28 March 2007

Chorpenning should be shackled during the day and only be released at night to work twelve-hour shifts changing adult briefs, colostomy bags,…

Shrimplate has posted an impassioned piece on the unpardonable scandal at the state nursing home for military veterans.
Patrick Chorpenning can resent me; for thinking, that is. For thinking that he's a liar and yet another completely out-of-touch-with-reality "administrator" that basically takes home a big paycheck and a lot of vacation time for being a stupid irresponsible jerk and bullshit artist.

With family members who serve in the nursing profession, Shrimplate's words echoed many of their gripes… …and there sure seems to be validity to charges of nepotism. A director of interior design for a nursing home? And a paid internship while positions dealing with front line patient care were gutted?

27 March 2007

In the reorganization of The Arizona Republic, some jobs got axed, and Plugged In was one of them

The Arizona Republic pulls the plug on it's Plugged In blogger section. I'm a tad bit confused if it's the "Plugged In" blog that's getting axed, or all blogs under the "Plugged In" banner. I assume that it means the whole feature set is getting killed.

Way to go, Gannett Co., by cutting one of the most prominent features that permits readers to connect with you and foster an online community. Especially, in wake of another recent decision to reduce content in the hardcopy newspaper, slimming it down for busy readers.

I have much more to write on newspapers in the 21st century. Stay tuned to this AZplace channel…

Clinton Did It Too?

The nation's leading law officer is on the hotseat for equivocating and engaging in blatant deceptions over his involvement with the political dismissals of U.S. attorneys.

Naturally, Bush loyalists and neocon Kool-Aid quaffers are repeating adnauseum that "Clinton did it, too". However, as this article demonstrates, that is a load of hooey:

Bush says that firing US Attorneys for political purity is a “customary practice.” He’s lying, of course. It isn’t a customary practice and never has been. It’s corruption on a wide scale. The enabling legislation is a paragraph in the ill-thought-out and hastily-passed USA PATRIOT Act. Under the newly-invented process, if a US Attorney is fired, he or she can be replaced by someone who is never required to be confirmed by the Senate—leading us to a place where the top US law enforcement officer in each region can be another Brownie.

The Bush Administration fired U.S. Attorneys because they prosecuted well-connected Republicans, as happened with Carol Lam in San Diego, who lost her job for convicting congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham for evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode. They fired them for not going out of their way to prosecute Democrats when the timing would be advantageous to Republicans. This happened to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, who ignored requests by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to indict Manny Aragon before the November elections in order to improve her chances of being reelected. U.S. Attorney H. E. “Bud” Cummins III of Little Rock was fired in order to politicize the office and reward a political operative by giving the job to Tim Griffin, a hand-picked protege of Karl Rove.

Back to the Clinton excuse: How many US Attorneys left office before their four-year terms were up during the Clinton presidency (other than to accept greater responsibility within the Justice Department), and why? Answer: Two of them.

And what were the two attorneys dismissed for? One was filmed by a television camera grabbing a reporter by the throat and another left after accusations he bit a topless dancer on the arm.

It is true that the White House's explanation for the firings is more much more disturbing than the charges that they are abusing the office for political purposes.

25 March 2007

Expect the max, unless you're a Republican State Legislator

Zelph, in a aznetroots post notes some blatant hypocrisy by AZ Republic columnist Laurie Roberts.
Columnist Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic, normally a crusader for harsher DUI enforcement, hopes they take it easy on Rep. Groe: Assuming no prior DUIs, I hope it is pleaded down so she can stay in the Legislature. She may be just what we need there.

Here, Ms. Roberts strikes a different note than she does with State Representative Trish Groe.

This sort of double talk from media blow-horns isn't even surprising anymore…

23 March 2007

Nothing new here that we have not heard ad naseum from the same handful of global warming deniers

And they still sound like tobacco company lawyers of olden days, that for years spread around chests of money to successfully cast doubt on the truth — that use of their products caused disease and death.

A followup to my piece earlier posted in response to spoken words on the KPXQ 1360 AM Andrew Tallman Show, now that I had a chance to listen to the entire program and review the host’s argument. It seems that Andrew placed a lot of stock in the BBC documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, and for him, was much more persuasive than the overwhelming consensus of scientists and Al Gore’s Oscar winning An Inconvenient Truth. And the fact that all of the scientific journals, including National Geographic, Scientific American, New Scientist, and others have all declared the debate on anthropogenic global warming over.

