Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cruisin on a winter afternoon

Took a ride down memory lane today. Drove by the California Maritime Academy and out by the old C&H sugar factory over in Crockett. Took some photos and talked about the old times. Went by the motel that the Dman and his bride first stayed in when they began the great adventure that was the Navy and moving cross country. Lake Chabot has become a 6 flags amusement park and the spot that at different times we both fished for stocked trout in the summers of our youth is no more. There is a new second bridge all concrete and asphalt with a $5 toll as opposed to the 45cents of my high school days. That Erector set iron construct still functioning for east bound traffic is much more interesting architecturally. The wind was thundering off the straights biting cold, piercing to the bone and charging the brain with a million volts.
Probably the last ride out but a good one.

Monday, December 27, 2010

End Times

I have never seen a disease process advance so quickly. My friend is beginning to loose clarity. When he is lucid he is pretty clear that he wants to stay west and ride out the days. Then he is sure that he wants to fight and move. His oldest sister is trying to run his life and there has begun the clash of wills. Unfortunately Don’s will has been sapped by the cancer and the drugs and he has no chance against the forces that are arrayed against him.

I am tracking down the equipment and trying to get the momentum of a bureaucratic monolith to shift just a few inches to the left. I am drained by the by play of control freaks and the passive aggressive. Doctors that want to appear compassionate then when you call them they have their staff give you the runaround. Not charting an intravenous line is a pretty serious fuck-up so don’t piss and moan when I make you look up something that should already be there.

The holiday season is an excuse for people to screw off and blame the holiday. 5 days it has taken to get them to flush the IV that we didn’t need or want. The are not giving and have no plans to give medication through it so it is just another energy sink that we don’t need. We are behind the curve and it is not likely that we are going to catch up no matter how fast we dance. In the day we take to alter the plan it becomes obsolete.

The morning gave a little hope, we went for a ride and for about an hour and a half things were cool. I am now a little leery of him seeing another day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Little Zombie Jazz From The Not So Grimm Reaper

There is an art to helping a person to die well. I think it is one of my few actual skills. I liken it to composing jazz. One takes the underlying structures,
instruments and the tones they create with the music, medicines for the person and
then blend an escape. Today I am weaving a tapestry of morphine and Ondansetron with Gabapentin and Oxycodone to enable Don to be pain free yet still converse with his visitors.
Trying to find the right smells and textures for a person to eat when they have no appetite or when the yeasts and fungi have clouded the palette is another challenge. Tonight I am going to make a roast with potatoes and English peas but I suspect that Don will probably go for another cup’o noodles. Lots of sodium and msg but it is something he can taste and still swallow comfortably.
The texture of food is another aspect of the composition that matters more as taste buds fail and the sense of smell fades. The other measure, the minor counter balance is to know when not to force food. You are not going to build up their strength that way and you may do more harm both by guilt and by too much gas.
We are fighting the swelling of ankles today striking a balance between elevating feet and sitting up to be alert. Trying to walk a bit each day to keep the joints supple and knowing when that walk causes more distress than relief.
It is an arrangement I have rewritten many times but it never seems to get any easier to hear the tune played or to pay the piper.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If you don’t have any real hope…

Today was supposed to be day 1 of a 21 day course of Chemotherapy. On Friday we saw the doctor and they laid out the program. Don went off to visit with some friends for the weekend but by Monday morning he couldn’t breath and was back in the ER.

The cancer has now metastasized to his pericardium and possibly to the heart muscle itself. “Multiple poorly focused lesions”, was how the doctor put it. They do not think he would get any benefit from chemo and he was too sick to withstand the drugs side effects anyway. “They have given up on me” was how Don put it.

We spent the day talking to various social workers and the palliative care specialist Dr. Ali, A very caring woman that helped lay out the options for pain relief as well as some new medicines to treat the nausea. We had to redo the living will paperwork as for some reason it was not on file and call various and sundry relatives and friends. All in all another really crappy day.

When you don't have any real hope a little false might just get you by. Que the Rally Hamster.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Too Many Cooks ....

We have a treatment plan now, finally. In terms of final outcome the month spent fucking around with the diagnosis means nothing but it would have been nice to start the palliative care sooner. Enough bitching about the unchangeable let us move on to the next move. A 21 day course of chemo with 7 days off. He will get the Gemcitabine. On day 1,8 and 16 then sees the doctor on day 21. The next week is the off week so it is then that We will get Don moved back east.
In the interim I am calling to make the arrangements and gathering the records he will need. We will need to go to the SFVA one more time to pick up a disc of his films and I have one more contact to make on Monday.
I am also continuing with the move and that is part of the problem. The Doctor does not want him to travel in the middle of the treatment. That means leaving here the 14 of January after his last appointment and starting the 2nd course in Jackson a week later. Unfortunately because we got pushed into trying to move before Christmas we will be homeless on the 12th. Now I have to clean and move everything in two days instead of two weeks and I am somewhat pissed about it. Then the shit I busted ass to get ready for B&M to ship didn’t get shipped so I had to drag it back home and now will be doing that too. Lots of people making decisions and nobody else actually following up on anything leaving it not just undone but fucked up.
On A positive note I found a nice Coleman tent at a great price at the Sports Authority. I have been researching tent heaters and have chosen this one that I can get at the local Sport Chalet but I am going to wait and see if they have an after Xmas sale.
Thanks for reading the rants, good to have an outlet to scream at.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Chemotherapy Romance

Thought it might be time to update the battle. We are trying to build Don up enough to take a course of Gemcitabine. This newest drug for treating pancreatic cancer will with luck provide a little improvement. The drug interrupts the cell division cycle by replacing one of the Base pairs in Dna and in Rna. Tumor cells are actively replicating more than most normal cells in your body so they will be disrupted more. Unfortunately the lining of the intestinal tract also has rapidly dividing cells in normal circumstances so nausea and constipation, already a serious problem may get worse.

We have been succeeding in regulating the pain meds to some extent and he is feeling better as long as we can keep the intestinal track moving.

I have been swamped with the details of moving out of the place and taking Don back to live with his family. The U-haul storage facility is clean and climate controlled so I am moving my art, books and photo albums over now and will move the furniture after Don gets on a plane. I will then clean out and close up the place before heading east to join him.

The timing could not be much worse for beginning my journey but the timing is always bad when a disaster happens. Driving cross country in the middle of winter is a bit dicey and I am not looking forward to it. I think Don is counting on me to keep his sister from controlling him too much so it is important that I get there in a reasonable time frame.

If he can take the first treatment tomorrow we will have a better idea where we will be going next. I fear that if he can’t start he will begin to give up. To the patient all will eventually be revealed

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Redemption in the Third Act.

Reinvention is the great American Idea. We love a comeback in the third act more than any other culture. In that vein I am giving some more thought to my next act.

Living well is a relative term. For me it is more than creature comforts and extravagant entertainments. It is living by an ethical and moral standard. I have not always succeeded but I have tried.
I lack the talent to write fiction and am too lazy to write nonfiction. The travel Idea works well for me. The thing I need to work out is mail and an address. The first place I think I will do is the Point Reyes area. The other possibility is the San Diego area if the weather is still cold. What I am thinking is that I can create a review of an area and an article that would have some market value. I want to bike camp and the unique factor will be the biking aspect. Pick a spot, set up a good route for moderate riders to enjoy for a week of vacation. The types of things I will include are of course restaurants, camp grounds and local attractions but also bike repair shops, places to park your vehicle or ways to get to the spot with your bike and gear on common carrier or public transportation. I can include reviews of equipment and post those reviews on sites that sell my gear to drive blog traffic. The open questions that I will have to answer is can I stay on the road all of the time. I may need to hole up in the winter and how hard will that be to find decent places for short term at a price I can afford. I anticipate it taking 6 to 8 months before I begin to see any return. Other possible revenue streams can be selling Photo’s. selling blog ads if I can begin to generate traffic.

