Monday, August 20, 2007

I hope John D and Travis McGee aren't too upset but...

Having major issues around the house and on the job and free time is essentially non-existent right now. Plus, throw in the fact that Blogger has been unhelpful to say the least with messages about the server being down when I actually felt like sitting down and writing something. So I'm taking the redneck version of the Busted Flush and going on a short hiatus and should be back in September.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Someone said the "D" word.

Someone warn Canada to stock up on video games, all the Young Republicans will need something to do during the winter.

I made it back home very early this morning (Northwest Airlines really really sucks) from my class in Pennsylvania. After Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles pulled out for work and daycare I broke out the paint and brushes and began working on the master bedroom trying to get it finished. My entertainment was the Friday NPR news shows all day and during my time slinging paint I heard the report from Bush's newest patsy, I mean war czar, that a draft was an option always on the table. Now to honest I have always felt that a draft would solve several little itty-bitty problems with our global "War on Terror". Right off the top of my head the first thing that comes to mind is that it would force all the brave lip service patriots who could not find a recruiting office all this time and actually enter the service and go fight all those evil government approved bogeymen that would come over here and force Brittany Spears, Nicole Richy, Paris Hilton, and assorted others to wear a burka and follow strict Taliban-like guidelines. Excuse me for a moment as I take a time out and and chuckle to think there would be some cruel justice to that idea because of all the stupid publicity stunts those banal young ladies have pulled on the country .

But anyway, if a draft was enacted it would also resurrect the stillborn anti-war college protest movement along with being a huge boon to the Canadian apartment market as young college age boys realize that making love not war is the thing to do as they pack up the PS3 and rush to the Great White North, this time with mommy and daddy's blessing and money. On a side note I wonder where Mitt's Romney's boys would fall on this draft issue since service to daddy's presidential campaign would no longer cut it as service to the country. But as I ponder the question it would be far too much to ask his boys to go serve with Billy Joe Bob from some poor rural Alabama town, Tyrone from the Harlem streets, or Juan from East Los Angeles. They are future presidential candidates themselves and can't be placed into harms way.

But despite Bush's belief in the unitary executive bringing back the draft would have to be done by an act on Congress. And the Democrats control both houses of Congress and asking them to do that would be like asking them to approve Bush's plans for legalizing warrant-less wire tapping and we all know that would never do such a thing. To hell with this silly rambling, Doctor Who is on Sci-Fi and he has a new hot female companion. But just for shits and giggles here is the General Lute stuff:

Bush war adviser says draft worth a look
© 2007 The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.
"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.
President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift" and Bush has made it clear that he doesn't think it's necessary.
"The president's position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
In the interview, Lute also said that "Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well."
Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.
"There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families," he said. "And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."
The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re-established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.
Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The party is over, someone please tell the country.

Howdy y’all, I’m up here in Pennsylvania attending a work related class given by a company that supplies vital equipment to the hospital I work for back home. The people up here in western Pennsylvania have been really friendly and have shown me great hospitality during my time up here, especially the group on the shores of Lake Erie I just left that asked this slightly lonely Southern boy to join their little party. But anyway, the class I’m taking has been going on all week and I must say that due to my after school activities I’ve come close all week to missing the start of class in the mornings. Even this morning I ran out of the motel while throwing back two aspirins and sucking down a bottle of orange juice I snagged from the continental breakfast bar. I really would like to say that I had trouble finding a parking space for the rental car while rushing to get to the class on time but I can’t. Why in the world would I want to have trouble finding a parking space you ask? Well to put it as simply as this humble Southern boy can that would mean that the close to 4000 fellow Americans that use to manufacture the basic equipment that every modern hospital needs to save lives would still have their jobs. Instead as I drive into the parking lot tomorrow for my final day I will once again see a vast empty asphalt field with only a tiny fraction of the spaces occupied. The factory here that once employed so many has up and moved to Mexico following many others in this area that have been leaving and heading out into the world, mainly China, since the huge sucking sound began dismantling the industrial base in this country and paving the way for a new superpower to take over. Oh well, as the huge sucking sound starts to turn its main force into other regions of the country sending more decent jobs overseas I’m sure Wal-Mart and McDonalds will pick up the slack and hire us all.

