Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taking Flight

My nephew, Zak (in blue), and his friend James display their skills.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Lucky Day Is A Week Away

My lunchtime fortune cookie had this bit of wisdom for me.

Since the mega-gazillion lotto drawing is tonight, I'm guessing I'm not going to win. Not buying a ticket probably doesn't help much. I'm oppressed enough as it is so why should I give money away for a minuscule longshot.

The next full moon is a week from today. I haven't been to a Fiasco in ages so I'm in dire need of renewing my Lifetime Member for Life membership.

Plus There's Too Much Violins On TV

Pat over at 26InchSlicks posted an entry during the late hours entitled No Title Necessary. As the title--or lack thereof--implies the video he posted speaks for itself. Clearly, a bicycle is being towed away by one of those fly-by-night towing companies, leaving the owner stranded with a front wheel--possibly disabled by a Denver moccasin--who then has to track down the towing company and pay three hundred bucks to get the bike out of the impound lot.

When I tried to post a comment I kept getting this:
Apparently Google thinks I'm asking for it to play some obscure song in a key that hasn't been invented yet.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Evening With Norm

I spent the evening at The Bing Theater. Norm Stamper spoke about Policing for Safety with Professionalism and Civil Rights and then fielded questions from a panel populated by Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, Human Rights Educator and Advocate Rachel Dolezal, and Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart (left to right in the picture with Stamper off to the right).

Stamper is an entertaining and informative speaker almost to a fault. While answering questions he tended to segue from one topic to another until he reached a point where he stopped because he forgot the question that began the process. I wasn't annoyed by that but I could see how someone expecting an answer to stay on point might be.

During his initial discussion about policing with professionalism he talked about the good intentions when he first became a police officer but almost immediately ended up doing things he never thought he'd do. I was reminded of similar behaviors I adopted and exhibited when I became a Law Enforcement Specialist and arrived at my first assignment way back in 1975. The badge and gun were symbols of our authority. Our authority was not to be challenged. If it was we took it personal. We wore mirrored sunglasses so you couldn't see our eyes. We hooked our thumbs in our gun belts while we talked to you. We were bad-asses and and we didn't take shit from anybody. We set ourselves apart from the people we were there to serve. In short, we were running fast down the wrong track. Quite a few of us, just like Stamper, had some sort of reckoning moment where we realized we were doing it wrong. Funny how some lessons have to be learned through experience for so many.

I particularly enjoyed how he addressed the need for the police leadership and police guild leadership to be involved with the community. He makes a good case for strong and effective civilian oversight. Last of all he touched on the senselessness of the so-called war on drugs and drew the parallels with Prohibition and the repeal thereof. He's all for passing Initiative 502 in Washington because even thought federal law trumps state law concerning marijuana, if enough states decriminalize or legalize it then something will have to give at the federal level. Maybe so. He's not endorsing the use of marijuana, but he is saying that what we're doing now isn't working. Drugs are cheaper, more potent, and easier to get than when President Nixon declared the war on them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It Counts As News, Right?

While browsing through KHQ's site, I see they posted a video released by a husband who thought it a great idea to record his math-challenged wife trying to figure out how long it would take to travel 80 miles while going 80 miles per hour. The reporter says the video has gone viral and also that the couple doesn't exactly want it going around the internet any more. So why not post it again, have a few laughs at someone's expense (I can see why she's mad, tee-hee-hee), and provide a means for spreading it even more? And just like watching it on the telly, the volume on the commercial is louder than on the "story".

Saturday, March 24, 2012

There Is No Republican War On Women

Forgive me for being slow here, but I haven't had a lot of free time lately. Last Tuesday, Cathy McMorris Rodgers spoke during the Republican Leadership Press Conference, chastising Democrats for fear mongering a Republican war on women. So I took that video and inserted some other video clips to provide food for thought concerning her speaking on behalf of American women. No Democrats appear in this video because they didn't need to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What A Sorry State We're In

I received a robocall from Mike Huckabee last night. He asked me to Press 1 to add my name to a petition supporting the repeal of Obamacare, which he described as a destructive law. I declined.

For all of the children with pre-existing conditions who can no longer be denied coverage because of those pre-existing conditions, I apologize for keeping this harmful law in place.

For all of you with expensive medical conditions whose coverage can no longer be terminated because it has reached its cap, I apologize.

