Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson

Chief Justice Abrahamson,

Over the last 10 years I worked for a Madison attorney helping people deal with foreclosure and bankruptcy. During that time we saw many cases of debtors that had defaulted on loans with no hope of being able to continue to make payments. We also saw many examples of mortgage lenders that had lost payments, failed to accurately report payments and in one or two cases, foreclosed despite having received the payments. In Federal Bankruptcy Court, a lender when confronted with illegal accounting of bankruptcy payments (misapplication of funds) asked, “do you expect us to change our procedures just because someone is in bankruptcy?” to which the Court responded, “Yes.” Increasingly over the last five years, we began noticing that lenders were foreclosing that were not the original mortgage lender, in many cases there were no assignments of mortgages and even more troubling, notes were not included in the documentation, either because the lender was NOT the note holder or it had become ‘lost’.

In my personal life, situations resulted in the default on our mortgage. Our original mortgage lender was Indymac Bank. It failed in 2008 and One West Bank purchased many of its assets (according to press reports). One West Bank’s foreclosure documents did not include the original note to Indymac Bank. When we brought up this deficiency with the court at our hearing (10CV00820), Dane County Court Judge C. William Foust, Branch 14, indicated the lack of the note was a technicality and that he was satisfied with the affidavit of default provided by the lender. The lender did not address the lack of note. We understand the default judgment now replaces the missing note.

In light of the recent actions by the State Attorney General, I am asking the Supreme Court to give guidance to the Municipal Courts in the state to NOT just accept foreclosure documentation that is ‘technically deficient’ in the interest of speeding up the process. We brought the issue to the attention of the Court in our case and it was ignored. Hundreds if not thousands of Wisconsin homeowners are facing foreclosure and are unable to afford legal help to defend themselves.

False affidavits, lost notes and historically bad accounting are being ignored by courts in the interest of ‘processing’ hundreds of thousands of foreclosures throughout the country and in Wisconsin. We are asking you and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to maintain the integrity of the court system for all parties – not just those lenders hoping to take advantage of distraught homeowners to sweep all the bad acts under the foreclosure rug.

In my case, the issue might soon be over, but lenders who have foreclosed and received judgment are also failing to complete the process. We have seen lenders foreclose, homeowners leave the home and then the lender fail to hold a sheriff’s sale. The lender leaves the homeowner to maintain the empty home indefinitely, including municipal fines for failure to mow or shovel snow, insurance and minimal utilities.

The Courts expect homeowners to abide by the terms of their mortgages, it is time for the court system to make sure the lenders abide by the law.


Tracy C. Coyle

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
114 East State Capitol
Madison, WI 53707-7857

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Motivated reasoning - a reply

This is an attempt to deal with a concept that has been discussed in Twitter and the constraints are driving me crazy. Here it is: Motivated Reasoning:

It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes–that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs. The motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate, whereas the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion. There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at, but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusions.

I bet my readers think that the above sounds reasonable but that something doesn't feel right about it. Here is my take:

Let's parse #1: "reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes"

All cognitive processes are biased. We build experience and knowledge within a framework that encompasses our lives. Your parental raising, your education, your work experience all contribute to the process. This process is biased only in the sense that it is unique to you. Shared education and experience can create similar cognitive processes. the idea that we rely on our education and experience to make decisions is one of those 'yea, duh' points of view.

#2: "strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs" is not just dealing with day to day issues, but for formulating 'belief's. This is more than just observation of natural processes, but rather an attempt to explain how people form their belief systems. As if such a process is DIFFERENT from any other cognitive process. (To be honest, it is not the formulation that is different, but the continuous evaluation that varies. Most people are willing to re-evaluate decisions in the face of new information however, beliefs seldom are subject to such re-evaluation absent some 'trama' to the system.)

#3: "motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate"

In other words, a desire to be accurate relies on beliefs. Maybe in some. When I 'desire' to be accurate, I use education and experience and systems of decision making that in the past has resulted in accurate results. The choice of words in the above comment suggest a loose approximation of the result and the desire.

#4: "the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion"

Let me see if I have this right: I want a specific conclusion, so I am most likely to use 'cognitive processes utilizing experience and education' that are most likely to result the way I want to end up. Hmmm. I want to turn right in the car, so, using the turn indicator and steering wheel, I turn right and voila! ok.....

#5: "There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at"

Let me think....
1: a reasoned judgment : inference
2: the last part of something: as a result
3: an act or instance of concluding

It appears that the original statement actually changes which definition is in use.

We start off in #1 considering judgments. How people make choices. But by #5 we are now talking about how they seek outcomes. How I form beliefs is subject to more than just education and experience but also by my desires and the environment I choose to be in. But how I LIVE, how I determine actions and consequences is not based on beliefs or desires - I can desire to be in LA in 10 minutes, but physics limits me to driving for 3 hours. All the motivation and beliefs in the world can't change that the 'conclusion', being in LA requires 3 hours of driving.

I can form beliefs, come to a conclusion about faith that is unique to all the parts that make up me. However, reaching a physical conclueion is based on experience and specific actions that are NOT unique to me. Everyone in San Diego that wants to go to LA, regardless of the reason are subject to the same constraints.

#5: "There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at...but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusion"

I arrive at a conclusion by justifying the chosen conclusion? I have desires and needs. They are fulfilled by acting in ways reasonably expected to do so. I don't need to 'justify' them. Nor are they likely to be constrained because I can't figure a good reason to need or want them.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the author ISN'T changing the definition of conclusion. Nah.

"more likely to arrive....but constrained" Which is it? We get to where we want to be but are constrained in do so?

Overall, the statement is illogical. Shifting the definition being applied is dishonest. We make decisions based on desired outcomes - that is the ONLY way reasonable people act. Those outcomes are not 'belief' dependent. A Muslim, agnostic, Jew and atheist all must act in similar ways to drive from San Diego to LA. Their beliefs have little or no bearing on the 'conclusion'. We formulate beliefs based on experience, education AND desired outcomes and 'reason' has little to do with those conclusions.

Conclusion in a reasoned judgment can apply the full range of human options and does. However, a conclusion to an event is a function of choices and their associated consequences. BOTH end points can be desired but only one is ordained.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


It is hard to notice because we have some of it in ourselves, but most people think that we are at a turning point in history because....welll...."we" are alive now to witness it.

I first noticed the phenom when there was a big "Rapture wait.." back in 1980: 'this generation that sees the rebirth of Israel shall not pass away before these things come to past' - these things being the END OF THE WORLD. 1948 Israel rebirth + 40 years for a generation = 1988 - 7 years of tribulation = 1981.

Anyway, we saw it again in 1999 leading up to the millennium. And now, with the election looming, people are saying we are at a tipping point. Maybe.

One of my favorite "2 minute hobby" is to wonder what the newspaper or news headlines WOULD have been if some major event had not happened. What would the headlines have been on 9/12/2001?

Ever see someone on the side of the road after an accident (people are ok, cars are wrecked)? You know that whatever they were thinking or planning to do right up to the moment of impact is gone, out the window. Their life has just taken a little jog to the right or left (not politically!) But in the big scheme of things - the impact has little overall change associated with it.

Even 9/11 in many regards (yes, despite Iraq and Afghanistan) has not had much impact on the path of humanity.

Think about when you were young (for me the 60's). We all woke up in the morning, Dad went off to work, we went to school. We used a car that is only cosmetically different than the one we use today. We have TV and radio news. We still have McDonalds and ABC/NBC/CBS.... Our lives today would be be pretty recognizable to someone that died in 1965. Yes, there have been many advancements and changes - but human society has not changed that much. There is a significant change from 1865 to today. But does October 5th, 1865 strike you as an important date in history? How about December 7th, 1941? Any different than a day in 1492 or 1066? Ok, some of those ARE important dates to remember, but Earth shattering?

Somewhere in the 80s I realized that my existence/awareness had no cosmic significance. Two things happened then. First, I stopped waiting for 'the EVENT' that I was obviously here to witness (and maybe participate in???? nahhhh). Second, I stopped taking ME quite so seriously. Do I have an impact on others, sure. CJ would not be living HERE today if I had not met Victoria. We all change history in little and unforeseeable ways. But I stopped thinking that the change SIGNIFIED something. Change happens. With or without us. My impact, YOUR impact is important to those around us, but historically, unimportant.

