Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Agree With Obama On Something! Holy Cow!

While on my lunch break at work I was watching the news and Obama came on. Again. I kind of rolled my eyes and prepared to lose my appetite, but I was surprisingly pleased with what he said about non-profit organizations.

He talked about the great ideas that so many non-profit organizations have which help people in a wide variety of ways. He also said that the government can't do everything (gasp) and that these one size fits all government programs sometimes end up fitting no one. (gasp again).

What President Obama suggested is that our government work to identify the best ideas of these non-profit organizations and add government funding to that of the private sector in order to help these organizations grow and expand into other areas. I like this idea because it leaves the control of the organization in the hands of those with the great ideas. Especially since the vast majority of these organizations are about giving a hand up to people instead of a hand out. They invest time and money in individuals to get them to a place where assistance is no longer needed and the individual can fly on their own. And some of them will soar.

Two of the organizations that were mentioned caught my attention, but I remember neither of their names. One organization helps small business owners learn how to run their businesses better so that they can grow and expand. How wonderful is that. A support network for small business owners so that they can succeed and actually add jobs to the economy instead of floundering and often failing only because they have a great idea but not enough business knowledge. The other organization assisted inner-city kids become college ready. This is not by putting pressure on colleges to accept students they normally wouldn't, but instead by getting the kids, whose education is often sub-par, meet the criteria of the colleges. They have a college acceptance rate of 99% for the students they help. Now that is really making a difference.

I am all for investing in our fellow Americans. Helping them become self-sufficient so they can improve their lives to whatever level they see fit. But this is an investment. Most of the time, the money spent on helping these people will be paid back in the taxes they pay once they are prepared to go forth and succeed.

There are so many wonderful non-profits out there and helping THEM expand so they can help more is a spending of our tax dollars that I can really get behind.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

I'm a statistical process control analyst for my day job. This means that I deal with statistics every day and I know what they can tell you and what you can MAKE them tell you. The trouble with statistics is that it's pretty easy to manipulate your data to tell you what you want to hear instead of the truth. This appears to be what has happened with CO2 and climate change.

I can hear the outrage already from some, but the theory (yes, it's only a theory) that CO2 emissions has caused global warming isn't supported by the unmanipulated data. The main theory around the CO2 levels causing global warming comes from the work of G.S. Callendar and C.D. Keeling who based their work on historic arctic ice core readings. The problem is that they didn't use all of the data. They used only the low readings over the years and discarded the high ones. In essence, they manipulated their data.

I decided to do some research on this and found a wonderful site with lots of excellent, though technical, information in an article written by Dr Tim Ball in the Canada Free Press. Much of what I'm going to share with you comes from that article.

Here is what is called a scatter plot. It's a very simple tool we geeks use to see what's going on. In this scatter plot, the historical CO2 levels from the ice core readings are logged. All of them. The circled dots are the ones that were selected for use by creators of the CO2 emissions theory on global warming. Notice anything a little wonky? Only the low readings were used. By throwing out the high readings they can make the statistics say whatever they want. And the world swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And think about this, if the historical CO2 levels we base our theories on are wrong, then what they put in the climate model is wrong, and all of the dire predictions that model gave us are, you guessed it, wrong.

But let's not stop here. One of my favorite graphs in the analysis is that as the CO2 levels rise so does the temperate. But what they don't tell you while looking at all the lines and dots on the graph, is that the temperate actually rises BEFORE the CO2 levels. It just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. This looks more like a temperature increase is causing higher CO2 levels than the currently accepted theory of the opposite.

Here's the bottom line, statistics are only as good as the data used to calculate them. And the data is only as good as the people obtaining it. The data collection, and therefore the data, used to determine that CO2 is causing global warming (or climate change as it's now known) has been called into serious question, but are we taking another look at the data as we should? Nope. Instead we're working to pass expensive legislation to impact the CO2 levels that real data shows is not our problem.
Could global warming be accelerated by man? Yes, it is a possibility. But the data, the real data, all the data, shows that CO2 is not what's causing it. By focusing on a theory that has been disproved, we may be missing the real issue. We're acting like bad cops who ignore exculpatory evidence and work to convict the wrong man while letting the real criminal go free. Of course, man may also have little to no impact on global warming at all. Who'd have thunk it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Murphy's Law Should Be Repealed

Every time I fly something goes wrong. Flights are delayed or cancelled, gates are changed without notice, storms blow up out of nowhere, there is a class of 50 14 year old girls (shudder) on the flight with me, etc. It's always something. But these are minor inconveniences even though it appears Murphy's Law will always apply when I fly. My niece is heavily impacted by Murphy's Law as well, but hers applies whenever she has to deal with a government agency. And in our ever increasing government, these instances of Murphy's Law happen to her all the time. Today was just another example.

I've mentioned my niece in a previous blog, but if you missed that one, here's the skinny. My niece, Aimee is physically and psychologically disabled. She is bi-polar, learning disabled, and prone to anxiety attacks on top of having severe back and knee issues. However, her mother, a dumb ass of truly epic proportions, swears up and down that smoking pot while she was pregnant had no impact on her daughter. Uh, huh. With all of these emotional issues, Aimee is not best suited to deal with a Murphy's Law with a government agency attachment.

Today that father of all bad legislation, Mr Murphy, reached a new low. My niece, called me frantic because the police had just come to her door to arrest her. Seeing that her 5 year old son would be left there alone, thereby being taken into foster care, and that Aimee was quite pregnant, and since he knew my sisters and me, he didn't arrest her. Good man. Good cop. He did however explain to her that there was a warrant for her because of an unpaid fine and that she needed to come up with the money to pay it by tonight or he would have no choice but to take her in tomorrow morning. But this would at least give her time to make arrangements for her son so he didn't end up in the foster system.

