Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is this America?

This article came up last week and I'm just getting to it now. The school board of Michigan decided, without much thought really, that the term "America" and "Americans" should not be used in schools, on school tests or said aloud by teachers.
The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).
OK, I see what they are doing here. Someone got the bug in their keester that they needed to be "non-offensive" about how we are described to the outside world. I.E. we wouldn't want to go around offending anyone by saying that we're Americans and you're not, even though you live on the North American continent.
So I thought I would offer some thought from a geographer's point of view. First of all, trying to narrow the name of this country down to just the United States (even though it's common enough to do so) is not technically correct. You don't call the People's Republic of China just "the People's Republic." America is part of the name and has been from the beginning. In fact there are more countries in the world than you can count on your hands and feet with longer full names than just the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Federal Republic of Germany, or the People's Republic of Bangladesh. It's just that you don't see those titles every day like you do with the United States of America.
So for purely formal reasons it makes sense that people refer to this as "America" as it is the short form of the country's name.
Now from the point of arguing that because the continent's name is America, we can't specifically refer to ourselves as "Americans." There are areas in the world where a country's name takes on the name of the region, or the continent. The Congo is a region of central Africa, but one country that contains most of it gets the name. South Africa is the name of a country, as well as the southern region of the African Continent, which includes more than just that country.
Australia is a country and a continent.
Also, if they are trying to be politically correct about not offending anyone, I don't think that you'll go anywhere in this world where when people say "Americans" they aren't talking about us. Not the Mexicans (heck the Mexicans probably all think of us as Americanos, not United Statians, or whatever).
So linguistically and geographically I think it's a fallacy that we shouldn't call ourselves "Americans."

Update: I corrected a sentence above that sounded kind of funny. I made it seem like no one in the world refers to us as Americans, when I meant the opposite. I think I was just in a hurry to finish for some reason. Sorry.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Columbian's re-elect Urube

With all the bad news and all the corrupt and ugly governments in Latin America, it's always nice to hear about a success story. Something for the countries that were fooled into putting leftist dictators into power to notice, that yes it's better for you to put a president in there who believes in free markets and free people.
And, yes, the big stunner is that the country in question is Columbia.
The country just re-elected Alvaro Urube.
For his second term, Uribe, 53, promises to provide health care to all of Colombia'’s 41 million inhabitants, ensure every child receives education and make loans available for the poor to set up businesses. He also plans to cut the rate of taxation on personal and corporate income and reduce a tax on financial transactions.
Unemployment has dropped dramatically. The economy is soaring.
HeÂ’s destroying terrorism, installing free markets, and creating a new nation out of one of the world's worst hellholes on a scale unseen almost anywhere else in the world. The stock market has gone up 500% since he'’s taken office. The debt has been repaid early, the peso is soaring, the jobless rate is tumbling (unemployment is down one third since he took office!), investment both foreign and domestic has gone through the moon and confidence and optimism is returning. The economy grew at 5% last year. Crime has evaporated. The country reported exactly two kidnaps this year.
Now, temper that with the context that Columbia had nowhere to go but up when he took office.
But it's still something to celebrate and encourage in our foreign relations.

Protest Iran!

The excitement reaches a crescendo. There are pretty aggressive protests taking place in Iran, proving that the government's attitude about nuclear bombs, Israel and just about everything else just might not be what the citizens of that fine country believe. The reason that Iran is on the U.S.A.s list of evil countries is due to a small micro minority of radical Islamists, who just happen to be in power.
Gateway pundit has a couple of posts on the protests.
Reports from Iran claim that thousands of Azeris are leaving the northwest for the capital to protest against the regime.
The Revolutionary Guard was dispatched to Naqadeh to squelch the protests there that have continued for a week.
He notes that the Christian Science Monitor is wondering if this is the beginning of the end for the Mullah regime.
I'm wondering if, even if this isn't the end of the Mullahs, if all the stuff they are having to deal with, including a Kurdish military uprising in the northwest, will change their international dealings, at least for a while. At least long enough for the UN to finally issue some sort of sanctions? OK, I'm not holding my breath. I'm pulling for popular uprising toppling the government and then asking for our help in setting up a popular democracy.

Happy Memorial Day

In honor of all those who have risked their lives in service to the freedoms with which we enjoy every day of our lives. Thank you, to the men and women of our armed forces and an even deeper thank you for those killed so that we might stay free.
Additionally, see my post from Friday on the flag planting at Willamette National Cemetery.

Tryon Creek State Park

My continuing series on Oregon's open and wild places brings us to an urban area. Or rather a wild oasis in the Portland urban zone. Within the city limits, down Terwilliger Blvd toward Lake Oswego there is a reserve of about 550 acres, with nothing but trails, creeks and lots of Douglas-fir and Cedar trees. It's called Tryon Creek State Park, named for the major drainage that flows through it.

The one thing that I noticed right off the bat was how dense the canopy was. Very shady on a bright day. If you enter the park from the Terwilliger entrance and drive down to the parking lot, there is a nature center (really more like a visitor center) with lots of displays to learn from and stuff to buy to support the park.

Obie's Bridge
The trails are well maintained, and though some of them are used for horses, the horse trails are very similar to the hiking trails, and are not quite as beat up as some state parks with horse trails. Either this is because of better maintenance, or possible because this is more of an urban park, there aren't as many people keeping horses nearby. There are over 15 miles of trails in the park, and all of them are worth going down. The Lewis and Clark trail going toward the Law School was my favorite.

Tryon Creek at Obie's Bridge
The park is a part of what used to be owned by Socrates Hotchkiss Tryon in the 1850s. After his death, the land was divided among his descendents and then sold to the Oregon Iron Company. The Iron Co. logged it for their foundry in Lake Oswego. There was a huge forest fire in 1900, and you can still see some of the charring on snags and stumps in the park. Friends of Tryon Creek Park was created after the 1960s, and eventually convinced the state to permanently protect it.

