Monday, February 28, 2011

28 February 2011 Too much of nothing, no one has control!

Too much knowledge can lay you out cold, render you incapable of using that knowledge in a useful manner. Sorting out the useful from the useless becomes problematic.

I attended a storm spotter workshop Saturday. Most of the presentation focused upon spotting tornadoes and other thunderstorm related events, and relaying warnings of those events to the appropriate offices for use in protecting the public.

I’ve been interested in meteorology for most of my life. I’ve read educational material, studied textbooks and field guides in an effort to become better informed.

Tornadic events put me on edge and keep me there. The earliest recall of a tornado I have is of the storm that struck Cape Girardeau MO in 1951. Since then I’ve been present for storms in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Texas, and Nebraska. I’ve seen many of the storm related phenomenon that make them so interesting. Straws driven into trees, chickens explosively plucked by the low pressure of the storm, and other oddities are easily explained and hard to replicate.

There is a lot of information available to amateur meteorologists these days. We can tap directly into NSW and commercial radar feeds, download maps and models of storm predictions and old models of storm histories. There is more data than amateurs with home weather stations can process capably.

The prediction for severe thunderstorms to occur today in N.E TN appeared Saturday. It was easy to see the storms build into Kansas City and other areas west of us. Today’s radar maps showed a solid squall line in Kentucky and Tennessee, drifting in our direction. The intensity of the line was high and displayed some serious radar characteristics projecting high winds. Wind and lightning are the primary problems forecast for us.

Seeing this radar, I was tempted strongly to stay home and watch the storms develop. The dog would have been happy for me to do that, as she is not a gun or storm dog. But I wouldn’t be able to change any outcome if I missed school. So here, I am between classes, watching the radar just as I would be doing if I were home. It looks as if we had some very heavy rain. Until I get home I’ll have no way to know what actually occurred as the squall line blew through.

It’s a real case of knowing too much to be comfortable and too little to be effective. Right now, the ETSU campus is receiving heavy intermittent rain, perhaps some dime-sized hail, and some distant thunder is audible.

Oddly enough, there was a large amount of carry –over from the storm-spotting course to my Volcanology discussion of plumes today. Both of those topics center on fluid mechanics. Once the relationship is apparent, it is interesting to see the visual similarities in the volcanic plume and the thunderstorm super cell.

Today we live at the intersection of “high wind warning” and “flashflood warning.” The creek is still running very high from last week’s rain. Depending upon the storm and its aftermath, dinner tonight will be pizza or peanut butter and jelly.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

27 February 2011 Smart phone but dumb driver

Have You Driven a Smartphone Lately?


Published: February 26, 2011

“I’m barreling along a rural Michigan highway at 75 miles per hour in a gray Ford Taurus X when I glance down to check a number on a screen.

It can’t be more than two seconds, but when I look back up, I’m inches from plowing into a huge green truck. Panicked, I slam on the brakes.

Even though I’m in Virttex, the Ford simulator that uses virtual reality to give you the eerily real sensation that you’re flying down the highway past cars and barns, I still feel shaken.

I made the mistake of taking my eyes off the road for more than 1.5 seconds, which is the danger zone, according to technology experts at Ford headquarters.

Ford, Chrysler, Chevy and other car companies are betting on the proposition that, as long as your eyes don’t stray from the road for more than a moment, your other senses can enjoy a cornucopia of diversions on your dashboard.”

Cassi Creek: This column tries to balance the equation that describes when one’s personal freedoms are outweighed by the rights of others to remain free from harm at the hands or vehicle of any individual. The GOPers/teahadists, and Libertarians will turn purple-faced and scream about the “European nanny state” that is “taking away our freedoms. Others, such as those of us who have had to deal with the carnage visited by distracted drivers will also grow apoplectic and shout about our rights to be safe from the stupidity of the mob.

Over the years, I’ve worked on many innocent MVA victims who were injured by drunks, otherwise intoxicated, and just plain stupidly unaware and distracted. I’m among the injured, but fared more fortunately than many others who became sudden targets. Over the years, I’ve piloted cars and trucks I have seen far too many fools try to combine driving with other tasks. I’ve seen the common grooming and makeup sessions, and have even seen complete clothing changes in heavy, fast traffic. I’ve seen people read, write, watch some form of video entertainment, and send texts/check scores/ browse websites. I’ve been guilty of eating behind the wheel, smoking, and fiddling with the radio / audio system. Now, I just drive. All other tasks are held in abeyance until I can find a place to pull off the road and do them safely. That includes using my cell phone – just a phone btw.

I’m aware of my sanctimonious position on this. I’m aware that I am suggesting the freedoms of others be limited by law, and stringently enforced.

We already have enough distractions to bemuse and confuse drivers. We do not need to have video feed, text messaging, or any other instant communication boon distracting our drivers. It does not require group consensus to follow traffic flow, stop when appropriate, and go when safe. Yet if we allow the dashboards of new vehicles to contain a full computer and entertainment system, they will be built accordingly. And there is no doubt that the “Use only when parked” warning will never be observed. Our automotive industry is going to do their part to solve our problems of unemployment and over-population.

“Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, is livid about the dashboard bells and whistles. When he saw a Ford ad with a bubbly young woman named Kelly using the new souped-up system to gab on the phone hands-free and not paying attention to the road, he called Alan Mulally, the president and C.E.O of Ford.

“I said to him, ‘That girl looks so distracted, it belies belief that this is what you want in terms of safety,’ ” LaHood told me. “Putting entertainment centers in automobiles does not contribute to safe driving. When you’re trying to update your Facebook or put out a tweet, it’s a distraction.”

He said he would compile his own statistics, meet with car executives and use the bully pulpit. “We’ll see what the auto companies can do voluntarily and what we need to do otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think drivers should be doing any of that.”

Here’s the hard crunchy bit at the center.

If built it will be misused by stupid people.

Innocent people will be injured or killed by stupid people

None of us is so important that we need to endanger the lives of others so that we can feel important or be entertained while driving.

Put the damned phones down and drive!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

26 February 2011 Look! Up in the sky!

It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane! It’s not the man of steel.

Faster than a speeding car, able to leap deep gorges, and hurl locomotives.

I spent the morning sitting through a storm spotter training session in Kingsport. The subject matter is quite interesting, the presentation was less so.

I hope it is information I never need to use in the field.

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, February 25, 2011

25 February 2011 Trout flushing in America.

“You can drive all night long but you can’t get there from here.”

Fish hatchery in jeopardy

By Brad Hicks

Erwin Bureau Chief

“ERWIN — If the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year passes as proposed, a reduction in the funding of national fish hatchery operations would occur and could lead to the closure of the Erwin National Fish Hatchery and eight others throughout the country. “

“The Erwin National Fish Hatchery has been in Unicoi County since 1897. Eggs from the hatchery are shipped to federal, state and tribal hatcheries throughout the country, Robinette said, with the fish raised going into waterways where the public has access to catch these fish.

“For every dollar that the Fish and Wildlife Service spends in producing trout for the fishermen, it generates $67 in economic return,” Robinette said.

“U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said he would “work overtime” to ensure that nothing happens to the hatchery. He also said the hatcheries have a tremendous economic impact.”

Cassi Creek:

I find it highly hypocritical for a legislator to vote the pure party line in concert with the teavangelist effort to abolish all social safety nets, NPR, FDA, etc.; only to break with the party over funding for the Erwin trout hatchery. If you look at his voting record, he is apparently opposed to health care for the poor, to safe food, to quality radio and television programming, to wildlife, national parks and forests, social security, and any other facet of the American government that can’t be privatized.

Mr. Roe has a voting record that describes him as more of a teavangelist than as a GOPer. Given an option to vote for business or the welfare of the nation and its citizens, or the preservation of its resources, Roe will roll over, assume the dying cockroach position, and vote for business every time. Obviously, there are commercial trout hatcheries operating in the U.S. Therefore, the option for some or several GOP supporters to benefit from closing federal hatcheries is there. That makes Roe’s break from pattern all the more suspicious. I don’t believe he’s at all concerned with the harm to the local economy that would follow the hatchery closing. I think this is simply a grandstand ploy to make him look good to local sportsmen. He’s already voted against trout fishing in America with every vote that favors business over conservation of wildlife and our environment.

While I am an avid fly fisher and appreciate the presence of the Erwin hatchery, it does little good to save it from funding cuts while the GOP has cooperated with the mining industry to allow mountain top removal. Mountain top removal is highly destructive to trout habitat. Why breed trout if they will be released into water that will kill them?

One of the many good things about fly-fishing for trout is that trout don’t live in ugly places. The teavangelists, teahadists, GOPers and assorted mining, oil, and gas interests are doing everything in their capability to destroy every last meter of trout habitat except that owned by business magnates. Thank you, Mr. Roe, for your part in destroying our fisheries.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

24 February 2011 tales from the battle lines

How Quickly They Forget

“Following the recall of millions of toys from China because of lead paint and other hazards, Congress got its act together in 2008 and passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Bipartisan majorities rallied around the idea that the government should ensure that products — whether they’re made abroad or here — won’t sicken or maim American consumers or their children.

