Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Being Blind

Reading the news on if Israel decides to "pre-emptively" strike Iran's nuclear production facilities, even after the concensus of the US intelligence community is that there is no clear and convincing evidence Iran will build a bomb, only they're going in the direction that gives them the option with additional work, I was struck with an obvious problem.

While all the specialist and analysists on the Middle East and especially Iran talk about what Iran may or may not do against the US, which includes strikes on US allies' oil production and storage facilities in the Persian Gulf, namely Kuwait, includes temporary blockades of the Strait of Hormuz stopping all international shipping, and including stepping up aide to insurgents in Afghanistan, all of them state the obvious.

The obvious is that all the war games can't predict what will happen and all the "experts" say it is, and I use the word they use, "impossible" to know what the senior leadership is thinking and what any individual unit in Iran's government might do without permission or knowledge of Iran's leadership. This includes the Iranian military and the Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

In short, we are totally blind to what Iran's leaders are thinking and will decide. The best we can do is be prepared and wait, and hope the diplomacy and sanctions work. But it is clear Iran may not build a nuclear bomb after all. It may all be just hype. We saw this with Saddham Hussein in Iraq. And we may be seeing this with the leadership in Iran. Just diplomatic hype to advance their position in the Middle East.

And that's the issue, not the US but the countries in the Middle East. They all say that's Iran's focus, not the US, with whom they don't want to get involved in military action. They know while they'll inflict damage they'll lose. Their focus in their prestige and Israel. And that we aren't blind, just intentionlly trying not to admit.

That's because the politicians want Iran to be a US enemy. They want to attack Iran to show US prowess in the world. It's wrong and wrongheaded, but don't tell them that. They too are intentionally blind to the facts and reality. They're as determined to hate as the leaders of Iran are determined to hate.

And the hate of leaders always has a price and cost, always the people, those who fight the wars, and subsequently die, and those who are the innocent victims of war. They don't care about them, only their own personal and political prestige. And that's what this is all about. Not the reality. Not the possibility of a peaceful solution. Not the reality of a longer term answer for the Middle East.

It's just about power and hate. On both sides. And that is what we must fight. Not the war. Not Iran. But the enemies within, those with the words of hate.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Question of Ethics

A question of ethics, or not. While working on the new Web page on weather and snow data, I ran across the USFS National Avalanche Center (NAC), which works with the Amercian Avalanche Association (AAA) to work with all the agencies, companies, organizations, researchers and others working to study, understand and control avalanches in the US.

We have some of these folks in the Washington Cascade Mountains monitoring avalanches, including Mt. Rainier NP, which has occasionally closed the road between Longmire and Paradise this winter due to avalanche dangers in slopes above the road, namely in the vicinity the bridge near Christine Falls and along the road up the hill after the Glacier Bridge.

Anyway, I learned there are national standards for the collection of data on the snowpack and assessment of avalanches, in the publication, "Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States", recently updated (2010, previous edition in 2004), which is available on their store and on their Website, except the free PDF's are deceptive.

Why if the PDF's are free? Well, for one they want to sell you the print edition from their on-line store, which is the issue with the PDF's. They're in sections of the chapters, appendices, etc. but no single, complete PDF file of the publication available to download. And should you decide to download them, please read the caveat on the Web page.

"This electronic copy is not printable, and is meant to be a resource for folks to check out the guidelines, view the contents, and do electronic searches."

This is because the PDF's are password protected from any use other than display, meaning no printing, no copying, etc., and especially no compiling into a single volume for easy reading, searching, extracing parts, or download to tablets. Yes, how really dumb and stupid. All they have to do is offer a single user license, complete PDF at an alternative to the print version for a reasonable price.

Like the market doesn't do that already? Well, in communications with the NAC, I was informed it wasn't something they thought about since the 2004 was a print edition only. Like the technology, demand and market hasn't changed? To them apparently not very much that they decided to attempt to protect their intellectual property in electronic form.

I can understand and appreciate that, but thinking even their members and other interested people might want a single user license, complete PDF for their personal use on computers and tablets? Their response to me was that it was something they would consider for their next edition in 2015. Really, that's thinking ahead.