Aimee was, of course, beside herself. Mainly because she had no idea this fine had even existed. We're still not sure why it does. She moved recently because her land lady was a nutcase, not to put too fine a point on it. When Aimee moved, her landlady sued her for $1,200 worth of damages. She had photographs of the apartment being totally trashed after Aimee moved out. This suit ended up being dropped because Aimee had several witnesses, including the movers who were the last people in the apartment, swearing that she left it clean. The suit was dropped. She was charged $100 by the court system for inconveniencing them by being sued. She paid that fine. Evidently, this other fine is for the charges of cleaning up what was determined not to be her mess in the old apartment. She received no notice of this fine, and her first indication that she was fined for something she had proved she didn't do, was when the cop showed up at her door.

She called around to see if she could borrow money for just 2 days until she got her check in order to keep herself out of jail. Nobody could help. Everybody had just paid their bills. She called her mother whose brilliant advise was "do the time. What's the big deal." Understanding of course that her mother aspires to one day reach that elevated social position of poor white trash, this advise isn't all that surprising. My oldest sister is the poster child for what is wrong with a welfare society. She's a blog unto herself. For family that is reading this, you know I'm right.

The officer had advised Aimee that if she could come up with half of the money he'd still arrest her but they could keep her out of jail. So this is what she was striving for. Of course she had to ask me how much half of 150 was. That's how learning disabled she is. So learning disabled that she can't learn to use a condom. But I digress. She was going to call my parents for help but then discovered that they had just sent her mother $250 to move. Something her mother had neglected to mention. Mind you, when Aimee's case worker embezzled her food stamps my sister wouldn't help her then either because she wanted to buy herself a wedding band for her upcoming nuptials to an abusing, womanizing, jackass who alternately beat her and screwed her in between stints in prison. Yes, my sister is a real piece of work. So Aimee is trying to stay out of jail and having a hard time.

I finally sent her half of the money and she was going to call the officer to see if she could go in on her own the next day to avoid being "taken in".

On my advise she called legal aid but they wouldn't get involved until she was actually in jail. She'd have a public defender tomorrow but we just aren't sure how much of a defense that would be. Then once in jail, they'd refer her case to legal aid and they'd show up for a consultation with her. Eventually. She really was trying. And the worst part is that this is all over a bogus law suit that she actually won!

This blog has no real purpose except maybe to show how bureaucracies can go wrong, but mainly it is for me to blow off some steam over how my niece gets treated. She lives 1,300 miles from me so I can't help her as much as I'd like. She is, however, planning on moving to where I am next year. She's going to let her son go through kindergarten, save up some money for herself (assuming the government will let her) and then she'll move. My sister is of course not happy about this and wonders how Aimee can be so cold as to take the grandchildren from her. Yeah right.

Press Doesn't Know What To Do When Drugs Are Not Involved

Once the autopsy of Billy Mays revealed that his death was not due to a blow to the head during a rough airplane landing, the next questions from the press were related to drugs. These continued even after they were told that there was no evidence of drug abuse and the number of pills remaining in his prescription bottles were what the should be. It appears that when somebody dies unexpectedly, and drugs are not involved, the press doesn't know what to do.

Billy Mays was taking a strong pain killer, but this was due to a bad hip that was scheduled to be replaced. My mother had her hip replaced due to a very painful bone spur, and my grandfather literally gave up and died when he found out that his hip would NOT be replaced. This is extremely painful and debilitating, but Billy Mays was taking only the prescribed amount of medication for the pain. Good for him! What shocked me was how refreshing it was to hear about a celebrity who is NOT abusing drugs. I'm sure there are many that live a very clean lifestyle, but it seems we hear too much about the many that are not.

Though there was no sign of head trauma, and no sign of drug abuse. There were signs of heart disease. Although the official cause of death will not be released until toxicology results are obtained, it appears that this was the result of heart disease. Natural causes.

Rest in Peace Billy, and thank you for being a celebrity not abusing drugs.

Honduras Military Says "We Have Had Enough Of You"

President Zelaya of Honduras, one of the far left leaning leaders in central America and a strong ally of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, decided to see if he could amend his country's Constitution in order to stay in power. The military made it pretty clear what they thought of that. Before the poll to see if it would even work could be taken, the military bundled him up in his pj's and flew him out of the country. I think we know where they stand on the subject.

I don't agree with a military take over of a country, but what do you do when somebody is bound and determined to seize more power for themselves? It's a question many of us are asking here right now. What I find really amusing is Hugo Chavez coming out against this when he has himself done much the same thing to his mayors and governors. Many regional leaders in Venezuela who do not support Chavez live in fear or have gone into hiding because of Chavez forcing his will over the will of the people.

Reuters said, "The Obama administration called for Zelaya's return to office as legitimate president of Honduras, placing itself in the same camp as a group of leftist governments that are at ideological loggerheads with the United States." My question, as our country is moving farther and farther to the left, towards socialism, are we really at ideological loggerheads? Or, are we moving towards where Central America already is? We appear to be.

Oh, and it might interest you to know, that a similar Constitutional Amendment to that which sparked the Honduras Coup has been proposed here. There is a bill on the books to repeal the Presidential term limits amendment.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Corleone Congress

Are the Godfather movies being used as training material in our Legislature? I can't help but wonder considering that they appear to be using classic mafia tactics in order to get what they want. The whole "I do you a favor, you do me a favor" has been going on for decades, but now we've moved in to flat out extortion.

The cap and trade bill is extortion made legal by congress. Plain and simple. You want to stay in business, you gotta pay. They don't like what you're doing, you gotta pay. Businesses will be able to "buy" carbon credits. They're paying for protection pure and simple. So don't be surprised if the guy selling you those credits does so while wearing a very nice blue pin strip suit and a fedora.

Taking this one step further, the press appears to be filling the enforcer role for our mafia government. Speak out, try to change things, you're going to get hit hard, fast and brutally by the enforcer press corp. In effect, you're gonna get whacked. It will just be your honor and integrity getting murdered.