Some people come to a similar realization and then wonder: why am I here? what is my purpose? Stupid questions in a world or historical context. Important for themselves but not for anyone else.

It is likely that 100 years from now, with VERY few exceptions, our passing will be unnoticed and our IMPORTANT time in history will be just that, a point in history. Nothing more, nothing less.

Next time someone tells you WE have to save the planet, offer this (which I shared with two idiots in front of Walmart yesterday asking people to help save the planet) "nope, not interested. Plan on using, abusing, wasting and tossing it away when I am done." to which they replied "what about future generations". I had moved beyond earshot by that time, but I answered "let them get their own Earth. The Earth is big enough to take care of itself."

We are like snowflakes, each unique but unnoticed in a blizzard. The universe is infinite in it's possibilities, I find mirth that there is only ONE of me in all of it. But I long ago gave up the fiction that the Universe, history or even the future will note either my presence or absence. I continue to hope the rest of humanity comes to the same conclusion....eventually.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My summer vacation....

We left Tuesday, July 20th - a day later than planned. We got down to Chicago to see my parents and drop off a few things for them. We left the Madison house a disaster and worse, we left a lot of stuff we should have brought with us. Time and money worked against us - we had to leave with what we had.

The drive to Chicago showed we packed the trailer badly. On Wednesday morning, CJ and I unloaded and repacked the trailer. We still managed to leave around 3pm. We got to Des Moines. Victoria had either a bladder infection or the trip was just too much, no matter, we had to stop about every 2 hours for her to go to the bathroom. Every other stop we got gas. The trailer was very heavily loaded and when driving, we were limited to about 58-59 miles/hr. We averaged 40 miles/hr over the course of each day. Instead of a 4 day trip, it took 5 days. We made Wichita on day two, and Amarillo on day three. Day four we were in Gallup NM. Victoria was finding it increasingly difficult to get out and into the truck and make it to bathrooms. We slept, but we have one dog with us and it added to the minor issues.

Day 5 we left Gallup and I was determined to make San Diego. It took us 15 hours, almost a dozen stops, but we did pull into Escondido (about 10 miles north of Poway, our target city) early Monday morning.(2am ish). We collapsed into bed, but got up the next mornin to start looking for somewhere to live. We spent 5-6 hours looking, V slept most of the time. We got back to the hotel and crashed. V's appetite, never good, sucked. She ate little, drank less. Tuesday, the bathroom breaks averaged every 90 minutes, and V's ability to get in and out of the truck into the bathroom degraded significantly - she was no longer able to use the walker. We did bring the wheelchair but it was buried in the trailer awaiting unpacking.

Wednesday we found a place, but it was rented before we could get the paperwork and money back to them 6 hours later. Victoria only wanted to be in the hotel so we left her while looking. She did not take all of her meds Tuesday night, ate little, drank less. Bathroom, a lot. I started worrying about dehydration. She didn't take Wednesday meds. Thursday, she was not very responsive, only wanting to lay down, or go to the bathroom. We got some Ensure on Wed and she had a couple Wednesday and Thursday morning. CJ and I went back out looking for places and returned to find V on the floor unable to get up. We got her up and into the bed. But she was not very coherent. She slept, then had an Ensure and slept more. Friday we gave up on finding a house, and looked at some apartments. We needed 2-3 bedrooms, pets allowed, ground floor, under $1800. We found one finally in a slightly seedy area. I balked but CJ liked it and we took the paperwork home.

V was not lucid when we got back. She wanted to go to the bathroom and we did that, but no sooner than we got her back to the bed, she wanted to go again. We did, but back to the bed, she wanted to again. She could barely walk, her urine was not concentrated. She would not eat. She could not hold a drink. She was not aware of her general surroundings. She knew us, but could not say our names, where we were. Saturday we went out for some food and drinks and came back to find her worse. Bathroom was all that she could say. CJ and I talked about 911. By Sunday morning, 911 was not if, but when. She fell out of the bed and I picked her up but all she could say was 'we're done', 'you're out of here', 'let me go to the bathroom'. When she could no longer help me get her to the bathroom, I called 911. It was Sunday, Aug 1, 4pm.

To the EMTs she could give her name, but answer no other questions. The hospital was 7 minutes from the hotel. At the ER (CJ rode with Victoria, I followed with the dog), her blood pressure was 238/120, bloodsugar was 118, calcium was very elevated. They admitted her. For the next two days they tried to get the bloodpressure and calcium down with little luck. Meanwhile, she remained not lucid. She did tell me she wanted me gone, she was not going to forget this. I ignored it, but despite having a foley, she continued to insist on getting out of bed to go to the bathroom.

We did not get the apartment CJ wanted, it was rented by the time we got back Monday with the paperwork. We did go back to another place that did not have anything when we first went by the Wednesday before, now they did, and by the time we left, we were approved for a two bed, one bath, apartment on the first floor. Cost was lower than I hoped. We could move in on Monday the 9th

Tuesday night, they put her in restraints. That was what we came into on Wednesday, Aug 4. Blood pressure was still in the upper 180s, sugars ok, but calcium was still high. As to the 'disorientation', 5 doctors, no answer. Creatine was 3.6 - it was not the kidneys. She complained of being assaulted. She was very bruised. We have many pictures.

Thursday, bloodpressure in the 150/160s, calcium still high. Creatine 4.5. Everyone notices that she was 'drooping' on the left side of her face. Speaking was slurred. Eating/drinking difficult. They got more aggressive on both bloodpressure and calcium. Friday, bloodpressure in the 140s, early morning in the low 130s. Calcuim coming down. Victoria showing periods of lucidity, but when just waking, very disoriented. Creatine 5.3. The kidneys were failing. Saturday, creatine was 5.8. They recommended surgery to prepare for dialysis. It was scheduled for Monday, with dialysis to follow Monday night. Surgery didn't happen til Monday evening. Creatine 6.9, virtually no urine since Saturday. Dialysis on Tuesday afternoon. Sunday, Aug 8, Victoria was back. She was still not sure of things, but normal conversation was possible. For the next 5 days, therapists, doctors worked with her to determine what happened. It took a week to get an MRI. Two recent TIAs, no stroke. We think one occurred the Wednesday after getting to CA, the second, the Thursday in the hospital. First caused the disorientation, the second the slurred speech and other physical issues. Thursday, Aug 12 she was scheduled to have the PD cath installed the next day (this would allow at home dialysis after it healed in a couple of weeks). Conversations with Victoria indicate that the issue prior to and during the first days in the hospital were limited to articulation. She heard our questions, formulated answers, then garbage came out. Her memory of the events was not complete, but nearly so. She again indicated she had been assaulted by a female nurse on the first Tuesday night (the night the restraints were put on). That night, one of the few I did not have my phone on, I received an urgent call from the hospital at 12:38am. On Wednesday morning, when I got the message, I called. There was no record of the call, or any event that would have prompted one. Friday, the 13th, the PD cath was put in. Sunday, she was moved from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility (a SNF, pronounced sniff!). Care is as you would expect, not great.

Tuesday, 8/17. CJ had to register for school. We spent an hour there in the sun, 95 degrees, only to find out she had to come back on Thursday and work with a counselor because she was a new enrollee. We made it to the Dialysis clinic for Victoria's first non-hospital dialysis. Thursday, CJ and I met with the counselor and got her classes chosen. She suggested CJ be on a couple of advanced tracks: History, English, Geometry. CJ was all for it. We have to go back on Monday for ID picture. She starts school officially on Wednesday Aug 25th.

Other little details. Thursday the 5th, CJ and I were able to unload the trailer into a storage facility (near the original hotel and 15 miles north of here) UHaul gave us a free 30 day rental. The dog is settling in. I had almost no business in July. What business I did get I had to do after we got back from the hospital (11pm or so). We didn't have the buffer I wanted, and the travel to the hospital and snif (about 15 miles away twice a day) has been eating into our reserves. We were able to get the misc furniture we needed but it is going to be real tight for a while. We are slowly unloading the storage as we get furniture pieces built and into place.

Between getting CJ set for school, hospital/snif visits, moving stuff from storage, we are falling into bed after very late once a day meals. CJ is holding up pretty well but it has been hard on her. The ambulance ride, watching her mom unable to answer basic questions, the restraints, leaving her school, new environment. She is doing better than can be expected.

Right now, CJ, Victoria and I just want to get her home. That appears to be in the plan for Wednesday.

