Wednesday, February 29, 2012

29 February 2012 Leap for safety and hope for a soft landing

            When the alarm sounded at its preset 0500, Loki was already pacing from room to room in her weather-alert manner.  The sky was overcast and fitful winds were blowing off the ridges.  The radar at that time displayed a cluster of thunderstorms to our northwest.  By the time I pulled into VA’s lots at 0805 rain was beginning to fall from dark, gloomy clouds. 
            The scheduled NP appointment was little more than a review of meds and other options such as classes available to vets with PTSD to help them recognize trigger situations, and to formulate methods to deal with them.  I’ll be seeing a new psychiatrist next time as this physician’s contract period has expired.  I took the opportunity to thank her for her help obtaining the increased disability rating. 
            I was quite pleasantly surprised when she told me that she had looked up my last letter to the Johnson City Press, the one that irritated Roe enough to call me.  It’s always nice to hear someone say that something I’ve written is well done.  Combined with the memory of the intended irritation of a teavangelist legislator, it became an even better morning.

            The drive to Auto Solutions went smoothly.  At 1000, I find myself perched on a metal folding chair, balancing the notebook on my knees and wishing I had not been so “clever.”  In preparation for leaving early, I grabbed my conical travel coffee mug and filled it with the morning caffeine dose.  For some reason, every time I try to drink from a travel mug I wind up spilling the contents down my shirt.  Do I actually have a drinking problem?
            The A/C on the Pathfinder has a broken pipe that must be ordered in before any other repairs are possible.  I’ve given the OK and we’ll hope that it arrives by Friday.   I’ll take the opportunity to have scheduled maintenance done as well. 
            The skies remain dark, oppressive with the promise of thunderstorms and potentially other, more damaging storms.  The Severe Storms Prediction Center has increased our probability of severe storms from light to moderate; I’m looking for another evening of entrained mesocyclones storms. For, but not Forward.  The storm reports are increasing in frequency.  The Psychiatrist asked me if anything in particular was causing stress.  Spring storm season always pushes the levels way up. 
            I’ll be watching radars tonight and hoping for calmer weather.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

28 February 2012 He’s no Jack Kennedy

Enough of Rick Santorum’s sermons
By Richard CohenPublished: February 27
“Mullah Rick has spoken.
He wants religion returned to “the public square,” is opposed to contraception, premarital sex and abortion under any circumstances, wants children educated in what amounts to little red schoolhouses and called President Obama a “snob” for extolling college or some other kind of post-high school education. This is not a political platform. It’s a fatwa.”

It’s a College, Not a Cloister

Published: February 27, 2012
“What good are ideas formed and fortified in a protective cocoon, without exposure to other ways of thinking? Or convictions that haven’t been tested by, and defended against, competing ones?
Not much, I’d submit. And in this, as in so much else, I apparently part company with Rick Santorum.”

Cassi Creek:
          I recall the 1960 election very well.   The fear of a Catholic in the presidency was quite real and quite un-necessary.  JFK understood what all rational Americans did.  The government of the United States had to be composed of men and women who placed and maintained their nation in a position superior to their religion.  Kennedy made his awareness and acceptance of that quite clear.  As a result, enough people overcame their fears of the Vatican to allow an election based upon political matters instead of how who prayed. 
          That issue should have been settled for good in 1960.  However, the professional evangelicals, mostly Protestants who considered Catholics and Mormons to be idolatrous non-Christians, discovered that they had no problem with a de facto state church as long as it was bringing in fortunes to the front men.  Therefore, they’ve spent decades building up organizations that are nominally churches but are little more than political parties clothed in choir robes, ready to rise up and vote as directed from the pulpit. 
          The Roman Catholic Church has always been about controlling government.  The current American branch is willing to lock arms with the evangelicals in order to circumvent the 1st Amendment.  Thus, we find our election campaigns bringing up questions that were politically and ethically determined and settled decades ago in order to stir up a voter base that is suddenly more afraid of a black man in the presidency than it is of the Vatican’s insistence upon restoring divine right government. 
          Such vehemently argued campaign issues should be allowed to burn out in rational discussions between qualified and logical candidates for office.  But this cycle the number of religious fanatics, candidates who have no clear platform beyond their desire to push their creation mythos and religious codes of misconduct onto everyone else, is far higher than usual. 
          Palin believes that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.  Perry held official prayer events that failed to produce rain.  Bachmann does not accept evolution but believes that a supreme being told her husband what she should study.  Gingrich shift religions as often as he shifts wives.  Romney and Huntsman both wear magic Mormon underwear, and Santorum is the favored candidate to head up the next inquisition.  Collectively they all wish to roll back the social, political, and cultural calendar to the 7th century or earlier. 
          Santorum now claims that Kennedy’s pronouncement concerning the place of religion in American politics makes him vomit.  Dan Quayle was once brutally put down by Lloyd Benson, being told that he was not qualified to follow on in JFK’s footsteps. 
          It is too bad that Benson is here to stand one against one with Santorum.  The fight would be quick, bloody, and Santorum would be sent packing.  He’s not only no Jack Kennedy, he’s not even a Dan Quayle. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