Keeping my medicine filled. Keeping the mail and bills paid. These are the big problems with the travel. When I tried to do this type of walkabout before those were elements that fucked up on a regular basis.

As to my previous trip I am armed with new technology and less funding by far. The motor home was nice for the comfort but sucked the life out of things with the costs. That and there are RV people and I am not one of them. They are a nice group but they are for the most part older and much more conservative than I am. And I was in my 40’s during that trip. I am more liberal now if that is possible even though I have closed the age gap.

My original plan to bike across country may still happen but I need to get in much better shape again before trying it. I am going to have to put some planning time in and check my equipment.
I think I will write more this time, can’t say it will be better as some of the stuff on that trip was good. Just failed to finish any of it. I was always more productive when out alone during that time anyway. After Rick died Don quit any pretense of writing anyway. What might have been, a sad phrase.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The worst day of your life

Having been around the medical business for most of my adult life as a consumer and provider of services I have seen far too many folks have to confront the Big C. It always sucks. Bummed that Don got stuck in the hospital after being hit with such tough news. I am not a big fan of the number range because they are probabilities that can become an enforced reality but this doctor was very good about not giving hard numbers . Tell someone they have 3 months to live and sometimes they give up at the three month mark. Dr. Pai did make it clear that this was an end game strategy session but what he hoped was the first of a few rather than the last.

“A tragic life”, that is how his sister described Don’s situation. Orphaned at 10, his wife dead from an accident and poor medical skills at a country hospital. A massive heart attack a few years later followed by an aneurysm and now pancreatic cancer. In between he lost his brother Rickey to a logging accident and suffered through osteoporosis.

Sucks to be the one losing all their friends to death but it sucks more to be dead. That is the limit of tonight’s profundity I am afraid. I have tried to live as well as I can for as long as I can and have endeavored to help those around me do the same. In a few months I will be the last of my tribe. More to follow in the days ahead.
The Image is from the Huffington post but I have lost the link to the original creator and for that I apologize.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The sword of Damocles

Friday we are heading to the oncology department for the plan of action. Based on what I have been able to figure out the options are bad and badder, worse and worser. Doesn’t matter how you slice it Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is terminal and as fast as my friend is fading I am thinking the short end of the range is in his future. They started to talk to him about treatment while he was in the hospital and when the options sounded pretty poor he shut them off. It is not my place to tell him that 6 months from now there is 99% probability that he will no longer exist. I am going to let the doctor deliver that blow.

I am going to enjoy the brief respite before the blow is struck. Don is visiting with his sister today and she is helping him pick up some new slippers and Pjs. Friday will come soon enough and tough choices will wait a few more days.

We were in Sacramento for an Xray and then tried a foot-long chili dog from Sonic. It was one of those disappointing moments that always happens when a franchise doesn’t translate to a new location. Two bites and D was done for the day. Shame, as when we were down in the south the Conney dogs were quite tasty.

Did not bring the camera and was immediately sorry. The Sierra Nevada were dusted with snow and the smog in the valley was rained away enough to see them. A rare and wondrous thing to lighten the day. If it happens again I will try to capture the look but will fail to convey the emotion it evokes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prognosis Negative

Was not able to find the clip of the episode that Elaine forced Jerry to see the horrible film of my title for the second time but enjoy "Death Blow"

Don’t quite know How much of what is going on to share with the world. It is egotistical to think anyone is remotely interested in our little travails. I must have that level of ego as I continue to write with little regard as to the number of readers. For those following along at home Don got conformation that he has pancreatic cancer this week. He has gone from disabled to helpless in about 5 weeks so I am not very optimistic. I have tried to be positive for Don and there are improvements in treatment but with liver mets the prognosis is pretty fucked. He has been in denial through the whole process and I see no reason at this point to burst his bubble.

It is rather odd to me that in an age when the prevailing meme is that we are not exposed to death that I am and have been around so much. Had to tell Don’s sister that they were not offering surgery as the cancer has metastasized to the liver already. Pancreatic tends to get diagnosed late and that leads to the poor outcomes but D had been avoiding going to the doctor hoping that his problems would go away for way too long. It is always better to start treatment early. Not Going To The Doctor Because You Are Afraid Of The Answer Will Kill You!!!!!!

I do see one big improvement in the treatment of pain from the physicians. The suffering builds character bullshit is gone.

I am pretty bummed at this point in the process. Don is hospitalized with pneumonia and is having to face his lack of options. I am beginning to run down from the work load and the stress. Watching a friend go through something no one does well is no fun but if you care about others sometime you just have to suck it up and help them best you can.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Radmul version 5.3

The world is about to take one of those monumental shifts. Everything is about to move six inches to the left all at once. 124,000 people die in accidents every year in the US. Those people’s orbits shift faster but not generally any further.

In assessing this shift I am forced to confront past decisions and how they worked out long term. I am not going to bail, that is not my style. I do need to make a plan quickly and first up I need to start getting rid of stuff.

I have another attempt to make. I tried to do this with 5.0, My virtual midlife crisis and again with 5.2, the move to the valley. This 5.3 version may have some profit potential. What I will produce might have an actual market.

People that have jobs get limited vacation time. Cross country trips while novel are not realistic for most people. Spending 5 to 7 days riding around an area camping and cycling is. I will go to a tourist destination; the Napa Valley, the Carmel Monterrey Bay area or a national park. Spend time investigating and exploring then design trips for biking vacations.

I will create a website and solicit camping and biking ads as well as creating a weekly pod cast and travel articles that have sales potential.

I will take photos and review the eateries. I will find the local bike shops and other types of shopping. Search out and find the bike friendly places to stay and camp. In addition I will explore the ways to get to the destinations with bike and gear by car and by public transportation and by common carriers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lois is no more

She died on October 28th at the age of 85.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus was always hit and miss with me but they got the death part right.

I meant to get this up on the 17th , her birthday but I was tied up with another visit to the VA.

This is shaping up to be a bad year for my ever shrinking circle of friends and relatives. Kenny’s recovery is still iffy as he is having trouble maintaining enough weight to deal with his treatment. Don is having severe intestinal problems that is looking a lot like pancreatic cancer and Lois is no more.

When does ceasing to exist become preferable to continuing. Lois made that choice when she decided that she did not wish to take treatment for the Lung cancer. It might have been better for her if Mike and Frank had not taken her to the hospital When she was in distress the last time. Quick and clean can be better than lingering but they were not ready to deal with the reality.

I have missed talking with Lois these last few years but I tuned out the unhappy and there wasn’t much else left. When she could no longer make it to the bingo games it was no longer worth being in pain all the time. Coffee, Bingo and Cigarettes were her three remaining pleasures. The doctors hounded her for years and she refused to quit smoking. Lung cancer got her in the end and I am somewhat surprised as people with high blood pressure to the point of aneurysm usually don’t die of cancer, but that shows how the curve is one weird mo-fo.

For her Time she was quite a remarkable woman my friend Lois. She was a midwife in the military back in the days of the WAVES. She lived through the depression and integration and the wave of technology with good humor and fearlessness. Her favorite stories were of cross country trips in the early days of the interstate highway system and the lean early days after their move west.

Unlike the Norwegian Blue Lois fled the cage and lived a long life, I hope they gave her one last smoke.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fog Day Afternoon

A video blog for the 17th of November 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cool waiting room

Turns out as we work our way through the trial and error that is modern medicine that Don has some lesions on his liver and pancreas so the further we get the less pleasant it becomes. Trying to stay upbeat or at least not be totally bummed. I am taking him for a Biopsy next week after he has been off the blood thinners for a while.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Raider Naition Romp

Won free tickets to the Raiders, Seahawks game and thought I would bring the crisis along.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vote or Die MF

For what it’s worth

My left wing analysis of the voter initiatives on the California ballot November 2nd, 2010.
The overriding theme of the ballot is that corporations want to use the ballot to create an oligarchy veto. 1/3 of the people controlling the state.