The hits keep on rolling. Monday, Aug 23. Ollie (our dog) got hit by a car - which took off, did not stop. The damage is not life threatening, 60 stitches in his muzzle and a couple on the leg. The vet takes full payment before release. Joy. There went the little buffer we had. He is back home (got him back at 5am) and appears he will fully recover. CJ was walking him, she is not good. Afraid she almost killed her mom's dog. School starts in the morning.

CJ picked out a mat for the front door stoop, it says, Live Life Simply. That is our plan for the next couple years.

What was your summer like?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Comments on AGW 'evidence'

A person, @AI_AGW on twitter gave me three links regarding proof of AGW in response to my comment about warming on Mars.

Regarding the Mars warming(sorry, can't find the link) a video 'debunking' the concept of warming on Mars. Only, watching it, there were a couple things. First he mentions that dust storms have changed the face of Mars that could lead to increased temperatures. Two points: what is driving the storms, higher temperatures? and second, he doesn't actually say that Mars is NOT a matter of fact, he all but concedes it but notes 'storms may have affected temperature' and 'not enough knowledge to know IF there is warming or what it's cause may be."

So the link to 'debunk' does not. There certainly may be other links that do a better job, but as @AI_AGW appears to spend all his/her time promoting AGW, you would think s/he has the best debunking.

Moving on: article at skeptical science

Fig 1: Atmospheric co2 starts climbing BEFORE total CO2 Emissions do - that is not suggestive, but it is not supportive.

Levels 350ppm is .00385% of the atmosphere content. 4/10 of 1%

Fig 4. Ocean heating 'lag'? 1850 - 1970 little or no change, but from 1980 on ? why if CO2 has been on a parabolic rise since 1850, why has the change taken over a 100 years to have a continuous impact on the oceans? saturation?

With regard to the report on 'climategate' and the 'hacked emails', I find it interesting that ONLY the hacked emails were reviewed. the speaker in the next video wonders why the 'hacked emails' have not resulted in criminal actions against the 'hacker'. of all the emails, two interested me: the one where Jones said he would destroy the data before turning it over - and then of course, the data is no longer available; two, some decline in the current temps diverging from models unexpected?

2nd video NASA global warming facts

1st chart: 1940-1980 temp falling or stable but CO2 was increasing 1850 to present. Why is the temp stable or falling?
2nd chart: 1880 - 1920 had no temp there is a 70yr lag on temp to co2?

1/3 degree per decade is not 1.5 degree change from 1880 to now. 120 yrs: 80ppm increase, 1.5 degree. to get 5 degree change, we need 250ppm change in co2. assuming that the system can convert the co2 to heat at the same rate as over the last 120 years.

The comment that we are making precise measurements is strange given we have gone from 6700 reporting stations to just about 1700 over the last 30 years. further, UHI (urban heat islands) are growing significantly and temp monitoring stations are being compromised. ignore the obvious ones that were placed badly - some of the reviews of well placed stations and their reporting over the years is clearly compromised. I am sure one station, or 3 stations will not change any opinions, but going from 6700 to 1700 seems to be a bad idea.

with regard to satellite temp readings being in good agreement with land/sea based readings, current satellite readings are showing .12 to .19 degree per decade increase - much lower than .33 of a degree and well below a 5 degree change rate.

The satellite data is not without problems, John Christy of UAH concludes:

"Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of human induced global warming. This significant discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. While these data are consistent with the results from climate models at the global scale, discrepancies in the tropics remain to be resolved.

This difference between models and observations may arise from errors that are common to all models, from errors in the observational data sets, or from a combination of these factors. The second explanation is favored, but the issue is still open."

the link is to skeptical science, source of links provided to me.

the number of stations decrease has been described as non-issue due to the better quality of those that remain. conceded. however, FEWER data points seldom are better than more unless the more is compromised - which is possible.

Another issue, ocean warming would increase water vapor in the atmosphere - a significant greenhouse 'gas' and considerably higher concentrations.

while temps in the higher atmosphere are in fact increasing, the surface temperatures seem to have stalled somewhat (I won't say reduced though there may be some suggestion of it). that should not be happening. as climate can drive weather but weather is not climate POV, the number of temp and precipitation records that were set this past winter suggests weather is not following climates dictates.

3rd video Steven Schnieder of stanford

I skipped the first 40 minutes of this video to get to the meat - there may have been good reason not to - sue me.

@ approx
44:00 min. "models are good, until 1970 or so"
46:00 min all the graphs show a temp drop in the 70s. co2 has been continuously climbing since the 1850's - why is there a temp drop/stall in the 70's? some other factor?

One of his fingerprints: 'models correctly predicted that days would be warmer than nights'. REALLY!? Damn fine models they are.

IPCC was not dependent on Climategate emails or 'how wavy the hockey stick is'. Interesting because at
58:00 IPCC is dependent on the science provided - it takes the science and offers an interpretation. it does not 'catch' or verify the data. Hence we have 'small' back tracks from IPCC on claims that could not be, or were never, backed up by actual science. If the science provided is corrupt, IPCC does not, can not catch it and therefore interprets based on false information. the question is, if IPCC is not dependent upon the science - the data related to in climategate emails and MWP whitewash - what IS it dependent on?

for myself: I don't deny science fact - earth is warmer now than 40 years ago. I deny the conclusions reached based on that fact - ie, the conclusion that co2 is the primary culprit and that humans are the primary source.

1:07:00 warming causes higher water vapor - more precipitation.
1:09:00 earth has no brakes to higher temps/ co2? there is no feedback mechanisms? huh?
1:16:00 IPCC: the Himalayan mistake got did others
Congress and citizens not qualified to determine the risk? maybe, but they are the ones to determine what the response will be. Risk is a subjective conclusion, not just a scientific conclusion

1:19:00 Ice fjord affected by ocean water warming, not air warming

1:30:00 bell curve shift = less cold weather...2009/2010 winter cold extremes? yes, weather is not climate - does climate drive weather - " more Cat 5 hurricanes"

1:31:00 regarding fires in the West caused by warming being larger - that ignores the fact that smaller burns have been prevented by ecologists such that we know that the underbrush has gotten out of hand and when fires happen, they are bigger


here is the issue.
the earth is warming. why? good question. some of the answer is humans - there are 6 billion of us, 4 billion more than in 1900. that is a lot of human activity.
co2 is going up. why? good question. some of the answer is humans - there is a lot of human activity that produces co2
is the earth warming primarily being driven by co2 increases? good question. maybe. but .12-.19 degree a decade? the average over the last 120 years appears to be about, .15 degree a decade. co2 is up 85ppm over the last 120 years (most of it in the last 30 years - depending on the charts) temps appear to be going up only in the last 30 years? overlaying temps on co2 changes does not suggest a correlation - well, maybe some but certainly not strong.

we have long ocean cycles, long solar cycles

In a vat with 1,000,000 balls at a temp of 50 degrees, adding 85 balls that are 30 degrees warmer are not likely have any significant impact on the temp of the vat.
(assuming stirring the vat is what keeps it at 50 degrees in the first place)

Our understanding of our climate has dramatically improved over the last 20 years - in the face of 4 BILLION years of climate history, I'm impressed but not convinced that we KNOW anywhere near enough to justify killing 4 billion people. Just not.

here is a post I made a while back on the issue...if you care to spend the time.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Three views

Sometimes a single photo captures the essence of an event so well, that further comment is unnecessary. Nature photos can have that 'WOW' characteristic, but seldom can a photo of a person capture the 'wow' of a person, or even the 'WTF' totality. But one picture of Obama has captured for me what I think of whenever I think of Obama and I will let you try to figure out which one:

Monday, June 07, 2010

37 Minutes

“Are we ready?”

“Yes Mr. President. One minute.”

He looked again around the room. All the furniture except the Resolute Desk had been removed. No paintings hung on the walls, no statutes or busts were displayed. He wondered, again, at his reasoning. Was he trying to hide from the history, the ghosts that clearly occupied this room? Or was he trying to protect them from the future, the soon to be now?

The desk had 3 pieces of paper and his phone. No pens were in view. If someone were allowed to look, they would find the desk was empty. All the drawers had been cleaned out. Despite the complaints of the camera crew, the window coverings were gone also.

“Thirty seconds sir.”

