how much traffic is going to my site

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Enduring Legacy of Katrina

History will surely label this as the era of Avarice Run Amok.

WASHINGTON, June 26 — Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

And the beat goes on...

NYT - Registration Wall
Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid

Yahoo News - Free - Derivative
Hurricane Katrina fraud swells to two billion dollars

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

While the current debate over Iraq appears to have again polarized into purely partisan grand-standing, bedrock solutions and progress are not materializing. It brings to mind three engineers arguing how to best dig a hole, and before the insular pseudo-intellectuals can reach a consensus, the guy who needed the cistern and his friend with the shovel complete the job. Unfortunately, in Iraq, someone stole the shovels, and the citizenry is either fleeing or was never invited to the party.

For all the oft touted and alleged "planning", the Development Fund for Iraq has been looted to the tune of 8.8 billion dollars, and the Iraqis are now saddled with an obliterated infrastructure and no-bid contractor repairs and substitutions which are poorly suited for use. The rebuilding effort in Iraq has resulted in an expansive pork-barrel, devoid of accountability and teaming with cronyism and fraud - akin to turning the national treasury over to a gambling, crack head nephew who enjoys torturing small animals. Do you think that these people are so stupid as to not see what is happening in their own backyards? That they have not traditionally trusted our intentions reflects poorly, but our recent behavior has spoken volumes in support of their fears.

While I cannot deny that segments of the world remain simmering pots of poverty, strife and animosity, our behavior over the last 4 years has done little to turn down the flame of outrage. Public displays of zealous intolerance, a lack of respect and understanding between differing religious and political bents, and a generally offensive, arrogant cockiness that has now been shown to be voluminous bluster.

I was not a proponent of the invasion of Iraq as there was no justifiable evidence to support this action. Fabricated evidence and constant fear mongering stirred an angry populace into allowing people with tainted interests to control US foreign policy. But now that we've blown up half the infrastructure of the country, thereby causing a major exodus of middle class Iraqis, we cannot now in good faith leave this mess unattended to in an honorable fashion.

An interesting British overview of the Endless War in Iraq

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Water Wars

Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, went to Army Secretary Francis Harvey to halt the Army Corps of Engineers' releases from Lake Lanier and to prod the Corps, which is under Harvey's command, to move faster to resolve a decades-old dispute among Georgia, Florida and Alabama over the use of water from the Chattahoochee River, which the lake impounds.

While I can appreciate the public's apparent enthusiasm concerning the herding of these politicians into a single line, I have to express some reservations as to their goals. So pardon me if the tree-hugging, socially cooperative attitude offends.

Just how big does Atlanta need to be? Isn't it already suffering from enough of the ills of "big city" life? Do we have to consume the Chattahoochee until it becomes a mere trickle downstream?

I was born in St. Josephs' hospital and grew up in and around Atlanta, and find most of this recent development rather short sighted and unpleasant. I used to float down the river as part of the Chattahoochee River Raft Race when it was clean enough to... well... swim in. Imagine that!

We are already facing water shortages, and the lakes levels drop more precipitously every summer - and we want more! To hell with the fish, birds, animals, the wetlands, the environment, and anyone downstream. And remember, much of what gets sucked out eventually goes back in as "treated" sewage. I certainly wouldn't want to live downstream of Atlanta's waste water.

It's classic Clownifornia behavior. Wealthy lawyers who pad their fortunes fighting over water rights in an overdeveloped landscape. As it is, the carpetbagger developers have stripped the majority of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs of forests, topsoil, and character. And although there are currently watering bans and restrictions in effect, the developers of these crackerbox $500,000 McMansion projects and their faulty sprinkler systems continue to dump hundreds of gallons of water into the roadways under cover of darkness - each.

Read More Here

Yeah boy, I can't wait...

Update June 21, 2006.
Water debate awash in spin by John Sugg

Poor Old Big Insurance Needs More of Your Money

Despite promises that rising medical malpractice insurance rates would be suppressed under new state laws, many of Georgia's insurers have hiked their premiums since the sweeping reforms took effect last year, according to an Associated Press analysis of state insurance records.

