Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cost of Doing Business?

After reading the news story about Twitter censoring tweets in certain country if the leadership of that country says the tweets and the individual is acting illegally, I'm struck with some questions. Twitter has already said the policy is now in effect with some chances original tweets may be posted but then censored as may be the person. Ok, some much for right of free speech.

As we know Google tried to argue against this policy with their work in China and lost the argument and eventually bowing to restrictions on videos, search words, and users if requested by the government. We know Yahoo provided detailed user information and use of their Website to the government in China to investigage and later convict individuals. Ok, so much for right of privacy.

And now Twitter. Companies are learning it's a better corporate strategy to accommodate governments in certain countries for the customers and business in that country, mostly China with its billion-plus population and potential revenue and profit. China knows this and is exploiting it while the corporations agree and sometimes helps the government.

We also know there are at least half a dozen countries where the government has imposed or will impose restrictions because of the authoritarian rule in that country to silence the voice of the people. But my question is what about the rest of the countries, what if they have or elect government who believe some "small" measure of restrictions are necessary for the security of the country.

What will Twitter and the other companies do? Will they fight any requests, or will they see the business is worth more than the censorship, money triumphs free speech? We know there are many government would love to enact restrictions to protect their government and its activities, some being secret or illegal.

But more to the point what happens when our govenment (US) decides that fighting terrorism is more important than free speech. We already has the unnecessary Patriot Act to investigate any citizen without cause or reason, just a national security letter expressing the FBI thinks, note not know or has proven, the person "may" be related to other who terrorists or "may" have indirectly provided material support to terrorists.

We know that all tweets are now being archived in the Smithsonian Museum as a permanent part of our history, every tweet from every person, including the censored one. But what if the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) thinks someone's tweets are encouraging terrorism or other illegal activities, would Twitter block those words and tweets?

Would Twitter block tweets and users if our government decided certain words are unacceptable to the government, be it pornography, artistic expression, etc. and not just censor those words - they may be doing that already anyway - but obviously block them and the users just like China?

Sounds far fetched here? So would be the Patriot Act in 2000. We know you can not publically advocate actions against the federal government or employees on-line through any source, including Twitter, and I have no doubt the federal investigative agencies are constantly monitoring all tweets for such words and advocacy.

But what if they decided other issues and actions constitute the same level of censorship which are inherently or obviously illegal, like abortion, rape, etc., and the government decided the public should not hear or read those words or have access to ask for help with an abortion or after being raped? Is it the slippery slope folks argure?

The key is that once a company wanders off the straight and narrow road they set for the policy of free speech for everyone, they can't go back to the road. The new road puts them going in a direction where some measure of censorship will be the norm, set not by the company but by the government. Government wil control with the company allows.

And yes, consider the possible reality it's not that far from being in so-called free countries, including the US. It only take a government to express it, such as a Republican Congress and President passing a law, and then making it a reality. It can easily be done in the same of protecting and defending this country and the people from internal terrorism and terrorists of any type or about any issue.

And will Twitter do then and tell users it's only complying with the law of the country? We've seen our government has decided it can trump, and to some trample, the Constitution. Will it do it over words? And would Twitter comply?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Congress

After listening to the President State of the Union address last night it's clear to me, as it is to any American with any modicum of common sense, that the issues are now in the hands of Congress, both the Republicans who control the House and the Democrats who control the Senate. He said what needed to be done to help this country now and in the future.

He laid out what bills needed to be passed and presented to him for signature, bills which will help create jobs, help homeowners, help all low and middle income families, and help this country. It's not that hard, it's really quite straight-forward and simple, only you make it hard with all your dumb political shenanigans and games.

We're tired of that, we're tired of you. If you don't believe that, then you haven't read the polls about your almost single digit approval ratings. Both chambers and both parties. Get the picture? It's not about party politics now. It's about the American people and America. You've stalled for the better part of two years now and time is up.

So it's the simple phrase.

Get your head out of your political asses and get the job done.

We're expecting it. And if you don't, we get to decide about you come this November. Now that should be clear.

Get to work or get fired.

The first choice is your, but the last choice is ours, not yours. And right now and this year, we don't care about politics, only results.

Update to Post

Someone graciously reminded me that having a majority in either chamber of Congress doesn't mean control of that chamber as we have seen over the last 2-plus years of the minority Republicans dominating the Senate with the hold and filibuster rules, something they negotiated to use only minimally but then reniged.