Dense brush over the river at High Bridge

Terry Riley Bridge

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bush the Green

I've been thinking about how often Bush gets slammed as a pariah on the environment, which is expected. Frankly, sometimes it seems like the left doesn't really think they have to spend time thinking about it; Republicans and Conservatives are bad for the environment. Right?
Well, no. Actually, Bush has been better on the Environment than most Presidents have lately. Don't believe me? I'm not surprised, seeing as how the press has avoided good news that helps the President like they would a leper at a Republican fund raiser.
However, some people have noticed.
One is tempted to ask whether they are being Clintonesque, with nothing depending upon their definitions of nothing. But assuming they were being honest, one can only wonder where they gathered their evidence that the Bush administration was doing nothing.
Obviously it was not from reading Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic, who in February last year, wrote: "[T]he notion that Bush has done nothing at all about greenhouse gases can only be sustained if you ignore what he has done."
Duane Freese goes on to discuss a few of the things that the administration has accomplished that help the environment. One is programs to reduce methane emission, which is far more powerful that carbon dioxide. They have also produced 60 programs designed to reduce emissions of carbon equivalent greenhouse gases by 500 metric tons through 2012. But that doesn't seem to register with environmental types.
Where the administration runs afoul of its critics' demands -- and is considered to be doing nothing -- is in the promotion of caps on carbon emissions. The critics want to force carbon-emitting industries to cap emissions and then allow those who reduce their emissions below their cap to sell credits to those who fail to meet them. But such cap and trade schemes would do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Without China and India participating, costly carbon caps will prompt the movement of industrial emissions abroad -- where they will likely be spewed out in greater amounts through dirtier technology.
And, in truth, Kyoto is failing left and right. Canada and Europe are not going to be able to meet their own standards under that treaty.
But truthfully, even this article doesn't really cover all the pro-environmental moves that Bush has made over the course of his 5 years in office. Easterbrook over the years has logged many other programs and administrative rule changes, as well as standards and bills that the President has championed, including the toughest standards on industrial mercury emissions in history. The President has been fully behind the U.S. participation in the Pacific Rim treaty that cuts greenhouse emissions, but does it in a more effective way than Kyoto.
Bush also gets trashed for recinding all those poorly thought out edicts that Clinton handed down in his final days in office (truly Clinton's only real environmental claim to fame). But what people fail to realize, and what the left chooses to ignore, is that apart from the Roadless Initiative, Bush has reistated most of the environmental rule changes that Clinton put into place. He just temporarily suspended them while giving the new Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture time to review them.
While I have problems with Bush's politics in many areas, at least I'm honest about what he has and has not done. It constantly amazes me that some people seem to just want to believe what's not true so they have an excuse to hate the President.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Weekend Flag Planting

Traditionally, May 30th is Memorial day, although the United States celebrates it on the last Monday in the month of May. And we all generally take a 3 day weekend. There are many stories about how and when Memorial Day was started. It's probably true that most of them have truth, as it's not unreasonable to assume that there were many places where people honored their fallen heroes by decorating their grave sites. But the official start was when General John A. Logan declared that there would be a day of celebration, honoring all the fallen soldiers of the Civil War by decorating the gravestones of all Union AND Confederate soldiers. That day would be May 30th, 1868.
The southern states didn't celebrate that day, even though the northern states honored both confederate and union soldiers. However, after WWI, the day of remembrance was changed to include all soldiers from all wars, and then the southern states started celebrating the same day.
In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, which established every last Monday in May as the recognized celebration day, in order to facilitate a federal 3 day weekend.
Here's the text of the proclamation that Gen. Logan made:

1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose , among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the solders, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion. What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes?Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
Adjutant General

Every year, just before the Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts gather at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, just like they do across the nation, and celebrate our fallen heroes by placing an American flag at the foot of each grave stone.
First they have a memorial service, where the colors are displayed by the Marines, some words are said by veterans and the Scout district headmaster. Each troop and pack's colors are shown (see above), and all the veterans buried in the cemetery are given a 21 gun salute. Many of the kids weren't ready for the guns, and visibly jolted when the first round (there were 7 guns) went off. To top it off, a bagpipe was played to the tune of Amazing Grace, and a bugler played taps.
And, yes, it rained on us virtually the entire time.
After that the scouts were dismissed and sent to pre-assigned sections, where there were boxes of flags handed out to teams for placement at the headstones. Each scout was to place the flag at the bottom center of the stone, read the name on the stone, and then solute that soldier. The scout master made the point during the ceremony that 90% of the graves don't get visitors during the weekend, so it was our job to honor each and every one.
It was an honor doing so, and it was amazing to read the lifespans of many of them. I saw markers for veterans of wars from the Spanish-American war in 1898 all the way to the Vietnam war. Many fought in more than one, and at least one stone recorded that soldier's participation in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.
Click on each picture to get a larger image. The cemetery is overwhelmingly picturesque, and set high on Mt. Scott with some outstanding views of Portland. While it's not as large and grand as Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, it is certainly its equal in beauty.
Driving around you'll come across a very nice Korean War memorial set up with the names of Oregon soldiers that died during the conflict. I ran out of shots on the camera, otherwise I would have posted a picture of it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Da Vinci musings

I was driving home this evening listening to the news, when I thought I heard the list of movie receipts for the weekend. Yes, there they were. And the radio was claiming that the Da Vinci Code had the highest by far on the weekend, and was set to break all sorts of records. Or something to that effect.

I was at the same time sickened, in the way that one would be if he learned that millions of people had voluntarily walked into Nazi gas chambers, and unsurprised.

I say unsurprised because I was having an Email conversation with a friend of mine last week regarding the release of the film and he sent me this little snippet from Peggy Noonan:

I do not understand the thinking of a studio that would make, for the amusement of a nation 85% to 90% of whose people identify themselves as Christian, a major movie aimed at attacking the central tenets of that faith, and insulting as poor fools its gulled adherents. Why would Tom Hanks lend his prestige to such a film? Why would Ron Howard? They're both already rich and relevant. A desire to seem fresh and in the middle of a big national conversation? But they don't seem young, they seem immature and destructive. And ungracious. They've been given so much by their country and era, such rich rewards and adulation throughout their long careers. This was no way to say thanks.

And I responded that it made perfect sense for people who routinely walk around parading the fact that they have no faith in anything except money to make a movie based on a uber best seller. How many of the people in this country that claim to be Christian are not just doing so because they feel some cultural affinity for the religion, or they somewhat believe in God, but only one they can contain.

I mean look at the book sales.

This article was written last week, as well, when at the time critics were giving the thing such a tongue lashing that any reasonably self proclaiming pundit who wanted an easy prediction with which to stun the masses could latch onto and write a column of doom. I have to admit that after reading reviews like this, and this it’s hard to want to see the thing at all.

The one thing that really shocked me was the movie's underlying intention, stated several times with great clarity: the depth and passion of its anti-Christian, anti-monotheism craziness. To say the movie wishes actually to be the anti-Christ would only sound extravagant; still that is the constant and underlying message. The "heroes" of the film have to save the world from the oppression and injustice brought into it, not only by Christianity, but by all monotheistic religions.

Nice. The New York Times:

"The Da Vinci Code," which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, is one of the few screen versions of a book that may take longer to watch than to read.

Michael Novak:

In short, there is enough in this film to offend everybody.

Afterwards, I sure felt like a strong double bourbon. And I felt eager to forget as soon as I can the sheer malicious hatred that swirls up from this film.

Rolling Stone (Hat tip Moderate Voice):

There's no code to decipher. Da Vinci is a dud — a dreary, droning, dull-witted adaptation of Dan Brown's religioso detective story that sold 50 million copies worldwide.