It would be a gross understatement to say that globalization has been double-edged sword providing both a benefit and a detriment to the American public. But honestly I think it may be time to reexamine how we look at the promise free trade was suppose to be and maybe start to look out for the United States of America. While I DO NOT agree with Pat Buchanan on a lot of things, he is one of the few public figures that seem to understand that our current economic and foreign policy path is the wrong road for this country. His current column makes a far better statement than I could ever hope to on several issues:

Subprime Superpower
by (more by this author)
Posted 08/07/2007 ETUpdated 08/07/2007 ET
There was a time when events like the collapse of that bridge over the Mississippi would have been taken in stride. Yes, it was a tragedy, a mature nation would have said, but like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and bolts of lighting hitting folks on picnic grounds, these are "acts of God." Even in a good life and a great country, bad things happen.But today, there has be someone to blame, someone to be held accountable, someone who could have prevented it, someone whose head must go on a pike. And it is the job of the journalist to give us the guilty. And the modern journalist relishes nothing more than standing before a TV camera passing moral judgment on failed mortals. After Katrina, it was President Bush, who neglected to send in the 82nd Airborne at once, and "Brownie," the FEMA chief. Yet, all concede Brownie had done "a heckuva job" in the Florida hurricane. We are now told there are 70,000 bridges in this country that are "structurally deficient," whatever that means, since collapsing bridges are a rarity. One recalls the crumpling of a slab of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco a few years back, but few others. Yet, a clamor has arisen for hundreds of billions of tax dollars to repair our crumbling infrastructure of roads, sewers, bridges and electrical grids. Fine, but where are we going to get the money? We are bust. We consume all we earn. We save nothing. We borrow $2 billion a day to finance our trade deficit and buy all those goods and gadgets at the mall. The Chinese save between 35 percent and 50 percent of all they earn. Though dependent on OPEC for 60 percent of our oil, we haven't built a refinery or a nuclear power plant in more than 25 years, and we are not permitted to drill in much of Alaska or off California or Florida. We don't build dams anymore, like Hoover and Grand Coulee, we tear them down. We were once the greatest road-builders since Rome, as Ike's Interstate Highway System was built in two decades, not two centuries. Barack Obama wins standing ovations from liberal Democrats by pledging to double foreign aid. Thus, under President Obama, the U.S. government will borrow from China and Japan $50 billion each year to subsidize regimes in Africa, putting our kids in hock forever, so we can feel good about ourselves. Wake-up call: This is not the 1950s. We are not the world's greatest creditor nation anymore, but the world's greatest debtor. Credit card debt, mortgage debt and corporate debt have never been higher. The fall of 800 points in the Dow the last two weeks resulted from defaults on home mortgages, bundled up and traded like stocks in the Grand Casino of Wall Street by the boys at Bear Stearns. Abroad, the United States fights two guerrilla wars that have not yet taken the lives of as many soldiers as we lost putting down a Philippine insurrection a century ago. Yet, an ex-chief of staff says the U.S. Army is "breaking." Query: If those "savage wars of peace," in Kipling's phrase, can break our army of 500,000, how in heaven's name can this little army fulfill war guarantees and treaty commitments to fight for 25 NATO nations, Israel, the Arab Gulf, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan? We are committed to police the world. Yet, we have an Army that is "breaking," as presidential candidates bray about attacking Iran, a nation three times as large and populous as Iraq, and invading Pakistan, a Muslim nation of 170 million with atom bombs. Whom are we kidding? U.S. foreign policy is bankrupt. We can't cover our commitments with the ground forces we have. And a world watching America thrash about in Mesopotamia is beginning to recognize it and act upon it.While the federal deficit is only 2 percent of GDP, the surpluses of the 1990s are history, and we are steering toward an entitlement iceberg."Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid ... already exceed 40 percent of the $2.7 trillion federal budget. By 2030, their share could hit 75 percent of the present budget," writes columnist Robert Samuelson. "To keep federal spending stable as a share of the economy would mean eliminating all defense spending and most other domestic programs. ... To balance the budget with existing programs at their present economic shares would require ... tax increases of 30 percent to 50 percent -- or budget deficits could quadruple." We do not have the forces to fight and win our wars, or defend present allies. We do not collect enough in taxes to fund the coming deficits in Medicare and Social Security. High-wage jobs, technology and factories are pouring out of America into China. We hail the Global Economy, as they toast a Chinese economy that is growing at 12 percent, six times the rate of the U.S. economy in the first half of 2007. A day of reckoning for the boomers will arrive in the first term of the new president.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Flying away