For those of you whose coverage can no longer be cancelled for making a mistake when disclosing information and whose insurance application must now be proven to be a fraudulent, I apologize.

For those of you who have the right to appeal the decision to an independent reviewer if your claim is denied, I apologize.

For those of you who now have access to free preventative health services, I apologize.

For those of you whose children can stay on your policy until they are 25 instead of being terminated at age 19, I apologize.

For those of you who can now choose the pediatrician or primary care doctor you want from your health plan’s provider network, I apologize.

And for those of you who won’t be required to get prior approval before seeking emergency room services from a facility that is outside of your plan’s network or pay higher copayments for doing so, I apologize.

If only I could realize just how destructive health care reform has been for this country.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Reason To Ride A Bike

Between 4:40 and 9:10 in the video, Avi Ruben discusses the techniques of hacking the modern car.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reaching The Saturation Point

Today's forecast called for heavy rains and it was right. During my bike commute home after work I reached the point where it was like the rinse cycle at a car wash. It can't get any wetter but it's moving lots of water around.

Most of the time traffic forced me to ride through the streams running along the roadsides. When given the opportunity I swerved into the middle of the road to avoid the larger pools. There were few opportunities. One pool of water was so large cars were turning around rather than go through it. It was too big to coast through so my shoes overflowed yet again as each foot splashed in the downstroke.

Twice I was pelted with hail. It was like I was in the middle of an arena and everyone in the stands had a paint ball gun unloading on me. The staccato crackling of ice pellets on my helmet sounded like a kettle of popcorn at its peak. After getting home, water drained from my clothing onto my garage floor while I cleaned and oiled my chain so it wouldn't rust overnight. My drenched gloves and socks desperately clung to me and stretched to their fullest as I struggled to peel them off.

Mmmmmmm, ice cream for dinner. I feel so much better.

The Wrong Call

*** Note: I originally posted this with the title, "A Gutless Call". I used that title because I was in a rush after writing up the post. It was wrong because that title impugned Mr Graham's character. It bothered me all day long so I'm fixing it now and I apologize for my error. I also added a link to more information about the Louisiana Science Education Act.

* * * * * * * * * Original Post * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you pay attention to online media, and maybe the newspaper, then you're probably aware that a number of newspapers are not printing this week's series of Doonesbury strips and are printing a less-controversial replacement series instead. What is so controversial? That depends on who you ask.

In yesterday's Spokesman Review, Gary Graham, News Editor, offered a tepid defense for not printing the series. You'll notice there isn't a single comment that supports the decision not to print.

The Spokesman-Review has chosen not to publish the Doonesbury comic strip series this week on the Texas abortion law, opting for a series of substitute panels offered by the syndicate that distributes the strip. At last count, nearly 60 newspapers across the country have decided not to use the controversial strip.

Doonesbury appears six days a week in the classified section because many years ago the newspaper’s editors removed it and the Mallard Fillmore comic from the editorial page. The decision at that time was based on two factors: the often political nature of the comic strips and the space required for them.

When those two features were moved to the classified section, they fell under the jurisdiction of the advertising department. Dan Johnson, director of sales and marketing, made the decision to substitute for the Doonesbury series this week, a decision I strongly support. It is our view that abortion is not an appropriate topic for a comic strip. We regularly publish news stories and opinion pieces on the elections, abortion and many other controversial topics in more appropriate sections.

Why does this excuse not hold water? First, he states that Doonesbury often has a political nature so he's aware that it's not like your funny, as in "Ha Ha", comics. Second, he states that abortion is not an appropriate topic for a comic strip, as if he's referring to a funny, as in "Ha Ha", comic and not one that routinely has a political nature and was banished to the want ads section years ago.

As to the subject matter of the strip, it is not about abortion. It's not pro-life and it's not pro-choice. It's a parody of legislation passed by the State of Texas. It's about the intrusion of government by people who claim they want less government intrusion and more individual freedom. It's about the obstacles placed in front of women to demonize and shame them should they seek an abortion as if that decision comes as easy as choosing what to have for dessert. It's an opportunity to examine who we are as a society, much like this comic printed by the Review last July in the Sunday comics section that parodied the Louisiana Science and Education Act.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

The violence in Pearls Before Swine and the mockery and idiocy found in Dilbert are apparently appropriate topics for comics. Thank goodness the Review's role as gatekeeper protects us from the topic of abortion. I'm not including the censored Doonesbury strip in this post because it's so easy to find since so many papers decided not to print it. Imagine that. Censoring it made it more popular.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kleverly Koncealed Klan?