The new Republican-led House seems determined to roll back those protections. As part of their slash-and-burn continuing resolution, they cut all the financing — some $3 million this year — for a core provision of the safety bill: a database where consumers could report product hazards and the public could check products before buying them…”

“The recall in 2007 of millions of hazardous children’s products imported from China proved that a gutted safety commission couldn’t do its job. Why would anyone want to make that same mistake again? “

Thank you, Rep Issa. I’ve been worried that we might be omitting those heavy metals from our diets and those of our offspring. It’s good to see the GOP come out in support of chronic lead poisoning.

Not to be outdone by the idiots and party hacks in D.C., the good legislators of TN wish to make known their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment.

Tennessee Bill Dubs Sharia Law ‘Treasonous,’ Would Punish Muslims with 15 Years In Jail

GOP-led states are tripping over each other to compete for the most absurd response to the perceived threat of Shariah law. Thirteen intrepid states are chasing Oklahoma’s unconstitutional coat tails to bar any consideration of international or Islamic law, even if it means accidentally banning the Ten Commandments or Native American rights.

But with state Sen. Bill Ketron’s (R) new Senate Bill 1028, Tennessee wins the honor of most radical response to a non-existent threat. Introduced last Thursday, the bill claims that Shariah law “continues to plague the United States generally and Tennessee in particular” and requires Muslims “to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic” with an Islamic state. Thus, adherence to the “legal-political-military doctrine” of Shariah law “is treasonous” and “a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail”:

Please follow the link to the entire article. The people backing this bill didn’t even pen it. They received it from a TN “pro-family” group, which received it from an anti-Islam group in Arizona that wants to declare war on Islamic nations.

Cassi Creek:

Local Congressman Phillip Roe of the TN 1st Congressional District. Seems to follow the teahadists party line at every opportunity. While voting against environmental regulations, while attempting to demolish Planned Parenthood, and silence NPR, he manages to delve into the practice of earmarking that the GOP officially claims to oppose.

As a retired OB/Gyn physician, Roe should understand the very real benefit to the nation that is Planned Parenthood. Instead, he attacks it at every opportunity. He claims to be supportive of political discussion but has taken every opportunity to remove any intelligent and accurate source of political information from the airwaves.

Today’s Johnson City Press noted the discrepancy in Roe’s official stance on earmarks and his pronouncements that he wants a local fish hatchery protected. While I oppose cutting funds for the hatchery, I can’t help noticing the hypocrisy in Roe’s public pronouncement. The Newspaper points out his need for informed input from the voters of his district. However, its editorial writer stops short of pointing out that Roe is trying to remove the only local radio source of intelligent political discourse.

Roe emails “bulletins” to his constituents, which always contain a question concerning some political issue (check your response). It would be more beneficial to the district if the question’s answer boxes allowed the voter to choose opposition to Roe’s stated position. It’s easy to claim you have popular support when you don’t allow dissent in the pool of answers.

I’m tired of hearing Roe talk about “job killing regulations.” I can’t even be pleased that he might try to save the trout hatchery. Since he voted to allow continued mountain top removal there won’t be any streams fir for trout to live in. Thank you, GOP/teavangelists for showing us how little conservation means to conservatives.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23 February 2011 Teavangelists wage war on women

Side effects of the GOP's war on family planning

By Ruth Marcus

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“House Republicans voted to increase the number of abortions, raise federal health-care costs and swell the welfare rolls. “

Marcus does an excellent job of defining the cost to the nation if the teavangelists and their GOP keepers are allowed to further deny access to health care to the poorer citizens of this land. There will be serious consequences that outweigh any argument for denying funding to Planned Parenthood advanced by the religious and reactionary right wings of the GOP.

Women, and their families, denied family planning help and information will become pregnant with unwanted and un-affordable children. Those children, refused funding for nutrition, education, health care, and even housing by the GOP and the teavangelists, will place an ever-increasing burden on the families that can’t care for them without government assistance. Since the right’s concern for unwanted children ends at delivery, there will be no form of support for such new citizens.

Venereal diseases are a constant problem. If women are not able to afford private physicians – most OB/Gyns won’t see uninsured patients – many women with asymptomatic diseases will fail to receive treatment and will infect their partners and perhaps children, as some of these diseases are transmissible in-utero and others may be transmitted during delivery. Providing care for undiagnosed patients with STD’s places health care professionals who may happen to see these patients in emergent situations at risk of infection as well.

The teavangelists will complain about the immorality of abortion and about disease being divine retribution for engaging in sex without the approval of some mythical sky creature. They fail to realize that they may be placing some of the most innocent and most deserving of concern at grave risk by blocking funding for Planned Parenthood.

While the monumental blockheads who want to remove Planned Parenthood from the landscape may think that their artificial morality, if forced upon our citizens by institution of a theocracy, will limit the spread of diseases and unwanted children; they are living demonstrations of group delusion. All the school programs stressing abstinence have made absolutely no positive change in the behavior of people with regard to engaging in sex, conceiving children, or acquiring and passing on diseases. Denial of accurate information about birth control and disease avoidance as provided by Planned Parenthood does make a difference.

I’ve omitted the topics of increasing our prison population, our homeless population, and the long-term effects of citizens with HIV/AIDS infections. Suffice it to say that Planned Parenthood has a role to play in reducing the numbers of people in these categories as well. They are not considered by the teavangelists to be worthy of care as they at some time must have violated some religious proscription handed down by religious leaders as medieval in character as the most fundamental imams of Iraq.

Our theocons don’t truly care about the people they are leaving open to increasing harm. They care about establishing a religious control over all Americans as brutal, as medieval, and as hateful as the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan or of the current Iranian regime.

The attack on Planned Parenthood is couched in terms of opposing abortion. That may be minimally true. But the long-term aim of the American teavangelists is to create a theocracy that will return women to the days of no education, no civil or political rights, and no control of their own bodies or lives. This must be stopped.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

22 February 2011 We don’t need you any more, just your misinformed votes

Aptly depicted by Tom Toles in the Washington Post 22 Feb. 2011.

Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Swing states on the rise heading into 2012

By CHeading into the 2012 presidential election, the number of solidly Democratic states has been cut in half as compared to 2008, numbers that suggest that the next national election could well be considerably closer than the last one.

According to Gallup polling data from all 50 states, the number of solidly Democratic states has declined from 30 in 2008 to just 14 in 2010. (Any state where one side has a double-digit edge in party affiliation is defined by Gallup as "solid" for that party.)

Of the 16 states that moved out of the "solidly Democratic" column over the past two years, 12 of them are now defined as "competitive" -- where the two sides are separated by less than five points on the party affiliation question -- while three are rated by Gallup as "lean Democratic" (a Democratic party affiliation advantage of between five and ten points).

New Hampshire is the lone state that swung from solidly Democratic to lean Republican over the past two years; during that time Democratic affiliation dropped by 11.3 percentage points in the Granite State.”

Cassi Creek:

The American employment picture is like the remains of “No Name City” of “Paint Your Wagon” notoriety. Look in any direction and you will see the wealthy leaving town while the dreams of the gold miners sink into the mud and muck that is their job market.

To continue the analogy, the gold strike has played out and there is no more. The miners know it and are planning to follow the pack to the next strike. The ancillary jobs that spring up around gold strikes or any boom town/industry have been packed up to move to the next strike. There may be the few random jobs that result from people’s inability to follow the herd yet another time.

The ugly truth is that the gold and the jobs are played out and they aren’t coming back. No Name City is slated to become just another ghost town, a cemetery of dreams and ambition like hundreds of others that dot the American landscape. Mill towns in the North East and the Appalachians, military towns abandoned by the bases that gave them life, factory towns in the rust belt, mining towns in the mountains; they’re all losing hope as the jobs vanish.

The saddest part of the equation is that many of the formerly employed believed the GOPer/teavangelist propaganda during the last election and voted for their sacrificial status. They believed the myth that extending the Bush tax cuts would somehow magically cause jobs to be created as the wealthy became even more wealthy. Despite 2 decades of tax cuts for the rich, there has been a steady flow of jobs from our shores to those of other nations. The recipients of GOP paybacks pass their gratitude on to the citizens by exporting jobs as rapidly and as permanently as they can.

“Paint Your Wagon” displays what may well be the only example of trickledown economics that works. The hero and the anti-heroes set about recovering gold dust that trickles down from bar and counter tops, carelessly spilled during transactions. Even that little bit of recovered gold comes as high expense, rapidly plays out, and requires the use of practices that are, at best, marginally ethical and marginally legal.

We are living 150 years in the future from the mythical “No Name City.” Then, as now, trickledown economics was shortsighted, short-lived, and largely an act of pure economic fiction. What hasn’t changed is the greed that drives politicians to sell out to corporations, the politicians’ willingness to lie to the public in order to remain in office, or the voters’ failure to question politicians about the failure to deliver the jobs and/or other items they promised that happens over and over.