This is why those rules need to be changed by the majority Democrats and if they're leader Harry Reid won't do the job, then he also needs to be changed. It's what the Republicans planned all along, make the Democrats and the President look ineffective and Senator Reid obliged them. The people have seen and had enough Mr. Reid, so it's the same for you.

Either change the rules to let a majority rule or quit.

The people want results, not politics as we've seen by you and your "friend" Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell. Remember you're a Democrat, not a Republican, so act and lead like a Democrat.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Republican Candidates

Why does Newt Gringrich remind me of a wild west snake oil salesman hawking political elixir?

Why does Mitt Romney remind me of a tall ventriloquist's dummy?

Why does Rick Santorum remind me of an autistic person who only knows the Bible?

Why does Ron Paul remind me of your worst, cranky, old uncle?

Why does Rick Perry remind me of those models on "Just Right for Men" hair color products?

Why does Herman Cain remind me of a joke? No, really he is the joke.

Why does Buddy Roemer remind me of the only smart one in the room?

Why does Jon Huntsman remind me of the only sane one in the room?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Get the Facts Right

Reading the news stories on the gunman who killed NPS ranger Margaret Anderson in Mt. Rainier NP on News Years Day and then fled into the backcountry to be found about a day later dead in a creek from hypothermia. But the focus on the man connected his service in Iraq as cause for PTSD and his violence in the NP.

But then the Veterans Administration did their homework and found this:

"As more information became available on Barnes, it grew clear that his troubles had little to do with his service in Iraq or his assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. According to The Seattle Times, Barnes was apparently disturbed before he entered the Army—having been expelled from school as a teenager. Additionally, military records show Barnes served in a headquarters communications job in Iraq. A spokesman at Lewis-McChord told the Times there was no record of Barnes having received a Combat Action Badge, indicating he probably never came under fire in Iraq.*"

He didn't suffer from PTSD. He was just crazy and the Army accepted and trained him, exacerbating his anger and rage. That's not PTSD, and the news stories shouldn't be connected dots that aren't there. The media tried to connect invisible dots, but the dots didn't exist to connect.

So media, next time, get the fact right for a change.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is the Difference

What's the difference between a candidate and a politician? A candidate will tell you anything to buy your vote. A politician will tell you anything to make you forget what they said as a candidate.

A candidate and a politician walk into a bar. When the bartender asks what they'll have, the candidate says, "I'll buy everyone a round." When the bartender reminded the politician he bought everyone a round before the election, the politican will say, "Well, since they voted for, they can buy me a round."

Don't stand near either a candidate or a politician. The candidate will steal your wallet and call it a campaign donation. The politician will steal your pants and your wallet and will thank you for the being a good taxpayer.

Never trust a candidate any farther than it takes them to walk off stage. Never trust a politician.

A candidate will always remember your name. A politician will never remember you.

A candidate will politely listen to what you have to say, forgetting it once you walk away. A politician will never listen to you and will always tell you what you think.

A candidate will kiss your ass to get your vote. A politician expects you to kiss theirs.

A candidate will promise to balance the budget with your money. A politician will promise to spend your money, your children's money and your grandchildren's money.

A candidate praises their friends and attacks their enemies. A politician praises their friends and attacks the media, the public and everyone else.

A candidate blames the media for their stupid misakes. A politician blames everyone else for theirs.

A candidate ignores the truth and facts and creates their own fantasy of reality. A politician lives in their own fantasy.

A candidate compares themselves to ordinary people to get your vote. A politician doesn't even know ordinary people.

A candidate thinks they have to win an election. A politician knows they can buy one.

A candidate thinks taxes are the enemy. A politician think taxes are great for spending money, your money.

A candidate thinks before talking. A politician talks before thinking, if they think at all.

A candidate always hopes to be a politician. A politician always forgets they were a candidate.

A candidate tries not to be a joke. A politician already is one.

And more when I think of them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rights of NPS Rangers

It's time we stood up for the rights of the National Park Service rangers who do the work in our NP's to provide the best and safest experience for all visitors. And those right include not only the right to a safe and secure visit, but more so the rights of the rangers to also work in a safe and secure environment when interacting with visitors.