Six years ago my wife's sister, Lady Trump, moved out to San Francisco when she "retired" from the corporate grind and has been off and on trying to talk her family into moving out west as well. Dragonwife has been tempted to move several times due to interest some of her sister's business contacts have expressed in her but with her parents wanting to stay close to their siblings Dragonwife has always turned any offers down. But that does not stop Lady Trump from keeping an ear open to some of the special activities offered in that area that my son, Darth Spoilboy, might have an interest in. About three months ago Lady Trump called up to tell us about a video game programming class offered at Berkeley for kids between the age of 12 and 15 and wanted to know if Spoilboy would be interested in it. The scanned brochure and web link to the summer class were soon emailed to us and I could tell Spoilboy would want to attend just as soon as I saw his eyes light up. Further discussion with Lady Trump soon after would have Dragonwife and I paying the nine-hundred bucks for the class and Lady Trump sinking the funds to fly Spoilboy there and back along with paying the fee for an unaccompanied minor and the airline escort that would ensure his safety. The computer class is just for five days so to add some icing on an already great cake Lady Trump made plans to take Spoilboy to Disneyland (yes, we were at Disneyworld in June) the week after along with hitting some other Southern California sites during that second week at her own expense. A flurry of cyber paperwork for the class flew back and forth across the continent for a couple of days but everything was soon settled and only thing left was to wait for the travel date.

Spoilboy's flight would be leaving early Saturday morning and the night before both Dragonwife and Spoilboy entered negotiations on what clothes he would take to San Francisco. My son's taste in clothes tend to lean toward an unintentional mixture of Seattle-like grunge and Southern Redneck with sloppy long sleeve t-shirts and blue jeans complete with a nice factory pre-cut pattern of holes around the knees. Dragonwife's greatest desire would be for Spoilboy to dress like a preppy with crisp alligator polo shorts and pressed khaki pants but given the location we live and even my laid-back surfer attitude maybe she should have decided to move to a more urban and sophisticated area after all to promote such behavior because my boy just ain't into what he considers dressing to be a punching bag by other kids. Fashion chaos is a familiar and much abused situation in my house on many levels from Dragonwife's distaste with her clothes and manic desire to waste vital free time and hit every outlet mall while on vacation, to Miss Wiggles already being a fashion diva willing to inflict bodily injury on me if I give her a pair of socks that do not completely match her outfit, to my idea of formal wear for Christmas dinner and most other important affairs being a Hawaiian shirt, rumbled cargo shorts and sandals, I could hear Dragonwife and Spoilboy fussing over how he would dress nicely to his class no matter what with him shooting back about how he would not walk into that class looking like a nerd. Since I had no dog in that fight I just hung back and let them argue until Dragonwife's attention span had been exhausted with her retreating to her bedroom to lick her wounded pride. All things considered, I've noticed how kids dress these days and proper attire for someone Spoilboy's age comes closer to what he wanted to take out west but I did have him throw in one polo shirt and a decent pair of slacks. He was going to have to make do with his sneakers since no matter what I threaten dress shoes were out of the question. His long shaggy hair, which Dragonwife doesn't mind, would have been something I would liked to address before he left but like Sun Tzu says, don't pick a fight you know you can't win.