Conservative elements in the Catholic Church are all worked up over a plot that questions Christ's divinity and posits a Vatican conspiracy to cover up Jesus Christ's alleged marriage to Mary Magdalene and to drive all things feminine from the church. Here's the sure way to quiet the protesters: Have them see the movie. They will fall into a stupor in minutes. I know it bored me breathless.

And these are just a few, believe me. So why is the movie doing so well? Is it because when Catholics squawk people yearn to defy the church and go see it in defiance? That’s certainly been brought up by a number of people. What if the church had just let this alone (please humor my leap into the impossible for a moment)?

How many people these days actually do stuff because the church actually tells them to? Really. Considering the slide in spiritual faith over the last 40 years, I’m surprised that the culturally secular segment of American society even stops to notice that the church even exists these days, except perhaps to snark condescendingly at them whenever a priest does something he shouldn’t have (which reminds those of us in the faith how close we all are to crossing the line).

The best argument against the church being the instigator in all this comes from a guy named David Wayne.

Could it be that the church has been faithfully telling the story all along and the world doesn't find it compelling because they hate Jesus? Of course we've butchered the story many times, but this whole idea that the world finds DVC compelling because we have failed to make the true story compelling is patently false. The true story of Jesus tells us that if we tell the story truly, the world will not find it compelling, rather they will reject it. Thus, it is far more likely that the world finds DVC more compelling simply because it tells the story of a Jesus who is more to its liking.

Zing! Read John 15:18-25.

Ok, so last week I was Ill and bedridden, so I finally settled down and read the Da Vinci Code in full. Just short of 500 pages in paperback, it’s not exactly the most intriguing page turner in history, but Brown’s not all that bad a writer, and it had enough movement and a great mystery to solve with some pretty inventive cryptography to help with the mystery. That part was fun.

The hard part is that he interspersed the entire book with this heavy and frequent lathering of conspiracy history and pagan religious history from two of the main characters. You have to admit, that Brown really did his homework here. He found probably every disparate bit of pagan and religious and cultural information that sounded feminine in any way and tied them together into a semi convincing religion. On paper anyway.

Once you get away from the story, his religion really falls apart. I though this part of the book was the most tedious anyway. I hate conspiracy themes in books, or at least this one (and the last one I read) dragged the rest of the book down a bit. It was just too hard to believe in certain sections.

The book is written to be exciting and full of "facts" that support the main protagonists and the quest that they are on. You get the impression that they are the good guys and the Catholics are the real bad guys. The facts presented seemed to outlandish to be believed, and one thing about novels like this is that if you are going to build a story on something as weird as a conspiracy theory or that challenges current dogma, you'd better back up where you are getting all this stuff. He writes a lot like Michael Crichton, except that Crichton is brainy, convincing and doesn't get all weird about spiritualist stuff. Crichton also backs up what he writes about. In the one book where he presents factoids to support his plot line, State of Fear, which is about global warming, he has pages of notes and references in the back supporting his story. It felt like Brown was making the stuff up as he went, and it was hard to tell what was fact and what was fiction.

Many of the other "facts" Brown presents can be easily rendered bunk by simple googling. At one point I even caught him contradicting something he had earlier said in the book. I can't remember it now, but distinctly recall saying to myself, "Hey, you just wrote the complete opposite about 50 pages ago."

The only part of Christianity that Brown seems to want to talk about and present as the main antagonist in the story is the Catholic Church. As if the Catholics are the only true vestiges of Christianity that Brown needs to deal with. This makes his plot easier to create and follow, because you can believe that Rome was involved with all sorts of underhanded and evil stuff way back when. Think Inquisition and the corruption that leads to the Reformation (which Brown never mentions). Makes me think that Brown is an ex-Catholic, the religion leaving a bad taste in his mouth. However as an ex-Catholic myself, growing up in that environment didn't make me aware of accurate doctrine, and not surprisingly, Brown seems to ignore or be totally unaware of Biblical doctrine. He treats the Jewish religion and the Christian religion as two separate religions, and many of his suppositions fall apart considering how the ancient Jewish religion flows into Christianity. Christianity didn't "start" with Christ's birth, but Brown treats it as though it did.

I would assume that real theological lore about pagan mysticism does contain a lot of what Brown used, albeit unsupported lore. But this controversy probably wouldn't be happening if Brown had just come out and said, "Hey, it's fiction, get over it. I made stuff up and connected things together artificially to support my plot." No, he had to come out and say that most of the information was true and try to defend his research. I think that's what has people in a bunge. There are poor hapless souls who fall for this sort of fiction as reality crap.

The more I talk to people, the more I hear that Brown is saying that it’s only a movie/book and shouldn’t take fiction seriously. So I’m thinking that Brown is an opportunist. He plays to the audience he’s in front of. If it’s an audience of fans he’s all about the authenticity of his research. If it’s a skeptical reporter he says it’s only fiction.

But even spiritually, Wayne thinks that Brown will defend himself like the weasel he writes into the story.

It won't be hard to press against the book and the movie. All kinds of people from all kinds of places have already debunked the main tenets of the Da Vinci Code and anyone who is willing to look at the evidence should be able to see that pretty quickly.

So I think there will be a fall back position for Da Vinci Code advocates and I think we can already see what that fallback position will be.

The fallback position is on pages 341-342 of the book. Sophie Neveu is questioning Robert Langdon about the advisability of making their secret knowledge of Christ known to the world.

Langdon smiled. "Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith - acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove."

Lastly, for the time being, read the entire TCS article by Bainbridge. He shows how the story is basically a thin story on top of a few amalgamated, but ancient, heresies against the church. He also takes the time to dig up some information on the early church, rendering some of Browns facts null.

I’ll leave you with the part of the story that made it all hard for me to believe. The entire plot is wrapped around a secret society that has existed for 1000 years protecting the family descendents of Mary Magdelene, who they claim was actually Christ’s wife. The two primary characters of the story, Langdon and Teabing, spend so much time relating the vast history of the society and their leaders and movements, you have to wonder how good these guys actually were about keeping secrets. It’s a wonder the early Church didn’t come in and shut them down after the first few meetings.

World's Newest Country

Today the tiny region of Montenegro of old Yugoslavia held a poll and voted itself into nationhood.  They separated from Serbia with over 55% of the vote.

      The official results are expected today. If, as expected, the prediction is confirmed, it will establish a new small state in the Balkans and leave a shrunken Serbia nursing intense grievances from 15 years of Yugoslav disintegration. But while the margin of victory appeared solid, the projection was close enough to the threshold set by the EU to make a dispute over the outcome almost inevitable.

The region is only about 10% native Montenegrin, the rest are Serbian.  So you figure it out.  Serbia here is the big loser, and they have to see it that way.   Boy are they sore losers.

      The leader of the pro-Serbia unionist side, Predrag Bulatovic, refused to concede defeat and talked of "destabilisation" and "tricks."