Prop 19 is a no-brainer Yes. The war on drugs is a disgrace, pot is already De-facto legal with prop 215 and it is good for you, unlike caffeine and alcohol. It is effective unlike the anti-depressants sold by Big Pharma and not destructively addictive like nicotine.

Prop 20 is a no vote. It provides an unelected minority with the control of congressional districts so the oligarchic powers only have to pay off 6 people instead of 100. Just the latest expression of the capitalist ethos infecting the body politic.

As one of those wacko environmentalists I am voting yes on 21. I am willing to pay an extra $18 a year to have state parks and wildlife refuges. Disclosure I only have a half interest in a vehicle so in truth my cost is only $9 and I already spend more than that in fees at the parks most years.
I am voting No on 22. This seems a pointless law. Solve the budget crisis and this law has no use. Passing broad statutes to deal with temporary problems is bad government. An example of the disaster capitalism we are subjected to on a regular basis.

NO on 23 is obvious. The greatest crime that the current crop of oligarchs is committing is the refusal to deal with industrial contributions to global warming. The folks that make money selling dirty energy are unwilling to pay the cost of cleaning up the mess. In this case they are unwilling to lose future profit to green energy. When we have destroyed the water shed it will not matter that you saved a nickel a kilowatt hour on your power bill. In reality the solution is to remove all subsidies to fossil fuel and allow the market to work as poorly as it does. The true solution would be to nationalize all energy production and poor the profits into clean energy from wind and solar so we would eventually have free electricity for all. Once the windmill is paid for it continues to provide power. When you burn the coal it is gone, only the poisons persist in the environment.

Prop 25 is a yes on balance. It will restore a simple majority vote to part of the budget process. It has several idiotic gimmick things like docking the pay of legislators if the budget is late and it keeps the tax threshold at 2/3 which I do not like but the political reality is such that the oligarchs won on minority rule for taxes and they are not giving that up without a revolution.

No on Prop 26. This is an attempt to spread the minority veto to fees. No 2/3 vote for anything in a democracy.

Prop 27 is a yes for me. It repeals something the voters passed but has not taken effect yet. I do not favor unelected commissions doing redistricting. It only serves to reduce the cost of buying the outcome for the oligarchs. I am torn to some extent as I am in favor of democracy and the commission was passed by a majority vote. It is my hope that the electorate recognizes the mistake and this is corrective action but am not thrilled with the attempt to prevent the majority from trying something.

Prop 24 wins the prize for most deceptive bullshit proposition of the year. With Prop 25 coming in a close 2nd.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Long Day at Land's End.

The Wizard is the oldest piece I have retained.

Spent a long Day down by the Bay yesterday. Don has been getting worse for a while and We ended up in the SF VA Medical center Emergency room.

As I write this D is getting some great care. The SFVA is fantastic once you get into the system.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor what is it good for,

Apparently absolutely nothing. All of the executive branch economists say we are in a recovery. We are still not adding enough jobs to keep up with population growth so if you work for people you are still screwed. If you own a home you are still unable to sell it. You can however refinance at new low low rates and get back in the crap buying business but there is a catch. If you live in the 12% or higher unemployment states chances are your home has lost so much value you are under water.

The new concept is that pensions are some how evil. The same guy that thought it was a good idea to sell snake oil to unsuspecting desperate sick people rather than provide single payer national health insurance is now determined to make sure you work till you die. The only part of the US economy that is expanding for the unskilled is wiping ass for the baby boomers. Simpson wants to make sure that those jobs pay nothing so that his wealth is not dissipated by that evil wage inflation.

As soon as we get rid of unemployment insurance all those freeloaders will be down at the Del Taco to apply for those sweet night shift supervisor jobs. This is the promise of the GOP America. Since 1980 they have been trying to return to the Gilded age and they have succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations. Their greed was their undoing.

It really wasn’t until the speculators drove up the price of gas to the point that average people couldn’t drive to work and pay for their inflated mortgages that the economy collapsed. All of those subprime people living in their homes were okay until they lost two or three hundred dollars from their budgets. The adjustments due to energy costs haven’t taken this long since the Ron Recession in the 80’s.

The public is convinced that it is the union teacher that is the problem. They are the enemy of the living wage and they have already won.

I find myself in an odd an scary position in having to defend the wacko mother fucking book burners but we are not a banana republic where the generalissimo dictates behavior. Maybe I am delusional to expect the world to go “Whatever” when some ignorant dirt eating nimrod in Georgia does something rude.

The idea that some General is telling citizens to shut up, that is a much bigger issue. These are the same folks that claim that any linkage of American action with the terrorist attacks of the past is treason. Douche nozzle Ari was telling anyone that opposed their criminal wars they had better, “Shut It”.

Book burning is an ineloquent method of protest. It expresses the impotent rage of the burner while not elucidating their reasoning. These folks aren’t particularly interested in argument they are more proclamationist in their thinking. Their imaginary friend supplies them with the truth. The reason they are protesting is rather dickish. They don’t want a particular form of ignorance factory built in a place they don’t live and will never go. The only time they speak of the people that live in New York is to deride their gay, liberal, pervert lifestyle. They wish to have a religious war rather than a clash of civilization. They fight to establish the primacy of their ignorance rather than the elimination of superstition in general. That makes them wrong in their conclusion. Even people that are wrong do not lose their rights.

The crazy runs deep in the world these days. Fareed Zacharia opined on the overreaction to 9/11 in Newsweek, worth the read for a little perspective. The folks in Europe are making bold statements about Architecture and Artists and Healers are murdered. Vast numbers of people are out of work in the developed world just as vast numbers of people are having their crops destroyed by Global Weirding.These are the times when populations turn to tribal ties and opportunists like the Becks of the world flourish. These are the times when standing up for fundamental freedoms is most difficult and most important. There is a huge difference between the government stepping on the rights of men and the individuals offending other individuals.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lies are Bad, M'kay?

If Alcohol an Tobacco taxes do not offset their social cost that is an argument for raising the taxes on Tobacco and Alcohol. It is not an argument for not taxing Marijuana. The folks making this argument also discount the social cost of prohibition propaganda.

Once it is proven you are willing to lie than everything you say is invalid unless you have proof. I am not so old that I cannot remember the change in world view that came with the realization that people would lie about things that didn’t matter. If you wanted to give me a quarter to make me feel better because my gum is sore where the tooth came out I am on board with that. We have one day a year when we all give each other stuff, sign me up. I don’t need a bullshit story about magic fat guys. Even if the magic fat guy story is not as creepy as the guy nailed to the wood fairytale we didn’t need the lies.

I do not have a spectacular memory but I remember thinking as a child. My thinking was not always very good but I did think. This is not much different than my thinking as an adult and that is kind of my point. The folks in the “Drugs are Bad” Mr. Mackeyverse seemed to have forgotten that.

Being a red headed child of the smart ass variety I was beaten a lot, perhaps that is why I became aware but I find that does not make me unique. There is plenty of evidence for the thinking child in the study of human development, the Piaget types and the like, so why do we ignore the idea when it comes to drugs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The New Boss Same as the...

The Tea baggers are missing the boat on their tyranny complaint. There was an election and the elected leaders making decisions you don’t like in a representative republic is not tyranny. They either do not understand or the do not care about the concept of equal protection under the law.

Ordering the killing of a citizen without trial, indefinite detention and torture; now that is tyranny. The right has found no problem with the police state that has emerged post 2001 but the evaporation of their 401k has them screaming. They are the right wing of the republican party and they determine every election they lose to be illegitimate.