Six of the state's top insurers of doctors and dentists have increased their liability rates - in some cases, by more than a third - since new restrictions on malpractice cases became law in February 2005, according to state Department of Insurance records obtained by the AP through an open records request.

I'm not certain where the blame for this lies - whether due to the decision to allow overabundant pettifoggers to advertize on television or just good old fashioned avarice, but there it is - special interest lobbyists subverting and looting the public trust with the apparent aid of your elected officials.

Read More Here

Nothing but a pseudo-socialist Ponzi scheme.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Imported Goods and Your Economy

This article was originally posted on my personal web site in Oct 1998.

The current trend in manufacturing is to go Offshore.
What happens when you 'buy' into this prevailing philosophy?

In their frequent televised sessions of backslapping, congratulatory propaganda, the U.S. Administration frequently reports that the economy has never been healthier. They point to lows in unemployment to substantiate their claims, and to themselves as the sole facilitators of such niceties. As someone once quipped, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." In an informal survey of my own, I notice that married couples both work, and barely manage to hold their ground against rising housing, insurance, fuel and food costs. Their family budget is in chaos when prices increase on a daily basis - the recent OPEC oil shenanigans come to mind. In February 2000, U.S. Government voodoo priests, er... economists recommended a tightening of the reins on the money supply, as the economy was 'too healthy'. Is this possible? Or is it an attempt to control the speeding train of impending economic upheaval, facilitating the unloading of bags of your money before the crash. New prison construction and staffing is a major growth industry, which speaks volumes on expectations. A discontent, riotous public must be confined.

The economy may, in fact, be moving a lot of cash around, but it is moving it into fewer and fewer pockets, most of which were pretty deep to begin with. It's no trick to make money when you have money to spend - whether invested in foreign manufacturing plants, or in politicians. The average American, however, lives pretty much paycheck to paycheck, with more and more of his earnings being filtered off by do-nothing brokers, bankers, and insurance companies. Health care in this country is a cruel joke, and many major companies are not hiring employees, but contracting them, while forcing existing employees into retirement to save the costs of providing benefits.

Reality: You are now in competition with people whose idea of a good wage is 50 cents an hour. Everyone can't be a district rep, or a programmer, or an import tycoon. Many can't figure out how to program their VCR, much less program a computer. But they are able to show up, work hard, and dream of spend their savings on products produced by their neighbors, rather that lining the pockets of some third world dictatorship and the traitorous maggots who facilitated the exchange. Millions of Americans who depend upon manufacturing jobs in this country are going without.

This ain't your father's Oldsmobile.

Beginning with the Reagan era, Uncle Sam's answer has been to appease the Barons of Wall Street by making it profitable to take away your manufacturing job and send it overseas or over the border, where workers have nothing and will work hard for less. Where they have no protection from the same abuse and endangerment that precipitated the laws that now exist in this country. Where there are no laws concerning pollution , or health care, or safety, and the powers that be want to keep it that way. Our current dealings with the Chinese Government and it's people are a prime example. Prison labor, children working in sweat shops, enviromental devastation, and continuing human rights violations keep China at the top of the United State's Most Favored Trading Nations list and your local Target chock full of high profit, cheaply made, disposable crap. While Americans remain wrapped in a bubble of self-indulgence and denial over employment figures, all I see are 10,000 manufacturing jobs in Illinois that are gone, and $250 million per anum that the local economy will never see again - repeat ad nauseam throughout the nation. This house of cards will not last, and we are trading our hard-fought gains in becoming one of the richest per-capita countries in the world for beads and trinkets and landfills full of garbage. We are putting our neighbors out of work in exchange for bigger commissions, and then buying their homes off the courthouse steps when they can't pay the bills. And the Barons continue to profit, laughing all the while at the rubes who allow it to happen. For the bulk of the human race, in spite of it's rapid development of technology and science, hasn't altered it's fundamentally reptilian motivational stimulation in 10,000 years.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thoughts on Abortion

Being male, and therefore somewhat distanced from the mental duress that accompanies the decision of whether to follow through with an unplanned pregnancy, I have invested infrequent thought to the current hot-button issue of abortion. Men currently have no legal input into the decision as to what happens with regards to their genetic contribution - one way or another. And as one who considers a long term commitment between two partners a prerequisite to the consideration of children, I have avoided procreation due to my inability to luck upon an appropriate marriage partner.