Not being able to bury the hatchet and put the past behind them, but stew on their ill fortune and loss of libido, is not conducive to keeping it all together.  As if losing Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia years ago didn’t send a flashing red signal to Belgrade, this sure will.  Serbia will go down in history as yet another community of people who thought they  had some God given right to dominate the other cultures of an artificial construct of post-WWI Europe.  They picked the wrong era of humanity to try and pull that kind of stuff off in, as Western culture decided it was better to split all that up.  And thus three new countries were born in the 90s.

Instead of learning a lesson about being human, they decided to pick on what little they had left, as bullies often will.  Those kind folks didn’t take that well either, and now negotiations in Vienna appear to have the region of Kosovo joining the Montenegrins in fast retreat.

The separation won’t be immediate, and they are still competing in this year’s World Cup as one nation.  Sort of swan song for the old country.  I raise a toast to the passing state of Yugoslavia.  They gave us Tito.  They gave us really cheep little cars.  They gave us a memorable winter Olympics and something useful for our last President to do overseas.  We note that the only thing constant in our world is change, and wish the poor bitter people of Serbia well, and hope they don’t try anything rash as a result of all this.

Hat tip to Publius.

Sick Week

I have to now apologize for being out all last week.  There are only a few people out there who read my blog on a regular basis.  And by regular I mean more than once in a blue moon.   I mean they don’t read my posts just because they did a topical google and it came up 22nd.

I’ve been pretty ill with the flu since last Wednesday, and only now am recovering.  I’m well enough, but am feeling pretty weak from fighting the microscopic beasts.  I got to read a couple of books while I was out of it.  One was the Da Vinci Code, which was OK and difficult all at the same time.  Perhaps I’ll blog about it, since the movie is out and everyone is talking about it.

The other book was Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi.  Great book.  Very Heinlein, with a touch of Orson Scott Card thrown in.  There’s a lot of Cursing, but since everyone is in the military in the story I didn’t think any of it was beyond reason.  Some of it fit well into the story and was quite humorous too.  I recommend it (not the cursing, I mean the book).

During all this time, my wife, who took extra good care of me for 5 days, did her best to keep me away from our only home computer.  Quarantined, you might say. 

Great to be back.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sri Lanka Civil War

Civil war looming in Sri Lanka, as the Tamil Tigers attack military boats, killing 20 soldiers. The war that was put on hold a few years ago is looking like it's heading up again. Hat tip to Winds of Change.
The escalation in violence could mark a return to civil war, as a 2002 cease-fire that stopped almost two decades of fighting appears increasingly unlikely to last.
The Tigers began fighting in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. More than 65,000 people died in the conflict before the 2002 truce.

Bush's Immigration Speech

OK, ok. I was not sure if I was going to comment on the President's speech yesterday. So many things have already been said from all sorts of people. However, I will throw in my two cents and hopefully say something that hasn't been said before.
President Bush scheduled his speech for Monday to coincide with the start of major debate in both houses this week on the Illegal Immigration issues at hand. If you didn't catch the speech, you can get a transcript here, or you can actually download and watch the speech from here.

I thought it was pretty good. Not Bush's best speech by a long shot. Some of his early State of the Union speeches were much better. But he said things that he's needed to say for a long time.
Some thoughts on the points he talked about.
1. Increased border security. Amen, brother. As much as I haven't really been impressed with the President's response to this issue up to this point, this is the most important part of the debate. Finally, we're hearing something that resembles sense on national security regarding our borders.
Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we will have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my Presidency.
At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors … infrared cameras … and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings.
Will this stop the influx of desperate men and women, doing whatever they can to enjoy the prosperity they could only dream about in their countries of birth? Perhaps. Anyway it's a step in the right direction. You can't even talk about trying to deal with the massive population of undocumented immigrants in America without putting your finger in the dike that separates out fine land from the rest of the world.
If nothing else you can't argue that Bush hasn't really been tough on border security, as the agency has 50% more agents than it did when he started. However, since 9/11, how many people in his position wouldn't have increased that number.
Also, Bush lays down that there will no longer be "Catch and Release" because of overfilled immigration prison space. Great, but kind of late. This program should have been terminated on September 12, 2001.

2. Guest worker program. Bush claims that creating a program that allows more people to come over for just the sake of taking jobs that other Americans won't take will reduce the number of people trying to sneak over illegally.
A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers– and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.
I'm not saying that this wouldn't work, or wouldn't cause problems, but I understand why he's suggesting it. The major complaint here is going to be that other immigrants who are on track to be citizens are going to be upset, as they are trying hard to do things the lawful way while others are being allowed to skirt the law.
And anyway, we've tried temporary worker programs before. (Hat tip to Powerline)
The problem is that we have unsuccessfully tried this approach before, from 1942 to 1964, with the so-called braceros -— the hired "arms" from Mexico. Various programs to bring Mexican laborers across the border were initially small, supposedly temporary and aimed only at alleviating wartime shortages of labor.
But some 4 million braceros later, the idea of guest workers had evolved into a huge labor exchange, delivering hardworking,— and very cheap, farmworkers to American employers, most of them large agribusiness concerns.
And the current Senate plan is inviting an influx of immigration that could overwhelm the system.

3. Greater employer accountability and harder to fake documentation. Mostly I'm with him here, except that there's really no pressure on employers now, so "more" enforcement or accountability is relative.

4. No amnesty, but no mass deportations. We all realize that trying to deport all the people currently here illegally isn't practical, and certainly most people are sensitive to the realities of those people's lives. The places they would have to return to, and the families and lives they have developed here.
Bush is sending a message here, I think, to the Senate, whose plan (see above) calls for some of the undocumented workers who have been here over 2 years a path to citizenship. Which is amnesty.

5. Assimilation and English as the language that immigrants must learn to become citizens. This should be a no-brainer, and yet so many public and government signage and documentation is displayed in Spanish as well as English. It's nice that waccommodatemodate visitors to our great nation, but for the sake of unity there should be one language officially.
I don't really see what the President is proposing here. What is the Senate supposed to do here?

All and all a positive step forward. Now we have to wait for the bloviated chambers of Congress to all agree on something. I hope it's somewhere in the ballpark of what the President is proposing here.