We know rangers are at risk and we know rangers risk their lives for us during our visit. We saw evidence of that with the death of ranger Margaret Anderson in Mt. Rainier NP this last weekend (1/1/12) when she used her vehicle to block the highway a half mile from Paradise with 125 visitors and many staff and rangers from someone with an arsenal of weapons heading there.

She was shot before she got out of her vehicle and the man fled into the woods where he died overnight from hypothermia. This was the first death in the line of duty from guns in the NP's history, less than two years after the law allowing guns to be openly carried or displayed in NP's.

The law would not have prevented this event but it might have changed the event itself with the response of the rangers if guns were banned and the man was treated as a threat. This we won't know but banning guns not only protects visitors, it protects NPS rangers and staff. This is true at the visitor facilities but more so in the backcountry where someone with a gun would be less likely to be discovered and their actions with guns not discovered for some time.

Banning guns makes sense because it protects the NP's and protects all the people, visitors and employees, when they're in the NP. As the law is now, you can only carry a weapon in the NP. You can never remove it or use, even in self defense from attack by a person or an animal. That's the law. So what does a gun in a NP prove, other than you can carry it there?

Nothing. Other than showing your willfull disregard for others and their safety and security in a public place. And I have yet to hear from, read about or meet anyone who actually carried a gun in the backcountry and it saved lives. And even if it did once or so, all the times they didn't need it? So why carry it? Why make others worry if they know you have it?

Why raise the level of concern with others or with a ranger? When this law was passed in 2009 and went into effect February 2010 I knew and said then this would result in the death of a NPS ranger from someone with a gun. Guns don't protect people, they only provide the opportunity for someone to injury or kill someone. We have seen that now.

So Congress and the President, how about it? Restore the Reagan era law on guns in NP's immediately. The Republicans stuck the change in the Credit Card Reform Act because they knew it would pass and not be vetoed by the President, so the Democrats can stick the repeal in a bill which will do the same.

Pass the law and put the ban in effect immediately. It's easy to do, NP's just post the old signs at entrances and ask visitor if they have guns, and if so, please secure under the rules. If they don't they will be cited and their gun(s) confiscated. Very simple and easy to do. And all of us visitors feel safer and all the rangers can treat people with guns as threats if they don't comply with the law.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guns in NP's

Several people have told me that the events in Mt. Rainier NP have nothing to do with the law allowing open carry or display of guns in NP's. They say the two are not connected. Not so fast. Everything is connected. And they said the gunman wanted to hide from the law after being called a "person of interest" in the shooting of four people in south Seattle. Not so fast there either. Why?

For one, if he planned to get into the backcountry and hide for a few days or longer, and as experienced survivalist, he could have easily done that in the vast areas in and around Mt. Rainier NP. Not by going to Paradise. But it raises the question he didn't bring a lot of clothes or supplies to hide in the backcountry, or at least has been reported. He bought a small arsenal of weapons.

And if he wanted to get away from people to hide, why was he going to Paradise where there was people and armed NPS law enforcement officers? And why did he pass up several good trailheads to hike into the backcountry and not be found for days if not weeks, where there was less than 2 ft of snow and in many areas little or now snow. Perfect for travelling and hiding out.

Yet he travelled to the 5,400 foot elevation near or above treeline with over 5 feet of snow everywhere, without bringing snow shoes. Where was he going to hide when winter is just getting started, there are no trails, there is no food and airborne infrared cameras will easily find you. And experienced winter travellers and law enforcement officers can and would easily track you.

Why head to a place full of people with a small arsenal of weapons when you want to get away from people to hide?

And while the gun ban would have little effect on these events, it might or would have changed how the NPS rangers reacted to him from the minute he entered the NP. They could have asked him about guns at the entrance, noting any suspicions. They could have assumed more than he blew by the chain checkpoint because he didn't have chains. They could have assumed he was armed and had more than two rangers chase or intercept him.

What he thought and what he planned will never be known. He died of hypothermia overnight. We'll know the details over time as the FBI and NPS investigate him and the events, and what he brought to the NP. I suspect, however, it will still be unknown since he suffered from PTSD and may have had mental issues which distorted his thinking. But all that said, it still raises the question why.

The why he decided to go to Paradise with a small arsenal of weapons. Folks can argue it wasn't his goal or intent, but logic and common sense doesn't bear eliminating possibilites, and that one NPS ranger died in the line of duty saving a lot of other people when she blocked the highway making the gunman stop just a half mile short of his destination.