27 February 2012 March minus 2

          This promises to be a long day with many errands atop several new computer tasks.  
          Dinner tonight will be a Meyer lemon flavored pork tenderloin over a steamed multi-grain mixture with steamed vegetables.
          Errands mostly completed.  I’ve been to the bank, bought birdseed for Gloria’s feeders, and restocked some grocery items that we’ve eaten.  The pantry is pretty well re-supplied.  I mailed the passport renewal forms out today.  Perhaps by May we’ll be able to travel (assuming we become lottery winners)
          I’ve had the Pathfinder looked at.  We’ll begin by replacing the refrigerant.  That may solve the problem.  I’ll take it back to the shop Wednesday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

26 February 2012 Ash to ashes

          Dust blown by the winds carries the demise of the hemlock forests of the Appalachian range.  Tiny parasitic organisms migrate on the winds, killing their host trees.  Late at night, they can be seen in such concentration that it almost looks like the small flakes of snow that herald overnight snowfall.  
          It is beautiful to watch the wind-borne assault, tragic to watch the huge hemlock trees sicken, weaken, and die.  Yes, the birth>death>rebirth cycle is part of the biological pattern we all must follow.  But it takes a good deal of foresight and comprehension when one sees bare branches where hemlock needles were last year’s residents. 
          By definition, rural blight.   This blight extends beyond the human encroachment and the wanton human lack of concern for the forests and the watersheds. 
          The streams that carved the valleys and flood plains were, once, cooler, cleaner, clearer, and populated by beautiful native brook trout.  They lived in a range from Canada down into Georgia.   The streams remain but clean is no longer applicable in description.  Neither is clear nor cooler.  Strip mining for coal and minerals has brought about major deforestation.  With no overhead cover, the creeks and rivers heat up beyond the temperatures that trout can withstand.  As mountainsides and tops are blasted off and scraped off the earth’s surface the debris chokes watersheds and the by-products of mining poison the streams. 
          Who speaks for the trout?  Trout Unlimited tries.  So do other conservation groups.  However, their collective voices are easily drowned out by the sound of lobbyists dropping money into re-election war chests.  The energy and mineral companies pay sufficient lip service to conservation to afford them a presence on the evening news but no more.  Local miners watch the jobs decrease in number and come to the sad conclusion that food on the table and gasoline in the truck matters more than clear creeks and fish that might not withstand the next long summer’s drought anyway.  
          Beside all that, trout fishing with those fly rods and feather-wrapped hooks is just something done by another group of college-educated elitists who try to keep people from fishing with worms, crickets, and plastic lures that are used by the real fishermen who drive bass boats and wear logos all over their cloths like NASCAR drivers.  Those guys don’t complain about hotter water temperatures and lack of clarity in the big oil-sheened impoundments that they fish. 
          Elections are coming around again.  The energy companies are going to be running TV ads in support of their tame congressmen.  The sad truth is that the energy companies will win.  The forests, the flood plains, the creeks and rivers will lose out to the companies that destroy mountains for profit.  The flora and fauna that defined a region will vanish.  The people who appreciate it most of all will be set against each other by propagandists who tell lies for a living. 
          It is time to buy new fishing licenses.  That small act of defiance says that once again I’ve place myself in opposition to the soulless corporations who lay waste to the world.  Who speaks for the trout?  What college-educated, elitist, fly-rod-waving, small – stream- wading, believer in conservation laws and fish and game regulations speaks for the trout?  I do!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