Instapundit: "My prediction: Over the next few weeks, lots of back-and-forth with Congress (this is an opening bid), ending with no guest worker program and with a slightly-less-open amnesty path to citizenship."
There are lots of people not expecting much from Congress on this, including me.
Powerline: "Bush blew it."
Ed Morrissey: "President Bush tried reaching for the center -- a position he has occupied on this issue all along. He tried a one-from-column-A, two-from-column-B approach that probably will leave all sides more or less dissatisfied. His declaration that catch-and-release would end was the most welcome news in the entire speech."
Tony Snow (White House Press Secretary): "This is an act of leadership. The fact is, the President is going to give a speech that is based on what he thinks is important, and these are his real passions. If he wanted simply to give a speech to mollify any given voting block, it would be a much different kind of speech. Instead what he's -- you've heard him talk about this in the past. He has very strong passions about it."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Milo McIver State Park

Driving down highway 224 southeast from Portland is a lesson in aesthetic contrasts. The first couple of miles the road is multi-laned and surrounded on both sides by light industrial facades that are fairly blank for the most part. After that, the road abruptly changes into a thin 2 lane highway that winds its way slowly, heavy with traffic, down to the town of Estacada. Estacada is the last stop on 224 before the Mt. Hood national forest's Clackamas River basin, which includes the popular Bagby Hot Springs. It's a rural mountain town quickly becoming another distant suburb of Portland in the way of Forest Grove.
All that aside, across the river from the city of Estacada the topography rises suddenly, only to then flatten out for miles of farmland. On the edge of the pseudo plateau, or terrace runs Springwater Drive, lined with newer expensive homes with fantastic views of Mount Hood and much of the National Forest land leading up to it, as well as the Clackamas River.
Take a turnoff in the midst of all that and you can enjoy Milo McIver State Park. McIver park is 951 acres of lawns and forested areas that extends from the terraces above to the river below.

The park is sort of divided into two separate areas. The northwest half is a day-use area, with lots of manicured grassy areas, picnic tables, trails and an 18 hole frisbee golf course, complete with numbered baskets.
The southeast half contains an overnight campground, horse facilities, a fish hatchery and a great trail that hikers share with horses. It was this side of the park that we spent the day and took these pictures.

We started at the hatchery, which breeds Steelhead amongst other species. There were only a couple of tanks full of water, and only one of the mini reservoirs, but there was lots of fish in each of them, and the kids liked watching the fish jumping out of the water at the inlet pipe, thinking that it was "upstream."
We found a trail behind the hatchery, but it isn't really obvious where the trail goes without their brochure (so pick one up at the entrance to the park). We ended up taking a short spur down to the river, which was nice, but not what we wanted to do. We backtracked and tried again in the other direction and eventually found the trail we were looking for.
The trail you share with horses, so it's really wide, but has lots of mud pits if it's rained recently. It climbs up gradually onto the terrace through mixed forests of Douglas-fir and Alder and Maple. It's really a very pretty walk, and when you get to the top there's a great overlook that gives you views of the river and mountains beyond.
The trail then curves into a wide meadow close to the entrance, where we saw deer on the drive out later. It then continues on across the road and down the southeastern side of the park. We, however, were losing daylight. So we walked down the road back to the car.

Milo McIver was a member of, and the Chairman of, the Oregon Highway Commission from 1950 to 1962, which I guess is an extraordinary length of tenure for a highway Commissioner. Anyway, I find no other excuse for him being given the honor of having a state park named after him, so there you go. Usually, if you are the Chairman of the Highway Commission, you get roads or bridges named after you, like Glenn Jackson (I205 over the Columbia). Here's a page of pictures of ex-Highway commission guys. You have to scroll down to see McIver.

This was a great park, and our family will be sure to get back there and try the other trails, as well as the frisbee golf course, at a later date.

Andijon Massacre Anniversary

I paid lots of attention to the happenings in the region of Uzbekistan last year when a protest of the regime of President Karimov was brutally suppressed by the Uzbek police and military. I even wrote quite a few long posts on the history and geography of Central Asia, just to get perspective (which at the moment I can't find). It was looking like perhaps it would be another colored revolution, like we had just read about in the Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon.
However, things don't seem to have changed much.

"You see, no one [in Uzbekistan] will mark May 13,"” Razzakov says. "“Quite the opposite. [Authorities] have begun holding concerts of Andijon performers in the stadium. They want to brainwash the youth [and] the people, and turn a day of sorrow into a holiday."”

Israiljon Kholdarov, the chairman of the Erk party'’s chapter in Andijon Province, is another recent arrival in Kyrgyzstan. He says authorities in Andijon have warned relatives of those killed last year to limit traditional ceremonies for the dead to strictly private affairs.

"According to Uzbek custom, there is a wake on the first anniversary of a relative'’s death,"” Kholdarov says. "There are two [security-service] officers and one militiaman outside the homes of every family in which a relative died [last year in Andijon]. They are telling the families not to invite people to [mark] the anniversary, and the mahalla [neighborhood] leaders are supporting it."

In fact they seem to be mired in the oligarchy of a post-soviet satellite, complete with petty dictator. There are still many protests occuring in Uzbekistan and around the world. Amnesty International is going postal on them. But at this stage in the game, and the cooling of U.S. pressure on most international fronts where oppression is occurring, I'm not sure what else is to be done here. Call your Senator I guess. Harass them on yet another issue they aren't dealing with.
Registan has a superlative roundup of stuff on the anniversary of the Andijon massacres.

Taking the Liberal test

"All the cool kids are doing it." Yeah, I've heard that one before. Anyway, someone came up with this fun "Are you a liberal" quiz, which some of the big opinion bloggers out there are taking. The libertarians are lining up opposed to all but a couple of the questions.
The Mudville Gazette notes that the subjects listed in the quiz and the term "liberal" are a direct result of Rush Limbaugh speaking derisively all those years about the political left. I'll admit that the word, in its most classic form, has been bastardized quite a bit. I've always had a thing about not using it to describe the political left, preferring it to refer to actual libertarians, you know. However, terminology does tend to change in the cultural lexicon over time and words that once meant one thing now mean another. And so now all political persuasions seem to refer to the far left side of the spectrum as "liberals." So what are you going to do?
As for taking the test myself... have you read my blog? Duh!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

International Migratory Bird Day Festival

Bet you didn't know about that, did you? Well it was, or is. Every second Saturday of May, apparently, is IMB day. And Portland Celebrates it at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and Selwood Park.

Basically this is a great thing to do with your kids, or your inner kid if you've ever thought about getting into birds at all. Really it's quite cool. Trained naturalists from US Fish and Wildlife will take you on tours of the Bottom for about an hour, telling you about the many birds that you can see and hear. Ours brought a giant scope so we could see some of them closer up, and some things we would never have seen on our own. The kids enjoyed this part.

On our short tour, we heard many birds like songbirds and finches, but saw many more types, such as Mallard and Wood ducks, Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Ospreys, a Green Heron, and my personal favorite: Red Winged Blackbirds. We also spotted a turtle of unknown species (the naturalists didn't have time to scope it) resting on a log before dropping into the water. We were told that there are snapping turtles there as well.
Funny thing was, the wildest sounding animals in the park were the screaming 14 year olds on the roller coaster over at Oaks Park. The wetland is right next to Portland's one and only permanent amusement park, but it doesn't seem to bother the birds all that much. Just those of us trying to listen for the birds.
Once back up in Selwood park, there were many booths where the kids could do stuff like paint a bird, match clawed feet up with the bird species, take apart and examine owl pellets for the bones of some small rodent (popular tent), make an old fashioned pine-cone and peanut butter bird feeder, and actually make a bird house. That last one was the most popular, as the festival provided pre-cut boards, hammers and nails and showed the kids how to do it right there.
The Audubon Society were there showing off a couple of their birds. A peregrine Falcon and a Spotted Owl.