The Great Global Warming Swindle has given skeptics some ammunition, even if its producer Martin Durkin, is tainted with disrepute for previous show productions that distorted and misrepresented, even leading to official broadcast apologies. Suffice to say, it’s not the first time Durkin has taken the liberties with the truth. Now, in the aftermath, the TGGWS broadcast has resulted in outrage and an upset scientist who participated in the program, who has written a letter protesting the distortions and twisting of his words.

What we now have is an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance or explanation of why many of the extended inferences drawn in the film are not widely accepted by the scientific community. There are so many examples, it’s hard to know where to begin, so I will cite only one: a speaker asserts, as is true, that carbon dioxide is only a small fraction of the atmospheric mass. The viewer is left to infer that means it couldn’t really matter. But even a beginning meteorology student could tell you that the relative masses of gases are irrelevant to their effects on radiative balance. A director not intending to produce pure propaganda would have tried to eliminate that piece of disinformation.

It’s interesting that the host made his case based watching the respective pro and con movies. I’ve not watched An Inconvenient Truth but I’m quite familiar with the points made in it, having read most of the material (in book form) that the slide show and subsequent movie was constructed from. However, I probably have taken in the entire TGGWS, at least in audio form, in various chunks. And minus the visuals, which may lessen its power as I’ve found that almost any video production, even on issues where I share the position of the filmmaker, can easily slant the story. Spooky music, or enticing music, with colorful backdrops tell a more vivid story than the narration, and most often, an incomplete picture is painted. I would rather chew through the numbers and weigh the evidence in written (or audio) form.

First, before addressing a few points that I did not cover in my last post, here is list of links that eviscerate TGGWS.

The major thrust the host made in favor of his position was (a) humans contribute little to CO2 buildup, (b) global warming advocates are neo-communists in pursuit of a global agenda and (c) sun spots explain heating/cooling trends much more than CO2, and that phenomenon cannot be corralled by mortal humans. Pushing aside the ludicrous business about some sort of communist conspiracy, a brief summary response to the other two charges. Other charges, like the myth of 1970’s “imminent ice age” prediction and other deceptions are addressed, again, in my previous missive.

My assessment on the matter is not a closed one, as I’m a computer programmer, not a climate scientist, or oceanographer, or involved in front line investigative science discovery. But I continue to wait to hear from a legitimate climate scientist who challenges the idea that humans are impacting global warming who is not funded by energy or similar industry interests or has a personal axe to grind. Commonly trotted out as global warming scientist skeptics are:

  • Richard Lindzen — a $2,500 per day oil and coal industry “consultant” who has also received financial backing from OPEC
  • Frederick Seitz — nearly 96 years old now, long removed from active research, a former hired gun for R.J. Reynolds, long in the employ of oil and coal interests, and a promoter of the fraudulent Oregon Petition
  • Patrick Michaels - also in the employ of oil and coal interests, and notable for dubious research
  • Timothy Ball — another climate change skeptic in the pocket of energy industry lobbyists
  • Fred Singer — has not had a single article accepted for any peer-reviewed scientific journal for 20 years, another energy lobby hired PR flack

Make no mistake, Al Gore’s AIT is a propaganda piece too. But at least his is based on sound science, not on fraudulent charts, deceitful omissions, and distortions of scientific testimonials. And of course, TGGWS forgot to mention that there has been no peer reviewed scientific paper published refuting the consensus view that global warming is real and humans are the cause.

19 March 2007

Because mercury occurs naturally in cinnabar, mankind’s handling of mercury hasn’t impacted the ecosystem

Driving home from work, listening to my favorite radio program, I heard the host express skepticism about the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. In defense of his position he cited, most of the common mantra that’s bandied about in global warming denial circles — science can’t be trusted, it’s inconceivable that humans could have such a planetary impact, that it all sounds like a ploy by freaky radical environmentalists, etc.… I am not sure I caught the whole segment he devoted to issue, but I’m composing this from what I did hear and from the relevant links presented on the Andrew Tallman website. This is a piece that I do not enjoy writing, as I feel hoarse already on the topic, in battling the disinformation and misrepresentations cast by science deniers. And I don’t buy into the gamut of solution spaces offered up by those on the forefront of the issue either. However, to prattle on about the myth of global warming is akin to being a flat-earther, and I’m going to address a few of their talking points.