They claim to want a return to the constitution but they abandon their first principles when they are scared. Private property and the right to do with it what you want without those meddlesome government busy bodies telling you what to do with it. They scream this till they are red in the face when they are not allowed to rip the tops off mountains. When the, “scary other” in the form of a Muslim cultural center can be used to gin up xenophobia with the complicity of our media I worry about us as a society. They love the idea of divided government yet hate the third branch.

I like the idea that anyone that is offended by a church can bitch about it and the church has to go away. If we want that to be the standard I favor it so that I can travel about and protest and stop ignorance factories would be cool. It would however not be very American, but one has to live in the times one is given and work within the system. That is if you actually believe in the rule of law.

My idea doesn’t violate the first amendment because I would treat all churches the same. It also had zero shot of happening because those folks have abandoned the notion of no state religion from the jump. They are the ones claiming that we are a christian nation. The fact that a state religion is specifically outlawed by the constitution again doesn’t bother these principled patriots.
I am in an odd position with the mosque controversy but in the end I have no new solution that will work better than allowing all the ignorant to compete for the worst ideas and trying to educate the world that all superstition is equally evil. once you believe in magic ignorance is all you contribute to the culture.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Quantum Portrait of Dorian Grey

Nick was seeing the file for the first time. Nothing special about that he thought when the right hand doesn’t have a clue and all that. He hoped to dig out the bullets before the agent in charge showed up. Someone in procurement had discovered an irregularity in the purchasing of cameras for DHS. 1 of these companies had made $35 million replacing cameras, another $31 million. The same freaking camera 7 or 8 times. The gs11 had sent up some red flags and when her boss didn’t take it seriously she went to the Inspector General.

The location and the names had the whiff of Russian mob. Nick hated the damn Russians with their fucking stench of cheap tobacco and cabbage. Those bastards are willing to endure anything to make a buck and that meant months of slogging through shitholes and back alleys.

He hadn’t quite made it to the back of the file when SAIC Davis called him in to the office. No matter, this was not going to be a pleasant meeting anyway. Since the day that he had been lucky enough to pull duty at the Waco cluster fuck his career had been cursed. Never mind that it had gone to shit before he had even shown up. If not for the 911 disaster he might still be chasing down leads on mail fraud in Iowa.
He took the offered seat noticing that Davis did not offer to shake hands. “This is a whistle blower case” he looked up from his desk. “Some guy trying to extort some money from the companies because they have connections.” he looked at Nick across the desk. “These guys are on the preferred contractor list so check the claims and write up a report showing that there is nothing going on. I don‘t want this hippie type retiring on our dime.”

Nick was not sure how to respond but that didn’t matter. “That is all,” Davis said dismissing him. That had been 6 weeks and a trillion worlds ago.

He was teamed with one of the newer agents that had joined the bureau after the attacks. They had been driven to serve out of a need to protect the nation and had quickly been eaten by the bureaucracy. She was an IT specialist that dreamed of tracking the terrorists over the web but had been assigned to set up black boxes in internet service providers. Reading personal e-mails and spying on the political enemies of the current administration had, “soured her attitude” according to her personnel file. That was code for one of those crazy ACLU types that can’t be trusted, hence her exile.

Lynn was not as bitter or cynical as he but give her 15 or 20 years and she could be. She was quiet and that suited him just fine, also she liked to drive. He liked to think while traveling between interviews and her focused silence as she flew through the traffic pleased him no end.

They began with a re-interview of the Whistle blower. A pleasant woman in her fifties that worked in the purchasing department at homeland security. Nick stood back while the woman showed Lynn the case she had previously presented to dozens of links in the chain of command.

“There is no way that this is occurring at random.” she pointed to the 9 districts on the map. “The territories are all serviced by the same contractors and they are the only districts having this problem.” she looked at Lynn to be sure that she was still being listened to and her face lit up a bit.

Lynn had seen the same connection that the woman had but the pattern on the map showed her another possible explanation other than corruption. If one stayed in the area marked by these districts one could travel anywhere in the city without being caught on a security camera. Some of the corridors were thin, only a block wide but that was a hole big enough to drive a truck bomb through.

As they returned to the car Nick felt bad for two reasons. He liked this woman that was diligently saving the tax payers money from a crumby little office that nobody would hear. She was not going to get the whistle blower payoff and that was a shame but he was positive that wouldn’t mater to Grace in the end. Reason 2, that asswipe Davis would get his wish because Grace would not get the money.

“You saw it too?” she asked when the were both seated out of the cold.

“Yes I did”, Nick said looking around for the waitress. “Can we get two coffees here miss?”

She nodded and he leaned back into his side of the booth. “The trail looked like it was gave access to any part of the city from the port. I wonder what will happen to the price of buzz when we shut this down?” he asked pausing when the woman arrived.

She placed two cups of coffee and a fresh pitcher of cream on the table. “Anything to eat?” she asked in a flat tone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Eat the Rich

I was reading a diary at the Daily Kos website that both disturbed and intrigued. You can read it here

The Diary itself was interesting but the comment thread was what got me to thinking.

The premise in short was that the top 1% have recovered and while the rest of society is still reeling from the great recession the rich are doing fine.

The comment thread shifted quickly to apocalyptic calls for overthrow hearkening back to the rise of fascism in Europe and the Bolshevik Stalinist revolution in Russia. The term tipping point came up a lot and the dominate sentiment was that all that stood between the rich and the “Terror was the populace's respect for the rule of law and that anarchy was just around the corner.

I do not think so. I look back to the great depression for my evidence that 70 % of the population is all that is necessary for society to continue apace. Even with the bonus wars, bread lines and migration of the, “Okies” civil order never broke down. People rightly fear the anarchy that an Authority represents.

The marchers of the, "Bonus Army" in Washington never believed that MacArthur would have his troops open up on veterans but they were wrong and the Hoover Ville that they had built was burned to the ground as troops opened up on their comrades from the past. The Democracy movement in China experienced a similar miscalculation when the soldiers marched into Tienanmen square. In both instances the true account of the casualties is lost to history.

The status quo is such that inertia is tough to overcome and revolution is a messy business. The anarchists need to look at places like Yemen and Somalia to get an idea of what life is like when things break down.

The Tea bagger right is agitating for revolution as well but they seem to think it is the social safety net that is crashing the economy and if we could just get rid of those pesky bureaucrats life would be paradise. They are ignorant of history but Carlin explains that quite eloquently.

Then I listen to right wingers that want the ten commandments in every wall in the world outraged that some other group would dare to exercise their freedom of religion. The real owners are not going quietly and they are using all of the usual suspects. Racism, religious bigotry, fear of the other in all of its forms. The reptile calling to the lizard brain.

I would like to see the rational triumph and we accept government based on rational principals rather then superstition and ancestor worship but I am a privileged entity, white, male, American and while not in the club that bias colors my desire to avoid total destruction.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Shirley situation.

This is to give a historical perspective for My comments on the smearing and firing of Shirley Sherrod.

Segregation was fought in the fifties and sixties changing the laws.
In the seventies forced integration was used by the courts to try to do what the forces of society would not and they achieved one of the desired results; young people today have lost the racial prejudice portion of their tribalism in vast numbers.

In the seventies the expansion of women into the work force as well as minorities effectively crushed the upward mobility of labor. The combination of loss of ego structure created a serious backlash in the eighties leading to Reagan being elected and the strange relationship of poor rural people voting for the interests of the rich against themselves in the vain hope that they would regain their superior position.

The nineties presented the one percent at the top with the unprecedented opportunity to pit third world labor against the American working class. As they had pitted the poor blacks against the poor whites. Further reducing the pie for the no longer rising working class now some what integrated.