"The Families" of course have power struggles of their own. Battling back and forth for control over the extortion they're all implementing. Appearing as friends but secretly working to undermine the other behind their backs. Power and control is the big driver. Individual power. Of course in this case "The Families" are the political parties. And even they have their internal issues. It's not unusual for one family member to take out another Michael Corleone style.

No matter what Obama or members of Congress are saying, or how they're saying it, it can usually be translated into "I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brewster's Millions Plays Out in Congress

Is it really so much to ask of our legislators that they actually READ a document before they vote on it? Is that really such an unreasonable request? And yet they have passed several massive pieces of legislation costing the taxpayers billions, even trillions, without reading what they're voting on.

The cap and trade bill is just one more example. There wasn't even a full, up to date copy of it when it went to the house floor? Why was it so critical to pass immediately that they couldn't even have the written copy completed before voting? David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner confirmed that there was no completed copy of the bill when it went to a vote. Freddoso said; "Through a series of parliamentary inquiries, the Republicans learned that the 300-plus page managers' amendment, added to the bill last night in the House Rules Committee, has not even been been integrated with the official copy of the 1,090-page bill at the House Clerk's desk, let alone in any other location. The two documents are side-by-side at the desk as the clerk reads through the instructions in the 300 page document for altering the 1,090 page document.
But they cannot be simply combined, because the amendment contains 300 pages of items like this: "Page 15, beginning line 8, strike paragraph (11)..." How many members of Congress do you suppose have gone through it all to see how it changes the bill?

Sitting back and watching this play out I'm reminded of the Richard Pryor movie "Brewster's Millions". If you're unfamiliar with the movie, it's a classic and you should watch it, but here is the gist of the plot. Brewster inherits a fortune from a relative, but in order to inherit he has to spend a set amount of that money, millions of it, in a short amount of time. And there's another catch. He has to have nothing to show for the money at the end. Is this sounding at all familiar? Isn't this pretty much what Congress has been doing this year? Spending as much money, as fast as they can, with nothing to show for it in the end. We have to have the stimulus package, no time to read it, too critical to wait, we had to have it so unemployment wouldn't get to 8.5%. And what do we have to show for that vote? And unemployment rate of 9.1% And now we may be getting a tax on air. With of course tons of bureaucracy that will cost us even more than the tax. And what is the government going to do with all of this revenue from all of these taxes? No idea. They haven't said. Maybe it will pay for the bureaucracy they're setting up. But I doubt it.

What I find most laughable about the Brewster comparison though, is that Brewster discovered the fastest way to waste money was to run for elected office. And although the movie is a classic, I'm a bit disturbed that our government is emulating a comedy,

God and Science Are Not Mutually Exclusive

I am a believer in God because of the questions that science cannot answer. For instance, even if the creation of the universe could be tracked back to a single atom that exploded, (the big bang theory) where did that single atom come from. So I believe in God for purely intellectual reasons.

The whole idea that science and God is mutually exclusive is preposterous. God said He created the world in 7 days, but those are 7 of His days not ours. As geology shows rock formations hundreds of thousands of years old, this does not conflict with God. Could it be instead that these are the rock formations that occurred as God shaped our planet? I personally find geology fascinating. I live in an area of limestone where caves are prevalent. Seeing rock slides and cave ins that look dangerous but have been that way for thousands of years does not make me question God, it makes me see Him. The majesty of Marvel Cave in Branson for example, always brings me closer to God. We talk about the shifting of continents which have resulted in some of the most beautiful vistas on earth. Can these not be explained by science but still attributed to God?

Dinosaurs are another issue. Nowhere in the Bible are the dinosaurs mentioned. But God created the animals before he created man. So how much of our time passed between those two. Is it beyond the realm of belief that God would create dinosaurs and then eliminate them in order to give man oil? I don't think so. He knew what He was creating in us. He knew what we would become and what we would need.

For me, science is simply the discovery of how God makes things work. Science does not exclude God, nor does God exclude science. The belief that if something is from God it can have no logical explanation has always baffled me. Though God works in mysterious ways, I see this more as the path of our lives than the workings of our anatomy or our earth. The best analogy I ever heard was that our lives are an embroidery that we view from the back. A mishmash of colors and threads going from this direction to that. But still following God's plan. And from God's perspective, that mishmash forms a beautiful picture. Being exactly what it is supposed to be.

The idea that we are moving farther away from God saddens me. He is the answer to all questions. And as we advance as a people, we do not need him less, we need him more. What has happened to In God We Trust? What has happened to "endowed by his creator"? One of my favorite parts of the Declaration of Independence is the very beginning. "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to absolve the political bands which connect them to another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires they declare the causes which impel them to separation." What I love about this is Nature's God. Not claiming one God over another, but acknowledging a God over nature.

I'm not saying that if you're a scientist you have to believe in God, but it does not preclude you from it either.

Many people claim that the Bible is fantasy and myth. I disagree. But much of it was dictated by God whose ways are not our ways. How many time does He tell us that in those documents? I'm not saying that I don't have questions. I have many that I ask him on a daily basis. One of them is why I'm still single living with a bunch of cats instead of a man who loves me. But there are many others. Being the inquisitive being that I am, I have a list to take with me when I die.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson Vs Cap and Trade

The single largest tax increase in history passed the house today but does anybody know or care. Nope. And why is that? Because Michael Jackson is dead.

Jacko was all over the news today while the bill that will increase taxes on all Americans, put our companies at a disadvantage against the rest of the world, increase the utility costs for everyone and opens the door to government control of all industries falls into the background.

Why is this you may ask. Because more Americans care about the death of Michael Jackson than about what is going on in their own legislature.