The gold vein has played out. The camp followers have packed up their mirrors and gaming tables, closed the brothels, and headed for the next strike. The politicians are still spouting lies and trying to get that last dollar from your pocket before they start repeating the same old lies over again.

“No Name City” is quite a lot bigger this time around. The forces of religion-driven pseudo morality have a bit tighter grip on the folks who went bust and who can’t afford to paint their wagon one more time. The gold is in the hands of the already wealthy, where it will stay. The jobs were a lie from the beginning, promised only to hook the voters into believing that the politicians are capable of telling them the truth.

It’s 2011 now, and “I hear they’re hiring at a new plant in … Scrounge up the money for gasoline and throw everything into the car! They’re getting rich now that the tax cuts are creating jobs!”

Monday, February 21, 2011

21 February 2011 the pump don’t work cause the vandals stole the handle.

One of the enduring names from the 1960s is the “Weathermen.”” Taking their label from a Bob Dylan phrase,” Don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” This violent faction of SDS is often afforded more importance than they merit. I’ve spent long hours arguing that they did no represent the new and improved new left of my youth anymore than the infantry unit that carried out the MyLai massacre represented the entire U.S. Army.

One of my major interests is meteorology. I have a series of files documenting basic weather parameters that I have recorded and down loaded since 2000 at our home in Florida and now at our home in Tennessee. Some of those files, from 2001 document the path of TS Gabrielle as it tracked over us in September 2001. Some from 2004 chronicle the paths of Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, and Jean as they each passed within 10 miles of our home.

I now use a program, Virtual Weather Station, to catalog and file my local data. I then upload that data to a national database known as Weather underground. This is a clearinghouse program that tracks local, regional, and national weather data. It allows those who participate to compare their data with that of others in the region and to track trends and events more closely than television weather services allow. While I can always look out the window to see whether or not it is raining and windy, I enjoy being able to track local patterns and to overly them onto radar and other map formats along with thousands of other people operating Personal Weather Stations. (PWS)

I have enjoyed using Weather Underground as a source of education, amusement, and interaction with others interested in amateur meteorology since I happened across it during a Florida hurricane season. It has been a good program with almost no remaining bugs to annoy me. So, of course it has been changed. February 2011 heralds the major re-write that arrived with no real warning. I’m sure that some users know but I missed the telegram.

Every day brings in a new problem. For a week, I had to rediscover each night how to download tabular data from Weather Underground into my spreadsheets. I am supposed to be receiving an ad-free membership. I see ads every night that I have no interest in seeing. There is no way to contact the company for help except to open a maintenance ticket. I’ve opened two and have not been contacted by anyone. There is a wiki page that I am directed to but which will not allow me to open it. I am unable to save page and program preferences, locations, or pretty much anything necessary.

Today a new problem appeared. I called for data from Weather Underground as submitted by my program and hardware. It seems as if my PWS no longer exists in the WU database. I can see history but no real time data.

It is plain to see which way the wind is blowing. I want the old pump back, guys, with a handle that I can turn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

20 February 2011 That vast American radio desert

Morning Edition

All Things Considered

Fresh Air

The Diane Rehm Show

On The Media

On Point

Talk of the Nation

Talk of the Nation Science Friday

A Prairie Home Companion

Weekend Edition Saturday

Weekend Edition Sunday

Car Talk

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

BBC World News

All Songs Considered


Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Mountain Stage

The Thistle & Shamrock

The Grateful Dead Hour

There were once great portions of this nation not served by commercial radio stations. Driving from A to B meant enduring many square miles of radio wasteland, with only random static and muddy garble issuing from the tinny dashboard speaker. Local radio stations, mostly AM, often broadcast a mix of farm futures, local bulletin boards, hourly news, and locally programmed music of a genre determined by the station owner. With broadcast power averaging 1000-5000 watts the reach of anyone station was not that great. Night service often dropped off to 500 watts of power if the station was not a sundowner – shutting down transmission at sunset.

There were vast holes in broadcast coverage areas when no music or news could be heard and even larger marginal areas that offered the overlap of multiple stations fading in and out of deceivability as sigal strengths wavered.

In some regions, skip reception was possible as the 50,000 watt transmitters from major regional stations bounced off the ionosphere and back into the antennae of AM radios in thousands of cars. The “skip” would also waver in and out of reception as the receivers crawled along old two-lane roads and newer interstate highways. Of course, “skip” only worked at night. The later the hour, the more likely a skip.

FM stations were a product of the major cities and were – still are – limited to line of sight reception. So close proximity was required to listen to them.

Much of my pre-PBS radio contact was with local stations that rarely played music I cared to listen to. I had then, and have now, no interest In the schedule of local church services, no interest in local bake sales, high school athletics or dozens of other items that fill local AM radio broadcasts. I have no use for the right wing talk radio shows that have taken over large segments of the AM day, offering bigotry, xenophobia, and outright lies spun by the GOP’s propaganda networks. I also have no desire to listen to country-western music, soft rock, disco, grunge, metal, or any of the nationally programmed auto-broadcasts that guarantee the listener that one radio station’s music will be a clone of the nationally scheduled noise.

My first routine contact with a NPR/PBS station took place in the late 1980’s while working a job that offered a 110-mile round-trip to and from work as a benefit. I suddenly found music that I enjoyed being programmed, intelligent new columns, honestly researched news programming, and a place to actually preset a radio button instead of ignoring them.

The list at the beginning is programming that I listen to while driving and at home. None of that programming is available on commercial AM or FM radio where I live today. It may as well not exist for my listening purposes unless I have access to NPR/PBS radio.

Of course, NPR is under continual attack by the GOP, teavanagelists, teahadists, and all the others who listen to hate radio and cloned, canned, music simulacrum. The forces of teabaggery repeatedly attempt to remove all funding for PBS and NPR so that intelligent commentary and real, varied music will not trouble the minds of those who might actually recognize truth in journalism if they happen to overhear it. This year, the financial problems of our nation have allowed tea baggers to gain sufficient presence in the House of Representatives to really jeopardize the NPR/PBS network. The forces of censorship, opposed to anything that does not trumpet teavangelism and hatred, are poised to force a government shut-down if they are denied their plans by the more intelligent and progressive members of Congress.

We are at grave risk of losing something very necessary.

That great American radio wasteland is still there. It has grown even larger, burrowing into the major cities and forcing the smaller stations out of operation. Traveling in the dark hours, you’ll find it from one end of your radio dial to the other. Just as decades ago, you can’t miss it. But unlike the past, it is no longer silent.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

19 February 2011 Wrong tea party, check your invitation for the correct address.

The idiots are loose in the halls of the House of Representatives. The “teavangelists and teahadists have mistaken their elections for a license to disrupt government. They’ve arrived in D.C. thinking they are historically linked to the “Boston Tea Party.” They should be searching for another address. They are currently at the wrong party.

The GOP has, so far, failed to disabuse these crusaders of the notion that they are going to significantly change how our government works. That will be left to the lobbyists and delivery boys for the various corporations that finance the right wing American politicians. The money for re-election will serve as a corrupting agent that will eventually fold the teahadists into the greater mass of the GOP ranks. While they all arrived in D.C. intending to avoid the usual incorporation pattern that other legislators have undergone, they will eventually find that they are just as prone to becoming part of the GOP/corporate machine as the people they replaced.

The danger they pose now is that they exist in sufficient numbers to impact the total right wing behavior. They have assumed office believing in no, or very limited, taxation. They are opposed to the current POTUS because of his race as well as his party membership. They are likely to support the shift from our democratic republic into a theocracy controlled by the southern fundamentalist evangelical Christians. They have fallen into the trap of believing that the GOP has the best interests of the working class citizen and the former middle class at heart. They plan to gut the government as rapidly as possible but have no realization of how that will affect them, their constituents, or the nation’s citizens.

They plan to gut education, energy research, environmental regulation, health care, occupational safety, CDC, and the FDA. They will remove science research funding at the insistence of the teavangelists. Their long-term goal is to remove all social programs, all safety nets, publically funded education. They will do everything in their power to abolish PBS, NPR, Planned Parenthood, and any other birth control education.

They intend to roll the nation backward to the 1800s and leave it there. The end result, if they are allowed to proceed with such action will be found in today’s Mexico. It is not a pretty image. Unlike them, I have no desire to live in teabagistan. Neither does anyone else who gives it any rational thought.
For now, if they show up at your door, direct them to that other tea party, the one Carroll described so well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

18 February 2011 Walstib in Egypt


Guru of the Revolution


Published: February 17, 2011

“LONDON — When the history of the Egyptian Revolution gets written, a large place must be reserved in it for Pierre Sioufi, the bearded, twinkly-eyed, chain-smoking, larger-than-life guru of liberation who threw open his sprawling apartment overlooking Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the “kids” who demanded the right to connect.