Except for the C-Span producer, the camera crew were all military personnel. Four men specifically chosen for this, event. The producer, William Porter, had decades of experience and was comfortable in the White House and Congress. He had also been cleared by Secret Service down to his first grade teacher.

“Ten seconds. Five, four…” the hand cued him….

“When I last spoke to you three days ago, I said that when I knew more, I would tell you, the American people, everything I knew, as soon as I knew it. The investigations will continue for months, probably years, but we know more, and I am going to share it with you and then tell you what I am going to do about it.”

No preamble, no ‘good evening’. The disaster, no, the attack was beyond platitudes or niceties. He was not going to start off trying to soften what was about to come. For three days fear and terror had griped the nation and tonight, it was going to erupt into violent hatred and the only one capable of stopping that was him. But to do it, he was going to have to act like everyone wanted to, and he was going to have to shock the American people and the world into ending the violence immediately. Twelve people knew what was coming and in less than 40 minutes, it will either have worked, or started the end.

He reached down and pressed a button on the phone. “Send in the Secretary.”

The door opened immediately and the Secretary of Defense walked in. William George Franklin had never served in the military but over the last year, he had earned the respect of the Joint Chiefs and the troops in harms way. He was a soldiers’ civilian. Franklin walked to the side of the Desk and turned to face both the President and the camera.

“Please report Mr. Secretary.”

“Yes sir. Estimates of the crowd prior to launch were in the area of 25,000. Photos of similar sized crowds suggest the number in that area. We will never know for sure. Teams have recovered just over 11,000 sets of remains but all of them are from 5 miles or farther away from the Launch Pad. There were just 87 survivors within 10 miles of the Launch Pad, all have since died.”

That was a shock. His briefing an hour ago said 22 were still alive. The Secretary continued.

“There are 19 hundred and forty-seven in burn units around the entire southeast. The report is that 90% of them will probably be dead within the next week. The remainder will need significant rehabilitation. We still don’t have a full count, but right now, 37 thousand, four hundred and sixty three are permanently blind, another 22 thousand are currently blind but may regain some or all of their sight. Anyone that could have seen the actual launch, is permanently blind. The people furthest away that are permanently blind were 27 miles from the Launch Pad, so far.”

“We expect that the 14 thousand survivors from 10 to 15 miles from the Pad will mostly survive but the injuries are all very serious and the doctors are refusing to give us survival estimates. Anyone 20 miles or more away from the Launch Pad will probably survive and anyone 35 miles or more should be relatively safe.”

“We are estimating the dead at 141,250. Seriously injured and not expected to survive at 17,475. Injured but expected to live at 81,900. That is just over 200,000 dead and seriously injured. In terms of property damage, the Cape is a total loss. All facilities not outright destroyed are unusable for tens or even hundreds of years. Interstate 95 and Florida Highway 1 are closed from Sebastian on the south to Oak Hill on the north. Highway 528 is closed east of State Road 520. Titusville, Cocoa and Melbourne are gone as are most of the communities in the closed zone. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA estimate the property loss will approach one trillion dollars, but that is just a guess at this point.”

“Sir that concludes the injury and damage assessment.”

The numbers were staggering but he knew they were still preliminary and whole areas were still being searched. It was the peak tourist season and no one knows how many were in the area.

“Mr. Secretary, you have informed me of the tactical situation. Please report exactly what you have told me.”

Franklin swallowed hard. He had strongly disagreed, as had most of the Cabinet with releasing the full report. Given the mood of the country and most of the civilized world, this was going to throw gas on and already dangerous situation. But the President would not back down and here he was, giving the ammunition to start the next, and probably last, world war.

“Sir.” He paused and swallowed again. During the first part of the briefing, he kept looking at the President, never glancing once at the camera that was capturing everything for more than a billion people waiting for, desperate for information.

“Analysis of the debris has found two different materials. There may have been some attempt to mix materials in an attempt to hide the sources, but it is clear that the material had two separate and distinct origins. We have shared the data with three other nations and they confirm our analysis. The device was a small rocket similar to those used in the Middle East for short range targets, 30 to 45 miles. We believe it was launched from a tanker truck that had been fitted with a launch cradle and driven to a point on or near the Turtle Creek Golf Club south of Rockledge. Travel time was less than 60 seconds from launch to detonation, which occurred approximately 300 feet above and 1000 feet from the Launch Pad. The estimated yield was 37 kilotons.”

“The source of the material Mr. Secretary,” the President interrupted.

“Iran and North Korea, sir.”

“That sounds convenient Mr. Secretary.”

“Yes sir. However, the UN confirmed the signatures on the Iranian material and the North Korean material was a match for the Syrian material found by Israel in 07 and a ship detained two months ago coming out of North Korea.”

“And how did that material and the rocket get into the United States?”

The sharp tone was much less forceful than the same question the President ask three hours ago. He should have an answer, but even Homeland Security was scrambling. “We don’t know. Sir.”

The President nodded but his clenched jaw, prominent as it was, was clear to everyone in the room and watching around the planet.

He reached for the phone again and stabbed the button hard enough to make the phone jump on the desk.
“Send them in.”

The door opened and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Harold Holebrook led in three others. Michael Penn, National Security Advisor, William Prindle, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Karen Demitrov, Director of FEMA.

They stopped in front of the desk and faced the President.

“I have only one question for the CIA and the FBI, can you confirm the findings of the Defense Department?”

Holebrook led off. “Sir, the CIA can confirm the source materials. We are still trying to determine the method of getting the materials and equipment into the United States.” He looked over at Prindle.

“Sir, we are working on locating the people and methods used to get the weapon into place.”

“That was not my question. Can you confirm the Department of Defenses findings?”

“No sir. But we concur in their assessment.” It was just beyond the ability of the FBI to analyze nuclear material but the President was not interested in the FBI’s limitations today.

“Thank you. Please stand over there,” the President nodded towards the Secretary of Defense and the two men moved to stand behind him.

“Director Demitrov. Do you need anything you are not getting?”

A professional, never bothered by the ‘men’s club’, she was terrified for the first time in her life. She knew the others were also. The President had raged for two days and no one was spared niceties. She had given the President two private briefings and after both, she had been flooded with manpower and materials, first for the casualties, second to hand the flow of materials and equipment from the first flood.

“No sir. We have eighty crews per shift, working twenty four seven looking for survivors. Seventeen field hospitals are up and running and we have 41 morgues trying to establish identities. Hurricane season has been relatively quiet and I have been told it will continue to be so for the next 10 days or so.”

“Good.” He stared at her for a second and then nodded to his right. She stepped over to the side and suppressed as sigh.

“Mr. Penn.”


“Are they here?”

“Yes sir.”

“Bring them in.”

Penn turned and walked back to the door and opened it. “Bring them in.”

A Marine in combat gear walked in followed by two men that looked miniature in comparison. Three more equally dressed Marines followed them. All four Marines carried sidearms and automatic rifles. Secret Service just about had a cow when informed of the plans and spent two days vetting the Marines but they still protested the weapons in the Oval Office. Especially when no Secret Service agent would be present.

He overruled his detail and the Director. He turned again to the camera.

“The men that have been escorted in are Ambassador to the United Nations for North Korea, Kim Yung and the Ambassador to the United Nations for Iran, Alhemed Fara-Said.” The President nodded to the detail and Yung was taken by the arm and led to the front of the desk.

“I must pro…”

“SHUT UP! I don’t give a damn.” He reached down and picked up the first of the three pieces of paper. “This document voids your diplomatic credentials.”

“You can’t do…”

“SHUT UP! Marine, if he opens his mouth again, shoot him.” The Marine escort took his sidearm, released the safety and put the gun to the Ambassador’s head. The terror was clear in his eyes and the Ambassador from Iran stirred and was quickly ‘steadied’ by two of the Marines.

“When you leave this room, you will be taken to a detention facility where you will be held indefinitely pending negotiations for your release. Step back.”

The Marine guided the man back into the middle of the detail. A nod from the President and the two Marines holding the Iranian moved him forward. When they were standing in front of the desk, the President lifted an eyebrow in question. The Iranian made no comment but continued to stare back.

“Very well.” Picking up the second piece of paper, he continued. “This document voids your diplomatic credentials and is an order for your arrest to stand charges in a military court. I have sufficient evidence to implicate you directly and I intend for everyone to see it.” If he expected a response, it was not happening. He nodded to the detail and they returned to their positions near the door with both former Ambassadors firmly in hand.