Don't get me wrong here. I believe we lost a great talent. Michael Jackson had a profound impact on pop music and dance, but couldn't coverage of his death played second fiddle to the near government takeover of all American industry?

What is really sad is that the people who didn't care today will be wondering what the hell happened when they can't pay their utility bill next winter. And then they'll be crying how could this happen.

I am pretty much disgusted with everything tonight. I'm ticked at the news, I'm ticked at the American people, I'm mad as hell at the House of Representatives and the only people I'm not angry with are the bloggers that were fighting so hard to make people care.

So America, come December I reserve the right to say "I told you so."

Are "We The People" Really Represented?

One of the main reasons behind the American Revolution was the British Parliament levying taxes on the colonies without any representation from us. The colonists had no say, no input, in the taxes that were slapped on them. And those taxes were ridiculous and extreme. But are we now repeating history?

With Congress attempting to sneak through legislation on the biggest tax hike in American history, (the Waxman -Markey bill, aka cap and trade) I have to ask if we're really represented. The critical question here is why they were so secretive about it. The answer is very easy on that one. It's because they knew that the American people would pitch the mother of all hissy fits if they knew what the bill was really about. Our congress, those men and women who are supposed to represent us, whose representation is critical to our government running the way it was designed, are attempting to pass legislation that they KNOW the American people don't want. So if we have these types of taxes forced on us by people who know we'd object, are we actually represented? My answer is no.

Were it not for some member's of the press, a very few of them, and the blogosphere, the American people would have been totally unaware of this massive tax bill coming up for a vote today. Our so called representatives were using the focus on the health care plan as a major diversion to sneak something by us. Were we living in the same time as our founding fathers and not in the digital information age, our reps would have succeeded in voting in an enormous tax with no input from the people. They still may succeed in passing the bill, but at least some people have had input now. But no where near enough of us.

Have we now become what so many fought and died to free us from? We're definitely headed in that direction. England levied egregious taxation on the colonies in order to pad the coffers of England. Using the money from the colonists to serve England while doing nothing for the colonists. Our current Congress is levying egregious taxation on the American people in order to pad their own pockets. They take money from the majority to serve the special interests and do nothing for the majority. They sell themselves to the highest bidder and screw the rest of us with no compunction what so ever. Ronald Reagan said - Politics is the second oldest profession, and bears a striking resemblance to the first. Ain't that the truth!

If, as we have seen, our representative are selling their votes to the highest bidder, doesn't that leave those of us without access to the auction unrepresented? I believe so. Many may argue this point and say that we still have our vote and we can vote these old reps out of office and put new ones in. But experience has shown that we're just trading one old whore for a slightly newer model. The Democrats wasted our money for 40 years so we voted them out and gave Republicans control of the congress. This worked for a short amount of time, and then they wasted our money as well. So we voted them out and the 111th congress, the bright new shiny one, has spent more of our money on useless programs in the shortest amount of time than any other Congress in history. So where is the representation in that? How can we say we are represented when we have no option for our vote who will actually perform the will of the people?

The very sad part of this whole situation is that the American people bear the brunt of the responsibility for their current situation. How many of us have no idea what is going on? We are busy with our jobs and our families and our day to day lives and we have trusted our politicians to act responsibly. That is not a trust they have earned nor a trust they deserve, and yet it is a trust we continue to give. Although some of the apathy is a result of the people knowing we are just trading one whore for another so why bother. Where then, I ask, are the people rising up to run against the whores? Where are the representatives that we need? Many, I fear, are afraid of the full body cavity search that the press would subject them to.

So where does that leave us, the not so silent majority? Out in the cold. And this will be a literal truth if Waxman-Markey passes because it will be too damned expensive to heat your house. Thomas Jefferson once said, "All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression." We have gone from a fear that the majority will violate the rights of the minority, to the minority violating the rights of the majority.

I close this blog with one last comparison. This from the Declaration of Independence; "In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury." And now think of how our President and member's of our Congress reacted to the tea party protests. Although the American people have protested the spending of our leaders, we have been mocked and dismissed by our leaders as they arrogantly continue the behavior we so strongly objected to.

Need I really say more?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Family Values Are So Important

Governor Sanford stood on a platform of family values, and then didn't adhere to them himself. In doing so, he has illustrated exactly why family values are so important. Not holding them hurts you and those you love and unnecessarily complicates your life.

My mother, a woman of infinite wisdom, has always said that the Ten Commandments are designed to make our lives easier. I believe she is absolutely correct. By adhering to those commandments we avoid complications, drama and hurt. When we look at it in detail it becomes so obvious that adhering to those values really does help. Commandments 3-10 are the big ones for even the non-religious, but we'll look at the first 2 as well and how they pertain. So let's take that look.

1. You shall have no other Gods before me. - For the Christians and the Jews this keeps us on the correct path, but this can apply to all. Think about what we have set up as our "Gods". How many people worship the almighty dollar and sacrifice their families and their honor in pursuit of it. The lesson is to not worship anything of this earth.

2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. - Again here we see a stressing of not worshiping anything of this earth. Don't get distracted by idols or anything else. Stay on the right path.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. - Think about this as all profanity. Watching what we say and how we say it can have a huge impact. I experienced that myself yesterday with ugly attacks on a discussion board. As our language has degenerated, so have our overall values. It seems that the less we monitor what we say, the less we monitor what we do.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. - This is to keep us from working 7 days a week. And if you're not working on that 7th day then what are you doing? For most people that means spending it with your family. Keeping that bond alive. How many families today spend little time together? How many are so busy every day of the week that they are losing that familial bond? If you are spending 1 full day a week with your family, with your children, you can have more of an influence and know more of what they are doing. And taking that interest in our children, in our youth, is critical to our success as a people. But how many parents have no idea what their children are up to?