Vanity plates always catch my eye and the fun ones require some thinking to figure them out. Steph spotted this one tonight and she doesn't think it's all that fun.

Steph figured this one out on her own. "K" is the eleventh letter in the English alphabet. Konclusive evidence or konjecture on our part?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Adventures In Breakfast Food

I thought I'd try this recipe but with a slight variation because I like my eggs with a runny yolk on toast. This was delicious. Steph tried one bite and said it was okay, but her tepid approval was probably due to the recently consumed strawberries affecting her palate.

The onion ring recipe looks pretty good, too. I'll save that for another day.

Income Disparity Is Not The Issue

In last Thursday's issue of The Inlander, our former congressman, George Nethercutt, misdirects and misleads the reader about the Occupy movement and income disparity in America. He leads off with this:

In the debate over the legitimacy of the “Occupy” movement and the frustration some Americans feel over the alleged 99 percent vs. 1 percent (poor vs. rich) ratio in the United States, it’s fair to pose the question: “What is the right ratio of rich to poor in the U.S. today?”

First, he seeds doubt in the reader's mind by saying there's a debate over the legitimacy of the Occupy movement and then uses the 99 and 1 percent numbers as a poor versus rich ratio. Establishing that, he leads the reader further away by asking a question nobody else is asking. And then he's off on a "discussion" about tax fairness and income equality.

Mr Nethercutt gets it wrong from the start and the millions poured into this election season provide an example of why he is wrong. The Occupy movement is not about resenting the wealthy for being wealthy. It's not about establishing a specific ratio of wealthy vs poor. It's about the undue influence of wealth in our democracy that benefits the wealthy to the detriment of everyone else. It's about a system that promotes and protects a concentration of wealth. The expanding gap in income equality is a function of this influence.

The market-oriented society he refers to isn't necessarily the same one envisioned by the 99 percent. In Mr Nethercutt's market-oriented society, corporations and businesses are a privileged class always trying to overcome obstacles placed by a government whose sole existence only serves to interfere. Combined with a theme emphasizing freedom and personal responsibility, individuals are left to their own devices when a weakened government is unable to help after fracking makes their their tap water flammable.

Mr Nethercutt's position is hardly surprising when you consider his actions while representing Washington's 5th District. He voted for the Bush tax cuts, which overwhelming benefited the wealthy and became the single largest contributor towards the deficit. He also voted to make those tax cuts permanent. He sponsored legislation to repeal the estate tax, which affected only 2 percent of Americans. The wealthiest Americans. He voted against campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions. One fight in the area of campaign finance reform ended up with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens vs United allowing unlimited donations via purportedly independent groups. One "benefit" of that is that we're now getting to know the billionaires influencing our election process with their millions.

Mr Nethercutt closes his short discussion on poverty with this:

No matter how hard we try to eradicate poverty, we likely never will. While trying to do so is laudable, we shouldn’t stifle the creativity that is a hallmark of American life. Creativity often leads to great wealth for those with ingenuity, drive, energy and free will. Ambition levels, like talent levels, will always be unequal for individuals in a free society, and those disparities will result in disparate income outcomes.

How trying to eradicate poverty stifles creativity taxes even my imagination. But he is right that creativity, ambition, and talent can result in disparate income outcomes. Again, that is not the problem. The problem is the inordinate amount of influence in our democracy by "the haves and the have mores" and the injustices resulting from it. Just look at the criminal behavior by mortgage lenders and the failures of regulatory agencies resulting in the 2008 crash and the disparity in the number of prosecutions there.

Mr Nethercutt closes with this:

While helping America’s poor is legitimate, worthwhile and an American tradition, an income equality goal doesn’t fit a market-oriented society. Capitalism and free enterprise, having produced the strongest economy and most advanced society in world history, should largely be left to reach natural levels, allowing those who seek, and achieve, financial reward to enjoy their good fortune, distribute it as they wish and pay a reasonable income-tax rate.