As a part of my continued mission to blogging Oregon's open spaces, I found this a worthy candidate. Portland has many unique parks, and if you're a bird watcher there's probably no better place to bring out and dust off the old binoculars than Oaks Bottom. There's a good long trail that you can start either at the top in Selwood park, or drive down to Oaks Park itself and instead of becoming one of the screaming masses in the amusement park, you can walk under the old railroad tracks and walk around the lake and marshes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bush's Progressive Tax Cuts

Hat tip to Instapundit.  Here’s the Joint Economic Committee’s report on the most recent tax cuts.  The bottom 50% of all tax payers pay about 3.46% of the total personal income taxes collected by the federal government.

      The IRS data illustrate the steeply progressive nature of the federal income tax.  Further, data on the number of non-filers, tax shares and the number of taxpayers effectively paying zero federal income taxes must be considered before any valid distributional evaluation of various income tax proposals or legislation can be made.

There you have it, folks.  So when you hear someone complain that Bush’s tax cuts benefited the top income earners the most, there is a reason why.  It’s because there’s not much left to cut from what the bottom half of all taxpayers have to pay.  According to this data, the tax structure is about as progressive as it ever has been.

Anyone else out there think Bush isn’t a political moderate?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The ultimate hike!

Spring is here, and the weather here in Oregon is as good as it gets. High 60s and 70s and blue skies. We had a lot of rain this year, and it's nice to feel the sun right about now. This is the time of year when my primal urges for skiing give way to my addiction for hiking. It is that which inspired me to photo blog as much as I can on Oregon's open spaces. Wildernesses and parks.
But this is also the time of year when the hikers, known in the world of hiking as "thru-hikers" start their incredible journeys across vast portions of the United States. They are dedicated walkers, making the decision to walk with their homes on their backs for several months out of the year.
They are called Thru-Hikers because they hike long trails in their entirety. The Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. The Continental Divide Trail from Canada in Glacier National Park to the Mexican Border in New Mexico. And the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican Border in Campo, California, to the Canadian border in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.
You might think these people are nuts, but I understand their desire to put life on hold and experience the freedom of not worrying about anything but what your are going to eat next and where you are going to lay your head that night.
For me, I understand it as the indescribable urge to follow the path and find out where it leads.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is 2655 miles long, and takes most people who complete it about four and a half months to complete. You can take as much as five, but the window for completing the entire trail is short, as you must wait for the snow to melt in the high Sierra in California and get through Washington before the snow hits there in the fall.
You have to have some serious time on your hands to undertake this, and an intense dedication to the task. Many of the hikers are young and unmarried without children. Some work two jobs in the winter just to afford to take the entire summer off. Some are older and retired. Some are boomers who have a healthy income from investments or work consulting and can afford to take off for just one adventure of a lifetime.

Well before I knew about blogs, I knew about this site called Trail Journals. They allow these hikers to have space to share their journals with everyone, including some of the amazing pictures they bring back. You'll note if you go to the journals section that there are many more than just the three trails that I described above. The PCT, AT and CDT are the big three, but there are many more adventures for those without the time to take on those monumental hikes. The Long Trail in Vermont. The Colorado trail (which mirrors the CDT for much of its length). The John Muir trail through the Sierra. The Idaho State Centennial trail, and many more.
Someday I hope to try the PCT for myself. Perhaps I'll get to sooner if the kids, when they get older, are up to the feat of joining me. My wife is certainly in. But I expect I'll have to get the buggers all up and out to college first. Until then, I've got the mountains and brief interludes during the summers to come. And I've got Trail Journals.com to keep me inspired until then.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Where Islam is

not anti-western. A couple of good examples to show that not all Muslim countries are out to get us or cause general trouble. Or harbor terrorists.
Morocco has been campaining against radical Islamicists ever since 9/11.
They helped mobilize more than one million Moroccans to take to the streets of Casablanca in May 2003 to denounce radical Islamic terrorism'—a march in which 1,000 Moroccan Jews openly participated and were warmly embraced by the Muslim community. They launched a theological training program for Imams to teach them how to promote moderation within Islam, to teach them more about Western history and the importance of Christianity and Judaism to Western social and political development, and to help them identify and oppose extremist forces and trends within Islam. Participants take 32 hours of instruction per week for a full year. The first class of 210 just graduated, and included 55 women.

Among other things. I've only copied the tip of theicebergg in that story. Read the whole thing and be encouraged. Certainly, Morocco isn't a bastion of Democracy and tolerance. Christians still find it difficult to reach out there. But the tolerance they do show stands out in the region.
Hat tip to Instapundit for that one.

Perhaps you'd like to notice the past few years in Indonesia.
One, Indonesia is a Muslim country and unfortunately, that sometimes conjures up the belief that it is widely Islamofascist. This really isn't true. Only a tiny number of people subscribe to Islamofascism - when I was in Indonesia, I had to go looking hard for them, because nobody liked it. Most Indonesians, instead, are syncretic, a combination of their own religions - a layering of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and animist tradition - the evidence is below in the pictures. Two, Amid all this very slow moving traditionalism, Indonesia is a real and true democracy. Despite the country'’s reputation for corruption, this country has serious, pro-democracy voters as any in the world. They have give and take. They forgive their enemies. They compromise. They talk to each other, even if they are on other sides of the fence. These are significantly critical elements for making a democracy work.
He has some great pictures of peoples and the volcano, Mount Merapi.

I invented the Smiley Face!

OK, this is just nuts.  I can’t see how anyone at the Dept of U.S. Patents would ever give this one away.

      Wal-Mart is embroiled in a legal dispute over the smiley face image which it wants to trademark in the US.
      A Frenchman who claims to have invented the yellow smiley face back in 1968 is opposing the US retail giant's move.

How can anyone in their right mind think that they own the smiley face?  A character that has probably been drawn by children since the beginning of time, really.

As you read the article and feelings of enmity begin to develop toward Wal-Mart, consider that their spokesman noted that they had no intention of cornering the rights to the happy sketch until the obnoxious Frenchman made moves like he was going to try and patent it here in the U.S.  Greed.  Nothing but greed.

Monday, May 08, 2006


A.M. Mora y Leon has been discussing the relationship between Venezuela and Bolivia. Now that Evo Morales, the super leftist, has taken power as the President of that poor country, he has decided that any and all of the natural resources are now under state control. Leon doubts that there was direct collusion between Chavez and Morales on this move, as it was thugish and very un-Hugo like. However, he speculates that Morales wants to be just like his buddies, Chavez and Castro.
Meanwhile, later Leon declares that Chavez really wants to rule the world, and notes that Venezuela sent over some auditors from the state run oil company to audit the gas companies that Evo just nationalized. Leon notes that "Boli points out that thereÂ’s something distinctly unsavory about the auditors of ONE country, coming down to audit the books of COMPETITOR! When has that ever happened except in a hostile takeover?"