The why the law allowing guns in NP's isn't connected to this event when it was all about guns in this NP. The law banning guns in NP's wouldn't have prevented or stopped him. It could have changed the response by the NPS assuming possibly being armed and not just not having chains.

The first will never be answered. The second can answered by restoring the ban on openly carrying (or concealed with a permit) and displaying weapons in a National Park. We can restore the rights of all the visitors by requiring all guns be unloaded and be secured and locked in vehicles out of harms way. And anyway with a gun can be treated as a threat by the NPS.

That's not only fair, it's good and right for all of us who visit NP's. This event more than proved the point that the two-year old law has one death in the NP when the previous law had none for nearly 30 years and none in the history of the NP going back to 1899. I'd rather be safe knowing no one has a gun than everyone can have a gun. I'd rather think no one has a gun than the fear anyone can have one.

I'd rather hope for the best than fear the worst. Guns don't protect us from the fears or the worst, it only adds to the fear of others hoping someone with a gun doesn't act on their fears against innocent or wrong people. No guns assures the possibility. Guns only assure fear. Which would you rather live by and think when visiting a NP?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Gunman at Mt. Rainier

Reading the news stories about the gunman who killed the NPS ranger who blocked the road to Paradise and was shot before she could exit the vehicle, the gunman then engaged law enforcement officers for an hour before escaping into the forest and the darkens. This whole incident points to why guns should not be allowed in National Parks. Let me explain.

The gunman had passed by the checkpoint for chains for all vehicles. With the snow and ice the NPS decided to verify all vehicles had them if the weather and road conditions got worse. This usually happens somewhere between the gate east of Longmire where traffic is controlled daily to the parking lot on the west side of Glacier Bridge over the Nisqually River.

The gunman blew by the checkpoint and continued onto Paradise. He never got there as the NPS ranger blocked the highway at Barn Flats, see map above. That is where the action happened. As you can see this was just about half a mile from Paradise and the Jackson Visitors Center where the NPS estimated 125 people were in the center or on the snowplay area just north of the center.

This is where NPS ranger Margaret Anderson blocked the highway with her vehicle and was sadly killed by the gunman before she could exit her vehicle to ask why the gunman passed the checkpoint. This is where rangers following the gunman engaged him in a gun battle for about an hour before he fled into the forest.

[Update.--It is almost certain he intended to go to Paradise where there were people. If he wanted to get into the back country to escape, he had 12 miles from longmire to Paradise with many trailheads and far less snow to escape for days and possibly longer if he had gotten to the northwest corner of the NP and the adjacent USFS land where there was little if any snow.]

The fact the gunman fled without snowshoes and without many of his weapons along with little clothing and food was the reason nothing happened. Had the gunman got to Paradise and the center area, we'd be reading a whole different story about a massacre of unreal proportions with the weapons he had in his car. Had he had chains and quietly passed inspection, that would be the news.

[Update.--The NPS has noted that none of the rangers at the Jackson Visitors Center had weapons. It is something they just don't anticipate with winter visitors, and without weapons to defend the visitors, everyone were just easy targets.]

Is that what the NRA and gun right advocates argue is the freedom to openly carry guns in National Parks? Enough firepower to kill or injure tens of people, both NPS staff and visitors? Is that what gun rights is about, the freedom for a law-abiding gun owner with an arsenal to wipe out so many lives without us saying no they can't do that in an National Park?

I'm not going to apologize for my view on guns in NP's anymore. Ever. This guy intended and could have wrecked havoc on innocent lives for what? Just because he could express his hate, rage and anger with guns? Is that what America is about? Is that was we call American values?

I know it's not. It about the safety and security of this country and all the people, which includes the right to reasonable restratints on guns in the name of public safety. In the name of common sense. In the name of decency. In the name of humanity. What Christian would argue for the right for this guy to do what he had planned? Just because he could? In the name of what?

I won't apologize again for my view. I will fight for the change in the law. I expect the President and the Democrats to change the law. Not when but now. Not how but completely. We elected you and it's time you stood up for all of us, not the NRA, gun lobby and gun advocates. Us. All of us.

I expect and will voice my view for it. We escaped the worse because one NPS ranger did her duty, did the right thing and gave her life. What more reason do you need? This is my National Park. This is our National Park. This is America's National Park. Protect it for all of us.