“I say a “large place.” Sioufi weighs in at some 300 pounds. If Tahrir Square during those 18 days had its elements of Woodstock — the plastic tents, the bleary-eyed folk at dawn, the all-we-can-really-do-is-love-one-another spirit — then he was its Jerry Garcia (with a touch of Allen Ginsberg). ..”

Cassi Creek: Cohen gets part of it right. Jerry Garcia was careful to avoid leadership roles whenever possible. There are a lot more 60’s icons who would fill the analogous position Cohen is postulating. It may very well be that Mr. Sioufi will become catalogued as a primary founder of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. He may also vanish into obscurity and receive little or no recognition. The interesting thread to pursue will be for Cohen to keep this column forward in his archives and then to revisit it in a decade. We’ll see then if it truly is a long strange trip or a passing encounter.

Odds and ends:

Today while driving to school, I saw a potentially horrible accident just waiting to occur.

I’ve noticed, driving on and near ETSU campus that people become absolutely buried in their cell phones/smart phones, they plug in internal headphones, sealing off some to most externally originating sound. They bury their faces in a head downward position, and ignore the world outside the screen on their phone. I’ve had them bump into me while I’ve been standing still. I’ve watched them step off a bus and stop immediately, blocking everyone else’s access to the doorway. I’ve watched them walk in front of cars, buses, and trucks.

Today’s potential accident involved a young woman who was standing in the center turn lane of a five-lane highway. “State of Franklin Road” is extremely busy as it parallels the ETSU campus. She was standing blithely in the turn lane, obviously responding to some message that demanded an instant text response. She was not watching traffic at all. There were vehicles in that turn lane approaching from both directions.

Cell phone service may become a means of weeding the gene pool. In pre-historic life, humans and humanoids who did not constantly watch the surrounding environment for danger became a lower part of the food chain than they previously held. Now failure to observe one’s surroundings for imminent danger may not place the unobservant in the food chain, in most parts of the world. It will, however, tend to remove one from the breeding pool.

Perhaps “smart phone” is not the best descriptor.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

17 February 2011 Revolution should not be a four-letter word

Cassi Creek:

In the face of the multiple, now deadly, uprisings taking place in the Middle East this events involving Lara Logan might be considered an occupational hazard that does not affect many people. That line of reasoning is dangerously wrong.

The ongoing fight in the Middle East is not only about political reform. For it to succeed, to be anything other than just another power shift from one group of thugs to another, there must be a cultural reformation as well.

The position of women in the Arab world and in other parts of the world controlled by fundamentalist Islam is often little better than that of slaves. Personal freedoms are limited in scope and strongly denied by various religious police groups that enforce piety brutally. The males in these societies not only demand that Moslem women adhere to the 7th century lifestyle and rules demanded by the most fundamentalist of imams; they also expect non-Muslim women to follow the same patterns of behavior.

In a culture driven by fundamentalism, tribalism, and clan honor, the males still feel it is within their right to ogle, grope, and assault any woman who happens to pass near them. The assault and injuries suffered by Ms. Logan are emblematic of the treatment of all other women in the region and under the control of religious fundamentalists.

Religion, politics, employment status, educational history, membership in this club, that army; none of these in any way justify sexual assault/rape. The Egyptians need a political reformation. All the Arab states do. But equally necessary across the middle East and into Muslim Asia is the need for religious and cultural reformation. We have hundreds of journalists, photographers, correspondents, and diplomats in the region. So do the modern nations of Europe and Asia. It’s time to shine the light of modern communications onto these expressions of fundamentalist religion – all fundamentalist religion. As much as we associate such behaviors with less modern states, it can be found just as brutally expressed in the self-righteous world of the United States.

There are three articles below. Each of them bears reading and should be widely disseminated.

Posted at 9:53 AM ET, 02/16/2011

CBS shouldn't have withheld Lara Logan's story

By Richard Cohen

Say what you will about New York's celebrated tabloids, they know news when they see it. This is why both the New York Daily News and the New York Post devoted their front pages to the sexual assault by a mob in Cairo of CBS correspondent Lara Logan. Say what you will about CBS, it either doesn't know what news is or felt that the privacy of an employee was more important than its obligation to inform the public. It has it backwards.

Logan was sexually assaulted Feb. 11. CBS did not report the incident until yesterday, which was Feb. 16. Meanwhile, Logan was returned to Washington where she was hospitalized. Her sexual assault was clearly a brutal event, although the exact nature of it remains unclear. Whatever the case, a mob estimated to number around 200 attacked her in Tahir Square, separated her from her crew and bodyguards and severely sexually assaulted her. Ultimately, a group of Egyptian woman and about 20 soldiers rescued her.

As I'm sure even Logan would admit, the sexually assault of woman by a mob in the middle of a public square is a story. It is particularly a story because the crowd in Tahir Square was almost invariably characterized as friendly and out for nothing but democracy. In fact, some of the television correspondents acted as if they were reporting from Times Square on New Year's Eve, stopping only at putting on a party hat. In those circumstances, a mass the sexual assault in what amount to the nighttime version of broad daylight is certainly worth reporting.

Most news organizations do not name rape victims. I disagree with this policy for a number of reasons that I have written about over the years, but even if I agreed, exceptions have to be made. The awful Logan incident has to be an exception. Had another woman, say a strolling tourist, been similarly victimized, the incident would have been reported -- and the name withheld. In Logan's case, unfortunately, there was no way to withhold the name. Still, her privacy was not as important as the story.

The New York Post reports that the mob that set upon Logan yelled "Jew, Jew." This is the New York Post, so a second source would be advisable. Still, the assault and its undertones of pogromist anti-Semitism (Logan is not Jewish) is very troubling and, at the very least, suggests that not everyone in Tahrir Square that night had democracy on their mind. I feel badly for Logan and wish her well. But she's a newswoman, and what happened to her in Tahir Square was news. CBS should not have withheld that story.

Egypt's harassed women need their own revolution

By Mary Rogers, CNN

February 16, 2011 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)

Editor's note: CNN producer and camerawoman Mary Rogers has lived and worked in Egypt since 1994. She joined CNN in 1981 and has covered conflicts in Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Iraq, Chechnya, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Recently she filmed the uprising in Tunisia.

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Several months before the revolution, I wrote a piece for on the sexual harassment of women in Cairo.

News of the chilling attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan, as well as other sexual assaults against women during Egypt's uprising, show that attacks against women have not gone away.

I speak from experience. While most of my days covering Tahrir Square during the last few weeks were free from harassment, there was one day when I was groped. Another colleague almost had her pants ripped off by a gang of thugs.

If you are a woman living in Cairo, chances are you have been sexually harassed. It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor's office.

According to a 2008 survey of 1,010 women conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women's rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed.

It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor's office.

--Mary Rogers

I was walking home from dinner recently when a carload of young men raced by me and screamed out "Sharmouta" (whore in Arabic.)

Before I could respond, they were gone, but I noticed policemen nearby bursting with laughter. I am old enough to be those boys' mother, I thought.

This incident was minor compared to what happened in 1994, shortly after I moved here. It was winter, and I was walking home from the office, dressed in a big, baggy sweater, and jacket. A man walked up to me, reached out, and casually grabbed my breast.

In a flash, I understood what the expression to "see red" meant. I grabbed him by the collar and punched him hard in the face. I held on to him, and let out a stream of expletives. His face grew pale, and he started to shake. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he whispered.

But the satisfaction of striking back quickly dissipated. By the time I walked away, I was feeling dirty and humiliated. After a couple of years enduring this kind harassment, I pretty much stopped walking to and from work.

Of course, harassment comes in many forms. It can be nasty words, groping, being followed or stalked, lewd, lascivious looks, and indecent exposure.

At times it can be dangerous. This is what a friend told me happened to her: "I remember I was walking on the street, when a car came hurtling towards me. Aiming for me! At the last minute he swerved, then stopped, and finally laughed at me. I learned later that it was a form of flirting."

Why is sexual harassment in Egypt so rampant? There could be any number of reasons, but many point to disregard for human rights.

Before the uprising, Nehad Abu el Komsan, the Director for the Center for Women's Rights, told me that Egypt was more interested in political than public security. She said that often meant that officials focused more on preventing political unrest than addressing social ills.

Some also blame the spread of more conservative interpretations of Islam from the Gulf over the past 30 years. They say such interpretations demand more restrictive roles for women and condemn women who step outside of those prescribed roles.

Perhaps it will be people power, the same people power that brought down a regime, that will successfully combat sexual harassment.

--Mary Rogers

"Four million Egyptians went to the Gulf," el Komsan said. "They returned with oil money, and oil culture, which is not very open, related to the status of women. All of this changed the original culture of the Egyptian," she adds, "which included high respect for women."

Sara, a young Egyptian activist, told me that the concept of respect for some reason doesn't exist any more. "I think Egypt has lived a very long time in denial. Something happened in Egyptian society in the last 30 or 40 years. It feels like the whole social diagram has collapsed."