Meanwhile, Hugo's got his own problems, as running a fascist, but caring, socialist dictatorship eventually means that you run your country down to pencil shavings, crime could be the thing that brings Chavez down. His economics have already driven the country to the point where they aren't producing much any more. Products that are made in Venezuela are hard to procure. Their #1 export, oil, is drying up.

Also, be sure to read Lee Harris' article over at TCS on why leftist socialism doesn't seem to want to lay down and die in these pretty third world places.

Excuse Me

You'll all have to excuse me for not blogging in the last few days. As you'll see below, I had a few ready, but mistakenly posted them to my other blog, which I use for professional musings.
Weekend sized brain fart for sure.

Are We At War?

Callimachus writes about the movie "Flight 93" and then discusses how the movie, and the critical commentary from all sides about the movie, describes how Americans view the world today. Then he notes...
The main difference among Americans today is that some of us believe the United States is at war, a dangerous war against a desperate enemy. And other people don't believe that's true at all. To the non-believers, the people who are waging war look insanely violent, paranoid, and unstable. To the people at war, it takes great mental effort to look at those who don't believe it and not see appeasers and useful idiots, if not outright traitors.
Now, I don't think this is entirely true, as there are many other issues that define how we think and believe. But in the last few years the issue of how the Middle East and certain groups of people around the world hold our future for ransom does seem to define a split in the American conscience.
He also makes a point of saying that this is larger than just a like/hate Bush issue. This is beyond Bush, in the end he won't matter. It's perfectly fine to criticize how he is conducting things, as long as it's constructive criticism. However, it's another thing entirely to miss the point and refuse to see that there is a conflict over the future of our civilization.

Musings of a lone blogger

The vast majority of blogs have low readership now, and by that I mean in the dozens. I'’m not trying to demean those blogs; they are obviously important to their authors and readers. But the vast majority of readers, as well as the ad money that blogs will increasingly generate, will continue to revolve around fairly few blogs.
Writes Donald Sensing, who is now writing for Winds of Change, and has given up on his own blog where he has written for years. Which I suppose is my gain, as I read WOC often, but haven't really had the time to read Sensing's own site for a while.
Sensing writes about a subject that I've been hearing a lot about lately. Single writer blogs that have a national or international focus, but want a large readership, are going to find it increasingly difficult to maintain that readership and try to have a life at the same time. If you are not writing constantly, readership falls. But sometimes you just want to take a break. Thus enters the group blog.
Winds has been a group blog for some time, and there are others. But Sensing throwing in the towel is telling that the readership of major blogs is narrowing. What does the future hold for the blogosphere? Will it evolve into something resembling traditional media, with only a few players, and Glenn Reynolds' "Army of Davids" relegated to a much less influential sideline?

Which has gotten me thinking about this site, and what the future is here. I have had visions of being well read, and of improving my writing skills to that end. But I don't think that I can keep up with current events all the time, and write all the time either. Anyone spending more that a few minutes here from time to time is bound to notice that I take significant breaks from writing, several days sometimes. When I get busy, my priorities lie elsewhere.
However I still like that I have a medium that I can write and, in a way, get published. I guess one of the questions I have to ask myself is: do I really need the readership? Should I expect that I'm writing for people, or use this site to just express myself, more like a diary?
The other question I've been asking a lot lately is: what format should I be writing going into the future. I enjoy reading and writing about politics and world events, but for the most part, that stuff exists elsewhere. Heck, everywhere. Am I just adding to the ubiquitousness of political thought, aproverbiall drop in the ocean.
Or do I spend more time writing about local stuff, and talking about places that I've actually been. Taking some pictures along the way, like I've done in the past.

To that end, expect some more photo blogging of Oregon's open areas this summer. My wife and I want to get out more this summer than we have in the past, and since we finally entered the digital photography age by purchasing our first dig camera, we'll be able to share some of that with the rest of the world. Or whoever bumps into this blog.
And yes, I'll still be commenting on other stuff. I just can't keep my mouth shut forever, you know.

BioEthics and the Culture of Death

Joe Katzman relates this story, being followed by John Hawkins, about a woman named Andrea Clark in Houston, Texas, who has a bit of a problem.
She (Andrea's sister) told me that her sister recently had surgery for a heart condition. After surgery, she developed an infection and that's why she's so weak and needs a respirator to breathe. Again, her sister is not brain damaged, she can speak, and she does not want the hospital to let her die.
And yet that's what the hospital is doing. Enter the frustrating story of a woman, mother of a 23 year old man, who entered the hospital to have heart surgery, only to suffer an infection and other complications and have to remain there hooked up to a respirator and a dialysis machine.
From the sister:
The hospital ethics committee met the day before yesterday and concluded that Andrea's treatment (respirator and dialysis) should be discontinued. We have ten days to move her from that hospital or they will "pull the plug" and let Andrea die. Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally.
I.E. this is definitely not a Terry Schiavo case. Even in that case, it was the closest family member, the husband, making the decision to stop the machines. Here, for some reason, the hospital has the decision? People are starting the speculate that it's the insurance money that's causing the hospital to act in this way. And it's definitely not the "ethical, compassionate and quality care" that the hospital claims its mission is.

At this point I don't know what a lonely blogger like me can do about this. They are planning protests, and the media in Houston has latched on to the story, so I guess it's only a matter of time until the rest of the country knows what's going on.
The lawyer for Andrea has been trying to fight the hospital or find her a new one, but has run into roadblock after roadblock.
"Okay, I can't stand this anymore. First, we have tried facilities offering every conceivable level of care. She is on a respirator and getting dialysis. There are some nursing homes that offer respirator care and no dialysis and vice versa. The long term acute care facilities see that the hospital says she is "futile" and say they can't take her because they are there to rehabilitate and send patients to a lower continuum of care. Other hospitals rely on the "futility" diagnosis. A provider won't take a patient just on the say so of the family--they talk to the hospital. The hospital believes she is futile. It's a catch-22."
Oh, wait, that's not all. Then there's this:
Moreover, disturbingly, according to Ms. Childers there is a doctor at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital who has examined her sister and said that he thinks she has a chance to recover. Imagine that, folks -- being sick, having the odds against you, but wanting to fight for your life -- and having the hospital that's treating you cut you off at the knees when you're at your most vulnerable.
So there's some dispute as to her condition, and the hospital thinks it's OK to make the decision to cut off support? Where's the ethics in that? Where is the AMA is all of this? When do we see state legislators and the governor speak up?
Katzman thinks that it's because of insurance that the priorities of doctors and medical facilities have shifted away from 100% patient needs to divided loyalties between patient needs and just how much they can provide.