He turned to the camera. “Over the last two days, sufficient evidence has been presented to implicate the governments of Iran and North Korea, as well as several other organizations in a plan to detonate a nuclear device on American soil so as to cause significant damage and casualties. That information is being provided to the UN Security Council and our Allies right now. Mr. Penn.”


“Execute scimitar.”

“Yes sir. If I may?”

The President turned the phone to the man and he pressed a button. “Execute scimitar on Presidential Orders.”

“No wait, you can’t…” came a strangled cry from the back of the room. The Iranian was looking at the North Korean with fear and, sympathy? He turned back to the President and saw the stare. “NO.”


The Iranian was grabbed by both arms and stood against the wall. The Captain, took out his sidearm and placed the barrel on the Iranian’s forehead. The North Korean didn’t understand, he kept looking at the Iranian and back to the President.

“Four minutes Mr. President.”

“Very good.” The President faced the camera. “We wait for four minutes before proceeding.”

A noise came from the back of the room and the strong smell of urine filled the room. The Iranian had pissed himself. Whether it was his knowledge of Scimitar or his expectation that something similar was about to befall his country, the President didn’t care. He actually smiled.

“Every action has a consequence Mr, Ambassador.”

Minutes passed.

The phone chimed once and the President nodded. Penn picked up the phone and after 10 seconds put it back down without saying anything.

“Thirty three minutes sir.”

“Very good.” The President looked at the North Korean who was still obviously confused but the Iranian was staring straight ahead. “Execute Pesh-kabz.”

The Iranian’s eyes went wide and as his mouth formed the scream, the Marines’ gun discharged. Only the Marines and the President stayed standing. The camera jerked and everyone turned first to the Iranian who was slumping to the floor and then back to the President.
“Mr. Penn?”

“Yes, sir, sorry sir.” Penn stood up straight and reached for the phone. Depressing the button as if it were a trigger he did not want to touch, he spoke towards the phone. “Execute pesh-kabz, on Presidential orders.” He pressed the button again and turned to look at the Marines. The Captain had reholstered his sidearm and was standing in front of the North Korean.

“It will take about three minutes sir.”

Less than a minute later, the phone chimed and Penn picked up the handset. A single nod and he returned the handset. “Scimitar one has detonated sir. Pesh-kabz has crossed the border.”

The President nodded and turned to the camera.

“When I spoke to you two days ago, I promised swift retaliation against those responsible. A few minutes ago, 63 cruise missiles from ships in the Pacific launched. Each missile carries two tactical nuclear warheads and they are striking North Korean military targets all along the DMZ. Over the next 31 minutes, three cities in North Korea will also be attacked. Sunch’on, Kanggye and Namp.”

This time the North Korean’s eyes went wide and he collapsed in a heap. The President stared at him for a few seconds then nodded to the Marines. They carefully lifted the unconscious man and left the room with him, leaving the body of the Iranian against the wall.

“The towns I mentioned are locations for Presidential Palaces, but maybe the North Koreans didn’t think we knew about them. The North Koreans apparently believed that their ability to launch against the South Koreans would stay our hand indefinitely. That, or the prospect of war with China. Those threats are soon to be rendered, meaningless.”

Penn looked at his watch and nodded to the President.

“At the same time, the Iranians have spent the last several years feeling threatened, and threatening. That ends tonight also. Seventeen American bombers are over Iran, I am sure, based on expected responses, that the Iranians have begun to lock down their nuclear facilities. We will see soon if they were very good or not. In any case, Tehran and Qom will shortly cease to exist.”

“The governments of Russia and China have been politely warned to stand down from any response. If all goes as planned, this will be over in 37 minutes, or about 28 minutes from now. After which all of our forces will stand down and withdraw.”

“Over the next several days, reports will come in concerning the damage and death tolls from my orders. They will be at least a magnitude greater than we have suffered. Many innocent civilians will die, are dying. I do not ask for forgiveness nor offer an apology. For too many years we have tried to be polite neighbors to countries that consider that politeness a weakness. The attack of June 22nd will not go unanswered, nor un-avenged. We lost thousands of people but I can’t help but think of those 8 astronauts on that Launch Pad and what they represented to the world. They were the target. The hope they represented was the target.”

The door to the Oval Office opened and the Vice President stepped in. The Marines also returned and three went over and picked up the body and removed it. The Captain escorted them to the door and closed it, remaining in the room.

“Madam Vice President?”

“Sir, the Russians and Chinese have agreed and the Chief Justice is ready.”

The phone chimed and with a look, Penn picked up the handset. He nodded several times and then, “Keep us informed” he hung up the handset.

“Sir. The Norks…sorry, the North Koreans got off two missiles but both failed to detonate on impact. The South Korean military is dealing with them. All other scimitar operations are proceeding as expected. The Iranians got off three missiles, we intercepted one, the Israelis’ got the other two. All three were destroyed without detonations. Pesh-kabz one, three, four and five have already completed, two and….”

The phone chimed and Penn picked it up immediately and then realizing what he had done, looked at the President. “Ok.”

Penn hung up the phone and continued. “Two, six, seven and eight have all executed as planned.”

He made no mention of the remaining two squads and the President decided to leave the issue open for the moment. He turned to the camera.

“My first responsibility is to the protection of the people of the United States. We failed…..I failed and we have suffered for it. I take responsibility because I was one of those that thought we were stronger for working with all countries, the good and the bad, the friends and those that we wanted as friends.“

He turned to the Vice President and nodded. She turned, and nodded to the Marine Captain who opened the door and admitted the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They both approached the desk. The President reached down and picked up the third piece of paper.

“Chief Justice Roberts, this is my resignation.” He handed the page to the Justice who read the short paragraphs. He turned to the Vice President. “Madam Vice President, do you concur with the President?”

“I do not. I think we need him now more than ever. But I understand why and I accept that.”

“Very well,” said Roberts who turned and nodded to the President. The President came out from behind the desk and headed for the door. The Captain turned and opened the door preceding the President through but just as he got to the door, his sidearm was pulled from the holster from behind, he turned quickly but the President had planned this and practiced it for hours, the gun went off with the Captain’s hand still reaching. The President fell backwards and the gun fell from his hands.

The room was silent. No one moved. The Captain finally bend down over the President and knew before trying that it was useless, the pool of blood forming behind the President’s head was enormous. But he checked and found no pulse.

Thirty seven minutes after the camera went on, it went dark.

Three months later:

“Madam President.”

“Ambassador, how good of you to come.”

“Thank you for taking the time to see me.”

“So, tell me. How did it go?

“Better than we expected. Turn out was high and Ayadi was clearly the winner. There will be no run-offs and he wants me to tell you that he is ready to work with the United States.”

“That’s great. And reconstruction?”

“It too is happening better than expected. There is a sense of …hope for the future.”

“Good, good.”

“Tell me Madam President, will you ever use the Office?”

“Nope. Haven’t been in there since the last night. Not planning on going in there. Everyone that goes in there says the President is still there. The Haunted Office is the unofficial name. The Roosevelt Room will do for me. Who knows what the next President will do.”

“So, you are not running again?”

“Everyone wants to know” she smiled. “We’ll see how things progress. We have a long way to go and I have a promise to keep. Thank you for coming by and telling me in person. Tell your President that I look forward to meeting him in person!”

“Thank you Madam President. I will tell him. Good day.”

She walked him to the door and then closed the door. She took out the piece of paper. Seven words in a barely readable scrawl “Promise to stay vigilant, keep us safe.”

Always. Rest my friend.

Friday, June 04, 2010


This is for Bill Clinton who believes rich people don't pay high enough taxes:

Dear Mr. Clinton,

I have a proposition to make to you. You give me $1,000,000 for one year. I will hire a bunch of people and we will make a product or service that will replace that $1,000,000 in the second year so those people can keep their jobs. At the same time, you give $1,000,000 to a government entity, local, state or federal and let it hire people to create a service that taxpayers in that area will be willing to contribute another $1,000,000 every year to maintain. It has to be a new service - no hiring five guys to increase garbage collection.

At the end of two years, we will see which use of $1,000,000 is best - investing in the marketplace, or giving it to government.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ah, the humanity...

[update at the end]
For the last week or so I have been 'engaged' in what is loosely described as a troll war. Simply put, a group of people hurl vulgar and profane comments at any and all passerby's like primates in cage hurling their feces and screaming at the onlookers.