Allowing the education system to erode was a factor in that ability to shift labor overseas. When the courts forced the schools to integrate in the south the whites fled to private schools. There were similar flights in the north but they created a different style of problem, the suburb. As a result the public school system in the south received inadequate funds as did the city schools in the north and the bottom half of the populace was left with effectively no education.

With the removal of trade protection in the free trade agreements and the ability of computer directed machines to simplify the work requiring one skilled programmer to supervise less and less skilled workers doing more complex tasks.

The speaker at an event for the NAACP, Shirley Sherrod was relating her experiences over this period to demonstrate the evolution of her thinking on economics. I personally find this type of speech a waste of time. I find anecdotes to be bullshit, give me the facts to make the general case. I am not part of the aggrieved class and I understand that lots of people need a narrative.

There is value for the aggrieved to tell their stories. It makes them feel better if nothing else. I think if your father is murdered and you don’t get justice you have the right to at least be heard honestly on the subject. . In this event she was simply abused by the powerful a second time.

The right wing desperately wants to roll back the civil rights movement. They feel that enforcement of the equal protection clause was the beginning of the end of limited government in the modern era. They may or may not be racist in their motivation they simply want all restrictions removed from private property.
To that end they have persons that believe that, “the end justifies the means” and a propaganda piece was created to counter the accusation that there exists a racist element in the far right. The only counter the racist’s seem to be able to muster is that the Obama administration and black people are reverse racists.

I tweeted the other day about the Senator from Virginia and his fail on why blacks should just get over being treated like crap. His earlier works of misogyny were overlooked by many in the attempt to get to 60 votes but he is treading close to Mel Gibson land for my taste. When the propaganda is released this is the type of ignorant mind set that is predisposed to believe it. The Media seem to be predisposed to the same view as they accept this tripe at face value. The disturbing reaction is how afraid the White House and cabinet are of the reverse racism meme.

If you take seriously the idea that the NAACP is part of a wave of oppression washing over white people in America you are divorced from reality to an extent that it is pointless for me to respond. All the data shows that it sucks to be poor but to be nonwhite makes poverty more likely.

The ease with which all those involved accepted the lie points to the sad truth that still have a vast chasm to bridge on the path to equality for all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little help?

Back in the day we all spent a little time on the playground learning to get along at recess. For many kids it was the best part of school but it seems to be a vanishing item from today's schools much like art and music. One of the most important playground lessons was, "A little help?" Every time someone missed a ball and it rolled away or they smacked a foul ball the cry went up for a little help and somebody would grab the ball and throw it back. Learning to help out your fellow nan as a matter of course. It was one of a thousands little things one learns to become a member of society.
Along that vein I have some friends in need of a little help getting back to their game. Mina and her man are going through some difficult challenges dealing with a literal foul ball. Joe has testicular cancer and is undergoing treatment. His prognosis is positive and he is undergoing treatment but he is unable to work during chemo. Mina is blogging about their situation here if you are interested. If like the rest of us you are just another kid on the playground perhaps you can lend a little help.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Policing the Police

The police kill with impunity everyday. The very fact that the jury convicted on anything was to some degree an improvement. This was my first reaction to the announcement in the trial of the murderer of Oscar Grant. I had seen the video of the murder when it made the viral scene and added my disgust to the electronic realm and went about my business. It gets to the point that I throw up my hands in disgust. We accept tyranny and call it security. We create wage slavery and call it freedom. When we demand that the rich pay their taxes we are called tyrants. It is a crazy Orwellian world when billionaires buy elections and call it populism.
The reaction from the family was understandable anger. They have a very good lawyer and will get a huge chunk of cash from the city and from BART. It will not ease their pain much and it will further damage the poverty stricken folks in a blighted city. The sad part is that it will do little to help with the problems.
The Jury struck what I am sure they thought was a compromise. The cop was a total fuck-up and the jury wanted to let him go but they were afraid of a riot. The news media that is totally vested in the scary black man trope so they repeated the same video of a shoe store being broken into and robed over and over while they talked about looting. During the hour and a half that I flipped around the news coverage I saw it dozens of times. It was also the dominant feature commented on in my “twitter verse“. My sample size is small only three folks out of 233 commented on the subject but the one retweeted a rather disturbing tweet by a self described christian that was pretty much a long stream of the N word over and over.
Perspective tends to color perception and those folks that step over and around the poor folks in the transit stations fear them. For them the cop was just moving along the “bums” and that is not their affair. It is the same reasoning that has Republicans voting against extending unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed in a recession caused by the banks. Poor people are lazy drug addicts and should pull themselves up and get a job. It feeds back to the welfare queen urban myth started under Ron the Chimp Wrangler.
The people rioting in the Oakland footlocker could have been reacting to the fact that Lebron James chose not to come and play for the Warriors. My theory explains as much as their trope. Angry people get together and shit gets destroyed, it’s axiomatic. Let’s just not look at why they were there in the first place. Never examine the repression. Why was the cop thinking it was ok to torture this guy?
I am sure that my own perspective drew my eye to the multiple instances during the coverage that showed police running up to an unassuming citizen grab them and throw them to the ground and beat them. The most egregious were shown about 10 minutes into the cbs newscast at 10pm.
Here is my problem with the perception. There was no reason to taze this guy in the first place. This cop and his bully partner went out of their way to push around a poor kid. When the poor kid didn’t grovel properly the beat him up and planned on throwing him in jail for the crime of being poor. The jerk had him down and his excuse for killing him was that he screwed up when all he meant to do was torture him. This poor piece of human detritus had dared to talk back to his betters and needed to be made an example of. The jury assumed that the pig felt horrible about his mistake but it was just a mistake.

If some cops got spit on and attacked with rocks and bottles in Oakland they have themselves to blame. There are no good cops as long as they lie every time they murder someone. If the pigs want respect they can go through the news video from last night and identify every one of their number striking a blow against an unarmed civilian and send them to trial. You can bet they will scour the video to try and arrest the shoe thieves. As long as the police feel they have the right to beat citizens I will call them Pigs and show them the contempt they have earned. If there were any good cops they would already be doing this. The burden of proof is on the government to justify the action it has taken not on the citizen freely exercising their right to assemble.
Now there will be some bullshit DOJ double jeopardy civil rights violation horse shit investigation to placate the rabble. Never fix the solution just try to bullshit the outcome. If the rule of law meant anything the DoJ would be embarrassed to look at civil rights violations conducted by anyone if they are going to let crimes against humanity go. The problem stems from an unwillingness to clean up corrupt cops.
Perhaps if we fired all the assholes there wouldn’t be enough people to take the job. I have no desire to be a pig but if they weren’t pigs I might think about it. I was able to serve honorably in the military despite my contempt for the military industrial complex because it does for the most part operate from a position of honor. The prison industrial complex is a powerful lobby and because the 1% wants the populace afraid they have the Overton Window right were they want it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Last Resort