What is being done to raise awareness and combat such behavior? A law regarding sexual harassment will have to wait. The country has greater concerns now -- forming a new government; writing a new constitution; getting Egypt's economy going again and dealing massive unemployment, among other things.

The military is in charge now, and who knows when Egypt will get a new president, or parliament.

In the past, women who have been sexually harassed here have been too afraid or ashamed to speak up. That is changing slowly. In 2008, in a landmark court case, a man was sentenced to three years of hard labor for grabbing the breast of Noha Rushdi Saleh, a brave woman determined to seek justice.

The trial was covered extensively in the Egyptian press, and brought the problem of sexual harassment out in the open.

A group of young idealists are taking a personal initiative in trying to combat sexual harassment.

They are handing out pamphlets now saying: "Don't take bribes, don't drive the wrong way on a one way street, and don't sexually harass women." Perhaps it will be people power, the same people power that brought down a regime, that will successfully combat sexual harassment.

But the only real protection women can have is when the attitudes of men change.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mary Rogers.

Nir Rosen quits over Lara Logan assault tweets

By QMI Agency U.S. journalist Nir Rosen resigned from New York University Wednesday after he wrote a series of Twitter posts that make light of a sexual assault against a foreign correspondent in Egypt.

Soon after news broke that CBS reporter Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by a group of people in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt, Rosen posted negative comments about her online.

In one post, he said: “lara logan had to outdo anderson,” referring to an attack on CNN anchor Anderson Cooper during the protests in Egypt. He then added: “yes yes its wrong what happened to her. of course. but, it would have been funny of it had happened to anderson too.”

He also said Logan was “probably groped like thousands of women,” and added: “I'm rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”

The comments prompted Rosen's followers to call him out for his insensitive remarks, but the backlash extended beyond Twitter.

New York University's Center on Law and Security issued a statement Wednesday to announce Rosen's resignation and condemn his comments.

“Nir Rosen is always provocative, but he crossed the line with his comments about Lara Logan. I am deeply distressed by what he wrote about Ms. Logan and strongly denounce his comments. They were cruel and insensitive and completely unacceptable,” said Karen Greenberg, the centre's executive director.

“Mr. Rosen tells me that he misunderstood the severity of the attack on her in Cairo. He has apologized, withdrawn his remarks, and submitted his resignation as a fellow, which I have accepted. However, this in no way compensates for the harm his comments have inflicted. We are all horrified by what happened to Ms. Logan, and our thoughts are with her during this difficult time.”

Rosen has since deleted the offending tweets, issued an apology, and announced he is quitting Twitter.

“As someone who's devoted his career to defending victims and supporting justice, I'm very ashamed for my insensitive and offensive comments,” he wrote on the social networking site Tuesday.

“I offer my deepest apologies to Ms. Logan, her friends and her family. I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

16 February 2011 Cold, warming up to revolution

After brutally cold December and January, the latter half of February presents spring-like temperatures and new record high readings throughout most of the nation. I’ve seen this pattern before. If one excludes the deep cold that preceded this warm spell, it seems to me to take place nearly every February.

I’ve lived most of my life in the middle latitudes of the U.S. I’m not surprised to see freezing cold mornings progress to 70° F afternoons. I prefer cooler days with freezing mornings so that it is easier to dress for the day’s activities.

Cassi Creek: How does one dress for a revolution?

I’m always amazed at the number of people I see in video from the Arab states who appear on the streets in suit or sport jackets. I’ve worn such jackets in similar daytime temperatures and found them hot and uncomfortable. Of course, there is the need for pockets to carry the day’s necessities.

The well-dressed street revolutionary will need lots of pockets. He or she will have to carry their identification papers and perhaps their passport. They would be well advised to layer up for protection from rocks, clubs, batons, and rubber bullets. Even better would be a discreet layer of body armor in case the powers that are unwillingly hosting the party make a mistake and mix FMJ rounds with their non-lethal appetizers.

Some sort of head covering is advisable. Rocks and other particles may fall in sudden showers, Hard-shell construction hats or surplus military helmets are helpful but may single one out for further attention. A scarf or kefiya may help divert attention from one’s self, particularly if one is female. The scarf may also provide some protection from noxious gasses and, of course, the mid day sun.

Sturdy shoes with high traction soles and pants that may protect skin from acquiring road rash when meeting and greeting unfriendly hosts should complete the basic ensemble. On the off chance that local temperatures may drop after dark, a warm jacket or coat is advisable. A daypack should provide ample cargo storage for food, water, and other necessities.

Plan carefully before venturing out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

15 February 2011 Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a Constitution out of my turban

“Arab League leader says nations shouldn't fear revolts

By Leila Fadel

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“CAIRO - As Arab League ambassadors convened for an emergency meeting Monday, the organization's secretary general said he had told the group that "we should not be afraid or concerned'' about revolts now sweeping the region. “

It was in some ways a surprising message from the leader of a 22-nation group that embodies the existing order. The Arab League meeting at the organization's headquarters was the first since the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, two important member states.

But the leader, Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, is making plain that he no longer sees his role as being to defend the status quo.

"I conveyed the message that the winds of change are sweeping our societies," Moussa said in an interview Monday. He urged a "feeling of optimism that this is the future,'' and said that in day's session the Arab League ambassadors had "saluted'' and "greeted" the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Moussa is steping down from his position as early as next month. He said in the interview that there was a "good possibility'' that he would seek to become Egypt's next president, once constitutional changes are put in place to allow for open elections.

"Let us see how a private citizen like me can use the constitution and move on to be a candidate or to be an active private citizen,'' he said. A "new Egypt needs new people,'' he said, "but with a touch of experienced people.''

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egypt's military launched a plan to swiftly enact constitutional reforms, an important step to get the embattled Arab nation back in working order, political and military figures said Tuesday.

The military has formed "an apolitical and independent constitutional committee" to propose constitutional reforms within 10 days, according to Wael Ghonim, the activist who spearheaded the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

After that plan is forged, a referendum would be held on the measures within two months, Ghonim said in a statement on the social media website Facebook.

More clashes in Bahrain and Yemen; calls in Iran to punish opposition leaders

TEHRAN - Iranian hard-liners called Tuesday for the arrest or execution of opposition leaders involved in Monday's street protests, as gatherings of Egypt-inspired demonstrators in Bahrain and Yemen again resulted in bloodshed.

And that’s not all, folks!

Chip Bok, predicts continued upheaval as cell phones and social networking put people into the streets in demand of some sort of reform all though the Middle East.

Cassi Creek:

Where do the Arab states & Iran go now?

Egypt is under martial law until such time as a new government can be elected and a new Constitution drafted and approved. In pursuit of continued power, the Arab League’s Secretary General tells his colleagues in the League, “"we should not be afraid or concerned'' about revolts now sweeping the region. “

He’s not worried. In the time-honored tradition of Arab politicians and potentates he held on to the old system until he could see its imminent demise, then publically positioned himself to join the new gang that is most likely to become the gang in power. He wants to ‘use the new constitution in order to retain old power or gain new power and position as a private citizen. Smells like corruption from here. That new Constitution is supposed to protect Egypt from people like him.

The Egyptian army has maintained a modicum of calm for now. As the people begin to realize that revolution is more than 18 days of demonstrations, as they learn that every facet of power is up for grabs, as they come to understand that nothing they knew about their country will ever be the same again; the military will be more hard-pressed to maintain civil calm and economic productivity. It’s not Egypt’s government that is at stake, it is Egypt that is to be changed from inside out. How calmly, how explosively, and/or sanely that takes place will determine what becomes of Egypt. The military leaders know this. Most of the citizens will come to know it. How badly they are bruised and scarred will describe what form of government they win or lose.

The other governments in the region are all at risk. The various leaders have all prepared to bail out and some will. The rest of the Arab states will pick up the street hysteria over demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt despite efforts to block outside news feeds from the people. Cell phones are too widely entrenched to be intercepted and removed from the populace. These devices are going to prove more dangerous to Arab rulers than guns are.

Yemen and Iran are most likely to become bloody and violent as the religious fanatics now in power prove that they are willing to defend Islam to the last drops of everyone else’s blood before bailing out, leaving the 2nd tier officials to become martyrs for the cause while the old men in dresses and the civil sycophants who pump the propaganda mills make good their escape to some other hotbed of fundamentalism where living in the 7th century is still considered a good thing unless you happen to be female.

We have no reason and no right to interfere in the fall of Arab states from current tribal-fundamentalist dictatorships into the gaping maw of the 21st century. We have yet to successfully complete our own revolution and it is being attacked by our own Taliban-like power-seekers. We’ve promised aid to Israel if they are attacked and we need to make it clear that we will honor that promise despite the preferences of the current administration or the fundamentalist opposition.

The most common bit of fear-mongering from our GOPer/teavangelists is that if we don’t interfere Sharia law will sweep the Arab states. They already have one or more forms of Sharia in place in many nations. Sharia may well be its own worst enemy. The very people screaming most loudly about worldwide conspiracies to institute Sharia are their selves all too eager to sell out our Constitutional privileges and rights to evangelical Christians who also want to convert everyone to their narrow, fundamentalist faith.