5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. - Keep that family relationship alive. This helps to avoid conflict and, if the children follow it, allows the parents to teach and influence and impart the knowledge they have gained over the years. If children actually follow this, and the parents are doing their job, then we could avoid teenage pregnancies, drug addictions, teenage alcoholism and the dropout rate from high school. The lives of our youths would be easier and we could learn from the mistakes of others instead of making them ourselves.

6. You shall not murder. - That's an obvious one. If you don't kill anybody you don't have to go through worry of being caught and then prison time when you are. It also avoids the impact to your family for your incarceration and the impact to the victim's family. Not killing anybody else definitely makes your life easier. But we can expand this to abortion as well. Having an abortion does have an impact on the woman. It can have serious physical repercussions, but most of the time it's psychological. If you do not take the life of the unborn child, you will not have to live with that guilt. It also helps us as a nation by preserving the respect for human life.

7. You shall not commit adultery. - Governor Sanford has illustrated this one. What did adultery do to him? It ruined his career, ruined his marriage, hurt his wife and hurt his children. He would be in a much better position now had he just kept it in his pants. Adultery does no good to anyone and only complicates the lives of the people committing it. Even if you don't get caught, your life is complicated with the lies resulting from it.

8. You shall not steal - Again an obvious one. This keeps you out of jail, but it also keeps you honest and a good example for your children.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. - This goes way beyond the legal term for false witness, although not perjuring yourself in a court of law is always a good idea. But this expands to gossip. Talking about people behind their backs and spreading lies about others. This hurts everybody, but especially our children. Think about how ugly our teenagers especially can be to each other. Think about the violence in our schools that result from gossip and downright harassment. Think about how you feel when you're the one being gossiped about. It may seem like fun at the time, but it will ruin your friendships, put your integrity into question and alienate you from others. It will negatively impact the quality of your life.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s." - For me this is the big one that impacts almost all of society. The majority of people do not commit adultery, do not murder and do not steal, but it seems like we all covet. Our whole economic collapse can be traced back to the American people coveting what somebody else has. Running up credit card debt in order to buy things you don't need. Buying homes we can't afford in order to have the status symbol of it. The whole idea of "keeping up with the Jones's" has it's basis in coveting. And look what that has done to us. Our lives are easier when we live within our means. When we focus on what we have and not on what we don't. This impacts so many of us in this country. If we would only follow this particular commandment we would not be in the economic situation that we are right now.

Walking through these commandments and spelling out how they actually do help us, my mother is proven right again, as she so often is. Family values are not a talking point. They are not a new idea. They are not a political ploy. Family values are guides established thousands of years ago in order to grant us a life as easy as it can be. Life is hard enough without complicating it unnecessarily. The values based on the Ten Commandments may not eliminate all hardships and complications in life, but they will eliminate many. And why complicate your life, and hurt those you love, when you really don't have to?

I am interested in what you think so please feel free to leave me comments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Dissed Diva

Poor Angelina Jolie is feeling quit disrespected as her role as Lara Croft is expected to be given to a younger actress in the next film. Don't I just feel so sorry for her.

The next Lara Croft movie is expected to be like a prequel, covering Lara's earlier years, but Ms Jolie doesn't think the fact that she would be playing a role younger than the role she played when she was 8 years younger herself should be a problem. She's aging well, really well, but not that well. The actress is currently 35 but apparently believes she can still play a 20 year old.

The actress being considered for the "new" Lara Croft is Megan Fox, the hottie from Transformers. And I feel totally confident in my sexuality referring to that young woman as a hottie. What I wouldn't give for that body. But that's another blog. Angelina not only objects to not being given the role herself, but believes that Ms Fox does not have the talent to play Lara. I'm not really sure how much talent is required. All she has to do is look sexy, be sarcastic and do some stunts, right? Let's not forget that in the last Lara Croft movie the best review was for her co-star, Gerard Butler (whoa baby!). The review said that Gerry's character was the only multi-dimensional character in a one dimensional movie. So I can see where Angie might be concerned. After all, she did win an Oscar for her Lara Croft role, didn't she? Angie also feels that Megan is emulating her and copying everything from her style to her tattoos. Is Angie the only person with tattoos? I got a tattoo several months ago. Does that mean I'm emulating Angie? If so I'll run right out and get it removed. Even though I love it!

As you might have guessed, I'm not Angie's biggest fan. I respect the charity work that she has done but I have little respect for her for anything else. Stealing another woman's husband has a big part to play in that as well. So I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for her being replaced in a role that everybody but her can see is too young for her.

Angie, get over yourself already.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Perez Hilton - A Lesson in Consequences

Perez Hilton, a man who has made himself famous by being ugly and mean spirited about other people, finally got punched in his face for some of the ugliness he spouts. The poor baby. I have no sympathy what so ever. Our actions have consequences and Perez just felt those physically.

Perez Hilton, on the street, called Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas a faggot on the street. The manager punched him in the face. And Mr Hilton is so traumatized by this whole thing that he's now whining on the web. He appears to believe that he can do whatever he wants, be as ugly as he wants, and suffer no consequences for it. But there are always consequences for our actions. Mr Hilton spouted the ugliness that he has become so famous for, and the manager of the target opted to speak back with his fists. Do I support violence in these situations? No. But I find it absurd that Mr Hilton is whining about his treatment after the way he has treated so many others. Even his whining is hateful and filled with profanity.

There is the old saying of "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me", but there's also the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. Words matter. What you say can do real harm to people. And yet Mr Hilton prides himself on the hatefulness he can direct towards others. Miss California anyone? I find it laughable that he is now so upset over the consequences he was dealt for his own actions.

There are consequences for everything we do and everything we say. And Mr Hilton is not enjoying the illustration of a lesson he should have learned long ago.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Government "Help"

With all of this talk about government run healthcare, and the government competing with private insurers (now that's fair), I though I'd take a look at how well government agencies run the other organizations that are supposed to "help" us. This story of one person's experience with government agencies is the perfect illustration, at least for me, on why government should never be given control over something as important as our healthcare.