TAANSTAFL, folks. There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. The upside of third-party provided health care is that more people can receive treatment. The downside is that there is a price, and one part of that price is loss of control over that treatment.At the end of the day, medical resources have to be allocated somehow. Worse, since we all sicken and die, demand for these services will always outstrip supply. Handing care over to large systems, be they governments or HMOs, inevitably results in the large payers' priorities moving to the fore with respect to health care decisions.

Just keep that in mind the next time you go to the hospital. Or the next time you think that corporate or big government programs are the way to a better life for all of us.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Darfur agreement?

Both the Darfur rebels and the government of Sudan are meeting in Nigeria to discuss terms for cease-fire and relative autonomy for the peoples of the region.  The U.S. and Britain and the African Union are trying to mediate a compromise.

      Government officials in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, were taking the line Tuesday that there was nothing more for their side to do. The government has announced its acceptance of the draft peace agreement, but the rebels have so far rejected it, saying their demands on autonomy and representation have not been met.

And I don’t blame them.  If the Darfur rebels don’t get what they are asking for, or anything close to it, why should they agree to a treaty that they can’t trust the government of Sudan to follow through on.  The article points out that both sides have been disrespecting the cease-fire, but one guess as to which side is doing most of the breaking, or at least instigating the problems.  I’m getting tired of news outlets refusing to remind people in the midst of articles like this that it’s not the Darfur or Chadian rebels that started this, but Sudan government backed militants who invaded Darfur and started killing men, women and children indiscriminately.  I have a hard time siding with the government of Sudan on this issue.

      Darfur has been a staging ground for Chadian rebels, who have risen up against the government there. Sudan accuses Chad of supporting Darfur rebels. The violence threatens to escalate: Osama bin Laden last week urged his followers to go to Sudan to fight a proposed U.N. presence.

What we have here, folks, is truly a world war.  Osama wants to make it global in scope and spread the U.S. out as much as possible.  So it remains to be seen if Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are actually still following his lead and if they are how involved other African countries are willing to get into the conflict. 

Light headed trucks

Truly this is ridiculous.

      Nine states have sued the administration of President George W. Bush for lenient automotive fuel economy standards that they say worsen an energy crunch and contribute to air pollution and climate change.

What they are talking about is that the President asked Congress for permission to change the standards that govern what car manufacturers must meet in all cars and trucks.  He changed the standard for SUVs, minivans and trucks so that anything in the Light Truck class (including all the above types) must increase their mpg by 1.9 – to 24.1 mpg. 

So, now forgive me if I’m being daft or missing something, but isn’t that IMPROVING the amount of pollution exhaled by that class of car?  How do you get “At a time when consumers are struggling to pay surging gas prices and the challenge of global climate change has become even more clear, it is unconscionable that the Bush Administration is not requiring greater mileage efficiency for light trucks.”

What??!?!?!  Bush IS requiring greater mileage efficiency for light trucks.  Perhaps it’s not quite enough for these lawyers, though.

The second thing I have to say to that is that any talk about forcing the auto industry to change to make life easier on citizens who are suffering from higher gas prices is horribly misplaced.  That’s what we need: more regulations and restrictions.  If citizens really are feeling the crunch they will modify behavior and car manufacturers will have to respond, via the market, by creating a more efficient car. 

Again, the effect on current automobile use and global warming is still a matter for serious debate, so alarmist use of the “become even more clear” banter is just making this seem like a showboat fest.

The administration insists, later in the article, that it in fact has done it’s homework and this lawsuit will come to nothing.  But I wonder if we’ll hear about that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigration Protest Blogging

Si Se Puede!
Which is what the protesters are chanting downtown. I took a walk in the spring sunshine up to the PSU park blocks to check out the mayhem that threatened to stop traffic all afternoon. The marchers were supposed to gather there for a while and then set off at noon. I started out from here at about 12:15, noting that I saw lots of police officers on bikes, but no marchers.

It appeared that protesters don't keep tight schedules, as they hadn't taken off yet. Turning the corner on the park block, I could hear the chanting of people in microphones trying to rile the crowd up.
They gathered right outside of Smith Hall at PSU. It's a part of the park blocks that has a lot of brickwork. Specifically, the brick walls and raised brick areas are designed for people to sit and for a small band to play or someone to speak to a crowd. There was an hispanic band there, but while I was there a man spoke in Spanish into a mic, saying one or two lines followed by a woman repeating him in English.

The speakers are in this crowd, but
I couldn't see them very well

There were lots of signs, so I looked around and tried to pick out any that didn't have to do with immigration. There were a couple. There was the standard "Impeach Bush" and then another that called Bush and Cheney the "real criminals." That same sign also said, "Real Americans fear Tyrants, not Terrorists."
But most of the signs, 98% of them anyway, were based on the theme: human beings are not illegal. Or some variant. Many were opposing U.S. House Resolution (Rule?) 4437.
There were lots of American flags, almost as many Mexican flags, but I'm sure the U.S. flags outnumbered them. There were a scattering of other flags, and a few guys in Argentina's Futball Jersey.

Mexican flags were plentiful...

...but not nearly as plentiful as American flags

Most of the people there were hispanic. I would say that 5-10 percent were not, being young and fairly hippy looking, but that's not universal either. I saw one guy holding a sign that read "We want a safer Oregon" on what I assumed was a clipboard for gathering signatures. The picture on sign was a Marijuana leaf.
The protesters began marching about 40 minutes behind schedule. It was pretty civil, from what I saw. I heard a couple of policemen talking on a corner about how they were only worried about mayhem if the anarchists showed up. Cesar Chavez was all about non-violent protest. They marched cheerfully, chanting "Si Se Puede!" This was a popular chant for the movement of farm workers started by Cesar Chavez in the late 60s. It expressed their confidence that they could change things and overcome. Ironically, the United Farm Workers Union that Chavez started and fought for was against Illegal Immigration. Agriculture employers would replace the striking farm workers of Chavez's union with undocumented immigrants.

Nice sign, dude! (says: Patriot Axe)

Of all the signs and flags here I was the most surprised to see this one (pictured above). It's the flag of Venezuela. Nice. Wave the flag of probably the most fascist/leftist state in the entire Western Hemisphere. That guy's not even Hispanic, just some punk. Not that you have to be from latin America to participate or show support, but I'm wondering if he had a clue what he was holding in his hand, and what it represents at the moment.
I guess it represents a country where people don't want to be at the present, and thus they are here trying to become citizens.

Instapundit has been linking to protest information today, and reactions. He reports that the attendence isn't what was advertised ahead of time, although I'm not surprised as that's usually the case.
Also, Powerline has said that they are gathering video and pictures of marches nation wide, but I haven't seen it yet.