25 February 2012 Atheotocracy sounds better every day

Shabbat Shalom! – wishing you the peace of Shabbat.  That is, if you can find somewhere where the peace of Shabbat is not being destroyed by aging males intent upon forcing their view of faith and their view of acceptable behavior upon everyone else. 
          There is a column in the morning newspaper, which describes how the Catholic Church is fearful of a developing atheocracy in the U.S.  The article recounts open, public hostility directed toward a R.C. bishop at a bar in Denver.  The Catholics, in league with the evangelicals have no problem telling every other U.S. citizen how they must live, what they must accept in the way of legislation written by the corporate churches.  However, those churches will not accept that many Americans have no reason to allow churches to run the nation.  They see the refusal to allow churches to run the nation as an attack upon religion.  It isn’t, but it is an attack upon old men using religion to force their faith upon everyone else. 
          There are even attempts to hide what the corporate churches are.  The Southern Baptist leaders are trying to distance their church from its birth as a pro-slavery force by ditching the term “Southern Baptist.”  It won’t work; the hypocrisy will still leak through. 
          Americans have been taught that this nation was settled by men seeking religious freedom.  In actuality the “pilgrims of Massachusetts were such venomous and intolerant men that no one could stand to be near them.  They immigrated to the new world in order to set up their view of a theocratic world.  Once here, they became the exemplars of intolerant Christianity.  Their legacy is blight upon our nation today.  We are as plagued by primitive intolerance and the goal of a new theocracy as is Iran.  Our preachers are as bad, if not worse, than their mullahs are. 
          The Islamic world is in drastic need of a reformation that separates religion from state.  It needs to distance itself from the semi-literate frenzies that ensue every time some Westerner drops a mass-produced printed copy of the Quran or draws a cartoon of Mohammed or Allah.  All other nations need to clamp down on allowing such behaviors to influence national or foreign policies. The Arab world is demanding Syrian forces stop killing civilians.  However, no Arab nation is willing to send its armies into Syria to end that killing.  The world faces religion-driven civil wars in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, & Egypt.  Iran may eventually join that list and, temporarily, stop fomenting wars in other nations. 
          There’s certainly no peace in Jerusalem.  When the ultra-orthodox Jews aren’t trying to build illegal settlements to block habitation by Arabs, they are even more determined to force all less observant and secular Jews to behave as if this were the Hasmonean period just prior to the Diaspora. This attempt at enforcing their theocratic life on all other Jews is the most dangerous force in and against modern Israel.
          An Atheocratic United States may scare the Catholics, the Baptists, and all the evangelicals who think that they have the right and duty to force their pie in the sky doctrines onto the rest of us.  I hope it does scare them.  Maybe the corporate sides of the churches, the part that exists on the pipelined collections that flow upward to Vatican City, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and the Graham compound will realize that limited contributions are better than no contributions. 
          An atheocratic nation does not scare me, not today, not tomorrow, not next year.  It offers hope that we will someday be out from under the thumbs of old men who use fairy tales to keep their incomes sky-high.

Friday, February 24, 2012

24 February 2012 Blow ye winds of morning!

          Blow you winds heigh ho!
The promise of high winds slated to arrive last night had not materialized by midnight. 
          That coincides with the First Watch but we generally leave that watch to Loki. 
          The classic watch pattern is:
Number of bells
Bell Pattern
One bell
Two bells
Three bells
.. .
Four bells
.. ..
Five bells
.. .. .
Six bells
.. .. ..
Seven bells
.. .. .. .
Eight bells
.. .. .. ..

          This morning’s weather blew foul and fast at daybreak.  By 0830, the first tornado warning of the day had been posted.  Fortunately, it was northeast of us and moving away.  However, along the western edge of the Appalachians, there was a long line of thunderstorms building.  Today’s hike with Mike began and ended with rain.  Noon, the beginning of the afternoon watch is rainy, windy, and promises to drop about 40 °F in temperature before tomorrow morning. 
          I have to chauffer Mike to Greeneville next Thursday, 1 March.  I’ll take the pathfinder in to have it evaluated after dropping Mike off.  This will mark a departure from factory/dealer service.  However, if I can be certain that the shop uses factory parts I see little reason to pay dealers’ service markups. 
          Now it is time to work on passports.  Not a bad project for a stormy afternoon. 
          Clear away your running gear and blow, blow, blow!
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