We pulled out rather early Saturday morning to catch breakfast at the International House of Puke and to get Spoilboy past the best damn trained and attentive government security agents ever produced in time to catch his flight. The perfect time to walk into one of the local IHOPs is around 6:00am since the gaggle of night creatures and other collected weirdos have drifted out by then and the weekend breakfast rush of stressed out WASPs have yet to crack an eyelid yet even though the kids have been planted in front of the television watching cartoons for a good while. My little tribe was greeted by a strangely hyper-alert and hyper-friendly hostess as we walked into IHOP and she seated us in a cluster of tables way in the back close to the kitchen. I would have rather been seated in a roomer booth but I figured that they only had a small number of waitresses on staff at this early hour and wanted to give them a small break by having all the customers closer to the kitchen reducing the number of steps they had to walk. But the four other occupied tables around us did make it feel slightly stuffy and with everyone so close the conversations were in hushed secretive tones that did not make for a relaxed atmosphere. Spoilboy, Dragonwife and myself quickly ordered our drinks and meals and Wiggles in a very dramatic and rather loud way ordered a large chocolate milk along with her silver dollar pancakes making sure the waitress understood she wanted her milk in the special cup with funny pictures. Sitting next to us was a lady and her twenty-something daughter who had just receiving their order but they took an interest in Wiggles wanting to talk with her along with asking Dragonwife and myself the usual questions of her adoption. I really wish I had noticed the book the daughter had been reading when we came up because I flawlessly executed my one truly God given talent by inserting my large size 12 foot cleanly and smoothly into my mouth.
The conversation with our restaurant table neighbors lasted just long enough for us to receive our order and our two little groups broke off to eat. Dragonwife, who had just finished the last Harry Potter book, had been explaining to me the plot and events that took place while we were driving to IHOP and I opened up the conversation by asking her again to explain how one of the major characters did not die and a few other rather important tidbits that someone just starting to read the book would want to discover on their own. The almost comical coughing fit that exploded next to me prevented Dragonwife from responding but the look that the once friendly lady sitting next to us gave me along with her daughter using her napkin to wipe her mouth and table I was able to surmise that my question had been over heard and that I had let more than a few cats out of the bag. Sure enough the daughter picked up the thick orange colored volume to wipe small pieces of bacon and other sticky residue off it. I tried to apologize but I might as well have robbed them at gunpoint because not only was the daughter reading it the mother was waiting to get the book after her. Deathly silence hovered both tables until the lady and her daughter hurriedly paid their bill and left. It was small blessings that they had no gun available because they were so upset that my life could have been in danger along with the fact that they were not locals and I did not have to worry about some sort of literary revenge. Still when we left ourselves a half hour later I was watchful for a speeding car that might try to run me down.

As airports go Columbia International ain't too shabby, its open and airy with huge skylights providing natural lighting. Inside are several small lush green gardens with fountains spaced around the public waiting area provide a sense of privacy and Carolina style rocking chairs along with comfortable benches provide a nice place wait for friends and family for those who can't cross over the TSA security line. But checking Spoilboy in was our first course of business as we walked past the attractive public area. None of us had been inside the airport for at least a year and I was surprised to see the addition of several strange very futuristic devices stationed at the flight check-in desks. Being up-front they were nothing but x-ray machines for carry-on luggage but the damn things looked like something straight from Star Trek. Imagine a rather large barrel laid on its side with smaller tapered ends where the luggage rides a conveyor belt into and out after being blasted with x-rays to foil the plans of the nasty currently government approved boogeymen. Two control touch screens were mounted on both sides, throw in several blinking lights, along with the soft curvy futuristic lines of the device and all you would need were some sort of caps on the entrance and exits along with a few conduits coming out of it and the thing could stand in for an anti-matter reactor with Scotty standing next to it cussing out that bastard Kirk for always demanding more speed. Being an biomed electronic technician and being a mostly unrepentant Star Trek fan the device brought out my inner geek and I stepped somewhat closer to look at it and talk with the TSA guys. Bad idea, two guys were standing next to the thing and neither gave me warm fuzzies about airport security or the disposition of tax dollars since the latest threat to the Republic reared its ugly head. The one guy stationed at the back of the device looked as if he had partied just a little too much in the last few hours and might be needing to run off and worship at the porcelain alter at any moment. But at least he was civil when I spoke with him and given how he answered my questions might have been more alert than I gave him credit for. The other guy at the front was a major trip though and I came way from him thinking that I had met Barney Fief's South Carolina love child. He was a skinny guy with glasses so think that they could double as lens a for fifty-gigawatt laser. He was standoff-ish at first as I approached with creeping paranoia beginning to gurgle up as I stated how cool the x-ray device looked and as I asked a few questions about how it operated. I kept expecting him to start muttering under his breath about nipping something in the bud and beginning to fish for his one bullet in his shirt pocket. While my questions were innocent enough, I mean I work on and around similar stuff, I got the feeling young Barney would be running my name through the double super secret TSA no-fly database as soon as I walked away. That was when party guy in the back jumped in to yank Barney's leash a few times quieting him down and getting him to be nice to the geeky taxpayer. After Spoilboy's big luggage bag was checked and we all had been issued passes to get through the TSA line to see him off at the gate we walked up to the security line to do the barefoot shuffle. The only issue we had there was explaining to Wiggles that running through the big metal detector then down the concourse without stopping will upset the nice security people making them terribly upset and maybe having mommy and daddy shipped off to Gitmo. Well, maybe I'm overstating that one just a little bit but Wiggles saw the long concourse to the various gates as a chance to stretch her legs and as I have written before that little girl can run. While I saw two or three of the TSA agents laugh and smile as I called my daughter back the big TSA poobah in charge that of the line that morning looked as if he had swallowed some sour milk.