My niece is 26 years old and physically and psychologically disabled. Due to both her physical and emotional issues she is unable to hold to a job. A doctor testified to this. However, it took her over a year to get disability insurance. Why? Because it is standard operating procedure for government disability to automatically decline all claims the first time they are filed. But isn't this what the government accuses private insurance of doing? Vilifying them for it? She had to get a lawyer and take her claim to court in order to get her benefits. Then her lawyer, from legal aid, was not going to be able to attend the hearing and Aimee, my niece, had to go on her own. She was told she had to read a statement to the judge. This is great except that one of her issues is that she's severely learning disabled and has a very difficult time reading. Not to mention her emotional issues of having to stand up there by herself. I was unable to be with her because she lives 1,300 miles away from me.

Once her claim was approved and was supposed to begin, she didn't get a check. This is because the person in charge of the county benefits didn't submit the cancellation paperwork. What was her option to get this resolved....wait until the person submits the paperwork. In the meantime they had cancelled her food stamps but not the other benefits so she was still reliant on the county but had no food stamps for the month. They had cancelled those you see and had no emergency process to get her any for the month. And she has a small son. The next thing that happened was that she was shorted in her benefits. She didn't get the amount that she was supposed to. Again she goes and tries to get this resolved and what they tell her is, "I've fixed it in the computer and it will be right next month." But what about this month? She just has to do without that money that her budget was based on. And it was a significant chunk of her benefits. Just imagine if your employer forgot to cut your check and told you the amount would be right next week but they couldn't get you anything this week.

But wait, it gets even worse. Her case worker has now been found to be embezzling the food stamps from the recipients. Aimee did not get hers at all for June, and she was not the only one. The computer showed them going out, but they never appeared on her card. So what is being done to get her food for the month? Nothing. She has been told that everything is frozen until the investigation into the case worker is completed. So she's just SOL again.

In these situations it becomes clear that the bureaucracy is more important than the people. There is no emergency process in place to take care of issues or mistakes. The mistakes of the government staff are instead carrying by those they are supposed to be helping. It's horrible to be told that your food budget is gone for the entire month, but imagine if this happened to you with your healthcare. What would happen if your file was misplaced? Would you be denied your treatment? Probably.

I have my own personal story with the Social Security Department. I lost my social security card and applied for a replacement. They sent me a letter saying that I needed to verify my date of birth because I had submitted that I was born in one year and they had my date of birth 10 years earlier. A typo on their part. I submitted the verification. Then I received a request for a copy of my birth certificate. So I sent off for a new birth certificate (I'd lost that too) and sent a copy in. Then I received a letter from the Social Security Dept saying they needed the original. By the time I could take off work to get in to give them my birth certificate (I wasn't sending it through the mail) they admonished me for taking so long to come in because now they had to re-enter the information in the computer. It doesn't matter that coming in meant I had to leave work because they're only open during regular working hours, I had inconvenienced them and they let me know it. I finally did get my new card but it took me 8 months in order to correct THEIR mistake.

And this is the same type of process that we want for our healthcare? I sure don't.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Could I Live Where There's a Queen?

On my recent hop across the pond (told you I wouldn't shut up about it) I went to see Buckingham Palace and even got a sighting of Balmoral, and I joke about getting a summer house in Scotland. But, could I really live under a reign of a royal family. I don't think so.

I have just a wee bit of a problem with the whole idea that it is one person's God given birth right to rule over others. This even used to extend from the Royal family and into the House of Lords. Born to rule. Some sense has been obtained and the House of Lords is now mainly appointed. Not elected. Appointed. By who? The Lords on the appointment committee. Makes it so much better dontcha think? I don't believe I could ever resign myself to the idea of being governed by somebody who is only there because of the family they were born into. We may have people here (Ted Kennedy anyone?)that think ruling is their birthright, but they still have to get us to buy into it and elect them. Unfortunately, they often succeed. But at least they are in office because we're idiots and not because it's their God given right.

Ordained by God is what they say. But how do they know that. With all of the overthrows and changes of power, all of the uprisings and wars and intermarriages, how can they still believe that THEY are ordained by God? Wasn't Lady Jane Grey ordained by God? And they had her beheaded. What if the rule of England should still be with the Stuarts? My overly logical mind can't fathom the idea of believing that somebody was born to rule just because of the their parents.

There may be people who were born to rule. They have God given TALENTS that make them great leaders. Unfortunately, either few of them seek public office or we don't recognize them when they do. But at least here we have the power to vote out ALL of our officials. We do not have to wait for the President to die and hope his heir is a better ruler.

And then there's the Prime Minister. There was a lot of news on the tele while I was over there about Gordon Brown and his party losing support and whether Gordon Brown would still be Prime Minister. I tried to research how the Prime Minister is determined, but couldn't quite figure it out. So feel free to comment if you know and can explain it. But it appeared to me that the Prime Minister is the ruler of the party in power, so if you're in power, you're really in power. Could you imagine if your President was determined not by our free election but by whichever party held Congress. Not much of a checks and balances situation. Although, I could be wrong about how the whole PM thing works. It has been known to happen.

So as much as I loved Scotland and it's scenery, as much as I would love to be able to go there whenever I wanted and stay as long as I wanted, could I ever consider myself a citizen of the UK. Nope, I don't think so.

I really believe that "all men are created equal" and believing that, how could I ever come to terms with the idea that members of my government were created "better"? I can't. I may not agree with everything the government does here, but at least I feel secure in my ability to affect change. So when it comes right down to it, I can never be anything but what I am. A red blooded American to the tips of my stubby white toes. And I thank God for it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Power of a Beautiful View

I found Scotland one of the most hauntingly beautiful places I've ever visited, and yet, I can't help but wonder if it is as beautiful to those who see it every day.