And they can't just bundle the existing suite of PDF's into a single PDF and remove the password to sell for a fair price? Like that wouldn't be a marketable product? Or do they do that for members and just not the public? That I don't know so it's just an open question. Remember this publication is the guidelines for the national standards followed by everyone working with snowpack and avalanches.

Well, not to sit and wait, and yes I bought the print edition for the library and be a decent customer, I decided to see what was possible, and I discovered anyone can produce a complete, open (unsecured) PDF of the publication using just two easily available and affordable software applications.

The first is standard commercial PDF security/password recover/removal software commonly used by companies to decrypt PDF's employees lock and forget the password or leave the company. For all of $15-30 you can get a password removal application which strips the password from PDF's.

The second is Acrobat Pro, which I have, or any similar PDF editor or production application which will compile any series of PDF's into a single document, provided of course it's not protected, or use the password if it is protected. See the first software application, above, when you don't know the password.

All in all, it took about 5 minutes to download all the sections, strip the password and compile it into a single, free use copy. Now what exactly doesn't the AAA understand doing that once and charging say $10 or $5 if you also buy the $20 print edition, would do what they want, bring income?

And that is what baffles me. If I can do it, they can because they have the master copies to remove the security, compile it and release it for single, personal use only. I have what I wanted to buy but they didn't offer. So that's the ethical question, is it ethical to do that?

And yes, I informed that that their goal to protect their intellectual property was short-sighted and ill-thought. Technology can simply undo what they do with their files. So what's the ethical choices? Or is ethics here irrelevant, just the reality of the world. And if someone has one of those free, open, complete PDF's for their personal use, are they wrong if the AAA offers the same publication in a different way?

In short if an entity refuses to provide a product you want to buy but they offer all the stuff for you to create it for free, is it unethical not to act for yourself?

And if the person only uses it for personal use, and it's under the fair use doctrine (after all they offered it for free, just differently), can the entity challenge the person for their actions to create the document they refused to produce but provided all the stuff for free to create it?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Website Updates

I have updated some of the lesser, but important information, Web pages for my Website, specifically those in the lower left hand corner of every Web page which presents the Websites updates and changes, the browser compatibility and colors, and the image copyrights.

Mostly the Web pages are informational, but the copyright is the notice that the images on the Website are copyrighted and can not be taken, used or altered by anyone for any purpose without permission and compensation. In addition, last fall all the Web pages on the Website were converted to be compliant to the new HTML 5 standard.

For what it's worth, the Web pages on my Website are Microsoft-free, meaning I don't use any Microsoft software, especially the operating system, and don't test on their Internet Explorer browser of any flavor. It's simply too much work to accommodate all the past versions of their browser and its display of Webpages and the many noncomplaints code they use or complaint code they interpret.

The Web pages are tested on Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and other less commonly used browsers, and all render the pages very similar with the only variations due to the company's handling of html, javascript and Google's map code. I have noticed Firefox has issues with Google's map from some of the extentions and plug-ins users have, but it's not the problem of the code or maps.

That said, the Web pages aren't without errors and all of them are my responsibility. You can help by contacting me when you find errors or have problems with the Web pages.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Thought for Men

Any man who wants to demand unnecessary invasive medical proceedures on women considering and then deciding to have an abortion should have to have both a prostatitis and ultrasound on his prostrate before he gets a prescription for any erectile dysfunction drug, eg. Viagra, Cialis, etc. Change that, all men, not just some, but all.

It only seems fair that if they demand laws governing women's access to abortion information, providers, services and proceedures, should undergo similar invasive, embarrassing proceedure on their reproductive organs. If it's on women's vagina, then it's men's penis.

And exclude it from health insurance like they want it for women. Maybe they'll have some insight into why women don't like any laws intervening into their reproductive healthcare. Do you think? And when they bitch about it and complain about paying for it out of their pocket.

It's the reverse of the old adage, "What's good for the gander, is good for the goose."

Sorry Apple

Sorry, Apple, while I will upgrade the operating system on my Mac Pro, currently OS-X 10.7.3 (Lion), to Mountain Lion because these days you can't afford not to upgrade and update or lose applications which will only run on the latest or recent operating system, now progressing to OS-X 10.7 and eventually later, I will not use Mountain Lion beyond what I do now.