Putting together an omnibus post on the political spectrum to serve as my rant for a while. Then I am going to dive back into fiction. I have one new concept and the Socrates code project that have long term potential. If I spend my time screaming at the corporatists to get off my lawn and shaking my fist it eats up too much of my energy. I will continue to throw the occasional metaphorical brick but this is my parting shot for a while.
I have given my view on theism. I have distilled my view down as simply as my limited language skills allow. Belief in that for which there is no evidence is destructive in all of the forms it takes. This includes pseudo science as well as religion. There are lots of implications from the mathematics of quantum mechanics. One gets many worlds and string theories with 11 dimensions or is it 13. In the hands of well grounded theorists these ideas lead to things like quantum computers and the discovery of dark energy and all kinds of cool things that may or may not pan out in their exact format but that does not excuse the charlatan that hides in the ambiguities. The existence of “Entanglement” does not mean we are all part of a spiritual realm. We all exist as conscious entities and that consciousness is a function of a physical brain conducting chemical processes. In all of the work we have done studying the brain we have seen no evidence for a soul that exists beyond the life of the functioning brain. When you have something get back to us.
Being a rational human requires one to come to grips with the fact that some questions have no answer. That does not mean that anything you make up is possible. We will not be able to tell folks with absolute certainty how the chemical soup that was available to the primordial environment turned into life. That data is simply unavailable. Plate tectonics has recycled that data beyond retrieval. That does not alter the fact that Humans evolved from earlier species through the process broadly known as natural selection. I prefer the term descent with modification as it does less to imply purpose than the other. There is no reasonable, and by that I mean fitting with basic physics, theory for the existence of the universe that requires any god.
By definition the universe formed from a singularity in big bang theory. There for we will never be able to know what happened before that event. We may some day figure out the most likely precursors to life and recreate it from scratch in an update of the Miller experiment. We may even have the opportunity to observe a planet while it is evolving new life over a few million years on another world. We could turn out to be wrong about the singularity and find out something from before the beginning it is just that those chances are infinitesimally small. At a very minimum the idea that there exists an intercessional god is beyond ludicrous as portrayed in any of the sacred texts that reveal all to the snake oil salesman.
As thinking creatures we have the ability to create meaning even if is an artificial construct. I broke my rule in the middle of thinking about this piece and have begun to ramble. As long as your construct allows for others to pursue their construct fine. By definition the dogmatic faiths cannot do this. The word has been revealed and you must remain ignorant of all future developments to remain true to the faith. To Admit that the ravings in Leviticus are not valid is to admit it is all invalid. Either it is all the word of god or none of it is. If you refuse to show us the gold plates or accept the results when your shroud is proven false beyond all reasonable doubt then I say fuck you and your ignorance. I have no time to waste on your ignorant superstition. I will ridicule it at will but not one second of deference or respect. There isn’t anything else I can do but beat the dead idiot and there are already folks making a living at that task.
The course politically is set for the next cycle so I am not going to expend any more efforts in that direction. The centrist has sold us out to oil and pharma interests. The climate bill will be inadequate, the energy bill will include off shore drilling and nuclear energy both disasters. The drift toward a police state will continue as this group is now trying to eliminate rights for citizens while continuing to show contempt for human life around the globe. I won’t vote republican and see little point in continuing to support the rush to compromise of principles that is this failed system. There will be a slaughter in November and then we will get nothing but screwed until 2012 when the right wing will take power once again. This was the best shot at some actual progressive changes to government for the 8 year cycle with the utter destruction of everything the right had been saying and the gutless piece of god wad that won sold us out. I see no point in continuing to point out the obvious for the next two years. It will just serve to make me appear shrill.
Enjoy the break.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Civilized societies do not

This kind of thing makes my head want to explode. While perusing the twitter PZ Meyers tweeted this little gem .
The American Association of Pediatrics is proposing that we tolerate the genital mutilation of young girls to satisfy the perverse desires of the Islamic cultists. Just a little nip to screw up your sexual identity is a small price to pay to make daddy's imaginary Friend happy. It is bad enough that we allow the baby boys to be ritually molested now we are going to extend the barbaric practice to little girls. Sort of a perverse gender equality from the Imaginary Friend set.
I invite you all to try this thought experiment. Some meth addict invites all his friends over to the trailer for a party. He brings out his baby and lets a stranger feel the child’s genitals while his friends get drunk and watch. At a minimum we would remove the child if we couldn’t lock the father up and throw away the key. Why when we add in an imaginary friend from a bronze age myth does it become acceptable. Both things are done at the expense of the child for the gratification of the adults. I know I shouldn’t equate meth addicts with child molesters as they are poisoning their brains with lithium from batteries and are in need of treatment. But like Matthew McConaughey in, "A Time to Kill" I am using a blunt instrument because for some reason too many educated people just don’t seem to get it.
Here in The US we have so far not allowed the practice of Female circumcision/ genital mutilation to take hold. Any attempt to legitimize this abuse must be denounced and the despicable attempt to stigmatize sexuality repudiated. Civilized societies do not allow the abuse of the defenseless.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If you build it

If you build it, it will break. Get used to it there is nothing ever built with a 100% success rate. Even NASA with all of their technical expertise has about a 2% death rate per astronaut flight and those failures have been spectacular. When president Obama was speaking on April 2nd as he was signing on to the drill baby drill mantra and opening up the east coast to off shore drilling he claimed that oil wells don’t leak. He claimed that the leaks in the Gulf of Mexico after every hurricane are from refineries not from wells.
Here is a transcript link,I am looking for the video they used but it is not up on the ABC site yet.
I will put my plug in here for the disqualifying defect of being under the God Delusion. If you believe in that for which there is no evidence, if you conduct conversations with your imaginary friend and think that he is going to act in some way you are unfit to make any decisions for anyone other than yourself.
Faith as a virtue is a destructive meme. It results in the best case scenario being adopted by the risk management folks as the worst case scenario. I cannot speak for other nations but the American Exceptionalism that is hammered into children in the US with a religious fervor doesn’t help. Manifest destiny is a myth used to justify genocide. There is at present a horrible example of this being sold to a whole new generation on the history channel as slavery was just an unfortunate externality of the booming cotton trade that American ingenuity created with the cotton gin. It wasn’t desperate people fleeing exhausted farm land that came west but adventure seeking entrepreneurs. They completely ignore the propaganda that was spread to get folks to go just as they ignore the fraud conducted by everyone of their business people talking heads. Why am I surprised that the network that has the “The Nostradumbass Effect,” as a serious program gives a crap about reality. They are selling a narrative that has always been a lie from the time they said George could never tell one.
Back to my point and I do have one, there are no failure proof systems. When some one tells you that their widget can’t break they are lying. When the President goes in front of the cameras as he did on April 2nd 2010 and tells you that oil wells never leak anymore in hurricanes he is lying his ass off. Just another in the long list of acts that put him up there with the worst presidents in my lifetime. (Bush, Nixon, Reagan) the order is determined by the number of innocent people they murdered in unjust wars. Saint Ron the traitor had a much larger negative effect than the others as his “gospel of government bad” is still propelling the ignorance of sister Sarah on us today.
Escalating unjust wars
Spying on citizens without warrants and ordering their murder without due process. Murdering civilians with drone strikes in violation of law without a declaration of war. Then having the poor taste to joke about it.
Failing to prosecute torture and crimes against humanity. Continuing to commit said torture and crimes against humanity at military installations around the world.
This is not the change I voted for.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day Labor Day and Disasters.