Iran may finally complete the efforts they began in 1979. I’m going to watch for a mass exodus of mullahs and ayatollahs as the people realize that they are already bleeding and have little likelihood of change without more bloodshed. Hang on, it is going to be a bumpy ride!

Monday, February 14, 2011

14 February 2011 Marital equality stuck in the Dark Ages

In Defense of Marriage, for All

Published: February 13, 2011

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible — officially sanctioned discrimination against one group of Americans imposed during an election year. President Obama seems to know that, or at least he has called on Congress to repeal it. So why do his government’s lawyers continue to defend the act in court?

The performer we enjoyed Saturday night, Sonia Rutstein,

is prominent in LGBT circles, music, and activism. In her between number comments, she related an n encounter with a Maryland politician who was opposed to “Gay Marriage.” The audience responded with tremendous force.

The basic inequality is blatant and should not take place in this nation. The declaration of partnership for purposes of legal, financial, and other purposes should be available to all American citizens without concern for their gender preference or for their participation in the rites and rituals of any religion. The bias held by many should carry no weight in formation of legal couples.

“Marriage” is the key problem. “Marriage” is a religion-defined term for a civil function. “Marriage” needs to be removed from the political and legal landscape.

When marriages are granted and formalized by religious institutions, the state has abdicated its power for political or economic purpose. All churches want absolute membership, granting them de facto control over the actions of all “members.”

Marriage as a custom began as a property contract to compensate one family for taking surplus women out of the breeding population; or for adding needed new genetic resources to a family, clan, or tribe. In this capacity, it marches in parallel with many religions. The various priests wanted their share of the business and got it for performing various actions and services.

As the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches became the dominant western religions they became tightly intermeshed with the operations of the various nations that evolved from the ashes of the Roman Empire. With that level of power granted to the Churches, there was little difference in which agency, church or nation, formalized marriages. Most states defaulted the legal portion of marriage, along with record keeping, to the Church. As a result, “marriage.” As a civil action became a religious ceremony, it took on an entirely different patina.

Today many nations have recognized this problem and now formalize all marriages through some government agency. In the U.S. there is no requirement that any church be involved in a “marriage” but almost any church can legally “marry a couple and it will be legally recognized. So too, can a Judge, or even a notary public, absolutely not a religious official. In most cases a marriage license, issued by the state or other government level agency is required. Once that license is duly signed, the couple is married according to the state.

The choice to and practice of allowing civil unions to same sex couples solves the legal problems that hinder same sex couples compared to heterogeneous couples. Civil union deals with all the minutia and complexities of inheritance, financial concerns, formal next of kin and power of attorney matters that are considered assigned automatically by “marriage.”

In truth, once the license is signed and processed, all “marriages” are civil unions. It is time that we recognize this and time to strip the “seal of approval” from the various churches that now perform civil unions under the guise of “marriage.”

There is no reason for any sort of political culture war revolving around “marriage.” The union of two men or two women does nothing to damage the union that Gloria and I have. It is time to stop “marriage” as a legal device in this nation and to replace all such devices with civil unions. Today would be an excellent day to begin.

Rather than allowing Congress and their religious power base to waste months and millions arguing about a senseless matter, demand of your state government that they henceforth license and record only civil unions, and that there is to be no gender restriction upon who may enact a civil union. Let’s get the churches out of the states and the states out of religion.

Those people who are worried that the union of a same sex couple will “damage the sanctity of their marriage” need to examine what they are doing together. For those people who can’t live without a formal church wedding, have one. There are enough churches around this nation that someone will be happy to take your money and wave magic items over or around you.

For those of you with the good sense to accept the common sense in this proposal, take up the banner and let’s knock one prop out from under the GOPers/teavangeilists. To you, have a happy Valentine’s Day. For those of you who stand on sky magic that began as a power grab in the Dark Ages, the world is turning beneath you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

13 February 2011 Happy Birthday, Gloria!

Today is one of those days I don’t forget, ever. I looked for an appropriate card, one of the musical ones that must be chosen carefully lest they quickly become an annoyance in the wrong hands. I was not able to find the message I wanted so I wound up putting my chosen message onto the card with ink. It lasts longer and is somewhat quieter.

We went out for dinner last night as we were also going to attend a small venue concert.

We chose, actually, Gloria requested, a new Japanese restaurant in Johnson City, “Miyabi.” The recent renovations were effective, the staff was pleasantly attentive and the unfortunately present televisions were silenced. The menu contains all the stock items that symbolize Japanese food in Middle America. We chose favorites from the sushi menu and ordered “bento boxes” for our dinner entrees. Those selections came with soup and salad.

The white miso soup was well chosen to serve as both beverage and appetizer. The salads were crisp and fresh. For some reason I can’t recall having a salad in a Japanese restaurant the wasn’t made with iceberg lettuce. I’m really curious why a cuisine that is built around presentation and taste would include iceberg rather than some of the more nutritious salad greens that are available.

Gloria was given a dessert sushi roll made of sponge cake and a pastry cream. It arrived complete with a burning candle and the restaurant’s wish for good fortune.

The performer we saw/heard last night was Gloria’s distant cousin, Sonia Rutstein of Disappear Fear. She’s a talented singer-songwriter with presence in more than one camp. The venue, Down Home, has her in as often as possible.

Unfortunately, last night the sound was dialed in badly. Her voice was far down in the mix. For a singer with a soft voice, that’s deadly. I can’t relate what I heard her say or sing last night. Even with hearing aids, her voice simply wasn’t audible. Gloria passed the problem to her manager at set break and the 2nd set had some correction dialed in.

Note to performers: Do not allow the sound tech to have the final say on the settings. Too many of them have no idea how to mix anything that has vocals intended to be heard. Take a minute or two and go to the back of the audience area yourself to see how your voice will be presented. In a small venue, after the first song, ask the audience if you are audible. All your carefully written lyrics are for naught if they vanish in the murk of a bad mix. So is any commentary you offer between songs. Don’t trust the local sound guy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

12 February 2011 A shove in the right direction

“You can make your own good luck

It'll get you back out on the road

Instead of being stuck

Don't let misfortune stop you cold

Or keep you from your dreams

Learn from your predicament

It's easier than it seems

You'll crash into a wall or two

While driving for perfection

A kick in the ass

Is a shove in the right direction

A kick in the ass

Is a shove in the right direction”

Shove in the Right Direction

David Gans and Lorin Rowan

© Whispering Hallelujah (BMI) / Lo Ro Music (ASCAP

Cassi Creek:

Our friend, singer-songwriter David Gans, penned this as encouragement for personal growth in the face of adversity. I doubt that he had any reason to link it to the current social and political upheavals taking place in the Middle East today. I didn’t see any association when I first heard the song. But inspiration comes from all sorts of sources and political revolution is truly an opportunity for personal growth for those living through it.

In the previous attempts at modernization in the Arab states, the military leaders have repeatedly linked their fortunes to the dictatorial and oligarchic rulers; the source of longevity, power, and wealth for those military leaders. Such links have always excluded the common populace. Egypt’s army is an army of conscripts. That paid off for the Egyptian people. The army remembered its origins and stood guard between the forces of repression and the people of Egypt. This is a huge step in the right direction.

Compare the national army of Egypt to that of Iraq. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq Hussein used his army to oppress and torture the citizens of Iraq. After the Bush invasion and the subsequent period of lawlessness resulting from the idiotic decision to discharge all troops and police, the recombinant army of Iraq has yet to prove itself worthy of the name.

The armies of Syria and Lebanon will, when their turns arrive, most likely follow whatever Iran dictates through Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait may be able to stave off modernization for a while yet by throwing hands full of money to the populace. Yemen will likely fall to the Islamic extremists.

Jordan will come to regret its annexation of the territory that was to become the state of Palestine. The best course for Abdullah II may be to reinforce its alliance with Israel and to encourage the Egyptian army to behave in a similar manner. A tri-partite alliance of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt could dominate and model a new Middle East

It all comes down to the wiliness of military leaders in Egypt and Israel and civilian leaders in Jordan and Israel to work for regional peace and strength, forgetting the previous stupidity of religious conflict that has dominated the region for a century or more.

Tunisia and Egypt have shown that the right direction can be reached without very much bloodshed and without invoking the old demon of Israel’s existence. The other Arab states need to understand that they are at risk. The tribalism of the past may fall prey to the internet speed of social revolution and cultural upheaval.

Israel has an unprecedented opportunity to join in this process. The settlements are largely indefensible and should be closed out and handed over to the proto-Palestinians. If the Arab states demand rational and civil behavior of their citizens, Israel can do no less.

I’m very curious to see which Arab state will reform itself next. Jordan could be the best prepared to launch a new nation without a royal family in the driver’s seat. Saudi Arabia may find it has no royal family in residence some fine morning, but the religious extremists pose tremendous potential harm there due to the presence of Mecca and Medina on Saudi soil.