23 February 2012 After the small storm.

          About 2130 we had rain, wind, and distant lightning.  The skies and radar maps cleared.  Off we went to bed.  Foolish boomers!
          At some point in time prior to 0530 but well past 0 dark-30 we were treated to a pop-up thunderstorm that barely showed up on loop recall.  However,, it was big enough to provide us with lightning and thunder, hail, and heavy rains. 
          Today has  been far too warm, high in the 70’s and the Pathfinder’s AC suddenly refuses to cool.  More winter would be helpful. 
          Got the passport photos, had lunch at Babylon, and shopped for comestibles.  Other than being tired, a good day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

22 February 2012 The letters on the map read “slight risk.”

          I noticed the “special weather statement” on my data and forecast pages last night.  “. The
warm moist air and gusty south winds will generate strong to
severe thunderstorms after sunset Thursday evening... moving east
across the area through midnight. Damaging straight-line winds are
expected to be the main threat... with a potential for some
tornadoes as well.

Since the main threat of severe weather is expected to arrive
after dark Thursday night... residents of east Tennessee and
southwest Virginia are urged to maintain a high level of
awareness. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio and other local media
for further details or updates.”

  “Slight Risk”, “damaging straight line winds”, tornado” there in high contrast black and white are bad enough to read.  “Arrive after dark” is particularly unpleasant. 
          The physical topography makes it extremely difficult for us to visually identify any supercell, rotating mesocyclones, or actual tornadoes.  During last spring’s record setting tornado outbreak, the storms that did so much all hit in the dark.  In rural areas, lacking lots of power lines and lighting, even that visual reference of last resort is missing.  I spent most of the evening glued to radar feeds and listening to the poor reception NWS radio warnings.  Only the fluid mechanics of the atmosphere protected us from harm. 
          I’ve always disliked spring east of the Rockies.  That won’t change. 
          I received two occupational therapy devices in today’s mail.  Both are designed to improve, or at least maintain, my manual dexterity. I hope they work.  We’ll see what time and effort accomplish.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

21 February 2012 Colonoscopy and other insults.

          Our downstream neighbor finally gave in to my prodding and signed into the VA health care system.  He served in the Air Force during the VietNam war and has permanent hearing damage.  Among other normal diagnostic procedures that new middle-aged patients are requested to undergo is the colonoscopy. 
          Common sense in patient care requires that patients undergoing sedation and/or anesthesia must have someone else drive them home.  Mike asked if I would provide driver services for him and I agreed. 
          I picked Mike up at 1015 for the trip into VA.  There was about a 45 minute wait before he was moved into a holding room.  In the holding room he was visited by two physicians and an RN, each of whom moved into view from the curtain that set his bed off from the outer room.  That sounds rather Dickensian if read correctly.   I may return to that.  Mike told the endoscopist to tell me the results.  That demonstrates a lot of confidence in the neighbor/friend relationship. 
          The outpatient/day surgery waiting room is about 75% full of family members.  The television is tuned to some local station that is now running a soap opera.  If one includes the TV, multiple conversations, and the ever-present sound of monitors it is hard to hear any single particular vocal source.  Add the phone from OR/Recovery, and the myriad personal ring tones that are now shared with us by people who give no thought at all to whether others care to hear their current favorite bit of noise, and the decibel level is around 75-80.  That is unpleasant and tiring to put up with. 
          The phone on the waiting room wall keeps ringing as other patients’ families bet the interim or final report about the particular procedure they have been chosen to undergo.  I am going to move away from this seat asap.  I don’t want to be responsible for hearing clearly, what is intended for other families.
          We discussed lunch during the ride in.  The Creek side CafĂ© in Jonesborough is our target for a late lunch.  I’m hoping for hot pastrami!
          Mike is a good neighbor and I’m happy to be his support and transport person for this procedure.  He’d do the same for me without hesitation. 
          Thursday Gloria and I are planning on going into town to the library and to have passport photos taken.  There may be a way to get the photos done online.   If it can be done at no additional cost we will look further into that. 
          We will hopefully be able to renew our passports by the end of the month. 
          The Reuben sandwich at Creek Side was excellent.      
          We’re planning to have black bean soup tonight.  I’m looking forward to that and to a good night’s sleep. 
          As for other insults, there was a 4.0 quake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone at 0358.  It was felt in 14 states including TN, KY, & NC.  We slept through it.  It has been just about 100 years since the 1st of the big New Madrid quakes was recorded.  This was supposedly the worst quake ever documented in the CONUS.  The Mississippi river ran backwards for several days, creating Reel Foot Lake in North West TN.  Having seen the river at that point, I am duly impressed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