Reading all the supposedly neat features of Mountain Lion, and yes I have an iPhone and iPad which would easily work with my Mac with this upgrade, I won't use them. I don't use the new features of Lion, not even iCloud which will change when iDisk and Mobile Me disappears this June.

I haven't found the need or interest to use the new features, and I even hate some of them, such as Launch Pad and Dashboard. It's a mandatory feature of the Mac I find useless when there are better and easier third party applications to use. The truth is I only link my iPhone and iPad to my Mac when they're tethered to it for updates and downloading apps and files.

Otherwise I keep them separate and don't want any one to be link to the other. I like it that way. I use them for separate purposes and have no need or interest to link them together and with my Mac. I realize others may and do want these features, just not me.

I won't even use the gateway feature because many of my third party applications on the Mac are not available through the App Store, and I wouldn't buy them if they were as they're often to large to download through the store, and which installs them blindly instead of showing the install or downloaded dmg file for you to control.

The only thing I might even consider, which Mountain Lion requires, is an iCloud id and use. I don't have an iCloud account yet as I use my iDisk and Mobile Me account. All the features I see with the iCloud don't make my work any better, and while I will get an iCloud account because it's a necessity, I won't use it beyond just existing as an account, empty except for my name.

I don't want my music in iCloud. I don't want to share documents across my devices. I like to determine what each device has and has access to instead of carte blanche to my Mac. And I hate the games app on my iPhone and iPad, and love to get rid of it but I can't. It's dumb and useless to me as are some other nonremoveable apps.

Yeah, I'm a computer curmudgeon, a happy one who doesn't want all the features and apps Apple has on Lion and is putting into Mountain Lion, and I'll wait awhile after it's introduced and available on a thumb drive (how I upgraded to Lion), if it is available as downloading through the App Store isn't smart or good.

A Debate

Truth and lies are not equal sides in a debate. Facts are the two sides in a debate, and the debate establishes two different views of the same reality, based on the facts and the truth. The appearance of lies as an equal to the truth isn't reason to elevate it to the same stature in any discussion, whether among friends or in the media.

Lies can not be proven. There are no tests except those which established lies are what they are, lies, and nothing more. And nothing to be worth anything but occupying the trash bin of history.

The truth can be tested, it can be argued and debated. It has facts to establish itself in the conversation. It has history to establish itself in time and place. It has events to establish itself in the present. It is itself, simply the truth.

Our goal in the political campaign should be to focus on that, the facts and the truth, and not spend the time arguing lies, proving they are lies, and then using them to argue against the truth. It is a waste of time from the important matters we need to be discussing in the campaign, our country and the people.

When members of Congress use lies in speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate, written into the Congressional Reord, we have lost the respect for the truth. And excusing those lies later as factual misstatements and correcting the record before it officially published is an assualt on our democracy, to blatantly disgreed the truth to express a view as reality based on lies.

When candidates for the higher and highest levels of our national government, especially the presidency continual to use lies to shame an opponent, or worse to attack the President, and not be held accountable, not be held to apologize, not be held to stop expressing lies, it has totally destroyed our democracy.

I don't doubt lies have been a fact of history in congressional and presidential campaigns since the beginning of our country, but it has reached a level where the truth has long been forgotten, left before it had a chase to be a part of it. The truth doesn't exist anymore beyond some in the media calling the candidates out.

But the people didn't hear their words, they're not listening. They're only listening to the candidates they like telling them lies. Even the voters have lost any sense of the truth and the facts. They believe what they know is true and factual because it's what they want to believe, and all the facts telling them otherwise is lost on them.

Such is the state of campaigns today. And until this changes, I will not watch any debate or any media discussion on the issues when and where lies are part of the presentation and discussion by the candidates and the media. Lies are not on the same level of the truth and facts, and even when the media exposes lies as lies, the candidates persist in espousing them.

I simply will not listen. That is my choice as it is theirs to use lies. Lies are not part of the discussion we need to be having about this country and the people. And when I hear facts and the truth, I will listen. I will be engaged in the conversation. I will be in the debate.

