Friday, May 23, 2008
Mars and Jupiter have climate change - do they have too many SUVs too?
As Frank Sinatra sang (Fly me to the Moon): “Let me see what Spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”
Well, Frank, we know it’s getting hotter.
Same where you are?
Jupiter is an enormous gas bag, like Al Gore. Could this be evidence that Al is an alien, perhaps our first Jupeterian?
Will they be sweltering on the rings of Saturn, with a hot breeze blowing up Uranus?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I had double-checked at the Holiday Inn desk that our flight on British Airways to Istanbul at 7:05 would leave from Terminal 1. When we got to Terminal 1, we found a long line of passengers waiting at the locked gate to the British Airways check-in area. At one side was another line, this one of British Airways employees waiting to go to work. No one had the key. Not to worry.
Finally the door was unlocked and we streamed inside, British Airways employees to one side of the check-in counters, passengers to the other. I asked an British Airways agent who appeared to be directing traffic where Alice and I should start. She informed us that we should start in Terminal 5, because British Airways flights to Istanbul no longer leave from Terminal 1 - and hadn’t for a long time. Not to worry.
If we passed back through Terminal 1 we would find a lift - elevator - to take us to the Express Train to Terminal 5. As we and several other distraught passengers wandered down a long corridor to the Express Train to Terminal 5, a Heathrow transportation specialist informed us that the trains were not running at the moment. He suggested we walk back partially through Terminal 1 and take the Underground to Terminal 5. Not to worry.
Fortunately a “wisdom of the crowd” enabled our group of confused and distraught passengers to make the correct turns and reach the Underground - Subway - to take us from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5. It is amazing how a group of people, not one of which knows the way through new territories, finds its way unerringly. Unerringly may not be a good word to use in context of going to the latest airport wonder of wonders, the infamous Heathrow Terminal 5, which commanded banner headlines for weeks after its opening two months ago because of the monumental foul-ups passengers and their baggage suffered in and through it. Not to worry.
We were in Terminal 5, human guinea pigs in the development of a new world being, World Traveler. Among many things, World Traveler will know how to do much travel processing itself. For example, it will know to go to small kiosks, scan in a passport page, and punch in flight information that will cause the production of boarding passes and other apparently necessary and perhaps even useful pieces of paper. From there you take it all to a Fast Bags station, where an attendant examines the papers and places a baggage tag on each piece of checked luggage.
Then we were directed to Security South, apparently because it was much farther away than Security North, where we tried to enter only to be chased away to the South. At this point I became alarmed about not having a gate assigned for our flight, and was told we would get it after Security. Not to worry.
The Security posts were all manned by Indians, Pakistanis, and South Africans, which meant they were all better and clearer speakers of English than our English speaking citizens working in Airport Security stateside, and far more polite.
We quickly exited Security, still without a gate assignment. Our flight number 678, British Airways to Istanbul, was on the board, but with no indicated gate. So with less than an hour to go to takeoff, we went to a snack shop for a light breakfast with a good view of the departure board. Not to worry.
As we finished breakfast, our gate assignment appeared, A20, only a short block equivalent away. I began to not worry.
All went well. Our hotel sent a driver who met us at the Istanbul Airport and whisked us to the Sumengen Hotel, three blocks from the Blue Mosque and only a couple more blocks to Aya Sophia. Suddenly all is easy and relaxed, and that worries me.
Friday, May 16, 2008
“Yep, that’s me” I replied. I have a Bush/Cheney sticker that I put on the bumper of my 1999 Toyota Rav-4 shortly after I bought it used in 2000.
“How do you justify that?” he asked.
I assumed he meant how could I justify supporting President Bush. Since I was in a hurry to buy my newspaper and get home – I was already very late for lunch, and was sure Alice was very worried (she was) – I answered: “I’m an American. I don’t have to justify anything to you,” and walked on.
“Oh yes you do,” he called after me.
I hurriedly bought my newspaper, and walked out and back towards my car, eager to have a few more words with the impertinent young man. I was going to remind him that over 2.5 million Americans voted for President Bush in a total of two elections than voted for his Democrat opponents, that he had received more votes in 2004 than any president ever, and unlike Bill Clinton, had received over 50 percent of the votes.
My purpose in presenting these facts was to demonstrate I had a lot of company in supporting President Bush. Unfortunately the young man was nowhere to be seen.
Pity. I was eager to be argumentative, and particularly wanted to remind him that we hadn’t been attacked since 9/11. I’m sure I would have been wasting my time and words, and in retrospect it was a good thing he was gone.
Alice would not have appreciated me being any later than I already was.