Watching Bill Moyer’s last dance tonight and I have to say it aggravated me no end. Phony folksy types like Hightower make me want to puke with their false equivalences and their total silence when their true friends the Republicans are in power. These farmers screaming about bank bailouts while any attempt to cut their welfare subsidies is met with shrieks about the family farm. Ethanol is an economic disaster and is awful for the environment. It requires more energy to produce than you get out of it so it makes no sense but because the family farm is some how sacred we piss away tons of money on it. The reason for this waste is the archaic political system that was created to perpetuate slavery and has succeeded for 230 years. You have no right to cry about fair market prices when you demand a huge subsidy. They simply do not understand that the capitalism they are nostalgic for never existed. They are as delusional as their tea bagging counterparts on the farther right. And make no mistake their positions are right wing in nature. They want the other guy regulated but pay a minimum wage like any other business? No they are special and living wages are for land owners not migrant workers. There was something special that led their ancestors to come to America for a better life but now we have all these illegal aliens running around. The solution is not to scream in impotent rage at the bankers greed while resisting fundamental reform. The rich getting everything they can is capitalism. Read their bible, Atlas Shrugged. That is the system Europeans have been fighting since the day they stole the place from the folks that came here from Asia. These are the same populists that elected Raygun because he made them feel good about America by tearing the Solar panels off the White House. The fact that he was looting the treasury with his defense contractor masters was not important. It was just another pesky fact that the folks in flyover country want no part of. It is God and country with those folks and when their Saint Ron broke the unions they cheered. They believe teacher’s unions are the problem with education just as they believe Jesus loves them. They can produce no evidence of either but they know it to be true. Now that they are on the same side unions are now A OK.
It is very hard for me to get behind a group that feels a living wage isn’t their responsibility as an employer. The populist notion that we are all in this together is not compatible with capitalism. They are not wrong when they rail at the bankers, the financialization of America has been a disaster for all but the very few at the very top. The idea was that we would pass free trade agreements that let capital flee to the lowest least regulated areas. This has had a huge redistribution effect and raised about a billion people out of abject poverty. The fallacy was that higher productivity of an educated work force would compete for the more sophisticated jobs and higher productivity would keep the country competitive. This has proved to be a myth much like the rational market. The hot flat and crowded retread of Malthus set was partly correct in that American workers are now competing against children in China.
The reason I despair is that we never seem to learn anything. In the late 1960’s off the California coast they were using all the latest technology to safely drill for oil. They screwed up and devastated the coast around Santa Barbra. We decided that the small amount of energy to be extracted was not worth the economic loss of the spill. Fast forward fifty years and We are again told that it is safe to drill and we again find that they were not telling the truth and the Gulf Coast will now be devastated and the economic losses will be massive. The problem is that there is no one speaking for the other side.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why I don’t fear the Alien Overlords

This is in response to Hawking’s fear. I am not a short term optimist. That the arc of humanity tends toward justice may prove true. The data support that assumption but that matters not one wit to the individual getting the short end of the stick today. That is the perspective of most of my writings so if what follows strikes you as inconsistent it is a long view position taken because space is really really big and it takes an assload of time to get anywhere.
Totalitarian states fail at collaborative creative endeavors. The resources that interstellar space travel would require for any species with similar technologies and life processes would not be likely without a cooperative based society so I don’t fear them. If their chemistry is radically different, perhaps they have a sulfide based metabolism if they just want shit then there are too many easier ways to get it. I am of course assuming that evolution works the same on all life. Outside of Homo sapiens battles for mates and territory rarely are fought to the death. Even among the genus Homo we are becoming less violent. That is the same for predatory behavior. The cheetah never goes all in against the gazelle, I should say rarely. My point being that coming here and taking our shit would be stupid when the same shit is available on say Pluto with no risk so the marauding bands are more likely to take the moon than the earth. Heinlein got to the trust nature of space travel in his “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, When even the smallest screw up can kill everyone you learn to co-operate or they space you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Lamest Story Ever Told.

This a bold statement but those that hear me rave have never accused me of being humble. This is offensive to the believer crowd but no more then celebrating the slaughter of little Egyptian children or the Homo erotic torture displays of the believers offends the rational.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mandate Fail

The mandate to buy insurance makes this a tax bill. I do not see how the new bill can be constitutional. I cannot find any justification in the constitution that allows the delegation of setting tax rates to a private company. The government has the right to tax, they have the right to assign the collection of those taxes to private entities. They do not have the right to let private entities set the rate of that taxation.The auto insurance argument is a fail as the states that have mandates have review of the rates as well as the ability to opt out. (Don’t own a car, self insure by posting bond.) They are voting in the house today but not in the Senate so the drama will continue. Happy equinox. Here is a little quiet spot to preserve some sanity.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“This has all happened before”

We are coming the penultimate moment of the health care reform battle. We are given the false choice between no bill and a very bad bill and the ides of March are some mystical deadline. Why the President even delayed his vacation and disappointed his little kiddies to make it happen.
“This has all happened before”, a cheesy line from a Sci-Fi series sets the scene. In the first years of the Clinton presidency the health care reform bill cobble together by one bribe after another failed to pass. It was at that moment that the right wing had succeeded. They had claimed the Clinton presidency was illegitimate from the jump. Right wing radio was calling it America held hostage and started a countdown reminiscent of “Night Line” and the Iranian hostage situation. It had worked for the right to take power before. Now that they had defeated his signature agenda item they claimed that the people were on their side and Clinton turned so hard right that he signed into law the repeal of the banking regulations that had protected us since the depression. While Clinton did slow defense expansion he took an axe to social spending and sucked up to the corporations as hard as Monica was sucking him.
In 2008 the same whack jobs took to the streets and demanded to see the presidents birth certificate. When Bush was appointed by the supreme court that his party had stacked not a peep from these warriors for freedom but a black man elected by an overwhelming majority, he can’t run my country. Then came the screams of socialism as the bailout for the banks outraged the formerly employed populations. Quick factual note, The financial rescue was passed under W. revisionist history not withstanding Obama did not stop the great depression 2.0, it happened under the Democratic congress. Nancy, and Harry saved the world, not Barry. It was George signed the Tarp bill.
The hated Ralph Nader has proven right again, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” or was that Pete. Maters not the facts speak for themselves. The president who now flat out lies without even trying to be subtle about it claims that everything he said in the campaign was just a mirage. He never wanted the public option. Here is a mash up of his campaign videos talking about the public option. He thinks we are so stupid that we will not remember what he said. He used this before on his FISA vote. Just pretend it didn’t happen and move forward. Evidently most of us are.
The conservatives have already won. The health care reform act or whatever other bullshit name they will call it in the end will do nothing to reform health care. The devil is in the details and the details are all in favor of the corporations. There is no lifetime cap, it is replaced with a yearly cap. It trades no exemptions for preexisting conditions for a mandate to buy insurance from a private company. This will not pass the legal challenges in my opinion. This is the one thing that the right is right about. You can’t make a citizen give his money directly to the corporation. The government has to be the middle man in the form of taxation. The car insurance argument is a straw man as I can opt out. I do not have to own a car so I am not forced to buy the product. If it does get through the courts the rich get staggeringly richer. When the bill goes up in flames they get the status quo. Either way the cost of health care is not contained. They gave away all the cost cutting measures before the negotiations even started in backroom deals with corporations. No importing of drugs from overseas and no Medicare negotiating for lower drug prices. No single payer, no public option so no price controls on insurance rates.
The remaining question is will the Democratic leadership fail by passing a bad bill or by not being able to pass any bill. Regardless of the outcome the media corporations will sell the corporate line and for those of us outside the 1% life will get worse as we continue to aggregate all the wealth at the top. If you want to see how our grandchildren will live and work look not to Europe but to China. The modern incarnation of the capitalist state.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Went down to the Bay Area for the first time since the move. Had to renew my 215 recommendation and that required a trip. The practice had changed hands since my last visit so I had to renew in person as opposed to through the mail. the highway has changed a lot since my last trip, 2001 and I went across the new bridge spanning the straights, the $4.00 toll seemed a bit excessive.

The clinic was downtown and I found it very easily. The directions I got off the web got me close enough but next time I will take the Bart. I am not a fan of driving in the city unless I have no other choice. I was really disappointed in the scene. I will look for more next time down as I was not feeling well to begin the trip and the exam aggravated my back. There was nothing going on with the exception of a line at the Id store.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nate's numbers don't add up

Needed more space than twitter provides for this response.
The time has come for the democrats in congress to man up. People are making the argument that BHO. is no FDR. Nate over at tries to defend Obama but his numbers do not add up. FDR. had 64% of a senate requiring 67% for cloture. BHO. began with 59% of a senate requiring 60% and Nate is claiming advantage FDR. BHO got his 60th vote long before FDR got his 67th. This defense doesn’t hold water.
FDR moved his agenda by writing the bill and sending it to congress. BHO. Has decided to let the legislature legislate. This has proven to be a horrible approach to this point. President Obama has a few months left in which to present an agenda and get it passed before the next election cycle is too far gone to get anything done. When the midterms bring losses this will be interpreted as anti BHO. By the media and we will have a one term president with a failed economy. The window is closing. The question remains are we going to get “Change we can believe in” or hands across the aisle?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Smugglers blues.