But only when there are no lies being said by candidates or people demanding equality as facts and the truth. Reality, our reality now with the state of this country and the lives of people, demands facts and the truth. Only the truth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Simple Difference

Consider this thought. Really.

Pro-Choice is also pro-life. Pro-choice is exactly what it says, the choice belongs to the woman to the exclusion of men, the government and laws. A pro-choice person respects the right of the individual to make the best choice for them and they won't disagree or interfer with their decision.

Pro-Choice means a woman can simply choose to be a mother despite the conditions of her pregnancy or the fetus.

Pro-Life is not pro-choice. Pro-Life means exactly that, you are against any choice by or for the woman. You are against any rights and protections for a woman to choose an abortion because of the health of the woman or fetus, from incest or rape, or for any reason the woman and her physician agree it's the right choice for her.

Pro-Life means no choice except their choice. It is exclusive of other views. Pro-Choice is inclusive of all choices, even pro-life.

So which is better for women? Giving them the full range of choices or just one choice?

A Simple Point

When it comes to women's reproductive healthcare, especially contraceptives and abortion, women are the 100% of the people. They are due the right to make the decisons by themselves with their physician. They are due the protections to exclude anyone else they want, including the 100% of men and the government.

For their reproductive health, women are the 100%

That's the whole and simple point that needs to be consider. Nothing else matters, only women. Period.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moral Conundrum

If the Catholic Church and the religious want to ban contraceptives of all sorts for women, then what do they think of the latest news that over half the children born to women under 30 are born outside of marriage. And children born to women under 30 comprise 59% of all children born in the US now.

Think about it. It means a third, or more if you count those born to women over 30 outside of marriage, of all children born in the US are to women outside of marriange. Yes, single, unwed women. Is that what they mean when they want to ban contraceptives or are all the women violating the Bible and "God's word" by procreating outside of marriage.

Heavens forbid, damned if they use contraceptives but damned if they get pregnant, or worse, actually want and have a baby without a husband. Women have long learned and know husbands aren't always the best situation for their life, and so not a goal in their life. Enjoy it if it happens but they're waiting for it to have children.

Kinda' funny really. The faiths and faithful want procreation only in the confines of marriage, but hard to argue in the face of the facts. The reality of our times. We're a changing society and women don't really care about the church's stance on contraceptives and even abortion. Remember 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives during their life. Oops.

It seems they can't win for losing. The argument for one position contradicts another or others who just aren't interested in faith but life, their life. Are they willing to condemn all those women? Or do they cherish life, life from conception, regardless of the status of the mother?

It seems the faiths and faithful have a choice, against contraception or for pregnancy, but they can't have both. They can't demand both. They can't expect most, let alone all, women to follow their words because they say it's righteous. Like they care? Some do but still realize faith and life often present moral contradictions.

They resolve them within their values and faith, it's those against them who don't. Women have minds and know it's their life and body. And all the faiths and faithful trying to preach to them is just the noise of a street corner preacher shouting at the passersby and lost in the wind.

They trust themselves. God believes in them. What don't others understand?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sorry Guys

In the debate over women's reproductive health care there is one basic premise, and in fact one absolute rule which should apply. Men don't get to say what women want. Men don't get to decide what women get. Men don't get to decide what laws should be passed governing women's rights for their reproductive healthcare, especially contraception and abortion.

Men got Viagra written into men's healthcare and for what, so millions of men can pretend to have a condition to get better, aka harder, erections? Like women got a say and vote on this issue when it was disguised and presented as coverage for erectile dysfunction? Like there are really all those men with ED that weren't there before it was covered by health insurance?

Give me a break here. That's a croc and men know it. I won't argue it's ok for men with ED, I mean really ED because of some condition, illness or other factors, but the number of men on the prescription doesn't match the number of men diagnosed with the condition. If so, we have nation of men with weak dicks, and we know that's not true.

So when it comes to women's reproductive healthcare, it's not about morality, it's not about power and control over women, it's not about male arrogance, it's about women, something only they understand and live with and as such only they should get to decide what's fair and right and what's covered under health insurance.