Where I live there is beautify everywhere. I'm in a low mountain range, on a plateau, but there are rolling hills covered in trees. The scenery can be absolutely breathtaking, especially in the spring and fall. But I rarely even see it anymore. I tend to become a bit oblivious to my surroundings. I once had a small Christmas tree on my desk until April because I just didn't see it anymore.

While I was wondering around Scotland I kept imagining what it would be like to see that view every day, how nice that would be. But then began to wonder if the natives took their scenery as much for granted as I take my own. I hope they don't.

There is a lot of talk about how we become desensitized to violence and ugliness because we see so much of it, but does the same thing happen with beauty? Do we need to see beauty elsewhere in order to see that which surrounds us every day? I did.

When talking about my trip to a co-worker (you just really can't shut me up about it) she mentioned a favorite quote of hers. As a dedicated traveller this meant a lot to her, and I see it's truth so I'm sharing it with you. The saying goes, and I'm doing this from memory so I may get it wrong, "Life is a book, and if you don't travel, you only see one page." We should all flip the page now and then.

I've included the views I found the most peaceful and soothing. The views that had the most profound effect on me. The views that will stay with me forever. The pictures that cannot do justice to the beauty I experienced but that I continue to view over and over again. I hope you enjoy them. And if you get the chance, I hope you experience them for yourself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

British Puzzle Plumbing

You may have heard about Chinese Puzzle Boxes, but on my recent hop across the pond I discovered British Puzzle Plumbing. Using the facilities was truly an education experience and certainly exercised my problem solving skills.

While travelling through England and Scotland I saw more designs for toilets, sinks and showers than I've ever seen before. Some of them were an engineering challenge. The toilets were usually squat and square, but how to flush them varied quite a bit. You had the traditional lever which was pretty rare, but you also had toilets with no tank that flushed by pushing a big button in the wall. There were dual button flushes that controlled the amount of water that went through. Press 1 button for number 1 and both buttons for number 2. But the really interesting thing was that many of the toilets had to be primed. You'd flush and, like a car trying to turn over, the toilet would sputter and stop. Press again and it might sputter again or it might flush, but I rarely got one to flush on the first attempt. Three was usually the magic number. But when they did flush, whoa baby. Some had the water hit the bowl with such force that a geyser came up out of the bowl. I'm just glad I wasn't still sitting on it when that happened.

The sinks were interesting as well. I've attached a picture of one of my favorites. The sink was beautiful, and the faucet as well. But in order to make water actually run you had to turn the band that looked more like decoration than function. I waved my hands under that one for a while before figuring out that it wasn't automated. Another that comes to mind was a lever that moved up and down. It showed you how to get hot and cold but what it didn't show you was how to get water. In order to make water flow you had to pull part of it out at an angle then turn for desired temperature. This one took me a while to figure out because I'd had a beer with dinner. So if you're going to the UK, scope out the facilities and how they work BEFORE you start to drink.

Then there were the showers. Oh the showers. They were by far the most interesting of all. There was one in particular that I needed a helpline for. One of the most interesting things was that the tubs were raised higher inside than the floor outside. A bit of a challenge for a short person or anybody unsteady on their feet. Stepping in to the tub wasn't so bad, but when it came to stepping out, from a wet tub with wet feet, onto a floor several inches lower than you think it should be, you'd better hang on to something. I almost ended up on my backside several times. I'm only 5'2" tall and there was at least one bathtub that gave me a cramp in my thigh getting out of. I can't imagine a kid trying to get into those babies alone.

And now for my favorite shower story. While travelling I was sharing a room with my parents. Mainly to save money but I also didn't see a real need for my own room. In this case I was really glad to have them. I'd gone to the room after dinner before them, and was taking my shower at night because of an early departure, 3 people, and one bathroom. I hiked my leg up to my shoulder and tumbled into the tub. I turned the hot and cold water on and water began pouring from the faucet into the tub. So far so good. But how to make the water go from the faucet to the shower head. Either of them. There was a detachable shower head and another installed in the ceiling. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to get the water from one place to another. I'd given up hope, slid my butt onto the tub floor and resigned myself to a bath instead of a shower. Not my favorite thing. Then to my utter salvation my parents entered the room. I yelled out to them my frustration with the plumbing and they found the instructions for the shower. Yes, it had instructions. Were they in the bathroom? No, they were by the coffee pot. Good place for them don't you think? It turns out that the device on the shower wall with the play and pause button was not a radio after all. It was the shower control. The shower was in no way connected to the controls for the tub. No wonder I couldn't figure it out. So at last I had my shower. While sharing this story with a fellow traveller the next day the shower situation got even better. Her control kept beeping because the battery was nearly dead. So what would happen if you were in this electronically controlled, super advanced, technological marvel of a shower and it's battery died? Would you just be left soapy? Probably.

Then we had a room that had no tub at all. It had a shower stall. Oh glory. I was so excited to see that. Until I tried to use it. The shower stall doors only opened a little way and this is exactly where the water sprayed when the shower was on. So in order to get the temperature where you wanted it you either had to stand in spray that was too hot and /or too cold, or let water spray onto the bathroom floor. Then the doors didn't close completely so there was water on the floor anyway. So I wasn't quite as impressed after using it.

I had a great time on my trip to the UK, but the plumbing was an adventure I hadn't expected.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Handicap Inaccessibility in the UK - When Lobbying Actually Works

There is a lot of talk about getting rid of lobbyists, and for the most part I agree. We tend to end up writing laws in the best interest of the minority instead of in the best interest of the majority. But the minority must be considered by the majority as well. In my recent trip to the UK I found an example of where lobbying really worked in the US. This is as it relates to legislation around handicap accessibility.