20 February 2012 “And she’s not only really dead…”

          Those of us who have seen gray, drab, storm-tossed Kansas replaced by Technicolor, glitzy, bewitched, and bewildered Oz know the end of that line.
          Whitney Houston died 11 February 2012.  She remained un-buried until a private, modest, family only funeral could be arranged.  That required 8 days, putting her into the ground on 18 February 2012. 
          Today is 20 February 2012 and her face and voice are still plastered across every bit of hard-copy media, every video monitor or television screen that hasn’t been physically blocked from receiving “memories” of her. 
          As with the also overblown funeral of Michael Jackson, one suspects that every bit of PR and posthumous performance material is being milked by the estate and the promoters. 
          I was no fan of Houston while she lived.  Her demise has not generated any change in my opinion.  I have no use for the practice of sticking multiple octave triplets into every available slot.   I object to dragging children into nightclubs and other such behaviors that endanger children.  Children are not merely small adults any more than they are munchkins. 
          I avoid funerals when possible unless they are for family members.  If things have been left unsaid, the newly dead is not going to hear them now.  Certainly, using a funeral for PR purposes is unsavory at best and all too common now. 
          No amount of media circus, no amount of performance by other performers, no length of eulogy written by PR teams and speechwriters is going to “bring closure.”  The performer is dead, probably of her own hand.  No public praise, no “she was a broken but good person” is going to change the narrative. 
          Do the post-mortem, publish it, spend a fortune on embalming, make-up, burial clothing, and coffin.  Kill thousands of flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals so that the public can pretend they knew the newly dead. 
          But do it all quickly.  As with the GOP primary, the process needs to be done far more quickly and we need to return our focus to those events that really matter; wars in the middle east, global climate change, changes in health care delivery, and new, cleaner, cheaper energy sources.  Truthfully, 72 hours would have been more than enough time to bury her.  Any time beyond that was simply to craft a media circus. 
          I don’t need to see or hear anymore about her, her struggles, her life, or death.  Bury her and bury the story so that we can gratefully chime in, “She’s really most sincerely dead!”


Sunday, February 19, 2012

19 February 2012 isolation amidst noise

          I am, reluctantly learning what auditory deficits can mean in terms of social interaction and lack of social interaction. 
          As I sit writing this, I am bombarded by fan noises from the computer and cooling pad.  The heat pump and air handler are making their presence known.  Gloria is talking to a friend in FL by phone, and the television is on at low volume.  All of these sounds can be removed from my environment.  There is an ever-present buzzing whine punctuated by chirps and whistles that can be removed because it became part of my physiologic construction as my ability to hear at important frequencies was removed by proximity to loud weaponry. 
          This is what I wrote last night, 18 February 2012.  I hope it conveys my concern.
          “Tonight we are at a dance.  The music is provided by an acoustic band but delivered via house PA.  In the space around me there are multiple conversations taking place with people speaking loudly to overcome the band sounds.  There are tired, crying children.  There is traffic noise.   There are plant noises from air conditioning.  Beneath all this, there is the high buzzing that is always present.  Finally, people are asking me questions.   I can’t hear them clearly enough to understand the questions.    It is horribly frustrating, to the point where I’d rather not be here at all.   I hate looking like I don’t understand the language.   The dance organizer just asked me if I heard him thank me for working the table.  I didn’t.  There’s no way I expect to overcome the background and tinnitus.  This is really uncomfortable.  I’d like to respond in kind to common courtesies but I don’t get the audio clues I need to behave in a civilized manner. 
          “Wednesday night we dined out in a good restaurant, Bonefish Grill. The physical plant noises were noticeable and the overhead speakers were spraying some musical background, the surrounding diners were engaged in conversations, the service staff were answering questions and taking orders.  If the waiter was at all turned away from my line of sight, it was impossible to understand what he was telling me or asking me.   I’ve gotten to the point where I take many of my clues from Gloria; which places an unfair burden on her. 
          “Even outdoors at our home presents difficulties.  The sound of running water can mask other sound.  I hear buzzes and chirps internally generated.  But I don’t hear the buzzes, chirps cheeps, and other bird, insect and animal noises that are so much a part of the forest around us.  “
          There are the noises that are part of life in an industrialized nation, traffic, car stereos, screaming kids in grocery stores; I retain my ability to hear those.  There’s no selective nature to tinnitus. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