And the numbers are clearly in that women want all of it covered by health insurnce provided by their employer and/or their health insurance, including the same free coverage men get for comparable services and products in addition to those exclusive to women, regardless of any religious, moral or ethical beliefs or values.

Sorry guys, don't stick your dick into their affairs when and where they don't want it. They can say no to rape, they can equally say no to your involvement into their personal decisions with their body. You don't allow it with your body, so you have no right to assert it into theirs.

It's the old adage, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." And they can decide for themselves what's right for them, without your help and without you. And that especially includes you Mr. Issa, you don't have the right to decide for the 51% of the population of this country who are women.

You're not one of them, so sit down, shut up, and do what they want.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Give Vets a Parade

It's very simple to me as a Vietnam-era veteran. Vietnam vets didn't get parade until 1985. Korean War veterans got four parades, three in 1953 and one 1954. And most importantly we had two parades for World War II, one for the war in Europe and one the war in Asia.

We can do it like St. Louis, have one for Iraq war veterans now and then one for the Afghanistan war veterans. It's simple.

Have a parade to honor our veterans.

The Defense Department has it wrong against the vast majority of Americans who want one, against every city who wants one, against all the veterans who want one. I'll be there when there is one here. I served. I didn't get a thank you. They deserve a thank you several times over.

The Catholic Church

To the politicians who think the Catholic Church is right,

This is in argument against your bitching about the new Obama administration rules requiring you to provide health insurance for reproductive healthcare, including contraception, coverage for your female employees at your universities and hospitals. The rules exempt churches and organization activities of the church. But that's not the point here, which is to ask you and all the Republicans, especially the presidential candidates who seem to unanimously support your view.

If the decision had been made by the Muslim religious leaders about their schools, clinics and hospitals to complain about this rule and try to exempt themselves from it, would we been having this discussion? Would you still call it freedom of religion? Would you still call it the right to discriminate against their female employees for reproductive health care?

Would we? Or would you demand their follow the rules of this country, the rules of this government?

We know the answer. Yes, really. You wouldn't be on their side. You wouldn't be for freedom of religion. Let's face it, you want to discriminate against women and want to let the Catholic Church get away with this discrimination. That's the truth and disguising it as freedom is disingenuous and dishonest.

We know that the vast majority of mainline Protestant, Muslim and Jewish leaders and members support this mandate. We know that the leadership and bishops (and higher) of the Catholic Church are the only ones opposing this mandate. It's about their religious dogma against women. That's not religious freedom or liberty, it's discrimination against women, plain and simple.

So let's stop pretending, posturing and pandering for votes. We're smarter than that because we know the truth and we see your lies. We see through the Catholic Church's dogma. We see clearly, it's you who don't see, let alone understand the reality of living in the 21st century.

New Old Rule

A new old rule in digital photography, never enter a discussion, conversation or debate over image format, especially whether you should shoot just jpeg and not raw at all or raw as a primary or backup format. You will never win any point or get recognition of merit against shooting raw at any time.

It doesn't matter that many photojournalists and photographers rarely shoot raw format, myself included in the latter, because if you get the image right in jpeg, 99% of your work in the photo editor is done. You don't have to spend a lot of time fixing your stupidity in the field or deciding to actually know anything about camera setting since raw covers all bases.

Well, it doesn't, because theory and the real world aren't the same, and won't if you really screw up. But that's not the point here. The point is that there is always one or more "tech heads", ok very competent computer-minded photographers, who will argue raw is the only format to shoot, even if you don't need 99% of the raw images when jpeg would easily work for the situation.

To them it's raw or nothing, and they have all the arguments against anyone who tries to say different, except of course the best photographers who don't shoot raw and have proven it. Those folks are excused from the discussion as it only applies to the rest of less than great photographers and especially ordinary ones like me.

I won't argue there are times raw format is handy and even critical, especially wedding, portrait, studio, advertisement and commercial photography where you want the raw to be close or better and to work with the setting in the photo editor to get exactly what you want. It also covers for all the technical errors in the field. It won't fix composition errors but that's another subject.

