Friday, November 30, 2007

Housing Crisis

Jack Lessenberry Essay
Much of the time, when I see the presidential candidates squabbling on stage, I have a strong feeling that they are in a different world from the rest of us, and that none of them get it.

I have the same feeling every time I get a press release from one of the intellectual munchkins in the Michigan legislature. Today there are three or four houses on my block that have had for sale signs up for months and one actually in foreclosure. The building inspector told me nobody could remember when a house here was in foreclosure before. Full essay...

My comment on Jack's essay ...

Drawn by the promise of million dollar bonuses, our best minds have abandoned the research labs for the virtual world of Wall Street’s debt equity industry. No longer content with their historical role in underwriting the expansion of our economic pie, these post-modern arbitrage masters, liberated from the ethical restrictions of the previous century, have grown rich redistributing a now stagnant economic pie through the facile application of financial legerdemain. The embezzlement of our shared assets would have been impossible without the assistance of a political class whose accumulation of wealth and entitlements reveals its faith in the aristocratic myth. “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of our currency, first by inflation, then by deflation,” said Thomas Jefferson, “the banks and the corporations that will grow up will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hotels replace Gideon Bibles with "sex kits"

American Family Association
The latest fad with some hotels is to replace their Bibles with "intimancy kits." For instance, at New York City's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy a gourmet mini-bar, an iPod, a flat-screen TV and even the company of a complimentary pet goldfish. But no Bible.

In their never ending effort to liberate additional donations from the gullible, the American Family Association (AFA) has launched a two-front war; a campaign to save Xmas and now a campaign to save the Gideon bible. I suspect that the faithful travel with their own copy of the King James. So who's deprived by the absence of a hotel bible? Just give me a room with a well stocked mini bar. And if I'm ever fortunate enough find myself in a room with a sex kit, I just hope it comes with instructions.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Health Care Redux

US among worst in for infant deaths

The United States ranks near the bottom for infant survival rates among modernized nations. A Save the Children report last year placed the United States ahead of only Latvia, and tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.

The same report noted the United States had more neonatologists and newborn intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom — but still had a higher rate of infant mortality than any of those nations.

Doctors and analysts blame broad disparities in access to health care among racial and income groups in the United States. More ...

Our average life-span and infant mortality will continue to lag other industrialized nations as long as the urban emergency room remains the primary access to health care for the uninsured and under-insured. From a purely economic standpoint, would it not be cheaper to provide someone with an inexpensive prescription for antibiotics than to wait for that illness to progress to the point where tens of thousands of dollars of critical care are required? Any analogy that seeks to buttress the belief that increased health care spending doesn’t translate into better overall health is flawed in that it fails to realize that, while the US spends more per capita on health care, most of that spending occurs within the last days of life in an attempt to forestall death.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

There is Justice in this World

Father wins millions from war funeral pickets
Anti-gay church protested at memorial for Marine killed in Iraq (MSNBC News Service)
BALTIMORE - A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict against a fundamentalist church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality. Albert Snyder sued the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. More ...
Like carrion eating vultures, the appearance of Rev. Fred Phelps and his band of Christian bigots swarming over small town cemeteries signals the tragic death of another brave American solder. One wonders what sick and twisted vision of Christianity infects the minds of deviants like Rev. Phelps. The right of Westboro Baptist Church to parade their fetid tabernacle of hate and intolerance doesn't extend to intruding on the private grief of families burying their war dead. The psychopathology exhibited by these ghouls would, were it not for a tolerance of Christian extremism, be sufficient to support a DSM-IV TR diagnosis of severe personality disorder.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Torture: Immoral Then - Immoral Now!

Torturing Ourselves to Death
by Cal Thomas
There is a double standard when it comes to this subject. We in the West are supposed to adhere to certain rules so we "won't be like them." But if the other side adheres to no rules and sees our standards as a form of weakness, such things are counter-productive to our objectives.
The TV series "24" features Jack Bauer testifying before a congressional committee on the subject of torture. Bauer is asked if he defends torture and responds that if it is needed to save lives, he will use it. That seems to me to be the proper balance if it is reasonably certain the person being tortured (and how do we define torture?) has information that will save innocent lives. More ....
The Third Geneva Convention, which covers prisoners of war, contains the following proscription within Article 17:

"No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."2

Mr. Thomas asks how we define torture. I suggest he review the Geneva Conventions and the US Code of Military Conduct. I also suggest he review the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials where the Allied Powers convicted members of the German military for using the same torture techniques that our government says are necessary to protect us from terrorist attacks. The breadth of Mr. Thomas' bigotry is without bounds. His fear of all things not sanctioned by his narrow, Christianist world-view is clearly displayed in his frequent screeds against gay rights, reproductive freedom, immigration reform, and secular government. Mr. Thomas' entire career has been one long fight against expanding human freedoms.
There has been a cultural war going on in America since the late ’60s: a war between the spiritual freedom symbolized by hippiedom and open homosexuality and the spiritual lockdown ordained by Mammonite fundamentalism, that rapacious hybrid of imperialist capitalism and dominionist Christianity that has become America’s state church.
Steven Wishnia
, Death of a Toker’s Utopia

Sunday, November 04, 2007

First Soaring Flight

I experienced my first sailplane flight yesterday at the Sandhill Soaring Club just outside Gregory Michigan. I've passed the club many times and promised myself that one day I'd get up the nerve and take a ride. Enjoying a late season motorcycle ride prompted by yesterday's clear blue skies, as I passed the Sandhill club I realized that it was a perfect day for my first soaring experience. You don't so much climb into a glider as you slip into it as you would if donning some specialized article of protective clothing. I focused on a red-tailed hawk circling overhead to combat my rising claustrophobia as the pilot and I waited for our tow. Bumping down the grassy runway behind our tow plane, you could feel the glider rise even before the tow plane reached take-off speed.

At 2500 feet, I was allowed to pull the cable that released the thin yellow tow rope that signaled we were now kept aloft by nothing more than the invisible currents of warm air rising from the patchwork of freshly harvested fields spreading out below us. After several minutes of level soaring to determine my sense of comfort, John the pilot asked if I'd be open to more aggressive maneuvers. "Let's do it," I said while ensuring that the air sickness bag was within reach. Soaring has to be experienced to understand the rush of unpowered flight but if you imagine riding a roller coaster with wings you'll have some idea of the sensations felt as you fall into or out of the rising thermals. If you've ever dreamed of soaring, the good people at the Sandhill Soaring Club are ready to help make your dreams a reality.