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Archive for March 2011

When the news becomes relevant…

Good evening, Netizens…

If the Obama administration had chosen to ignore the potential massacre of the rebels in Libya, Republicans would right now be having a field day, condemning him for weakness and moral cowardice. The deafening howls of outrage from the Republicans would make the evening news ring like a gong.

Now on the other hand, if the president were a Republican and had organized the international coalition that stopped Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks, Republicans would right now be cheering him in the streets, and unquestionably attempting to wire him/her up for a certain reelection a year and one half from now.

Instead, Republicans in Congress are biting at Barack Obama’s Libyan efforts at every turn. They seem more interested in defeating Obama now than they are defeating Gaddaffi's forces.

The national news, it seems, is all who and what you believe. Of course, your results may differ.


End of the road for Prairie Flyer…

Good morning, Netizens…


It seems like a decade has passed so quickly I barely can remember the first time I heard Jim Faddis, a former detective of the Spokane Police Department, singing from atop the Floating Stage in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on a hot summer evening, but over the passage of time, I never have regretted a moment of it. His unmistakable clear “high lonesome” harmony made me a fan of Bluegrass Music for a time, which given my past involvement in music of all kinds, came hardly as a surprise. Since that time he has become an ad hoc spokesperson for Bluegrass Music in Spokane and its environs, not to mention having written and performed some truly unique and dazzling music of his own.


Performing at first as The Barley Brothers and then later on, after they changed their name to Prairie Flyer, Jim Faddis has ascended to and remained as one of Spokane's most-durable songwriters and musicians for over a decade.


Once, a long time ago, Jim and I had a conversation about the longevity of bands, and how often they change players or disconnect entirely. According to him, he has been playing music in Spokane for over 14 years, which when you come to think of it, is quite a good run indeed. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and according to Mr. Faddis, in August of this year, Prairie Flyer will play their last performance.


Part of this decision is, of course, because of Jim's retirement from the Spokane Police Department and he has since moved to the west side of Washington. However, in his own words, he is simply tired. You cannot blame him for that; driving hundreds of miles to perform, often with little recompense, is a tough row to hoe, no matter how you look at it.


There is a wealth of his music available on CD's, however, so his music will live on and on.


Thank you for all the good years, Jim.



Michelle Bachmann hits Iowa…

Good evening, Netizens…

Michelle Bachmann is a source of genuine fright to me, not because I am necessarily terrified of her, but I find she is a larcenous vile-mouthed woman who cannot seem to keep her mouth shut at appropriate occasions in my opinion.

However, what worries me the most about Ms. Bachmann are the number of people who subscribe to her twisted social theories. David Horsey has the opinion that she has some considerably negative opinions about gay marriage, which I share with him.

However, when Michelle Bachmann hits Iowa, she encounters a considerably different cross-section of voters, or so says David Horsey. Do you think she stands a chance of winning electoral votes in the Midwest? I do not believe so, but then your thoughts may differ.


Budget balancing with an ax?

Good morning, Netizens…

Yesterday, quite by accident, during one of my business-related trips, I encountered the ubiquitous Mhibbs and, at his urging, he and I agreed to meet for coffee far off our typical beaten path. Given the number of news topics that have garnered so much of our attention during the last two weeks, I was a bit surprised when Mhibbs immediately seized upon the possibility of a new tax to overcome our current economic miasma that is so deeply weighing Spokane down. “When are you going to discuss the possibility of creating a new tax?” he asked, gently raising his magnificent eyebrows and peering at me with undecipherable concern written on his face with indelible lines.

To be honest about it, given the potential environmental disaster unraveling in Japan since the earthquake/tsunami, the lack of information forthcoming from the Fukushima nuclear plant, and the potential for long-lived uranium and/or plutonium byproducts entering our water and food chains from a damaged reactor plant, I hadn't paid as much lip service toward our tax base in Eastern Washington as I might have done. Radioactive Iodine, which seems to be usurping much of the news media's attention, which has a half-life of several weeks, simply doesn't drive the fear into my heart as much as uranium or plutonium, the latter of which has a half-life of over 10,000 years. Hell, that would be lurking around our landscape for our ancestors in the foreseeable future, so it is of considerable concern to me. We are screwing around with our futures.