I won't argue shooting raw plus jpeg is excellent advice when and where appropriate. I've used it occasionally and at times found it would have saved my photographic ass when I used the wrong settings. Lesson learned, always check them just before you start as I do now everytime. One lost session learned.

That said, this argument never goes away, partly because there are always beginning photographers who ask the question or make the statement about only shooting jpeg and there are always photographers ready to leap with arguments against that idea or for shoot raw format. It's the never ending voices of astonishment and combatitiveness.

The reality is shooting jpeg is much like shooting film, the difference being you can carry a lot of different films in a digital camera with the settings. Yes, it produces different results, but the same idea is there, focus on gettng the image right for you in the field and it's what you get.

If you don't you a lot or don't want to, then shoot raw plus jpeg and spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer fixing the image, er, excuse me, manipulating it to what you want. The raw format proponents don't like the idea you fix an image. To them you restore it, you improve it, you enchance it, or so goes the words. It's still fixing it.

In the end, when I read the threads on photography forums about this subjects, like sitting in the tavern listening to the same talk over beers, I just sit quietly, listen or read and roll on like nothing happened, because nothing happens. No one's mind is changed. No one's technique is better. And no one's images are improved.

It's all a lot of words about nothing and silence is the better part of involvement, because in the end, when you see the final image it's almost impossible to distinguish if the original image was shot and the final image produced from a raw or jpeg format. It doesn't matter if you get the results you want for yourself or your clients.

The Komen Conundrum

The Susan G. Komen foundation is in a conundrum. They support women breast cancer support, research, treatments and care. To do that they have to provide research money to organizations, like Planned Parenthood of America (PPA) and institutions researching advanced and alternative cures, like stem-cell research. Those efforts are supported by the many people and groups who provide funds to the foundation.

But the politics is where the foundation is having problems. Some of the financial and vocal benefactors, like the Catholic Church and the religious conservatives, don't like the foundation supporting the efforts of those organizations and institutions the foundation supports, like PPA.

This is why religious, conservatives in the leadership decided to withdraw funding to PPA for 2013 and beyond, and I wouldn't be surprised if they subtely threatened institutions doing "controversial' research too. We know in the backlash PPA brought in over $3 Million compared to the $770K the foundation promised and withdrew.

As we know now the foundation stepped back a little by not denying the grant to PPA next year, but then not promising money either, a political misstep disguised as a sidestep. And now one senior, vocal anti-abortion proponent resigned over the issue. But several more like her are still there, and that's the conundrum.

The foundation wants to help women with breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment and cure, through its events. But we now know it is embedded with senior leadership people who hate women's right to choice for the reproductive healthcare. That has nothing to do with breast cancer under their own mission.

No one is arguing the foundation has the right to change their mind with who gets their money, but no one also can aruge that women have the right not to give to the foundation or participate in their events. The question is if the foundation can focus on what's important to them, effectively jettisoning their interest to wander into other issues, including removing people with political agendas for those issues.

That's their conundrum, to survive they have to focus on their mission and argue against their political critics and not their financial critics. It's about the money, don't piss off the donors. If they don't I think the head of NOW is right, the foundation will be much smaller and less important in 3-5 years.

The World's Biggest Embassy

Reading the news this morning, the State Department announced it would cut the number of personnel at the the embassy in Baghdad, currently at 16,000 people most of whom are logistics and service contractors and security people, in half. The US embassy in Baghdad is the world's largest and was billed by the Bush administration to be the most important for the future of the US presence and peace in Iraq.

And now, it's on it's way to being the biggest white elephant in the US embassy network, a monument to American stupidity in asserting our dominance over a country when and where we are now just another country staying at the whim of the Iraqi government, the one we wrote a lot of big checks to establish. But that's only half the irony.

When the US turned over the services and other logistics to the Iraqi government, we are getting a taste of how the Iraqi people live and more so as the long line of supply trucks normally going directly to the embassy through US-manned checkpoints are being held at Iraqi-manned checkpoints and those supplies are quickly diminishing at the embassy.