One thing is certain; the next steps will be very interesting to watch. It will take patience on the part of the first world nations to keep from interfering in Arab nations as we have in the past.

Today is sunny, chilly but not bitter cold. I have to clean the ashes from the wood stove and rebuild the fire for tonight. I need to marinate the steaks I’m going to fix for Gloria’s birthday, tomorrow, so that they taste somewhat more interesting than usual. I’ll fix some asparagus as well, roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

It’s a good day to be here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Vun11Februaryce der rokets is up

It's Time For A New Narrative; It's Time For 'Big History'

Enlarge AFP/Getty Images

The front page of the Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda after the 1957 launch of Sputnik.

What a wonderful series of blog posts and comments this week on where we are in science education!

Picking up on this, I'd like to go back to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address where he spoke of our "Sputnik moment." I'll first revisit the original Sputnik moment in 1957, then compare it our current situation and finally offer some general thoughts on the role of science in our lives.

In the original Sputnik moment, nicely described here, the Soviets launched a 180-pound beeping object into a pre-determined orbit, quickly following with a >1,000-pound satellite carrying a dog and food for her 100-hour orbit. (She didn't survive).

Meanwhile, the United States still hadn't gotten its 3-lb. item off the pad. The result was pandemonium:

The Soviets will be "dropping bombs on us from space like kids dropping rocks onto cars from freeway overpasses." —Sen. Lyndon Johnson

"What is at stake is nothing less than our survival." —Sen. Mike Mansfield

"A severe blow — some would say a disastrous blow — has been struck at America's self-confidence and at her prestige in the world. Rarely have Americans questioned one another so intensely about our military position, our scientific stature, or our educational systems." —Sen. Lister Hill

The response was the National Defense Education Act (note the D-word), pumping a billion dollars over four years (a lot back then) into student loans and science-classroom improvements.

Institutions like NASA were founded and the aeronautics industry was further buffed up. And we got the job done: first-man-to-the-moon 10 years later. We won the space race, the arms race and the Cold War. And then we drifted back into 40 years of generalized science-education apathy.

Cassi Creek:

“Don't say that he's hypocritical,

Say rather that he's apolitical.

"once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?

That's not my department," says wernher von Braun.”

In the interest of winning the race with the Soviets to control as much of near-Earth space as possible from the planet’s surface, we spent the end of WWII and the months following scouring Germany for German scientists and engineers. We overlooked their participation in war crimes against civilians. We brought them with their families to the U.S. We found ways to grant them U.S, citizenship.

We wound up with von Braun’s team, the designers and builders of Germany’s V-2 single stage liquid fueled destroyer of neighborhoods. Basically unguided, it launched and descended in obedience to the laws of ballistics, motion, and mass.

We hauled what we could back to our side of the world to experiment with and improve upon. The Soviets took their share of Germans and put them to work on heavy lift tasks, envisioning from the start a ballistic weapon to cross polar icecaps and oceans.

When Sputnik orbited, the U.S. was shaken to its core. From priding ourselves as the pre-imminent aerospace power in the world, we were suddenly upstaged by a totalitarian state that was proving our conceptions of it to be largely wrong.

Russia, and the USSR, had launched using the brute force mechanism with a huge launch vehicle that was Russian in nature. We, the U.S. were working on three different military programs, all of which were less than capable. I can recall watching almost nightly newsreels showing one or more of our rockets self-destructing or being destructed for safety reasons. We were surprised, unpleasantly, and giving in to panic and haste.

Our German scientists had no interest in actually allowing a pilot control of their creations. Most of them had little regard for the pilots/astronauts chosen to fly the spacecraft if it ever became reality. The pilots, on the other hand, were pilots and behaved accordingly, gradually winning some of their demands from the design team.

While all this took place, we were frantically trying to churn out more engineers, physicists, chemists, and other hard science professionals to staff our design and construction teams. NASA did succeed in putting people on the moon and with the demise of Apollo; the moon once again became a distant and unoccupied orb.

For all the effort, for the lost lives, for the goals met and exceeded in exploring space, we have come to rely on Russia to provide the heavy lift and resupply missions that keep our lonely international space station in low earth orbit.

Most of the Germans we captured are gone now. Many of the NASA teams have retired and more will soon as the U.S. space program is downsized. Now there is a European space consortium, a Japanese program, and Indian program and China wants to become dominant. We’ve allowed our grasp of math, physics, and engineering to fade away again, just as we did in the 1950s. We stand less chance of defeating China than we did the USSR. China didn’t capture any Germans. It did see the relevance in training Chinese to compete with the rest of the world and has long excelled in that. Then there are the opportunists who work the rogue nation programs, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s contribution to them.

Von Braun once joked about learning to count backwards in Chinese. I never believed it was a joke.

“You too may be a big hero,

Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.

"In German or English I know how to count down,

Und I'm learning Chinese," says Wernher von Braun.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 February 2011 Don’t drink the water, don’t breathe the air!

It used to be the advice offered to tourists visiting Mexico and other Latin-American countries. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), it may well become the warning to tourists visiting the U.S.

While the more prominent GOPers\teavangelists are waging culture war by trying to place the lives of women at risk due to pregnancy below the potential life of an unborn fetus, by attempting to create a WASP theocracy, and by removing access to health care from the reach of nearly all Americans, Good Rep. Issa is waging war on our citizens by attempting to remove from the books financial, technical, industrial, and other regulations that American corporations find onerous and “job killing.”

“Job killing” is nothing but a new propaganda sound-byte created by the GOPer fiction machine to convince the unemployed and the under-employed that regulations limiting financial piracy and manipulation, regulations enforcing clean air and water standards, and any other regulation and/or law that might possibly drop a CEO’s bonus from 8 figures to 7 figures. “Job killing” is a flat-out GOPer lie. “Job killing” is found in corporate boardrooms, not in government regulations. “Job killing” is a company doubling the required workload while refusing to hire back laid-off former employees or to hire new ones. “Job killing” is outsourcing jobs to India, Mexico, or China rather than building new factories in the U.S. “Job killing” is siting software and hardware support in Bangalore.

“Job killing” is attached to everything the GOP\teavangelists want to reverse, repeal, renege, or repudiate. “Job killing” is a myth spun by GOPer\teavangelists who are elected by the populace but who are paid by corporate lobbyists to place the profits of huge corporations ahead of the good of the nation. It is about poisoning our waters and our air for the convenience and profit of coal companies, mineral miners, oil companies, and timber companies; while allowing greed to overrule ethics and law in the financial houses that control commerce.

“Job Killing” is a myth! Those jobs were killed off one by one and one thousand by one thousand as regulations were removed during the days of Saint Ronnie. They were lost when even the least amount of regulation to preserve the environment became intolerable to corporations American in name and PO Box only. They vanished when Wal-Mart demanded that quality be subjugated to ever-cheaper quantity. They vanished when Unions forgot that the nation needs affordable labor and when unions forgot that they were not intended to rival corporate pays scales for executives. The jobs fled offshore when people who should have known better voted for corporate shills, theocrats, and loud-mouthed, poorly educated candidates with nothing to offer but burlesque stage pageantry gimmicks.

As Issa and friends find ways to overturn and remove environmental regulations, job safety regulations, we’ll see the true promise of the reactionary right. We’ll return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when rivers caught fire, when children and the elderly couldn’t breathe outdoors, when acid rain killed entire forests. We’ll see our few remaining workers made chronically ill by their jobs, which will deny them health care benefits while blaming them for becoming ill. We’ll see more workplace injuries even as workplaces become ever more scarce.

As predicted by hundreds of science-fiction writers, we’ll barrel past declining nation status to full-blown, third world, oligarchy. The wealthy will have sufficient money to buy breathable air, drinkable water, and unadulterated food and medications. Everyone else will not. The two-tiered society that our GOP\teavangelist free-marketeers long for will finally be here. Thank you, Mr. Issa. Watch your name share recognition with notables such as Vidkun Quisling!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

9 February 2011 Miles to go before I sleep

The morning began smoothly and happily after a night of broken sleep. Oatmeal, blueberries, honey, coffee, and orange-pineapple juice lit the inner fire. In turn, I brought in more firewood and stoked up the woodstove.

There was a major distraction that made me slightly late getting out of the house and onto the road. That sort of distraction is always welcome. Still, it took a few minutes to scrape the ice off the car windows. It took another 6 or so to reach the highway. I turned east on 107 and immediately noticed a set of flashing blue lights pursuing a westbound car. I pulled over to the shoulder and then noticed more flashing lights ahead on the road, and a line of stopped cars in my lane. By the time I reached the line of traffic, I thought that it might be some sort of roadblock/ID check. With all in order, I anticipated no problem. A few cars coming from behind pulled out onto the shoulder and off on feeder lanes. Other drivers were making three-point turns and then pulling onto County 353. That would take them to Jonesborough, sort of out of my way.