Then this morning, in my reverie, I encountered the latest political cartoon of David Horsey, which is compelling because it speaks rather directly toward the decline and fall of the American budget and the budgetary ax which does appear to be falling inequitably upon the low-income and poverty-stricken in our midst. Horsey seems to be of the opinion that the Republican Party is taking money from the poor for taxes, rather than the upper class. Then there is, of course, the tight reduction in the funding for such things as NPR and other endowments to which we have become so accustomed during our lifetimes. That's the BIG picture, folks, and if you believe in the trickle-down effect, observing the potential closure of the MAC and other local area cutbacks, it does seem that taxation is steadily driving low-income folks into near-desperation.

Horsey's made a point here, and for once I almost concede it. Then later on this morning, I will make a slashing comment or two about how local taxation is about to become equally-murderous, and thus perhaps satisfy Mhibbs intent.

Of course, your opinions may differ.


Elizabeth Taylor passes on at age 79…

Good morning, Netizens…


I admit, with a certain degree of chagrin, that I never was particularly an Elizabeth Taylor fan. In fact, I had not seen any of her movies until long after they went into syndication and were appearing on late-night television and there was nothing else much worth watching. That was where I first watched most of her movies, including her award-winning role in Butterfield 8.


I shrugged to myself when I heard the news that Taylor had died, although I did feel sadness because she has done so much for AIDS treatment and awareness, long before polite society even mentioned the terror of HIV in public.


Her marriages (and divorces) were and still are a source of ribald comments around our household, although I concede she was a media magnet of considerable proportion. However, for her unswerving loyalty to her belief in humane treatment for AIDS patients, if not her ongoing friendship with the late Rock Hudson, who died of that terrible disease, I acknowledge the life, courage and perseverance of Liz Taylor.


Rest in Peace.



This is progress… right?

Good morning, Netizens…


We seem to be in a quagmire in Libya, or so cartoonist David Horsey suggests. We are either damned if we do or damned if we don't. We cannot simply turn our backs on Gaddafi and allow him to continue killing his own people; but now that we're engaged in the No Fly Zone, just how do we get out of yet another war?


According to President Obama we are not going to be sending U.S. troops into Libya, which is probably a very astute idea on its own right. On the other hand, will the No Fly Zone prevent further killings? I am very uncertain whether the No Fly Zone will actually work, resulting in Gaddafi leaving Libya in his rear view mirror. According to several different news sources, his decision is probably not about money, as Gaddafi is worth millions of dollars already.


As we enter the sixth day of what is an undeclared war on Gaddafi coalition forces bombed a hospital in Misrata. Ostensibly the members of the No Fly Zone bombed the coalition forces into smithereens and the shelling of the hospital stopped .. for now. According to several news sources, the hospital is now eking out a strained existence on a standby generator as there is no electricity available.


This begs the issue whether this is the “humanitarian” solution President Obama had in mind, much less the United Nations when the bombing of selective targets in Libya first began.


President Obama has promised that he will discuss the duration of the bombing and its cost, perhaps within days. Congress, particularly the Republican side of the aisle, are discontented with the U.S. involvement in the No Fly Zone and want answers to some of their pointed questions.


It does seem to be a quandary of a multi-hued variety. Of course, your results may differ.



CdA Pedestrian Killed Near Stateline

A woman who died after being struck by a car on Interstate 90 on Saturday has been identified as Dana M. Barton, 37, of Coeur d’Alene. Barton was standing in the right lane of eastbound I-90 when she was hit by a 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser driven by Nancy Webster, of Post Falls, according to the Washington State Patrol. Webster, 54, was not injured. Barton was pronounced dead at the scene/Spokesman-Review. More here.