It's the old adage, what goes around (our treatment of them), comes around (their treatment of us). And it's in the world biggest monument to diplomatic arrogance and ignorance, the US embassy in Baghdad. Want to bet how many embassy and contract people would rather be somewhere else than there?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is It Really

Is it really religious freedom if the Catholic Church complains that the rules which requires the hospitals they operate not to discriminate against women by denying them access to women's reproductive health care and birth control providers, services and prescriptions?

Is it really religious freedom or discrimination by a specific religion which prohibits birth control despite the majority of Catholic women who support the right to have access and use birth control measures? If another non-christian religion which operated clinics and hospitals advocated the same position would it be seen as the same freedom?

No one doubts the Catholic church operates a vast network of private, for-profit, hospital, albeit disguised and non-profit under the church umbrella. No one doubts the many people they serve and treat. No one doubts their heart is in the right places even if they interests are both financial and religious too.

The reality is the Catholic Church can't isolate this one argument, this one exception for themself, as a universal freedom while arguing with others who advocate against the same freedoms for clinics and hospitals operated by other religions. No other church argues for the same freedom for religion because no other church advocates the same position against women.

But what if they did? And what if they weren't christian or a religion the Catholic Church doesn't like? Who? Maybe a Muslim one? A Mormon one? A Hindu one? Would the Catholic Church speak up for them? Would the politicians?

That's the argument the Catholic Church doesn't want us to see. They want the privilege to discriminate against all women, even Catholic women and employees in their hospitals besides all women seeking services for their reproductive health. They want to twist the argument against them than against their discrimination.

That's what we must remember. It's not about a church or a religion. It's about a hospital providing a public service. And like all other hospitals, they must not discriminate on the basis of religion, their religion than that of the individual.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More of the Same

After reading the news on the Initial Public Offering (IPO) by Facebook (FB), why do I get the impression FB will become just another corporation exploiting the customers, users in their case, for profit, power and control. Wait, they're already doing the power and control thing when they keep chaning their Terms of Service (TOS) for users, taking away good features for user independence and privacy and adding defaults which needlessly and sometime dangerously exposes users and then backtrack to a user "opt out" option buried in the settings.

I have a FB page, but long ago I made the decision not to put any information there that isn't available else where and definitely put any images or files I own (copyright) and give FB the option to "borrow", their term which you agree to and allows them to use it to advertise FB. Like, yeah right, I want to share my initellectual property with FB with no return. Guess again Mr. Zuckerbert.

And if it weren't for a few friends who only use FB I wouldn't be there. I won't disagree FB is handy to advertise my Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and news on the NP, I don't need it since I don't get that many vistors from FB.

I expect Facebook will go the way of Google, Yahoo and others and become a corporation. It will take a few years but the Board of Directors and investors will make their views, and if necessary demands, known to Mr. Zuckerberg, and things will change. He will learn investors aren't users, not when money is at stake, their money. And then FB will just be another corporate social network Website, as bad and corrupt as the rest.

It will be interesting to watch, the education of a corporate CEO responding more to investors than users. Anyone want to guess when user fees will start after they redesign it for basic and advanced services. It's unlikely just advertising dollars will sustain the company and pay the bills as well as the investors who will want value and dividends for their shares.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Repeating History

Reading about President Obama's plan to drawdown and withdraw forces from Afghanistan I'm struck with a lot of similarities to Nixon's plan (and promises) about Vietnam, meaning when we leave, it won't be victoriously as promised by Bush and the hawks in Congress. It won't be rephrased to appear like victory like Obama wants.

In the end you can change all the political rhetoric Johnson and Nixon said about Vietnam to what Bush and Obama have said about Afghanistan and it's the same thing, same tune and tone, just another time and place. Like? Change:

Viet Cong to Taliban,

North Vietnam to Pakistan,

Paris peace talks to negotiations with the Taliban,

US departure from Saigon to US departure from Kabul,

while the last is not a sudden exit from the roof top of the US embassy in Saigon but simply flights from US bases outside Kabul.

There are differences, to some a lot of differences, enough to void any comparison. Like?

We're withdrawing slower, leaving some bases and forces for monitoring Iran and conducting covert operations.

We're trying to help and train the police and army of the government.

We're writing big checks to the new government and for military equipment and supplies.