I called Gloria to see if she had heard anything on local news. I was still thinking checkpoint of some sort. Enough people around here drive without valid licenses and insurance to make that match up with the turn-arounds. Finally, I decided to go through Jonesborough and to hope for a onetime arrival. As I crossed the centerline and glanced east, I could see several fire trucks, at least one ambulance, more cop cars, and lots of stopped traffic.

Whatever happened, I’m quite happy that I wasn’t involved in the event. From checkpoint to major accident, fire, MVA, one of more of the above became the guess.

I’ll find out more tonight or tomorrow. I’ll pass that point on the way home and there may also be something in the local television news or newspaper.

Whatever it was, it poured a major dose of seriousness into my awareness. I normally drive defensively and within local limits. The morning’s event may provide more impetus to make that routine even more routine.

As it happened, I did get to class just as the symbolic bell chimed.

I’m looking forward to the evening. I’m usually glad to crawl out of the pathfinder and to relieve some of the muscle pain and joint pain that driving causes. Today, thinking of all the possibilities avoided this morning, I’m quite happy to have those miles to drive before I sleep.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

8 February 2011 Which side are you on, Congress

Posted at 4:43 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

The real budget solution

By E.J. Dionne

“Nothing is more annoying to a columnist than another columnist who gets to an idea you had planned to write about before you do. And with that, I salute The New Republic's Jonathan Chait for his excellent column in the current issue of the magazine. (Subscription required).

The thrust of the column is that the best way to take a huge chunk out of the deficit and put the country on a sound fiscal cushion is to do nothing -- specifically, to do nothing at the end of 2012 when all the Bush tax cuts expire. If Congress doesn't act, the Bush tax cut is gone. The tax rates we had under Bill Clinton are restored. And everything about the deficit becomes easier.”

Cassi Creek:

Dionne spells it out quite clearly. We need to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2012. We need the revenue to keep the nation solvent. In the Clinton era, tax revenues were so sufficient as to allow a tax surplus when Clinton left office.

The subsequent Bush tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and the Medicare prescription plan – of much more benefit to Pharm houses and insurance companies than seniors - ran through the surplus like water from a broken main. We lost our surplus, received instead a rapidly increasing deficit that, if unchecked, will make us a third world nation with unemployed citizens chanting for jobs in the streets. From a distance, we won’t be able to tell if it is Gaza or Georgetown, Alabama or Algeria. And it won’t matter, as the jobs won’t be there for anyone.

Congress, those people who just finished telling us how much they love this nation so that we would elect them, needs to decide whether they are working for U.S, citizens, who voted them into office and pay their salaries; or Corporate America, which can only buy votes and pay for lots of under the table items while feeding re-election campaigns. Congress has the chance to prove their supposed patriotism in 2012. They can ignore the demands for renewing the Bush tax cuts and start making a serious effort to save the nation from debt. Or they can do what the GOP/teavangelists want them to do and sell out once again to the people with the big checkbooks and the checks that never show up as personal revenue. That will tell us which side they are on. I know what I’d like to believe about our elected leaders. But I believe that I already know which side they are on.

Monday, February 7, 2011

7 February 2011 Nothing important here, keep moving, people.

How would you rank these Super Bowl commercials?

You've already had your morning water cooler discussions about the commercials that aired during Super Bowl XLV. So tell us, how would you rank these Super Bowl commercials? You can watch all of the commercials here and read Hank Stuever's take here.

When I log onto the Washington Post, the New York Times, or even the Johnson City Press web site, I expect to find news items. I’ve come to the sad realization that there will be some inclusion of what passes for “sports” in this nation despite my best efforts at wishing that inclusion away. I’ve found various ways and means to avoid watching such television programming and the print “sports sections” work as well for lighting the stove as any other remnant of a tree that I have on hand. In short, I’m usually able to avoid the associated idiocy associated with the various forms of tax-supported training programs geared at funneling new meat into the national athletics and gambling franchises.

But in the Washington Post today, on CNN today, the topic of discussion is not the Egyptian political uncertainty or that of the other Arab states that will be affected by Egypt. It is not the latest teavangelist plot to deform our government into a theocracy, spearheaded by the Palin-Beck-Huckabee groups. It is not even the football game played in Dallas. The primary topic I’ve seen, read, heard while getting ready for class, waiting for class is the commercial associated with the football game. Commercials!

Why bother to become excited about propaganda aimed at separating us from our money? Why do we sit through hours of sales pitches, which are then played repeatedly while someone describes their “cuteness,” “cleverness,” the “hotness” of the female or male models used in these commercials on steroids?

I recall very well the arguments that played out in each city and town that was awarding or denying cable television contracts. “Cable TV would free us from commercials.” “Cable TV would let us pay for and watch only those programs we wanted” There were other claims as well but those are the major selling points that have not come true.

Today we are handed up to 25 minutes of commercials in each hour of programming. We have supposedly “hundreds of programming choices that we can purchase from cable providers. But of the hundreds available at my home, there are 10-15 sports channels, another 10-15 popular music channels, countless shopping channels, and far too many “come to Jesus channels.” Not only are these not possible to deselect, they are also spread out through the few packages I want to purchase so that I cannot escape the.

Here’s the drift Cable providers and Congress. I want ala carte channel selection. I don’t want packages chosen to make some cable executive and his church or family happy. If, you are going to charge me for service and then stream one long series of commercials toward me while boosting the volume when they begin to play; then you need to quit billing me for commercial air time and frequency. I don’t want them, I’m not amused by them, and I won’t watch them. The mute button and off switch get lots of use at my home. If you want to broadcast them, then bill the advertiser for the airtime, not the consumer.

I won’t even watch commercials one night a year so that I can join in the next day’s idle conversations, Not last year, not this, and not next year. They’re commercials, a huge waste of my time. Nothing to see there. Keep moving people!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

6 February 2011 Palin mangles Egypt statement

TRENDING: Palin: Obama's 3 a.m. call went to answering machine

By: CNN Political Coverage Manager Steve Brusk

Washington (CNN) - Sarah Palin, in her first comments on the uprising in Egypt, called the situation President Barack Obama's 3 a.m. phone call and said, "It seems the call went right to the answering machine."

Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, spoke with Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody after her speech Friday night at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, California.

In the interview, the potential Republican presidential candidate said, "We need to know what it is America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And we do not have all that information (from the administration) yet."

She told "The Brody File" she was "not real enthused about what it is that's being done on a national level and from (Washington) in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt."

Palin criticized the administration's public response, saying "nobody yet has explained to the American public yet what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us ... who will be taking the place of (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak."

"In these areas that are so volatile right now because obviously it's not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House," she said.

According to a transcript from CBN released Saturday evening, Palin said there were still unanswered questions on the protests that led to the upheaval.

"Remember President Reagan lived that mantra: Trust but verify," she said. "We want to be able to trust those who are screaming for democracy there in Egypt, that there is a true sincere desire for freedoms. And the challenge that we have, though, is how do we verify that what we are told, what it is that the American public are being fed via media, via protesters, via the government there in Egypt in order for us to have some sound information to make wise decisions on what our position is."

On the question of "who's going to fill the void" after Mubarak leaves office, Palin said "Is it going to be the Muslim Brotherhood? We should not stand for that, or with that, or by that."

She told the interviewer, "Any radical Islamists, no, that is not who we should be supporting or standing by. So we need to find out who was behind all the turmoil and the revolt and the protests so that good decisions can be made in terms of who we will stand by and support."

Cassi Creek:

The distillate is this. Palin is demanding to be told who we have selected to become the new leader(s) of Egypt. What she apparently wants is for the U.S. military to march into Egypt and install a government which will be a client state of the U.S., most particularly one that will bow to the demands of the Theocons and teavangelists who imagine that they can somehow install a pro-Christian, pro-American puppet show in Cairo.

Palin objects to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet Palin offers no objection to the Christian analog, which she belongs to usurping a leadership role in American politics. She would be perfectly happy to see our Constitution re-written in a manner that allows the establishment of a national religion, hers of course. Nor would she see any departure from the intentions of the “founders,” other than perhaps Jefferson.

Once again, she has demonstrated her unfamiliarity with history and with English as a primary language. Whether or not she understands that Egypt is a sovereign nation on the continent of Africa is still undiscovered. Perhaps her handlers will steer her away from that “gotcha question.” She obviously believes we have the right to define the future for 83 million Egyptians without being invited to the party. I’m of the opinion that she should offer to go negotiate a new government, anti-Islamic, pro-American, using her immense body of personal knowledge and skills. Perhaps she can mold Egyptians into “real Americans” and change the history of the Middle East to hasten the second coming. I doubt it. But I do hope someone will publically offer her the opportunity, along with a one-way airline ticket. She should be a real hit in Cairo or Alexandria. Nothing that I can think of would do more to secure Egypt for the Muslim Brotherhood.  In the interim, while we wait for her to emulate Reagan and illeagly negotiate with a foreign nation behind Obama's back; as Reagan's handlers did with Carter over Iran, someone should remind the Palin harpy that she holds no national or local political office and no one in D.C. owes her any information about past, ongoing, or future plans or programs.