In the US it is a requirement that buildings and bathrooms be accessible to the handicapped. This is not so in the UK as, travelling with somebody mildly handicapped, became quite literally painfully obvious. In the castles and historical buildings this is to be expected. They were built way before the handicapped would be considered and while a wheel chair meant somebody was carrying you. At Edinburgh Castle the bathrooms were in what looked like a dungeon. But the most egregious example I saw of the inaccessibility was in the London underground. A modern facility. I was travelling with my parents and my mother has had a recent hip replacement and also needs to have her knees replaced. She walks well, if slowly, but stairs are difficult for her. And stairs were required to get anywhere, but especially in the underground. We decided to see London on foot and so I got a map of central London with the tube stops listed, and a tube map and we set off to see the sites. However, we quickly found that in order to get to the tube, stairs were required. If, on the rare occasion, there was an escalator, there was also at least one flight of stairs. If you needed to change tube lines, you had to go up or down stairs. To get out of the tube stop, you had to go up stairs. And I'm not talking 5 or 6 steps, but in some cases as many as 40. In a city where the public transport is encouraged, it doesn't make it easy for everybody.

On our last day in London, when I'd already worn my Mother out, we took the tube to Hyde park. By the time we arrived the public facilities were needed. But were the facilities in the tube station? Nope. You had to go up 20 stairs to get out to the public restrooms and then they were back underground. I've attached a picture of the stairs required to get to the public toilet. Seeing this my mother opted to wait and do the potty dance until we found a restroom in a nearby hotel. A suggestion made by a passerby. By the end of the day my mother was in so much pain from climbing stairs that she had to get a wheelchair in the airport. Something she has not had to do for quite some time. However, I do have to say that upon my return I was much stronger by having climbed so many stairs. It could be that the Brits are in better shape than we are because they HAVE to take stairs everywhere, but it does seriously limit the accessibility for those that are physically unable to climb them.

Our handicap accessibility was due to lobbying on Washington DC and I applaud them for this. There is an expense involved, but at least the building is available to all. So if you're planning on going to the UK, and especially if you're planning on taking the tube, you might want to build up your strength on the old StairMaster first.

Scotland - A Must See In The World

I just returned from a trip through Scotland and, I have to say, I fell madly in love. If you've never been, I highly recommend a trip. It took everything I had in me to return when I did and I am an American to my very core. But something about Scotland really spoke to me. Actually living there might be different, and I could never leave the USA permanently, but a summer home sounds like a grand idea to me.

My parents joined me on the trip and it was such a wonderful experience to share with them. We took a guided tour with COSMOS and I'm so glad we did. The tour began in London and went up to Edinburgh, up around the East coast to Inverness, then over to the West coast to the islands and down to Glasgow, then back to London. We also spent a few extra days in London on our own which was nice as well. But being on a guided tour made all the difference for me. Not only did I not have to drive on the wrong side of the road in unfamiliar territory when I already have a strong tendency to get lost, but the historical and geological information that was imparted to us by our totally phenomenal tour guide, Peter Scott, was one of the best parts of the trip. Everything we saw he had information on. We received historical information on every castle and every point of interest. We received the story on the uprising of the '45 as we went by Culloden Battlefield. We received the geological information on cliffs and the stark, bare mountains of the highlands. We learned about the clearing of the clans and why the highlands are so sparsely populated now. It was brilliant! Our accommodations were good though the plumbing was so interesting that it will get it's own blog.

The islands were my favorite part of the trip and the photos that I took just cannot do them justice. Everywhere you looked it was beautiful and awe inspiring. I've been home less than 48 hours and already want to return. The only downside to the trip was a group of 10 that were inconsiderate to the other travellers and insisted on speaking while our tour guide was talking. My mother took to smacking them with her cane to get their attention and then telling them to shut up. It was pretty entertaining. It appears some of them didn't speak English well and were unable to whisper. They pretty much figured that if they were done listening then nobody else needed to listen either. That group did serve the purpose of bonding the rest of the travellers though. And the others on the tour were great. It was wonderful to meet people from all over the world and share the experiences with them. There are several that I plan to keep in contact with.

There will be many blogs in the days to come on this trip, but the one thing I wanted you to know was how much I really, really loved it. If you're looking to take a trip overseas but don't know where to go or what to see, I recommend a guided tour. And if you can get Peter Scott as your tour guide count yourself very, very fortunate. The true benefit of a guided tour is not just the information the guide imparts, but it acts like a recon mission to see a bit of everything so you can decide what you want to see more of. For me, that means the Scottish Hebrides. I will definitely return there at some point in my life, and the sooner the better.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Off Across the Pond

I've been planning for years to take a trip to Scotland and tomorrow I finally head out. I'll be travelling with my parents (how pitiful is that). Actually they're going with me. I planned to go and they asked if they could come along and what could I say. It's going to be pretty special because my father with have his birthday while we're there.

I've had several people say they are going to stow away in my luggage, but they'll have to pay for the charge for the bag being over 5o lbs. I have so many things I've wanted to see for years and plan on overdosing on scenery.

We will be taking an organized tour through COSMOS which will start in London and then take us up and around Scotland. We talked about doing a self-drive tour but decided against it. To give you some perspective on why we did that, when I was a kid we used to do the national Lampoon's family vacations and, as a result, we have been lost in every large city in the continental US and most of the small ones. Considering that we can't get around Buffalo without looking so lost that a motorcycle driver knocked on our window to help, we figured a foreign country where the drive on the wrong side of the street could be really dangerous.

I'm off tomorrow morning so this will be my last blog for 2 weeks. It also explains why I haven't been blogging much lately. Preparation, preparation, preparation.

But the house is clean (sort of) the cats will be taken care of, my restless leg prescription has been filled, my credit card company has been notified of the travel so I don't get there get myself on fraud watch and my cards frozen. So I'm good to go and so excited and bouncing up and down so fast that I might quite literally be beside myself.

When I return I will be regaling you all with the effusive descriptions of my wonderful travels. See ya.