Some may say that is a harsh comment, but it is not just others, they will debase themselves in equally vulgar and profane ways. When I realized there was no disrespect possible that would ever approach the level of disrespect they have for themselves, my scorn became pity. There is no virtue in them, no respect. If you watch long enough, you will even question whether there is much that can be called humanity.

There are those that continually engage them, to try and put them off, or to distract them from some unsuspecting wanderer. It is a losing battle because there are two fundamental issues that can not be resolved. The first is the easy one: there is nothing to respect in them. We work with people daily under the premise that if they are willing to improve themselves, we can help. I called them 'children' because their maturity level was that of 4 or 5 at best. They would verbally spar until you hit some point where they would just react: verbally spitting and screaming; putting together visual phrases that no self respecting gutter snipe would utter. Regardless of their actual age, their actions resemble a toddler throwing a tantrum. There is no rational way to discuss anything with them. It is all invective and slurs. When they have no one to abuse, they abuse each other and themselves. In the end, I couldn't even muster much pity. I don't pity a dog licking itself no matter how disgusting I find it. It is natural for the dog to do so. And, that is the second issue:

They have engaged in this for long enough to twist their minds into nothing resembling rational. In Christianity it is called a reprobate mind. But such a claim used by a Christian is meant as a rebuke, an attempt to reach the person in their bad behavior. In these people, it means a mind so twisted and lost, there is no humanity left to cradle or help. They are intelligent animals. Capable of speech, such that it is; capable of reacting to their environment, probably even capable of generally acceptable behavior in public. But they will seldom be involved in social behavior except in small, well vetted groups that will resemble nothing much more than rutting.

If you were out in a field and came upon animals acting like these, you would think them rabid and put them out of their misery. But these are humans, even if marginally so, and therefore have to be given some protection. A hundred years ago, we would have put them in an institution and forgotten about them - letting the orderlies and medical profession attempt some basic control on them. But, we don't do that anymore either. So, they are left to fester on the edges of our society, hurling their feces at whomever passes in front of them. Laughing and cackling at the disgust we show.

Only way to deal with them is to isolate them as much as possible. Set guardians to warn passerbys to avoid them and lock them behind a wall of their own creation.

After eight or nine days of wandering in their swamp, I realize I had more respect for myself and there was no value to my continuing. I will put them outside a wall of the community I share with others and stand my turn at the watch. It is the only humane thing to do.

A couple people have asked how to deal with them when you come across them. For most people, just block them and move on. Really, there is no redeeming value in engaging with them. If you must engage, don't use their vocabulary. They are used to doing so and you are not so it will come across weakly. Also, they will use it against you. They will think nothing of applying a double standard - even their response to this post has been to suggest I am trying to 'dehumanize' them. Their own debasement of themselves accomplishes that much better than any outsider can. Finally, they lie. About who they are, where they are, what they do. They take pictures from the web and claim it is them; they claim to be in locations safe from retribution or legal actions; One day they are in slums of our making, the next in a gated community safe from whatever (minority) group they are slurring today. They will claim to be educated although their very words belie such. They will claim to be 'real' people they find on the web.

These trolls are examples of a world gone off the rails. Part of the problem is the internet - it gives them access and anonymity. The probability of any of them acting in public as they do online is almost zero.

Monday, April 05, 2010

39 Hours

“It is done.”

He closed his eyes and the pain simply stopped. There was no fading, no gradual lessening. The pain was just gone. His arms previously numb from hours of hanging felt neither tired, nor sore. Even the oppressive heat of the day was gone. He opened his eyes.


It was night although far on the horizon a glow, signaling the start or end of another day, seemed partially hidden by fog. The sky lacked a moon, or even stars. He was sitting on the ground but felt neither its roughness nor cold. Standing, glorious as it was without pain, gave him no sense of firmness. It was as if the ground, even the night around him, lacked substance. His eyes sought some feature to focus on. His toes, wiggling, sought to distinguish between grass, or rock or sand with no success.

Finally, a sound like a low murmur heard through a wall. It was voices but he could not determine their source or number. Craning his head first one direction, then another did not change their volume or tenor. Like his eyes seeking something to see, his ears strained to catch a discernible sound.

Another sound, like the faint rustling of leaves in the softest of breezes came from behind him. A sigh made without breath. He felt no wind, no cool change in the air but turned, hoping.

No longer facing the horizon, he saw, campfires? In the distance the faint glows did not flicker nor flare. Steady points of unmoving lights seemed to stretch into the sky.

Was he in a valley? Looking back at the glow on the horizon, it did not offer any clue as to the shape of the land between it and his position.

The voice, when it came, was a whisper that sounded as if it were spoken directly into his ear. His quick turn towards the voice upset his footing and he fell over but did not fall down.

“You glow,” it said.

It was the voice of his mother yet; it was of the same spirit as his Father. That was not possible for he knew his Father’s voice and this was not it.

“You’re brighter than the others though.”

“What others?” he asked.

“The others that glow.” It was said so matter-of-factly that any question he may have had died before getting a chance to be spoken. He looked again at what he thought were campfires and realized they had shape and they were not as distant as he first thought.

“Why?” he asked.

“Don’t you know?”

He looked down at his hands. There was no pain, no bleeding, but a definite brightness that varied only slightly around the wounds. His feet showed the same variations. He did glow, but it did not add any illumination to the surrounding ground.

“I have my Father with me,” he proclaimed.

“No, you are alone.”

“He is with me always, even as you are now.”

“He is not, nor am I.”

He knew the second the other spoke that it was the truth. His Father was not here. He could not feel the comforting presence, nor hear the whisper of his approval. Even his eyes still sought focus onto the other with no success. And once again he felt the despair he felt on the cross. The pain had become his companion, his foundation. In the absence of his Father, he held onto the only thing he felt, his pain. And now, with it gone, the loss of his Father came rushing back to him.

“Why are you doing that?” the other asked.
The pain of the loss grew. He felt it in his chest and squeezed his arms together in a tight embrace.

“If you continue you will join the others.”

He did not want to listen, the pain spread and he fell to the ground.

“Was that him?” asked a new voice in the distance.
“No. See. The glow is fading already.”

The pain quieted the voices. The pain was familiar. He could feel the spikes again in his hands and feet. The shouts of the crowd boiled in his ears and he could feel the warmth of the blood on his face. The pain was like strength, it flowed back into the darkness.

A sharp scream turned his head, pain momentarily forgotten.

“NO, NO, it’s mine, MINE!”

A figure came running from the direction of the glowing horizon. It did not block the view of the horizon so he is not sure why he knew where it was coming from, but the outline of the figure was running very fast.

“MINE I tell YOU, MINE!” it shouted.

Like the voice that had been talking before, he knew this voice. Again, it was like the spirit of his Father but not his Father. He wanted to reach out to the figure as it ran closer. His pain forgotten, he could see and hear the pain coming from the shouts.


He stood and moved towards the figure.

“No, don’t do that!” yelled the first voice he heard.

The figure slammed into him, knocking both of them down. He, he was sure now it was a man, was freezing. Every touch seemed to drain heat from his body.

He was kicked and struck and the man jumped up and resumed running.


The figure quickly was lost in the darkness but he saw others that were glowing move away from the direction of the shouts.

“What were you trying to do?”

“He was in pain.”

“So were you.”

His pain. Forgotten for the moment had fled again. This time he knew if he wanted he could bring it back but shook his head. Why seek out pain? Why take on pain when you did not need to?

“Because it was yours,” said the other. “You’re glowing again.”

He looked at his hands and feet and saw that the blood and spikes were gone, the glow had returned.

“But he…”
“Could not have been helped. He wanted his pain, he would not have given it up now. He can see and feel and hold it like a treasure of immense wealth. If he were to give it up, he would cease and he will not.”

“Do you know him?”
“No, but there are many like him. Soon you will see and hear them often.”

“How do you know?”
“I’ve been here awhile.”

“What is your name,” he asked.
“Yes, your name?”
“I had a name. It was…”
“Asrith. Your name is Asrith.”

“How do you know my name when I can not remember it?”

“I am,” he replied. And the glow grew.


“Is he the one?” whispered the voice.
“Maybe,” replied Asrith.

“How long have you been here Asrith?” he asked.
“Time has no meaning here. I have been here. Before, I hunted. My brother and I were close to killing a wildebeest and I awoke here. I have been here since.”