  1. First, let’s corral the canard that there’s no way human activity can affect something as vast as the earth. Just review the historical record of temperature, atmospheric CO2 levels and carbon emissions and the matter is quite obvious. The hole in the ozone offers another example of human undoing and now, a beginning of a reversal of that misdeed.

  2. One of the articles cited by the host is a piece by James Robison. And while Mr. Robison isn’t exactly a qualified voice on the matter, like many others in his camp, he makes reference to the Oregon Petition, supposedly a laundry list of over 1,500 scientists who don’t subscribe to the global warming hypothesis. Besides being extremely dated, and filled with all sorts of unqualified signatures (i.e., dentists and veterinarians), it also was constructed in fraudulent fashion. Basically, a mass mailing was sent out to various science departments with a “paper” that was full of deception and half-truths but was formatted to look like a paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was accompanied by a letter from Frederick Seitz, who is an elderly physicist and was a former President of NAS some 30 years ago but is now frankly an extreme anti-environmentalist. The deception was so extreme that NAS took the unusual step of issuing a statement noting that the paper being circulated had not appeared in the Proceedings of the NAS, the mailing was in no way associated with NAS, and furthermore that the paper’s conclusions were not in line with studies by the Academy.

  3. Another leg of dissent is the oft repeated notion that these same scientists were predicting the onset of an ice age then. However, closer examination reveals that a sensationalist piece in popular press is not representative of the content of scientific journals and scientists. As this in-depth investigation reveals, this was absolutely not so.

  4. I realize Al Gore is a popular whipping boy for many a Republican, but overall, scientists are in near universal support of Gore’s message.

  5. A point made by Mr. Tallman on how is swayed to the denial side was anecdotal illustrations of global warming skeptics being treated as heretics and any free dissent stifled by the prevailing voices. While it’s possible to draw a rare example, there is ample evidence that the most suppression in this matter is being waged by the Bush administration. This NASA scientist’s story is not an isolated incident — there have been a number of accounts, similar in nature to James Hansen’s. If there is overhanded passion on the part of scientists, it’s due to the media misconception propagated by the mainstream media there exists a “debate” on the issue, that dissent in the scientific community, beyond paid think tank operatives, PR flacks, and anti-environmentalist extremists, is minimal. While I’ve devoted words for astroturf PR tools like Patrick Michaels, Philip Stott and others in the past, you can look them up and please note they are funded by organizations whose mission, like the tobacco companies, is to deny the truth. For comparison sake, it would be like the mainstream media devoting equal time to the 9/11 Truth Movement every time the official state account of the events of September 11, 2001 was repeated. If you believe that to be a crazy notion, review the roster of official 9/11 account questioners here, note their credentials and compare to (examining those who’ve taken the time to study the matter on both sides) the global warming “debate”. There, it is a ratio over a thousand to one or more.

This winter in the northern hemisphere was the warmest on record. There is no doubt, that yes, we are cooking the planet. It’s tragic that flat-earthers have embarked upon a campaign to deliberately obfuscate the issue to introduce doubt, paralysis and a continuance of the status-quo. Not that skepticism isn’t warranted, or isn’t a healthy mechanism, just that we should move past wishful thinking and begin meaningful discourse on an optimal solution space.

What is at stake? Higher sea level, reduced agriculture output, increase in disease, as well as some other surprising results that may occur. Maybe not for us in our lifetime, but our kids, grandchildren, and their kids…

Amazing Grace: The Movie

A few thoughts on Amazing Grace: The Movie, after taking in the flick this past weekend.

It's the story of William Wilberforce, the 18th century evangelist, and his campaign to end the slave trade. Also featured is John Newton's authoring of the famous hymn from which the film takes it's title. I heartily endorse this picture — while it's not the greatest movie ever by any stretch, it's quality fare and of great redeeming value.

Some tidbits that struck me:

  • How American centric my study of the history of slavery has been. I was vaguely familiar with the John Newton story, but I must write that William Wilberforce was unknown to me. From brief bouts of study post-film viewing, I haven't read much that differs from the film account, spare a few details that were obviously finagled for the sake of feature film presentation, certainly no more than is typical in these productions.

  • The more that things change, the more they stay the same. Just like the times of today's world, the interests of freedom and justice take a backseat when war erupts. There, and now, when fear reigns, injustice, intolerance and hate mushroom. Righteous folks are tarred and threatened, some even to the point of ruin. In Amazing Grace, it was the conflict with France that set back Wilberforce's reform movement.

