local Nissan dealer sold 13 cars in a weekend when they hadn’t been doing squat. We have some domestic content but it was a NAFTA baby from Mexico. We would have liked to buy home made but could not afford the entry level Ford or GM products.
With the new funding approved and the kinks in the system solved this would seem to be one portion of the Recovery act that is working for the average American.