“Where are you from? Palestine? Greece? Rome?”

“I do not know those places. My village is Antgara. It is by a river near the White Mountain.”

“There is another by your side,” he proclaimed.

“He was here before me, he does not have a name, or does not remember his name,” responded Asrith.

“I know him. He is Weiyou.”
“It is him!” exclaimed Weiyou.

“Who am I Weiyou?” he asked.
“You are the one the will end the night!” Weiyou said.


“How?” asked Asrith. “Can you?”

“The night is part of the day. To end one is to end the other. Why would I end the night?” he asked.

“So that we might wake up,” cried Weiyou. “The Sun sits below the horizon, not moving. No stars guide us, the Moon has failed. There is no warmth, no food. We do not sleep. We sit and wait. Some glow as yourself, but most sit and wait.”

“Except the runners,” added Asrith.

Weiyou seemed to move closer. His voice spat, “Runners, always runners. More and more. They burn if you touch them. And they make you tired. Not enough to sleep, but a lot.”

He could see an outline of both Asrith and Weiyou. Like a new moon on a clear night. Darkness on darkness. But neither drained heat away like the ‘runner’.

“Do the runners always run away from the horizon?” he asked.

“I have never seen any do otherwise. They always shout, although it is not always the same, but often it is. I have never seen one that glows run.” Weiyou added.

“How long have you been here Weiyou?”

“Why do you ask again? Asrith was here after, you were here after, others were here before. I have seen no sunrise, no moon. I was left by my tribe, I was here. Has more than a day passed? When were you here?”

“I just arrived,” he said.

“Really? I have known you longer than Asrith.”

This shocked him. He knew the truth of it. He had known Weiyou longer than Asrith but he met Asrith here first. But he knew both. Asrith had many children but Weiyou only had a daughter…she too was here. His eyes looked over towards the horizon and rested on someone with a glow within and knew it was Shuwei. He turned back to Weiyou and looked at him.

“I know you Weiyou,” was all he said.

Asrith turned and moved away.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Runners are coming.”

Weiyou and he turned towards the horizon and heard the shouts. “Many of them. We need to move out of their way.”

“Why?” he asked.

He followed them as they walked neither farther nor closer to the horizon. “Their pain will become yours and you will run with them if too many run into you.”

“How do you know this?”

“Did you not like your pain?” Asrith asked.

He thought of his embracing the pain and how easy it was to want to feel, something, anything, again. But he remembered that he stopped seeing and hearing everything else also. And he had a name for the pain.


“Call it what you will. Pain. Sin. It is the same thing. It takes away the world from you. It becomes more important than anything else. It takes away from anyone that touches it. Runners never let go. They would rather have their pain than to give it up. Your pain did not belong to you. You welcomed it, but it wasn’t yours. If you had kept it, eventually it would have become yours. But when you heard the runner, it fled from you.”

He looked at Asrith. There was no glow in Asrith but he knew that Asrith understood. He reached out and touched Asrith.
Weiyou gasped and both turned to him.

“What have you done?” he yelled. Weiyou fell to his knees and appeared to be crying.

He and Asrith looked at him and then back towards each other. He was astonished. Asrith was glowing.


They stood over Weiyou for a long time as he cried. When the crying became slow sobs Asrith knelt beside him.

“Come on my friend. Why are you crying?”

Muffled, but strongly, Weiyou replied, “My daughter. I see her in you. It is as if I see you and her as one. I know you are not her, but I know you as I know her. It is not sorrow, or it is but not pain, that I know that she glowed even in the brightest day. And I know now the source of the glow.”

He stood and put his hand on Asrith’s shoulder. “My friend.” Weiyou turned to him. “You are the one. You are the source. You will end the night.” He sat down but continued to look at him. “I can wait.”

Asrith looked first at Weiyou and then at him. “He is right. We can wait.” He said down next to Weiyou and looked expectantly at him.

He looked at the two men and sat next to them. The runners passed by shouting but he did not have the desire to go towards them. At first he thought he should be ashamed for not wanting to help but knew he could not even if he tried. They were lost in their pain.

He thought about the runner that had run into him. Why did he feel so strongly about that one. It was his voice. Like Asrith and Weiyou, his voice was familiar, but different. He knew their voices, but he remembered the runners….Judas.

The runner was Judas! NO! He bowed his head and started sobbing. Asrith and Weiyou waited for a time before speaking.

“You knew him.”
“I did.”
“His pain is his choice.”

“That does not make it any less.”

Asrith sighed. “Do not make his pain yours. Runners do not wait for the day. Their focus is turned inward. He had a chance to make a choice. He made his choice.”

“If I had given him more attention, maybe it would have been different.”

“And who would you have given less attention?” snapped Weiyou.

“Was that my choice? To give one more attention than another? To say this one is more worthy than another? I would rather none make that choice,” he cried.

“Really? Because it seems you did make a choice. You took all that pain and started to make it yours. Why didn’t you keep it? It was comfortable. You knew it well. Why did you choose not to stay in that pain?” yelled Weiyou.

“Because it was PAIN!” he yelled.

Weiyou stood up and leaned over him. “Right. Amazing how comfortable pain can be when you don’t think anything else is there. But you know there is something else, don’t you. Or do you? What are you waiting for?”

He was confused. “What?” he asked.

Asrith said, “Weiyou asked what are you waiting for?”

He looked at them both. “I….”

“We are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?”


What was he waiting for? He looked at the horizon and then back to his companions.

“You have been good friends,” he said. “I would like to spend more time with you….”

“Oh really!? And how much time have you spent with us so far?”

He could see a smile on Weiyou’s face. Like Asrith, Weiyou had started to glow and the light from within he knew had always been there, became visable to Asrith also.

He turned to the horizon and knelt.

“My Father…”

“My Son…”

And dawn broke…

Monday, March 22, 2010

Frumpy puts hands on hips...

David Frum is a RINO in conservative garb. His response to the vote on health care reform was "na na, I told you so...." level. Let's start:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

David, really, kinda hard to have a "crushing defeat" when you sit out the game on the bench. Did you notice the Dems had a majority in the House? Yea....see, when that happens, the majority can kinda get it's way no matter how hard you play. And in the Senate? Filibuster proof majority for 6 months...oppss. No GOP required for passage. Health Care Reform was a done deal on Jan 20, 2009.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

A basketball team spends 60 minutes shooting hoops with NO opponents and the score ends up 3-zip and it is a HUGE loss? Really? Ever see an empty net goal in hockey? Real skill necessary...

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

What is over optimistic? Getting control of the House back? That was a foregone conclusion 3 months ago. Even if the majority is by 1 vote....34 Dems voted AGAINST health care reform.

I doubt ANYONE that pays even the slightest attention thinks the GOP will take the Senate, it would have to be a perfect sweep. GOP is not perfect, by any stretch of the RINO's tail.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

Ah, here it comes. Once passed, legislation is forever. Like the Liberal lock on Congress for the next 8 years? Like the Conservatives lost in a wilderness for decades? The chance of it being repealed is good now, if Obama crams a few more items down the GOP throat over the next 4-6 months, it will be much better. If he backs off (why should he?) less so.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

So far, not really. Though there are a ton of Republicans that are whining that the damn conservatives staying home in Nov 08 and not voting for McCain caused this mess. Maybe you agree...?

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

Yep! But let's see if he really means, Conservatives....and just throws in Republicans for cover...

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Let's see. We have a fundamental objection to the premise that the Federal Government, 1) should be mandating individual purchases of mandated insurance coverage and 2) should be providing individual health care, but we should compromise, negotiate SOMETHING? Ok. How about allowing insurance purchases across state lines? Something SIMPLE. Yea, no. We should accept the premise that the ONLY possible path is the Federal Government destroying our health care insurance system and work from there.

The RINOs were considering it! Right up until Obama said, "I won" and so he gets what he wants. His ball, his rules. His marbles, his game.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

Yea. 53%, not 60%. So, because the Dem caucus is this big mighty machine, we should approach the Dias, hold out our hands and say, "Please sir?" We should get down on our knees and say thank you for the table scraps? You're not a RINO, your a GECKO (getting enthusiastic condescension, keep obeying).

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Still thinking like we are in this game. Useful spectators. After 14 months of inept leadership, screwed up planning, the only team on the court scored ONE basket and WE screwed up?