  • A great job was done in tackling a topic that at the core, at least for the cinema, is a dry and boring progression of events — parliament gatherings (though the British government going-ons are much more entertaining that those here in the states), conversations with those allied to the cause, and the protagonist engaged in meditation and prayer. Yes, it was cheesed up a tad, but again, nowhere near the extent other similar production efforts on topics of this sort have carried forth.

All and all, a delightful film with a positive bent, historical and artfully done.

18 March 2007

Sooner or later under conditions of perpetually rising house prices, houses would have to be priced out of everybody's range

Jim Kunstler, with some cutting remarks in response to comments made by former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan earlier in the week.
What kind of a rock does this fucking idiot Alan Greenspan live under?

The median price for a house in my region of the US (northeast) was $380,000 in the third quarter of 2006. Median annual income, meanwhile, was about $46,000. If, by some miracle (in a land of negative savings) someone with an income of $46,000 had managed to save enough to make a 20 percent down payment ($76,000) on the aforesaid median-priced house and got a 30-year mortgage for the remainder ($314,000) at 7 percent interest, his monthly payment would be $2089. Add to that $250 a month in local property and school taxes and insurance and that brings it up to $2339. That adds up to $28,068 a year in house payments. Let's say the poor bastard pays $8,000 a year in combined income tax and FICA witholding. That leaves him with a grand total of $9,932 for everything else. Then there's the yearly cost of owning a car, including installment payments, insurance, gasoline, and maintenance: around $6,000 a year. Oh yeah, if he's a prudent fellow, he's got health insurance, let's say a practically useless high-deductible policy costing $3,000 a year. That leaves approximately $57 a week for groceries, laundry, the collection plate at church, and everything else. (Too bad he can't afford cable TV and the Internet.)

So, if housing prices went up 10 percent, how fucked would Mr. Median Income be?

An interesting question, that hints to harrowing times ahead.

Sparring with wing-nutty blowhard Darrell Ankarlo

Phoenix New Times columnist tackles KTAR-FM 92.3 morning host Darrel Ankkkarlo, calling out his racist rantings, but captured here in a capsule, is something I've experienced first hand, and something so emblematic of so-called conservative talk radio.
"If I see that you are adamantly disagreeing with what I've got to say, you are never censored," announced Ankarlo. "I will let you in, just as I will let someone in who agrees with me. That's called discourse. That's called debate. That's called healthy in America."

That's also called a load of heron hockey. The Bird's called in to Ankarlo's show before and told the screener it disagreed with Ankarlo's venom. Each time, this whippoorwill was placed on hold indefinitely. So the Thursday the Ankarlo article was published, The Bird phoned in as a huge Ankarlo fan. Surprise, surprise, this beak-bearer got through almost immediately. As "Dave in Phoenix," The Bird lauded the jock, informing him that the supposed smears of his enemies at New Times were just "terrible, terrible!" Later, Pat McMahon, who comes on after Ankarlo, made a quip about this egret's editorial, making it even harder for the bile-spittin' Darrell to ignore.

Indeed, though this sort of behavior is much more evident on that other conservative talk station — there, I can attest to sitting on hold for hours, hoping to hop on to challenge the host's idiocy. Furthermore, after initial denials, most of those efforts were to correct the host on a non-political matter, as I expected that I would never be granted air time unless I sounded like a complete dupe that could be tossed as a softball to an eager ideologue host.

Though I can honestly say when Ankarlo's spot was manned by David Leibowitz, he was always ready to duel with dissenters, even if he had a happy trigger finger to disengage a righteous caller once the argument got away from his grasp.

8 March 2007

Top 10 Podcasts

  1. This Week in Tech — a panel reviews the week's tech happenings
  2. Leo Laporte - The Tech Guy — Leo fields your questions on consumer tech on PCs, Macs, cell phones, PDAs, printers, etc.…
  3. Democracy Now — here is what real journalism looks like
  4. Thom Hartmann Show — quality liberal talk radio
  5. Media Matters with Bob McChesney — an introspective look at media with big name authors
  6. The Alex Jones Show — conspiracy theorist fodder, but interesting and sometimes informative nevertheless
  7. MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann — highlights from the popular nightly MSNBC news program
  8. KCRW Le Show (Harry Shearer) — Harry Shearer, of Simpsons fame, with his own wacky radio show
  9. The Dave Ramsey Show — financial advice and help to get you debt free
  10. MacBreak Weekly — the “Mac” edition of the Laporte network

3 March 2007

It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services

For the controversy over the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for which now top official resignations are occurring.