I saw him again a couple of days later. He was getting into an old car I had noticed earlier when I walked past it. It had been vacant at that time, but it caught my attention because it looked like someone had been living in it. Probably the young man was.
He drove off apparently without noticing me.
Democrats continue their policy of causing problems and then “fixing” them.
Why are food prices high? How about government subsidies and mandates for increased ethanol production? Food costs are also high because of increased fuel costs, and among many good reasons for higher fuel costs are several bad ones, again thanks to government stupidity.
Liberals don’t want the United States to develop proven sources of oil, gas, and energy by drilling in Alaska and off-shore, increasing refining capacity (half of what it was in 1982), increasing nuclear production, and developing our huge reserves of coal and tar sand. Instead they want to develop “renewable” energy sources, such as biofuels and wind and solar power, which are very limited in potential and compete for scarce government and agricultural resources.
Renewable energy: even with the high cost of oil, still requires taxpayer subsidies; competes for land, water, and open space with food-production agriculture, parks, and other recreation needs; and requires 100% conventional stand-by generation up and spinning for times when the Sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow, the rains don’t come, the rains do come with devastating storms and floods, and other natural disasters.
Cold, hard facts: fuel from plants needed to replace kerosene as jet fuel at today’s low needs (compared to future demand) would required farming an area twice the size of Germany, and it would take almost a century of greenhouse gas savings to repay the greenhouse gases released by placing the land into production. Of course, all surface transportation would have to be powered by electricity.
Backers of the Farm Bill are quick to point out that it is not just about paying obscene sums to incredibly wealthy farmers for just a few commodity crops, it’s about providing food aid to the most overfed humans in the history of humanity on this planet. Between the crops subsidized, and the food stamps provided, it should be called the Obesity Support Bill, or from the medical side of the issue, Diabetes-R-Us.
Actually, this bill should be called the Buffett Line Bill, because it was loaded up with a lot of something for everyone. Big City legislators get food stamps (and the defrauders of the food stamp program get ten billion dollars more to play with), rural ones get subsidies for crops with recent increases from 45 to 126 percent, environmentalists get some land conservation funds, and on and on – in other words, everyone’s pot was sweetened.
Except the taxpayers. Don’t Democrats always find that there are better uses for government funds when Republicans want to strengthen national defense? Don’t they always suggest it would be better to spend on education, or health care, or any of hundreds of government give-away programs near and dear to Liberal hearts?
So where are the Democrats up in arms about government wastefully subsidizing the obscenely wealthy? It looks like Democrats are still on their extended holiday from their ideals.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
CBS News and Perky Katie Couric hyperventilated over a story about an “epidemic of veteran suicides,” in which CBS News unwittingly proved that veterans committed suicide at the same rate as comparably aged American males, and at a far lower rate than the rates for many nations, regardless of age and sex.
Instead of reporting an epidemic of veteran suicides, CBS News would have been much more informative if they reported that Russians committed suicide at a rate of 34 per 100,000 per year, almost double our predominantly male veterans, or that French males regardless of age have a higher suicide rate (27.5).
Or how about reporting that veterans commit suicide at a lower rate than same-aged American males? In an Associated Press article in The San Francisco Chronicle: “VA mental health chief sorry about 'Shh!' on suicidal vets,” by Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press, May 7, 2008, information was buried in the article that demonstrated Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have a lower suicide rate than American civilian males. Of nearly 500,000 veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and then left the military from 2002 to 2005, 144 took their own lives, for a suicide rate of 9.6 per 100,000 per year.
The suicide rate for American males was 17.9 in 2002, or almost double the rate for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.
Why don’t our Main Stream Media provide a context and perspective on issues like veteran suicides?
Is it because they can’t, or that they don’t want to?
Hint: I can do it, and all I have is an internet connection giving me access to Google.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
The one thing Michael Scott (Letters, May 2) forgot to mention in his snide diatribe against Israel was that Arab nations violently defied United Nations resolutions beginning in 1947 when the UN formed Israel, and have been in defiance ever since. Earlier, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1940 allied Muslims with Nazis to exterminate Jews. Rather than being pious supporters of UN resolutions, as Mr. Scott implies, the Arab Middle East states have been bent on annihilation of Jews.
Prior to the Six Days War in 1967, Egypt expelled the UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai preparatory to launching what Syria’s then defense leader Hafez al-Assad termed a “battle of annihilation.” A week later the Arabs had a new name for it, “The Setback.” However, Arab leaders noted that although Israel won again, Arabs only had to win once.
Mr. Scott calls Israel “morally culpable for the collective punishment being imposed on the Palestinian people in Gaza,” but doesn’t add that Israel is responding to rocket attacks launched against civilians that are condoned by Gaza leaders. If Gazans don’t like what their elected leaders are doing, they can "un-elect" them.