But for all the pseudo-moral rhetoric concerning abortion that I hear from the Neo-Cons of this decade, I find it odd that one never hears anything about the resultant lifestyle the child is forced to endure. Parents with no partner, emotional problems, poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse issues are generally not the best of caretakers. These factors and many more affect a child far beyond the act of simply being born. And take it from someone who had to live through not only his own parent's alcohol problems during his teens, but was subsequently trampled underfoot by the bizarre behaviors of others with the same affliction, it's not a pretty sight. An unwanted or neglected child who has little self-esteem stands little chance of surviving in this world, and even less chance of contributing anything positive to society. When you factor in the possibilities of birth defects caused by drugs and alcohol, it boggles the mind that anyone would actually want to bring such an at-risk child into the world. But there they are - killing doctors and blowing up abortion clinics in a warped fervor meant to impress their own ideals upon others who may not share their particular belief system. I'd bet, however, that if you were to deliver these unexpected children to the aforementioned zealots to rear, their enthusiasm would rapidly become but a faded memory.

I do not believe that late-term or partial birth abortions are acceptable to society as a whole - if a woman hasn't managed to make a decision in the first few months, put the child up for adoption as she probably isn't mature enough to raise it either. Additionally, the adoption process should be streamlined in order to allow willing couples to adopt. This would reduce the financial burden on society as well as promoting childless couples to adopt an American child, rather than one from another country - which is a common occurrence. I cannot know exactly where to place the blame for the thousands of unadopted American children, but the system as it stands places unrealistic expectations and delays upon those who are willing to adopt and who would provide a nurturing home to an otherwise neglected child. As anyone who has ever worked in a foster home or even a pet shelter can affirm, the chances of adoption and subsequent psychological bonding decrease markedly with each passing day. A sad situation, at best.

Shouldn't the goal of our mortal existance be to leave things better than we found them? How is bringing an unwanted child into a world devoid of love, emotional stability, opportunity for improvement, and any hope of more than minimal survival making the world a better place? As the world becomes a smaller place these children are ill prepared to compete and lead happy, productive lives, thereby encumbering society.

As with so many other topics, society has already reached a consensus concerning abortion that has been found most acceptable to the majority, but the wing-nuts are intent on disrupting the status quo at all costs. Massive deaths from disease and starvation due to overpopulation and famine, coupled with acts of war which result in the killing of civilian children in a foreign land thereby become acceptable, but terminating the development of an unplanned mass of incognizant cells is not?

Hmmm.... Where is the morality in this?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Road Trip 101

Having just returned from a reality check road trip to America's oldest city, I must proclaim that I find myself distraught to have left Florida - again. Although I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding 'burbs, Florida, with it's curious mix of old Spanish, French and Indian cultures has always retained a far greater appeal to me than the box-store blandness of what Atlanta has become. As there are already far too many people who have moved into my adopted state, several of which should go back to Georgia and Texas (Please!), a sign should be erected at the state line proclaiming "Sorry, We're FULL".

While Atlanta certainly had it's heyday, probably in the early to mid '80s, it has since lost most of its appeal to me and has simply become a showplace for expansive corporate avarice. Millions of people living in total isolation from each other, surrounded by development they have no stake in, and no control over. Truly the land of the impoverished and the fuel-screws of plutocracy.

My first wake-up call as to exactly what kind of horrific place I had the misfortune of returning to were three near bone-crushing collisions on I-285, the violent road-rage confrontations on the streets of a suburban town, the total absence of anything not BORG, and the throat-stinging air which is unfit to breath. The lush forests of childhood raped and pillaged to make way for 360 more hideous, overcrowded, treeless McMansion housing projects built by non-local workers, and for non-local investors. I suddenly realized why I hate living is such places - the Exploitive Big Cities. No one knows their neighbors, and in my case, that is probably a plus, for they are mostly red-state neo-cons who cannot discuss any issue without recoiling into a defensive posture that makes any intelligible exchange of ideas impossible. They feed upon the likes of Neil Boortz, Rush Limbough, and the BushCo Kool-Aide machine. A vast collection of xenophobes, thieving corporate worms, and fortune seeking bible thumpers who contribute nothing to the livability of the area - save for fear, overdevelopment, and intolerance. The 40 mile cross city commutes, unbelievable grid-lock traffic, and idiots on cell phones absent mindedly piloting 2 ton, 12 mpg SUV's down the freeway make this an extremely unpleasant and dangerous place to live or work. One of the least successful school systems in the nation coupled with classroom overcrowding makes this a place to avoid for anyone wanting to raise a family - at least one which turns out reasonably normal.