At the gate I could tell Spoilboy was eager to get on the plane and dump his uncool parents and sister. We had about thirty minutes to wait and while we tried to talk with him he mainly tried to ignore us and read the small textbook that goes with the class he would be taking. This was not the first time Spoilboy would fly alone, two summers ago Lady Trump brought him out west to stay with her a week and see the San Francisco sights, namely Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, and the Monterey Aquarium which was his favorite. He boarded that plane a little nervous with a nice looking stewardess walking him aboard and I later learned who had kept an eye on him during the flight. His manor this time was one of a weary traveler just hoping that his luggage managed to find its way along to his destination. He had even thought ahead and made several PB & J sandwiches to eat during his two flights on his way out west. During his first trip, which was non-stop, he had to use his own money to purchase a hamburger for lunch and the price had quite frankly upset him. This trip he was not about to pay such a high price for a burger he compared to "dried buggers". Finally the call came for passengers to line up and board the plane for which my son let out a huge sigh of relief because that meant his sister would no longer embarrass him. Dragonwife requested and was outright refused a parting hug, I of course yanked him out of the line and not only gave him a hug but a sloppy kiss on his cheek to which he wiggled away while giving me a dirty look, and to think he was worried about his sister embarrassing him. Being an unescorted minor he was once again pulled aside and would be personally walked and seated on the plane. But this time he had the company of another little un-escorted boy about the same age now he was on his first trip. We would learned a few minutes later from his parents as they and Dragonwife talked that he was flying to Chicago to see his grandparents. This little fellow was visibly scared and on the verge of crying. But Spoilboy jumped in while they waited at the door leading to the plane and began talking with him calming his fears by showing him his Nintendo DS. His new friend was carrying one as well and soon they were both in a different world. After the regular passengers were boarded they were walked to the plane still talking about their games and with the younger boy no longer afraid. Dragonwife and the younger boys parents were a few feet away talking and I watched my boy through the huge windows overlooking the tarmac walk outside and then on the plane. At the last minute I saw him look back from the door of the plane, search around until we made eye contact then smile and wave at me. The door soon closed, then the plane taxied out to the end of the runway and took to the air. And me, I pride myself on keeping a "youthful attitude" but right then watching my son I realized that the boy I greeted to the world in the delivery room was growing up and that moment I felt old.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Big Blue Marble

David McArthur and Bruce McArthur, The Intelligent Heart
Most of us have had moments in childhood when we touched the divine presence. We did not think it extraordinary because it wasn't; it was just a beautiful moment filled with love. In those simple moments our hearts were alive, and we saw the poignant beauty of life vividly with wonder and appreciation.

I'm tired and preoccupied with my job being very busy lately and the seemly never ending battle to try and fix the Money Pit up enough to put it up for sale but while taking a small break at work I ran up on this photo and accompanying article. My frustrations and disappointments evaporated just for a few seconds as I gazed upon this photo with my small brain stumbling upon a fact I already know that in all the known universe this little blue-green ball carries all the life we know about. Cases are being made that Mars, Europa, and maybe a few pieces of real estate in the solar system might harbor abodes of single cell life but only our home harbors complex lifeforms that can write brilliant music and literature , paint works or art, and contemplate the nature of creation. While I do not wear my faith on my sleeve like one of my brothers I do not believe that our existence is just some huge accidental joke in the cosmos. It is not my desire to engage in a debate over the existence of a creator since I piss off the Bible Thumpers with my opinions just as much as the obnoxious scientific rationalists who in their own way are no better than those they condemn. I'm in not talking intelligent design, which is just warmed over creationism, but I can't help to think that the two groups are like blind people each touching an elephant and since each are touching a different piece of the animal their perspectives of the animal are completely different but each are right in their own limited way. Despite the social, political, and economic crap and dangers all of humanity has to put up with and face, perhaps the real test for our sentience might be finding a way to see beyond our limited senses and dogmatic notions of reality to see something greater. I hope this ramble makes some sense. Thats it, I really need a trip to the beach!