Muslim, Christian and Jew are all People of The Book and should heed the New Testament admonition, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
This is the letter that inspired my response.
At least Carter, for all his faults, isn't mindlessly parroting right-wing Israel's talking points when looking for solutions, but then I know people like Mr. Weiner don't have time to think about peace when all his energy is being spent defending a country that not only continues to defy United Nations resolutions, but is morally culpable for the collective punishment being imposed on the Palestinian people in Gaza for having the temerity to vote for a party the West doesn't approve of.
Friday, May 02, 2008
(Below is my original letter I sent on April 23, 2008 that The San Francisco Chronicle ignored)
“More than 120 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commit suicide every week,” according to veterans advocates, began a San Francisco Chronicle front-page story: VA stalls on care while 18 veterans a day commit suicide, judge is told, by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.
That’s terrible. Terrible journalism, that is. The rate of 18 veterans a day committing suicide is for all veterans, not just veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For comparison purposes, the acknowledged VA veteran suicide rate is 19 per 100,000 per year, which is about the same or lower than the suicide rates for both sexes in entire countries: Japan, Belgium, Finland, Cuba, France, Austria, Korea, and Switzerland.
In US male veterans to all males comparisons, which is the closest I could get to “apples to apples,” the entire male populations of over forty nations have higher or similar suicide rates than our veterans (the rate for all American males is 17.9). Our active duty military suicide rate is 11 per 100,000 per year, about half our civilian rate for same-age males. From an analysis of suicide statistics, it actually shows it is safer from a suicide perspective to be a veteran or serving on active military duty.
True, but you’ll never see that in a Chronicle headline on the front page.
(I e-mailed the following letter after waiting several days and not getting a response to my orignal letter above.)
I sent a letter to the Chronicle Editor April 22, 2008 about errors in a Chronicle story about a lawsuit by veterans advocates. More recent Chronicle news stories on the trial are bringing out that plaintiffs' lawyer Arturo Gonzalez does not understand that the Veterans Administration suicide numbers are for all 26 million veterans, not just the 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans (whose 144 suicides over a four-year period produce a very low suicide rate of 2 per 100,000 per year, less than one-quarter of the general population rate). I don't understand how Gonzalez's ignorance of such a basic fact could prevent the judge from throwing this case out immediately. As a minimum the Chronicle should correct its previous reporting on this issue and set the record straight.
(A Chronicle columnist informed me that the Chronicle had run a correction on April 26, 2008, the day after the Chronicle had run an article by the columnist containing similar erroneous information from Mr. Erspamer, lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. The San Francisco Chronicle ran the correction two days after I had informed them of the error in their original April 22, 2008 story on veteran suicides.)
-- An article on Tuesday about the trial of a lawsuit by veterans' groups over health treatment mischaracterized a government report that 18 veterans a day commit suicide. The report referred to veterans of all wars, not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(I dashed off an immediate reply.)
I found the correction, but it doesn't tell the story. Both lawyers, Erspamer and Gonzalez, according to quotes that both you (the columnist) and Bob Egelko ran with, said that the 18 suicides a day were Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans.
Don't you think there is a story to be told about how you and the court were given misleading information, information that supposedly formed the major basis for this issue to be brought to court?
The article didn't "mischaracterize" the government report about veteran suicides, the veteran advocates' attorneys did.
(I had copied the Chronicle's Readers Representative on the above message, and at this point he entered the discussion.)
Since you copied me on this, let me jump in. I might be misreading, but I don't see anywhere that Erspamer or Gonzalez asserted 18 suicides per day for Iraq/Afghanistan vets -- at least not in Bob Egelko's stories or Chuck Nevius' column. The lawyers' comments referred to 18 per day for veterans, period. The Iraq/Afghanistan qualifier was the paper's mistake. It mischaracterized, not the lawyers.
In the Egelko story, Erspamer was described this way: "He said veterans are committing suicide at the rate of 18 a day - a number acknowledged by a VA official in a Dec. 15 e-mail - and the agency's backlog of disability claims now exceeds 650,000, an increase of 200,000 since the Iraq war started in 2003."
That line was interpreted in the editing process to mean veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan -- the paper's error. In the Nevius column, the Erspamer quote is: "If you add up the veterans' suicides among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and compare it to the total combat deaths, the veteran suicides are higher," says Erspamer, who introduced a VA e-mail at the trial that showed an average of 18 vets a day are committing suicide. "The VA doesn't want that out."