And we are hoping to be asked to say beyond our withdrawl date.

But in the end, it's the same end. The enemy we fought to oust from the country (Taliban) or prevent taking over the country (communists) will win and take over the government and country when we leave. They did in Vietnam and they will try in Afghanistan, except there it will be a civil war between the Karzai government, the drug lords, the war lords, the criminal gangs and the Taliban, each capturing their parts of the country.

While Vietnam united both north and south into Vietnam we know today, Afghanistan will divide into the Afghanistan of the past with no overwhelming leader or force but several forces fighting for the country, the proverbial hearts and minds, but more so, just the people for money and power.

That's what it will be about, money and power. This time, in part our money given in economic and military aid. It's the same story in every country.

And while we fought the gallant fight, we lost the war. While the soldiers sacrificed and did their best, the politicians screwed it up. Nothing changed from then in Vietnam to now in Afghanistan. Same story, same result and many soldiers, people and Afghans dead or permanently injured while politicians stood on their soap box spouting nonsensical rhetoric about war, enemies and patriotism.

We repeated history and we still didn't and haven't learned. Will we ever learn? Or maybe we're not seeing the truth and reality in the mirror anymore, but only our imagination of what we want to believe? And we wonder why we keep repeating history when we keep ignoring our own history?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This Election

Make no mistake about this presidential election. It's about money and power, but mostly money. Only kinda' watching the republican primary (trying to avoid it but sometimes there's nothing else on the news stations except it) it's clear the billionaires and mulit-millionaires are pouring money into superpacs, and yes, cordinated and orchestrated by the candidates themselve - the law governing the separation of superpacs, parties and candidates is ludicrous.

While you can argue, as I believe, President Obama is also well funded by superpacs paid by billionaires and mulit-millionaries and by major corporations, namely the energy companies, the banks, the financial and investment instutions, and the mortage companies, he's the only real hope for the American people to get anything done. I've argued he's a moderate-conservative democrat (closelly allied to moderate republicans), he does acknowledge the liberal and progressive arms of the democratic party in Congress for which he needs and couldn't get bills passed without them.

But before you decide he shouldn't be our president or you decided the republican candidate is better for this country, consider where the republican candidate is coming from, the extreme right which is mostly white, wealthy people hiding behind the pseudo-populist Tea Party and religious, conservatives republicans. It is a political war between economic classes, racial and ethinic groups, religious groups and political philosophies.

It really is the political war between the haves who want more and the have-nots who struggle to survive along with the have-some who face falling into the have-less or worse the have-nots. It really is between the 1% and the rest of us. Don't mistake the rhetoric on either side, to create distrust or hate for the other side or trust and hope in their side. Both sides will do this during this election campaign.

If you don't believe some of what this election is about, just look at who's funding the Republican superpacs behind the candidates. A sea of old, white, wealthy men, some with their wife and family. Whether it's the Koch brothers, Wal-Mart family, etal, they're all about wanting to be wealthier and freer of government oversight and regulation, and less taxes for them to push the cost of government onto the backs of the rest of us.

There's no argument the wealthy pay a lot in taxes, millions of dollars to our few thousand or less. We're talking several orders of magnitude of difference, and while we far outnumber them in being taxpayers, our contribution doesn't amount to as much as their contribution. That's the fact of money. But it doesn't change the responsibility and obligations of all of us to all of us, especially those who can easily pay their share.

And that's behind much of the effort to elect a republican who will find ways to lower taxes on the wealthy, reducing overall government income, increasing the annual budget deficit and the longterm national debt, and reducing our government's ability to do the work for all of us. We all use and need the federal government, only the wealthy find ways around it we have to live through and with it. Money does a lot and gives them more freedom.

And they like to sell you the image as hope and a goal for you, when they know only a few will succeed. It's the image that sells and we want to believe we can be them. It's about money. Not their money, which they want more. But your imaginary money you think you can have if you try. It's that money, not their real but our dream, but they want to limit your dream while giving you the illusion it's real.

That's what this election is about, illusions of money. Believe them and we lose. Don't believe them, believe in reality. Our reality, this country and what needs to be done for all of us.