How much good will the no-fly zone be?

Good evening, Netizens…


David Horsey observes in his cartoon that the depths of Libya's political wasteland is accompanied by lots of international finger-pointing, which probably was true prior to when the United Nations Security Council spread the responsibility for cleaning up the mess to parts of Europe and Saudi nations. Now it seems that many nations have joined in the process of stopping Ghadaffi's terror tactics against members of his own country.


Now the question that remains to be seen is whether or not the air embargo of Libya, AKA The No-Fly Zone, will stop Ghadaffi's troops from driving through the streets indiscriminately shooting at civilian housing, thus killing innocent citizens.


I don't think so, but then I could be wrong.



When the real facts emerge…

Good morning, Netizens…


I am sick to death of listening to the half-truths and outright lies being told in the news media, if not the alternative news media sources about unfolding events in Japan with regard to the nuclear crises. Over the previous 72 hours it has become more and more difficult to truly tell just what is going on in that tragedy-tinged corner of the world, and if you have studied, as I have, the various sources all of whom claim to speak for the power company in charge of the six nuclear reactors, it becomes a steady source of double-speak, most of which is dutifully and immediately sent to the various news agencies for dispersal as fact.


Perhaps the most-important question remains, just who is in charge of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and its ultimate recovery? Most sources suggest that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is purportedly in charge, the Japanese government deferring to them and the International Atomic Energy Agency deferring to the government. That perhaps is the beginning of where the half-truths originate, as the power company has, in the past, been responsible for not being entirely forthright in their public announcements according to several news sources.


It gets worse. In the early days of the nuclear crisis, if one did not consult with a good map of the area, it would have been all but impossible to remember there are six reactors in the Fukushima atomic plant complex, as most of the members of the news and alternative news media seemingly could not recall just what they were talking about.


As of three A.M. Pacific Daylight Savings time this morning, no one from any source has actually stated the amount of radiation emanating from any of the damaged atomic plants. News moderators warble on and on about the feeble attempts to cool down the various reactor cores, but without any real sense of just how much radiation is being spewed into the atmosphere. Once again, TEPCO is the only company with manpower on the ground capable of either knowing nor providing this information, and apparently they simply are not telling or perhaps, lacking the technology to track such information, do not know.


Then there is the repetitive and often misleading comparisons between the Fukushima Plant(s) and Chernobyl which are flat-out distortions of the truth. The physical types of the reactor vessels are not even closely similar; Chernobyl had no containment vessel, as compared to Fukushima, which does. In retrospect, at Chernobyl radioactive graphite, noble gases and various other radionuclides were the primary source of the post-event damage and continuing radiation. Since it is not yet factually known whether or not the plants at Fukushima have breached their reactor cores, nor of the true amount of radioactive substances being released into the atmosphere, it may be quite awhile before anyone will know how bad the potentially-released radiation from Japan will be.


Left unattended, without any in-depth analysis, we will continue to be inundated with half-baked rumors, various schemes and other bureaucratic half-truths. How soon will the radiation from Japan reach the United States? It would help to know how much radiation has been released at its source point. Anything else is a wild-assed guess.



The scope of the disaster in Japan…

Good morning, Netizens…


I have not been ignoring the news from Japan of the earthquake and tsunami; rather I have been hoping against hope that it might begin to clarify itself, to begin to fall into some level of stability. Here we are at day three and the news from Japan, in particular the northern regions, has only continued to reflect chaos and mayhem, and given the aftershocks, some of which would easily merit front page headlines were they to happen here in the United States, it would seem we are still far from an end to the bedlam.