There might be a little ambiguity there, but strictly speaking Erspamer's not saying 18 a day attributable to Iraq/Afghanistan. Now as to your point about whether Erspamer is misleading the court, I think the jury's out on that, to steal a phrase. Using rough numbers of five years of war and 4,000 combat deaths, it would take slightly over 2 suicides per day among Iraq/Afghanistan vets to exceed the combat figures. e.g.: 4000/(5*365). My arithmetic might be faulty here, so feel free to critique, but my point is that it would be possible to exceed the combat death toll without ever approaching the 18 suicides per day figure.
Hope I'm not confusing things.
(Again I sent the immediate reply below.)
Thank you for your reply to my concerns. Although I profoundly disagree with your analysis and conclusion, I appreciate you took the time to respond. I hope you will carefully and with an open mind consider what I present below. I gleaned these five items from the Chronicle this week. The last item is courtesy your e-mail.
I begin my comments and analysis after the fifth item. I added the bold highlighting to the items.
More than 120 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commit suicide every week while the government stalls in granting returning troops the mental health treatment and benefits to which they are entitled, veterans advocates told a federal judge Monday in San Francisco. VA stalls on care while 18 veterans a day commit suicide, judge is told, by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.
"If you add up the veterans' suicides among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and compare it to the total combat deaths, the veteran suicides are higher," says Erspamer, who introduced a VA e-mail at the trial that showed an average of 18 vets a day are committing suicide. "The VA doesn't want that out." Attorney leading suit a veteran in battling VA, by C.W. Nevius, Thursday, April 24, 2008
For instance, VA Secretary James Peake told Congress in a Feb. 5 letter that 144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide between October 2001 and December 2005.
But Gonzalez produced internal VA e-mails that contended that 18 veterans a day were committing suicide. Kussman countered that the figure, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included all 26 million veterans in the country, including aging Vietnam veterans who are reporting an increased number of health problems. Veterans Affairs official denies cover-up of suicide rates, By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Writer, Friday, April 25, 2008, published in the Chronicle.
During opening statements Monday, a lawyer for the veterans' groups displayed an e-mail that a top VA mental health official, Ira Katz, sent in December in which he said veterans were committing suicide at the rate of 18 a day.
Maris said Tuesday that Katz had been referring primarily to veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In an interview, he said the suicide rate among veterans has been increasing since 2001, according to government reports he has studied. VA faulted in diagnosing suicide candidates, by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Now as to your point about whether Erspamer is misleading the court, I think the jury's out on that, to steal a phrase. Using rough numbers of five years of war and 4,000 combat deaths, it would take slightly over 2 suicides per day among Iraq/Afghanistan vets to exceed the combat figures. e.g.: 4000/(5*365).
(This is an excerpt from the e-mail sent me by the Chronicle Readers Representative.)
(My reply to the Readers Representative.)
I guess you don’t read your own paper. In an AP release April 25 covering this trial (my Item 3, first paragraph), the VA states that “144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide between October 2001 and December 2005.” That’s 36 a year, e.g. 144/4, compared to 4,000 combat deaths in five years.
I can understand why your reporter, Bob Egelko, was confused about the 18 suicides per day being by veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq (my Item 4, second paragraph). That’s what Ronald Maris, a University of South Carolina sociology professor, apparently told U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti in San Francisco, according to Egelko’s April 23 report.
Clearly Gonzalez was misleading the court. When the VA stated the 144 veteran suicides in four years involved Iraq and Afghanistan service, Gonzalez contested that and contended that 18 veterans per day were committing suicide (my Item 3). That was then countered by the VA, but it is obvious that Gonzalez was referring to suicides by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Based on information I gleaned from the pages of the Chronicle this past week, is the jury still out, as you say, that Erspamer, Maris, and Gonzalez were providing misleading information? If so, the jury must be deaf, dumb, and blind, and have no nose for news.
By the way, Dick, can’t anyone at the Chronicle critically analyze statistical information? Veterans committing suicide at the rate of 18 per day * 365 days = 6570 per year.
6570 veteran suicides per year divided by 26,000,000 veterans = 0.000253
0.000253 * 100, 000 = 25 veteran suicides per 100,000 per year.
Suicide rates are conventionally expressed as the number of suicides per 100,000 persons per year.
A couple of months ago CBS News did an exhaustive five-month study of veteran suicides and determined rates of 18 to 20 per 100,000 per year. In their ignorance of world suicide rates, Katie Couric and crew trumpeted their finding as an “epidemic of veteran suicides,” even though the rate they found was low by world standards. Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans: A CBS News Investigation Uncovers A Suicide Rate For Veterans Twice That Of Other Americans
(My hint to CBS News – Katie, the suicide rate for veterans is twice that of other Americans, because over half of the other Americans are females, and less than ten percent of veterans are females. Also, Katie, a large percentage of other Americans are sub-teen children, and none of the veterans are.)