Here is a typical neocon reaction to the ensuing investigation, located not in the main blog post, but one of the comments:

Blaming the Bush administration for this situation is absolutely predictable Liberal fodder. We all agree it's a horrible discovery, and it angers us on many levels. Bush will coninue to address it, and we can fairly hold him accountable to see that happens.

A defense that is totally ignorant of the truth, at least from what this Army Times story is reporting, that the blame can be squarely placed on the Bush administration and its zeal for privatization:

The memorandum “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel,’” the committee’s letter states. “According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”

The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.

They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had dropped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.

“The conditions that have been described at Walter Reed are disgraceful,” the letter states. “Part of our mission on the Oversight Committee is to investigate what led to the breakdown in services. It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldiers.”

The letter said the Defense Department “systemically” tried to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for facilities management, patient care and guard duty – a process that began in 2000.

But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under President Bush’s ‘competitive sourcing’ initiative, which was launched in 2002,” the letter states.

During the year between awarding the contract to IAP and when the company started, “skilled government workers apparently began leaving Walter Reed in droves,” the letter states. “The memorandum also indicates that officials at the highest levels of Walter Reed and the U.S. Army Medical Command were informed about the dangers of privatization, but appeared to do little to prevent them.”

What a surprise that the word "Halliburton" makes an appearance, again, in another scandalous revelation about a Bush administration action that is deeply emblematic of a culture of corruption…

I imagine there is a lot more of this about, and perhaps we will see more of these accounts, or maybe we only get to glance at the tip of the iceberg, as the sordid depths of this depravity will fail to be exposed, due to a media that is more concerned with cult of celebrity than substantive issues.

Another tragic note in a war started by scared old men who used fear and ignorance to persuade trusting people to sacrifice their children.

Axis sauce and Allied gravy:
The Nuremberg Principles and the US of A

US Army Lt. Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Convinced that the war in Iraq is illegal under both the US Constitution and international law, Watada believes that he would become party to a crime if he obeys the order to deploy.

But prior to the start of Lt. Watada's court-martial, presiding judge Lt. Col. John M. Head prohibited him from mounting a defense based on the fourth Nuremberg Principle:
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
One of the findings of the Nuremberg Trials was that the claim "But I was only following orders!" is not a valid defense for committing war crimes. Corrollary to that is the principle — which is taught in boot camp to every member of the US armed forces — that military members have a duty not merely to obey lawful orders, but to disobey unlawful orders as well.

Writes Timothy J. Freeman:
The ruling by Judge Head conflicts with the statement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, that the United States must be bound by the same rule of law used to prosecute the Germans: "If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." The Nuremberg trials established that soldiers are not immune from prosecution for war crimes just because they were following orders. The judgement at Nuremberg means that the common view held by Judge Head and apparently many Americans that "soldiers like Lt. Watada can't pick and choose when to fight" is just flat out wrong. In denying [Lt. Watada's] "Nuremberg defense" the military is simply setting aside the judgement at Nuremberg and ignoring Justice Jackson's explicit statement.
Witness the paradox of civil disobedience: Nations that ostensibly uphold the right of civil disobedience only do so for the citizens of other nations. No nation that is waging agressive (and therefore illegal) war can afford to allow a man of conscience to look it in the eye and say, "What you are doing is criminal, and I will not participate," for to do so would be to concede the criminality of its actions.

But Timothy Freeman concludes:
The nation would be stronger, not weaker, if it recognized Lt. Watada's right to refuse deployment to an illegal war. If Lt. Watada's action is recognized as right, the nation would be far less prone to engage in unnecessary and immoral wars. In refusing deployment to Iraq, Lt. Watada is serving the country with his conscience, and in so doing, is giving the highest service. If Lt. Watada goes to prison, as seems now very likely, he will be a powerful symbol of the injustice of the nation and its shame in ignoring the judgement at Nuremberg and refusing to remember Justice Jackson's counsel.
So for the time being, despite Justice Jackson's sage counsel, what was sauce for the Axis is not gravy for the US of A.