He again distracts the reader. Nobody is talking about establishing an income equality goal. As for the U.S. being the strongest economy and most advanced society in world history, world history isn't over yet. It has yet to be seen if this most advanced society will allow itself to be bought out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Sight To Make Sore Eyes

I'm back to bike commuting. Whoohoo! The last three mornings I layered up against the cold, including a balaclava that would get me stopped at the door of any pharmacy, and pedaled my way downtown, my raspy breath puffing and sounding like a steam locomotive and my nose running like a faucet that stops momentarily when you crank on the handle and then resumes its relentless dripping once you're five steps away. My apologies to those drivers to whom I treated to the sight of a burst of vapor accompanied by mostly failed snot rocket launches. Yes, I wash my gloves. Besides, that's what the fuzzy patch on the back of them is for. But you have to admit, I did have that one time where it was very cleanly shot.

The temperature rose quit a bit yesterday, so much so that it felt oppressive while I was running and I had to take my shirt off. So my apologies to those on the Centennial Trail who were blinded by the sun reflecting off my fish belly-white upper torso still carrying a slightly jouncing holiday season five pound gain. No, not President's Day. Christmas.

But look at the bright side. (Get it? Bright? Trying to add to the humor here so please play along.) Riding twice a day will help trim down that slight belly bulge, the sun will transform me from a whiter shade of pale to more of an ivory, and the warmer weather will dry my sinuses. Until then, just look away.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More From The Terrorism Boogeyman

Yesterday we learned this from FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony before a House appropriations committee.

“Terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyber attack, but we cannot underestimate their intent.”

He also said terrorists have shown interest in developing hacking skills, and that the evolving nature of the problem makes the FBI’s counterterrorism mission more difficult.

So terrorists showing an interest in developing hacking skills--What, did they google "hacking skills"?--are more capable than Anonymous and LulzSec?

He could make just as much sense by claiming that a 15-year-old kid who's interested in driving can win the Indianapolis 500 his first time behind the wheel. We wouldn't want to underestimate the kid's intent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Taking The Low Road

In today's Spokesman Review we read about Attorney General Eric Holder defending the decision to kill a U.S. citizen living abroad.

Holder presented a three-part test for determining whether killing an American citizen is legal: "...the government must determine after careful review that the citizen poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S., capture is not feasible, and the killing would be consistent with laws of war."

Thank goodness there's a careful review.

How did we get to a position that would've been considered abhorrent 20 or 30 years ago? Congress did not declare war. It passed an authority to use military force. We are not warring against a country. In response to an attack by a fanatical religious terrorist group we established a Global War on Terrorism. Where before we treated terrorism as a crime, we elevated its status to one requiring a military response. We compiled lists of terrorists and their organizations resulting in a definition so broad and encompassing Congress had to pass a bill stating the African National Congress was no longer a terrorist organization so Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and former leader of the African National Congress, could travel unrestricted to the United States.

Fear played a huge part if escalating and justifying our response as it still does today. It would be more appropriate for the If You See Something, Say Something program to apply to our own government's actions.

The Guardian has a more thorough version of the article.

"Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen – even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaida in a foreign land – is among the gravest that government leaders can face," Holder said. "The American people can be – and deserve to be – assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws."
"The constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

And now, after careful review and consistent with our values(?) and laws(?), due process means we can kill American citizens with a missile launched from an unmanned aircraft.

I wonder what our response would be if another country killed one of its citizens in the U.S. and justified it by saying, "This was done only after careful review determined that the citizen posed an imminent threat of violent attack against us, capture was not feasible, and the killing was consistent with laws of war."

"Oh, and sorry about the innocent civilians we took out with him."

*** Update
The New York Review of Books blog has a thoughtful article on this subject.

Why We Get Fat

Dr Dan Lieberman's interesting take using evolutionary biology to explain why humans are so good at putting on weight. Dr Lieberman has also been a leading researcher on the human running form (both are PDFs).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Personal Liberties...With Some Exceptions

Ron Paul visited Spokane again and according to the Spokesman Review had this to say:

“When it comes to personal liberties, lifestyles and what we put into our bodies, all of a sudden we have a bunch of busybodies telling us exactly what we’re supposed to do with our lives,” Paul said. “We should never accept the idea that the government can protect us against ourselves.”