This link is to my blog post trying to correct CBS News and Perky Katie Couric for the hash they made of reporting veteran suicides. They did the same thing as the Chronicle, and ignored the facts to preserve the bashing of the Bush administration.
As a basis for comparison, eight nations have suicide rates above 25 per 100,000 per year regardless of gender or age (Russia’s is 34, according to the World Health Organization), and Japan’s at 24 per 100,000 per year is only slightly lower. Use this link to check on my statistics. I Googled it, just as any quasi-competent journalist would.
Using the CBS News veteran suicide rate, roughly twenty nations have higher all population rates. In fact, the suicide rates for all males in thirty-seven nations are as high or higher than the American veteran rate.
Comparing apples to apples, at least twenty-one nations of the world have higher male suicide rates than American veterans, and those rates include the males of those nations of all ages – you know, like babies and sub-teens, and middle-aged men, all who have traditionally low suicide rates.
Even France, with its health system that is lauded by believers in national health systems, has a suicide rate for all French males of 27.5, or ten percent higher than our veterans’ rate which is heavily skewed towards aging Vietnam era men. Older men have relatively high suicide rates because of illness and infirmity.
I’m sure someone at the Chronicle in an editor position must be aware of this sort of information. Or should be.
There is a real news story in all this, but it doesn’t look like the Chronicle is capable of digging it out, no matter how hard I try to assist.
The nation’s top Republicans are suddenly rushing to appear on the low-rated Liberal news channel MSNBC, which they once had shunned as enemy territory and the nemesis of conservative bloggers.
The détente with this Liberal news channel has provoked a backlash from conservative bloggers, who contend the party’s leaders are turning their backs on the base — and lending credibility and legitimacy to the network conservatives love to hate — in a quest for a few swing votes.
In a span of eight days, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan have all taking their seats with the network that calls itself “fair and balanced sometimes” but is widely viewed as skewing wildly liberal.
With the party’s presidential contest reduced to watching the Democrats slice and dice each other, Republicans are turning to the ratings loser among cable news channels in a clear rebuff to the conservative activists known as the Neocons. Major Mike, founder of the leading conservative site in Gualala Strong as as Ox and Nearly as Smart, told his wife, Alice: "Republicans are being idiotic by going on that network.”
Alice replied: “MSNBC? Are they still on?”
A Net Movement Correspondent (whatever that is) told Strong as an Ox Etc. that conservative activists and the Neocons are “not happy about it.”
“I don’t think that it is tenable to completely neglect or ignore what your base wants,” the Correspondent said.
The Republican leaders’ new openness to MSNBC reflects the conservative right’s diminishing power, at least at this point in the political cycle. Once feared by the Republican candidate, these activists are now viewed at least in part as an impediment to winning the broad swatch of support needed to clinch the election.
Goaded in part by a taunting “Olbermann Is Watching You” clock displayed by MSNBC’s Countdown host Keith Olbermann, McCain appeared recently after resisting the show’s entreaties throughout the campaign. McCain had a civil interview with occasionally coherent host Keith Olbermann, who has always mocked all things Republican.
Early in this presidential race, John McCain led the Republican candidates in what amounted to a MSNBC boycott.
Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, took McCain’s MSNBC interview in stride, commenting that more Democrats alone watch Fox than the total viewing audience for MSNBC regardless of party affiliation. Ailes further noted that MSNBC was Fox’s news competitor “only in their dreams.”
Recognizing that McCain’s appearance risked incurring blog wrath, a “senior McCain adviser” vowed to Major Mike of Strong as an Ox Etc. before the interview that the senator would “take MSNBC on” during the broadcast. But since no one watched the interview, Major Mike wrote that the pledge had turned out to be “as irrelevant as MSNBC.”
“This actually was good news for conservative bloggers who had worked very hard to get GOP’ers to boycott MSNBC. It was a good demonstration of its irrelevance, and we were wrong to criticize McCain for agreeing to appear in the first place,” Major Mike wrote.
Network records show that since the campaign began in January 2007, no one knows how many interviews McCain has given to MSNBC News anchors and correspondents, because no one gave a rat’s patootie.
(This report was adapted from Fox trumps Netroots; bloggers rebel By MIKE ALLEN 5/1/08 10:30 PM EST , and any copyright infringement, plagarism, or other screw ups are because of my carelessness and lack of scruples, and were not intentional because I have no idea what I'm doing, and I am therefore incapable of forming intent.)