18 February 2012 Designate the target

          Driven, perhaps by the fog and mist that accompanied a daylong rain last Thursday, I purchased a laser targeting designator for my Glock pistol.  This device is intended to replace the rear site with a dual-purpose drop in. 
          The existing factory rear site was dovetailed into the slide at the factory.  It is intended to withstand the repeated rearward motion and abrupt stop caused by firing thousands of rounds of ammunition without shifting.  Removing that site was one of the most difficult tricks of the armorer's trade that I’ve ever had to attempt.  Let me point out that I am not an armorer.  I finally walked downstream to get some help from Mike.  With the aid of a jeweler’s saw, a hacksaw, and a 2-pound hammer applied to the brass drift tool that came with the laser, we managed to remove the existing sight. 
          Naturally, the replacement has to fit as tightly as the original.  It took the same hammer and drift to coax the new sight into the dovetailed notch on the slide. 
          We checked the laser prior to installing it.  We checked the laser after installing it.  I checked the laser prior to firing my first sighting-in rounds.  Each time it worked. 
          Last night when I put the pistol away after walking Loki, I checked the laser.  The on-strobe-off button is not staying in the on or strobe positions. 
          This means another trip into town to Mahoney’s to replace the laser unit.  This means another struggle to remove one sight and put a new one in.    In the days of laser designation, the man who can’t point out to the target that he is designated has fallen far behind in the arms race.  Green is the new laser color of choice among those in the knowing elite.  Puts a new meaning to “going green.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

17 February 2012 It is an easy solution

          The news of late has pointed out the failure of the GOP/teavangelists to include any (ANY) women in the discussions of women’s health, reproductive care, and birth control. 
          This seems absolutely illogical.  Surely, women have some concern in these matters.  After all, these concerns directly affect the overall health and longevity of every woman on the planet. 
          It seems that in any other modern nation, women have quite a lot of input in such discussions.  Yet in America, land of the free and home of the brave, the GOP/teavangelists are determined to roll back the calendar until the plight of women in this nation is equivalent to that of women in 8th century or earlier.  U.S. women are being pushed into a past that they do not want and should not be subjected to again. 
          However the American Taliban demand that women give up control of their lives and bodies, American women have the means to change male generated bare-foot, silent, and pregnant status.  Using the internet it should not be hard for women married to, or in relationships with such men to initiate a “nationwide not tonight” civic action group.  Any male belonging to the GOP/teavangelists should be presented with the information that his future access to sexual activity will be determined by his future votes in matters that concern women. 
          I’d find it amusing to watch the GOP reverse it course when women organize and refuse to knuckle under to their medieval treatment at the hands of GOP leaders. 

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

16 February 2012 Flag at half-mast for heroes, not for pop culture icons

          It doesn’t bother me to be the heavy or the curmudgeon in this situation.  It bothers me that I should have to say this at all.  However, the need for reiteration is apparent. 
Here goes, the following are not heroes:
Group A includes Ball players, musicians, members of manufactured bands/singing groups, mountain climbers (particularly those who pay to be dragged to the summit), NASCar drivers, performers of any other ilk not mentioned above, and anyone else who is more concerned with wealth and personal status than with the lives of others.
This list includes people who actually are heroes
Group B includes, cops, firefighters, rescue teams who risk death in the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, & earthquakes, the workers in the FukuShima nuclear plant who went into the hot zones knowing it would kill them, soldiers, sailors, para-rescue swimmers, civilian members of USO teams, and others who knowingly risk their lives to protect and defend others.

No one, no one, no one in group A deserves to have a US flag lowered to half-staff in their memory or honor.  Some members of group B do deserve such honor.  It is not hard to figure out who deserves such honor, but the public should never be involved in the decision.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