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

OH hell! RomneyCare has been such a STELLAR success! Here we get to see Obamacare in action and after 3 years we want to EXPAND it nationally? You've got to be kidding - or walking around with brown on your nose. Tell me which ideas were developed for a STATE program that are a foundation for a Federal Gov program?

I have gone in search of these elusive ideas at Heritage, email response pending, but let me consider the context: Republican ideas? You mean like Medicare Part D? Certainly not CONSERVATIVE ideas. Maybe a federal regulator for insurance sold across state lines? Certainly not a mandated level of coverage?

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

I agree. Obama wanted Republican cover. He clearly did not want Republican ideas. He hoped for RINO complicity in his attempt to socialize medicine - who knew the biggest obstacle to his goal was the Democratic caucus!? RINOs don't care about conservative points of view - that has been clearly articulated with regards to the reception of Sarah Palin. I for one am not willing to give Obama cover, nor to accept government interference in my liberties because POLITICALLY it was the RINO thing to do. We have as big a mess as we do in this country BECAUSE of that crap sandwich.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

Yea. Probably not repealed. I'll settle for gutting the thing, starving it and leaving it's rotting corpse on the President's front lawn. Rahm will get the visual. As for 'fixing' items, we can do that without forcing 80% of people to change their health care options. And we can do it for a hell of a lot less money. I think a life preserver for our current system is better than trying to build a new ship while the Titanic sinks. And sinking is what the current, and future version of government run health care is doing.

Really, you want to pander to a 25 year old living with his parents? OH. MY. GOD. Because of course the 25 year old is going to vote CONSERVATIVE....

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

The money quote. Radical = conservative. Abject defeat in a game we weren't even playing in and NEVER had a chance to even score in? Frumpy wanted to show we could be good little servants. Doing as we are told by our betters. Screw that. Obama and Congress are SERVANTS to us! And the Republicans either have learned that lesson or realized they better pretend to have learned that lesson because the Conservative beast is awake and pissed.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

Those leaders were/are cowards. Servants at their masters feet. Willing to accept scraps of power by furthering our descent into government control. This is not a movement led by Rush, or Hannity, or Beck. This is a movement led by citizens that have taken our rightful place as supervisors of the public servants. No longer willing to abdicate our responsibilities, we have dragged the establishment kicking and, that is not right, we have gone and they have raced to catch up.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government.

Talk radio does no harm....except to the carefully crafted illusion that Republicans have got everything under control if the damn conservatives would just shut up and do as they are told. Hysterical accusations? Gee, sounds like a Huffer to me. Are you going to call us racists too?

Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail.

Ah, yea. If by Republicans you mean RINOs? As long as Republicans were going to buy into the Obama plans, then to that extent, we ALL want you and Obama to fail.

If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

Damn, Frumpy IS a Huffer. It is all about the crass profit motive! Rush just wants to sell ads! Frumpy thinks the tea parties are just useful idiots for the corporate interests. Hey Frumpy, the tea parties started WITHOUT Rush. They are growing with or without his help. But this is not about Rush, this is about conservatives, not Republicans. The power structure is collapsing around the Republican elite system of going along to get along so that when their turn comes they can have a few crumbs for their retirement and friends.

Business as usual is coming to an end Frumpy. No longer are citizens willing to listen to their elite 'betters' that know better. We have moved inexorably towards socialism whether it is a Democrat or Republican in the White House, whether it is a Democrat or Republican Congress.

Done. Finished. Right now, the entire edifice of political differences is crumbling. Citizens are realizing that it is not just Democrats, but Republicans also that seek power and control and are willing to sell us down the path of socialism for their own aggrandizement. Screw you Frumpy and the Republican mindset that you seek to reassert.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

Republican values? WHAT Republican values? How about Principles? What about limited government, not just slower growing government? What about free markets, not just broader government choices? Obamacare lite would not be a win for free-market economics or freedom, or liberty. It would a slightly slower erosion of them.

I hope this is a Waterloo for Republicans. The sooner they, and you Frumpy, learn that Republican better equal conservative rather than democrat-lite, the faster you both may have some relevance in OUR future.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Public service unions

My father was in a union most of his working life (before coming to this country, he was in a guild). I watched as he dealt with corruption and out and out criminal behavior. Shortly after he retired, the local union was disbanded by the national for criminal behavior. He even spent time as a shop steward. The union had been 'captured' by the company. Union workers moving up the ladder, eventually became supervisors that were no longer part of the union, but every bit still involved. I bring this up because in a union town like Chicago, where I grew up, there was a common theme - unions had to protect the workers. I often wondered from who? Unions regularly used employer policies to keep members in line, were often compromised by their own corruption and generally practiced a crude form of trickle down economics - what was good for the union bosses would eventually benefit the membership.

My father was eventually removed as steward because he was causing too many disruptions between the union and the company over worker rights/discipline (often as arbitrary by the company as by the union itself).

I get why unions formed, but virtually every one of those reasons do not apply to public service unions. But conceptually, there is one issue that keeps coming back to me:
One 'generation' binding another.

Let me explain. Early in our country's life, there was a debate between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. At the root was a proclamation made by the Parliament to the king (about a century earlier) that took the form of an oath binding the Englishmen AND THEIR OFFSPRING FOREVER to the King. Burke found no problem with such a proclamation and Paine found it to be absurd. How could a man bind his unborn great grandson to a course of action long after his death. What was freedom if your parents could bind you into agrements before your birth? What was liberty if your were required to act in ways you had no choice in?

Bring it forward. A local municipality enters into a collective bargaining agreement with a union requiring pay raises over a five year period. Those pay raises require future administrations to raise taxes on citizens. What if the local citizens require specific votes before taxes can be raised. If legal counsel states the contracts are binding and the taxes have to be raised, have not the citizen's liberty, freedom, been compromised by the union contract?

Maybe I am too simple minded. I can not see any reason for a public servant to have a union. And I can see lots of reasons why such a union can be harmful to the citizens they are supposed to be serving. Theoretically, public servants are providing some common good. A strike (the only means of a union to force their demands on a 'company') denies citizens a public good. Under what agreement between the citizens and their government can the government deny a public good? Well, a union contract could do that. Further, let us say that the citizens are tired of their local representatives and for whatever reason (say contract negotiations) they vote everyone out and replace them. Is it consistent with freedom that the new administration is bound by the actions of their predecessors such that nothing can be done?

Union members will be quick to remind me that renegotiation can occur - but seldom (ever?) have contract terms been rolled back. Future delays yes, give backs, not so much.

I have argued that employment with the federal government (for non-elected servants) be limited to 10 years with no retirement benefits. Two exceptions: military and judiciary(which includes law enforcement). At more local levels, I see no reason to change that position. Obviously there is no military at the municipal level but we can have fire departments and judiciary(including law enforcement). The question then becomes, what of teachers? I can find no compelling reason to include teachers in the allowance. Make your best shot, but teacher unions are among the worst offenders in my opinion.

Public service unions around the country are telling governments to cut common good services, or raise taxes on citizens but to leave their contracts alone. I find nothing in that position that is freedom or liberty asserting. No, your contracts can not be an infringement on my rights and demanding MY taxes be raised to pay you IS an infringement.

Either require all public service employee contracts be renegotiated after each election or just get rid of the union - which is my preference. There is no reason for citizens to be bound by the actions of their parents and there is no reason to have career civil servants (except as noted above).

Friday, March 05, 2010

Why health care costs are out of control

Ok, here are the details: If a medical procedure COSTS $1500 and a hospital performs 100 per year, it must collect $150,000 per year from patients for that procedure. If insurance and medicare reimburse the hospital at less than 100% of the cost, those patients that pay out of pocket must pick up the difference. The table shows a hypothetical process where the procedure cost goes up 2.5% per year, and 1% of the patients move from private insurance to medicare each year. Further, although I do not know the exact dates or amounts, I have estimated the reimbursement rates to illustrate the impact of their change on the out of pocket cost. Over the last 35 years, the numbers show why our costs have gotten out of control.

year Procedure cost Insurance coverage Medicare coverage number of procedures Cash cost

Reimb rate
Reimb % of proc # of proc Reimb rate Reimb % of proc
# of proc
1975 1500.00 0.98
0.75 75
1425.00 0.20
100 2250.00
1976 1537.50 0.98
0.74 74