But it wasn't always this way. In the seventies and eighties, downtown was bustling with restaurants and night-clubs, while the local colleges contributed a vibrancy that smaller Georgia towns lacked. Pine Street was home to Road Atlanta flat-six racer James Reeves, and later, Jim Downing and his Mazda Rotary powered racers added a unique and progressive feel to a city filled with Eastern, Ford, GM, Lockheed, and even IBM employees. Some manufacturing plants ran 24/7, and business was good all over. Even an activity as mundane as buying a car could lead to a new friendship with an engineer, a business owner, or industry head. I knew business owners across the entire metro area, but they have mostly since fled or died, leaving behind the mere memories of what quality customer service and personal accountability stood for. Even the aforementioned companies have mostly either shut-down their plants, or gone bankrupt - leaving a huge void in middle class jobs. Anything of retail value has been consumed by the BORG - and like a virus, they show no signs of desisting from their rampant expansion.

I can't say exactly when it happened, as I was temporarily distracted by the twisted shenanigans of a group of repugnant Georgia politicians and judges, but something in Atlanta's soul died one night and most everything good about the city fled - as I eventually did as well. But traveling back to Florida from New Jersey in 2001, my car broke down and I found myself temporarily working here again - in an unpleasant place whose corrupt power structure robbed me of meager wealth, the tools of 3 trades, and nearly my freedom and sanity. And it has been the most painfully uncomfortable and disagreeable 5 years of my life. A foul, wretched place that I vowed never to set foot in, work the soil of, nor pay its corrupt government a dime in taxes or fees. A state which apparently greatly desires the story of their misdeeds to not make it to the local library. Well, they should have had the forsight to predict this possibility before perpetuating their fraud, and should have allowed me to speak one word in my defense - rather than engaging in underhanded manipulation, cover-up, and intimidation tactics.

But so it goes. Yet another move, another grand adventure, another collection of possessions cast to the winds. But still a far more promising future than the slow, miserable death which awaits anyone caught in the clutches of this black-hole of hope - a place which has never offered anything but unpleasantness and constant, pointless reminders of vile, corrupt experiences of the past.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Iraqi Civilian Casualties

As the realities of war in Iraq continue to slowly penetrate even the most vacuous of minds, I find that, as usual, the public and the press are 10 goose-steps behind the truth.

Current talking points seem to be centered around the recent killing of civilians in Iraq - never mind that evidence of this behavior has been present since day one of the Iraq Invasion / Endless War on Terror. Never mind the usual "left-wing" objections to a pre-emptive invasion of a country with no connection with 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, and a history of being unofficially supported by past administrations. Ignoring the Abu Ghraib affair, secret torture prisons, fraudulent and no-bid contracts, poorly prepared and implemented military, and a country brought into so much turmoil that those who can have fled their own country. Even overlooking the construction of the huge US Embassy campus being built on Iraqi soil, which, incidentally, is about the only reconstruction effort that seems to be proceeding with any amount of ernest.

Which leaves us with one enduring truth. Iraqi civilians have been paying the price of our hubris from the moment of first contact. And who do we now blame? A few 20-something marines who have been drinking from the Bush kool-aid fountain for 4 long, excruciatingly painful years. Pumped up by national hysteria and faux patriotism, marched into battle against an enemy they cannot communicate with nor have cultural understanding of, and re-deployed until fatigue has etched their very souls.

They went to war as our fists-of-rage against an unspeakable horror, proud to fight for a country they believed was honorable, tattooed and filled with the brave innocence of youth. Feeling secure in the affirmations of a collection of slack-jawed, draft-dodging yokels who placed them in harms way with no real plans for success.

This failure, as with all others thus far, lies not in the tool, but its handler.