A man of his word, Paul has submitted legislation that would keep the government from protecting us. HR 1096, The Sanctity of Life Act, would decree that life begins from the moment of conception. It would remove federal court jurisdiction over any state law that "protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth". HR 958, We The People Act, does this:

The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court--
  (1) shall not adjudicate--
    (A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion;
    (B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or
    (C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation;

This would remove federal court jurisdiction of any state, county or city legislation having to do with "the free exercise or establishment of religion" however that may be defined, any claim to the right of privacy, and any claim of equal protection for the right to marry.

Taken at face value, it may seem like keeping the federal courts from ruling on specific types of laws is a good idea. But think these through a bit. State and local governments would be given free reign to "protect us from ourselves" or otherwise intrude upon our lives. Under this legislation, every miscarriage could result in a murder investigation. Any claim to a violation of privacy could be adjudicated many different ways depending on the laws passed by the state, country or city.

Fortunately, both of these bills are going nowhere. It would appear that Ron Paul's concerns about "personal liberties, lifestyles and what we put into our bodies" only apply to the ones he agrees with.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Was Young Once

One of my aunts just had a bunch of old home movies converted to digital. Browsing through four hours of films I came across these thirty seconds from my mom and dad's wedding day. It inspired me to write this.

I Was Young Once

I was young once.
I relished in being
And strode to every conquest.
I pinned life by the shoulders.

I was young once.
That which I am, was.
That which I was is no longer.
Immutable destiny prevailed.

I was young once.
And I lived!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Misrepresenting To Those She Represents

I would never make a good politician, if good means talented at misleading, distorting, deceiving and the like. On her Facebook page, Cathy McMorris Rodgers recently posted a quote of the day.

"Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." - President Obama's Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. Do you think they're succeeding?

The quote came from a Wall Street Journal article published in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in as president and before Steven Chu became the Secretary of Energy. Presented in this manner and followed by the question, "Do you think they're succeeding?" where "they" refers to Obama and Chu, one is led to believe gas prices are purposely being raised by the administration.

Along with the quote the congresswoman provided, the WSJ article also reported:

But Mr. Obama has dismissed the idea of boosting the federal gasoline tax, a move energy experts say could be the single most effective step to promote alternative energies and temper demand. Mr. Obama said Sunday that a heightened gas tax would be a "mistake" because it would put "additional burdens on American families right now."

The congresswoman's deception implies the Obama administration is responsible for rising gas prices. She doesn't tell us that US oil production is at a seven-year high. She fails to mention that US oil production started rising in 2009 or that the US tripled its oil rigs during the last three years. Nor does she mention that the US exported more gasoline than it imported last year, that demand for gas is down, or that speculators are driving the price up. Instead, she presents a quote out of context for the purpose of laying blame on the Obama administration for rising gas prices--for the wrong reason. Now, had she said the Obama administration was failing to reign in oil speculators, then she'd have a strong case.

Today, on her Facebook page she shared this from the Republican Study Committee.

Gas prices have nearly doubled since Obama’s inauguration, and energy analysts predict that more Americans than ever before will pay $5.00 per gallon this year.

You would think that with gas prices continuing to accelerate under President Obama, he would do everything possible to boost production.

Instead, oil production on federal land fell 11% last year. During the exact same time frame, oil production on private and state-owned land – land beyond the federal government’s grip – grew 14%. In addition, Obama prevented construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which could bring our economy thousands of new jobs and transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day.

Again, the fact that oil production has increased is left out. And there's no mention that the purpose of Keystone XL is to make Canadian tar sands oil available for higher prices on the world market. Nor are we informed that Keystone XL will raise gas prices in the US.

And that's why I wouldn't make a good politician. My conscience would bother me fiercely.

Chalk It Up To Poor Judgment

Forwarding an offensive email from your work address is bad enough, but to explain your actions by saying you did it because the email is anti-Obama is beyond pale. Here's the "joke".

A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?

His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'

A better criticism of President Obama's presidency has never been penned. It condemns the use of unmanned aircraft to kill people at will, including Americans. It hammers the administration's relentless pursuit of whistle blowers in order to keep them quiet. Or maybe it rails against government takeover of health care and shakes a fist at socialist policies.

But it wasn't intended to be racist even though the federal judge who forwarded it later admitted that it is. When he forwarded it, he added this note.

Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

Even by his standards it touched his heart. Unbelievable. You'd think a learned person would know and act better.