15 February 2012 Someone should have told me!

          The letter came in a plain manila 8x11 window envelope on Monday.  The return address was a Veterans’ Affairs regional office in Nashville TN.  I’ve been waiting for this envelope since 1 November 2011.  Thursday, past, I was treated to an un-official glimpse of its most important contents.  I was told that my VA claim for disability had been decided and that I was no longer rated as 10% disabled for chronic tinnitus and bilateral, service connected hearing loss.
          That 10% rating, originally determined as 20% but re-imbursed at 10% is of critical importance to us.  It provides a small monthly compensation payment.  More importantly, it allows me to receive health care and medications from the VA system due to the service-connected nature of my injuries.  Since 2003, I’ve had that “service connected” label on my file and my ID card.  It has saved us the cost of endoscopies, cataract surgeries, and countless prescriptions dispensed and re-filled for only reasonable co-pay (Unlike Medicare, Congress allows VA to negotiate for low cost medications.)
          PTSD carries greater weight in the rating and compensation schema.  I have it; I’ve had it for quite some time.  It is now compensable. 
          More astonishing to me, the higher rating has some increased benefits. 
          I no longer have to pay for medications from VA.  Any meds dispensed since 1 November 2012 are reimbursable.  I am now eligible for more travel compensation.  That will help a great deal now that gasoline is skyrocketing upward at alarming velocities. 
          I suspect that there are other benefits that I have yet to discover.  I’ll do some digging on my trips in for OT, immunizations, routine exams, etc. 
          The amazing thing, as of today, is that when I hear someone say, Thank you from a grateful nation.” It is almost possible to believe it.  Certainly, the people who staff Veterans Affairs offices and hospitals mean it.  And that’s a good enough place to begin with today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

14 February 2012 Anything but Hallmark

Santorum's stone-age view of women
By Stephanie Coontz, Special to CNN
updated 11:15 AM EST, Tue February 14, 2012
 it is worth revisiting a couple of its points. Take, for instance, the book's dismissal of programs to help impoverished single mothers improve their job prospects by returning to school: "The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong." Or its claim that unnamed "surveys" have shown that educated professional women find it "easier, more 'professionally' gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children."
The Santorums' apparent hostility to women's educational and professional advancement is insulting and out of touch with today's world. But it is also odd in light of their purported interest in the welfare of children. It turns out that the most powerful single influence on a child's educational success is not the mother's marital status but her own level of education and her educational aspirations for her children, according to education researcher W. Norton Grub.”

Fox Commentator: Military Rape, "What Did They Expect?"
By Andy Newbold, Media Matters for America
13 February 12
 Fox's Liz Trotta on sexual assault in military: "What did they expect? These people are in close contact." a segment about new rules regarding women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta attacked the Department of Defense for increasing spending on support programs for victims of sexual assault. Trotta also reacted to a Pentagon report showing a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults since 2006 by stating: "Well, what did they expect? These people are in close contact."
Trotta began by claiming "we have women once more, the feminist, going, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time" and later added that feminists "have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators.... you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much."
When Fox News anchor Eric Shawn said that "many would say that they need to be protected," Trotta replied: "That's funny, I thought the mission of the" armed forces "was to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."
From the February 12 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:”

Cassi Creek:
          It is readily apparent that the GOP\teavangelist\Fox News triad of repression is primed to repeal all the social, cultural, and political gains made by women since the American colonies were established. 
          Santorum, accompanied by the males-only Catholic Bishops organization is frothing at the mouth in his intent to prevent any and all access to birth control and any other method of family planning than Vatican roulette.  History documents a long period, around 2000 years or so, when priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes saw no reason to suffer celibacy their selves while still denying any sexual activity to their captive congregations. 
          Trotta, expressing the Fox News approach to women’s rights, must have some terrific columns on the spike.  She’s an apologist for every rapist, for every wife beater, for all the actions overlooked in today’s America because they happen primarily to women. 
          It doesn’t surprise me to see this sort of stupidity and bigotry expressed by Fox News and its medieval viewpoint for life.  We all know that it supports the suppression of women right along with the suppression of intellect, equality, and truth.  This is the sort of comment that is going to show up later in speeches by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as they try to blame rape and murder on the victims while using religious arguments to convince the victims that they are at fault. 
          I don’t see it that way, never have, never will.  My mother brought me up to know better than that.  
          Still, the triad of repression will spend hours talking about the economic impact of today, Valentine’s Day.  They’ll push roses, chocolate, and expensive meals, all proffered in hopes of being compensated by the recipient with some sexual favors. 
          On this day of commercial celebration, sex is fine as long as the financial component is disguised expensively.  Hallmark generates large returns and lobbyists have an easy sell.  Two people, in love, making love, without benefit of commercial assistance – obviously sinful, forbidden, and should be banned by Bishops in Boston.