Have been working on the lost years project for a while and thought I would share an excerpt. Here is a little Glen Frey tune to set the mood.

When we finally got to the front of the queue we were greeted by a woman in her fifties by her appearance. Gray hair in a style like Edith from all in the family with glasses and a big wool sweater. She was not smiling. We handed over our documents. Me my drivers license and passport, Don only his drivers license. The woman took this as spme kind of personal insult. That Don didn’t have a passport or a birth certificate was some how an affront to all of Canada. Things went down hill from there as our, “We just wanted to drive up and check it out but were staying at a hotel in the US.” reason for our visit was too vague to suit her.
She looked down her nose at us for a while, looked down her nose at our papers and then walked around the vehicle looking down her nose at the Jeep. She granted us one last dirty look before heading into the office with our ID. A few minutes later we were directed to pull into a parking space and join the party inside.
The idea that we had failed before we even got into the country was just too rich. We sat on the bench we were directed to and waited. I was not concerned at this point as we hadn’t done anything so what could they do? If they denied us entry I would come back by myself tomorrow morning and life goes on. And then we walked into a skit from Monty Python.
We were called into an office with a middle aged nondescript bureaucrat in a bulky sweater. He reminded me of Graham Chapman as the British major because of his bushy mustache. He offered us a seat and asked where was the third man? We looked at each other and then back at him with blank expressions.
The man held up the two drivers licenses and 1 passport and repeated the question “Where is the third man?” Although his accent was more nasal than Chapman’s.
I resisted the urge to say, “oot and aboot” and explained that he had two pieces of my ID and if he would check the names he would see that there was just the two of us.
He looked at the passport and then at the two licenses spreading them out on the desk. Then he looked up at us and smiled and inquired as to the reason for our visit to Canada.
Once again we related the tourist story. We wanted to check the place out see the sights. I was not really expecting to have problems getting out of the US, I was ready for the third degree getting back in.
As the woman had earlier he explained that a drivers license was not proof of citizenship and while they didn’t require a passport they did need proof of citizenship all the while speaking in a very neutral bureaucratic tone. Then he asked again, “What happened to the third member of our group?”
While I am amiable and comfortable talking to anyone Don is loquacious and tends to ramble inappropriately. I had always known this and it didn’t much matter most of the time, this was not most times.
Don began to ramble about being down south and having things packed away while I once again tried to explain that the border guard had two pieces of my ID and that there are only two of us. All the while the Canadian had an impassive look on his face. When we finished he smiled and turned to his computer terminal. He made what looked like three entries and then turned back and asked us to wait on the bench outside. The, “Group W” bench ran through my mind but we were the only one’s there so it was not nearly as fun.
About 15 minutes later the Canadian version of Edith Bunker handed us back our papers and told us to enjoy our visit. She walked away and we headed for the door. We thought that it could have been an excuse for them to search the car but they can do that without a reason so? Perhaps we fit the profile of weed smugglers and they wanted to check us out? It was the third man stuff that freaked me but at this point I was ready to go all in. Another really bad way to decide on a course of action and later I accepted the risk for my decision.
We followed the freeway into town and using our rudimentary map from the Cannabis Culture magazine made our way to the section of town that harbored the smoke shops. Unlike in America this was not some seedy garbage strewn back ally but part of a clean newer mall. The folks I asked for help were very nice. They explained that as in our neck of the woods the legal status was somewhat ambiguous and that the seed folks were located elsewhere in town. The young lady gave me a card and wrote the address of a seed bank on the back. She had long dark hair and plastic hoop earrings and I think she thought it cute that the old hippy was looking to score some seeds.
We had to convert a little cash to get out of the parking garage. Everyone else was more than happy to accept dollars. That was back when our money was worth something. So with a couple of loonies in our pocket we headed across town.
Did I mention it was cold. Some of my readers will have seen my piece on the, “cash for clunkers program” and what a piece of shit the jeep we were driving was. At this point it was mostly minor things like shorted wiring in the stereo and the passenger door lock didn’t work. It drove lousy in even the slightest wind but we found out in a few months what that was about when the rear end disintegrated. Like all vehicles of that type it was poorly insulated and the heater barely kept up as the darkening night brought a significant drop in the temperature.
We found the address and parked on the cross street. We were on a bit of a hill and the neighborhood of first floor businesses with three or four floors of apartments upstairs reminded me of San Francisco. Most of the stores were closed with the exception of the two seed sellers in the middle of the block. I scanned the street and with the exception a few people way down the block we were alone. I locked and closed my door and started for the store when Don let out a loud, “shit” followed by a string of colorful expletives.
I thought he had broken the key off in the lock but it was the lock itself that had broken. I let loose a few choice words of my own at that point but I wasn’t that worried. The odds that anyone would steal our jeep in the 15 minutes we would be inside were so small as to be nonexistent but Don decided to stay outside with the car.
Perhaps he had been spooked by the problems at the border, paranoia strikes deep sometimes and improvisation is a talent some people do not possess. Don went into a mild freak out and decided to stay outside while I went in. He got back in the jeep and I went down the street into the building the address indicated.
Inside the place looked like any office. A desk with a lamp and computer monitor. A 4 drawer file cabinet and a couple of chairs. A guy in his thirties with thinning hair and thickening waist line greeted me and offered me a seat. There were a few posters of buds on the wall with seed producers advertising logos. That was the only evidence that this was other than an insurance salesman’s digs.
We chatted a bit about genetics and Amsterdam and the strains of cannabis that worked best for pain control. I took care not to mention that I would be taking them to the states and he pointed out that while the courts were forcing medical cannabis on them the government was still being rather dickish about things on the whole.
He handed me a black three ring binder that served as his catalog and I began to leaf through it as we talked. The pages were plastic with small pockets usually reserved for keeping trading cards in mint condition. Each pocket contained a couple of seeds and a picture of the buds they would produce as a label.
We were interested in feminized seeds. The plants are forced with certain hormonal stressors to produce almost exclusively female offspring. Of the genetic lines we were interested in he had White Widow and California Orange from the Dutch Passion line. He charged a 75% premium for feminized but we had already factored that in to our calculus. Saving time had become a prime factor so I handed over 400 dollars and received 24 seeds. 12 White Widow and 12 of the Orange.
The seeds were in tiny little plastic vials with printed labels on each.
My business in Vancouver concluded I now had a little time to spend on seeing the culture. He gave me the skinny on the weed scene, again in the shadow world of tolerated but not perfectly legal. Down the street 2 blocks was another shop that I could purchase some bud. He added an address to the card I had from the smoke-shop and we said our goodbyes. This seemed a bit like a screening process, If you were cool you got passed to the next station on the weed railroad.
Despite the problems I was feeling good and walking tall as I started up the hill to the jeep. The buzz lasted the length of that stroll and the whining began. It was too cold to go get smoke, somebody would steal the car, they would smell it on us at the border. what sold it for me was “We could come back tomorrow to check out the scene.” I said fuck it and we headed back to the good old US of A. Of course I knew it was bullshit but I didn’t feel like arguing.
I was wearing some cheap ski gloves made out of an inflexible vinyl and stashed the little vials of seeds in the fingers of my left hand. I remember being nervous but I fully expected to beat any search in my normal arrogant fashion. We were doing everything wrong and should have hung longer or at least bought a T-shirt but we were at the border before thinking about it much.
For all the nervousness the crossing back turned out to be anticlimactic. The young border guard on the American side asked for our Id and ran his little mirror under the car. They had some sort of laser off to the side that did something and Don told the broken lock story as the reason we were back so soon and we were back in the Scottish Lodge in a musty room as successful smugglers.