Perhaps one of the most-obvious statistics that leaps out at me are the aftershocks themselves. The earthquake that flattened Christchurch, New Zealand was small change compared to the initial earthquake and tsunami that swept Northern Japan. According to CNN, in the last 21 hours there have been 83 severe aftershocks, several of which exceeded 6.4 on the Richter scale. Having experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake I can assess a 6.4 earthquake, or an aftershock of that severity. One can hardly function when such a quake hits; you simply attempt to find a safe place to stand, and wait until the ground stops moving. That is hardly conducive to digging in rubble looking for survivors.


The pictures of the aftermath of the earthquake, the tsunami that swept inland shortly after the earthquake, speak for themselves. According to several sources, perhaps as many as two thousand people are either reported missing or dead in the aftermath. Entire villages are simply missing from the map, and the entire infrastructure wherever the tsunami wave hit lays in stacks of rubble. Highways are closed, the railroads not running and in most instances, people are resorting to traveling on foot. The basic commodities, such as food and water, are virtually nonexistent in the northern areas of Japan, although even the emergency responders do not know the full scope of the disaster. The numbers they of the dead and missing which the news media are currently touting are subject to change; the scope probably will change by tomorrow if not the next days. The scope of the disaster can and will get worse.


Perhaps the most uppermost part of this ongoing disaster is the uncertain status of Japan's atomic energy plants, particularly those within the impact zone to the north. According to CBS News, there were 55 nuclear power plants in Japan the day this devastation struck, and 11 of them are reported as being offline as of the time of the quake. That by itself suggests that the automatic shutdown sequences built into each plant to cope with earthquakes may have initially worked. They are designed to shut down atomic power plants whenever a quake strikes.


Unfortunately, at least one atomic plant, the Fukushima Plant, apparently has had a major malfunction, in that radioactive cesium and iodine have been detected in the air outside the containment area shortly after an explosion which has been attributed to a hydrogen gas explosion. Short of any real demographics, it would appear that a partial core meltdown has taken place. Sea water is being pumped into the core in an attempt to cool the reactor down before a full meltdown takes place. A twelve mile evacuation area has been declared, and according to the highest levels of the government, no serious radiation illnesses have been discovered. Yet.


However, I cannot stress loudly enough that I do not have enough facts, including an accurate count of the missing and dead, to fully address the scope of this unprecedented disaster. It may be weeks or perhaps even months before that happens.



A Woman’s World…


Good evening, Netizens…


In David Horsey's cartoon today, we are not looking into the future world of women, but perhaps a grim view of the present and past, for there is little of the past which has changed over the millenniums. What Horsey left out of the depictions of how women are treated in the United States and South America often fall within a par of the Middle Eastern countries, although not by much.


The brutality inflicted upon women in much of the developing world is an affront to civilized ideals and human decency. When women have gotten access to education, to family planning and to a vital place in the economy, greater prosperity has followed. And when women are free to speak and learn, they temper the extremes of ideology and fanaticism and raise sons who are less likely to become human beings capable of such evil brutality.


Some truths are self-evident. All humans are created equal and are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness unencumbered by men who would keep them enslaved. No tradition, no religion, no social system can justifiably claim the authority to deny anyone the opportunity to live in that truth.

This is not some feminist dream or a sideshow to the main theater of world politics. This is as hard-nosed and realist as it gets in international relations. Elevating the status of women is our best path to peace, justice and prosperity on a global scale. It is the great work of civilized people in the 21st century.


BYU’s Honor Code and collegiate sports…

Good morning, Netizens…

Earlier this week, Brandon Davies, the star forward on Brigham Young University's nationally ranked basketball team was suspended for the season after violating the school's Honor Code. The 6-foot-9 sophomore didn't plagiarize any term papers, nor did he commit any felonies. No, Brandon Davies was booted from the team after admitting to administration officials that he'd had sex with his girlfriend.

What is the honor code? With just a small iota of research I found the following on the Brigham Young University's web site located thus:

Honor Code Statement

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men… . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things (Thirteenth Article of Faith).

As a matter of personal commitment, faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University—Hawaii, Brigham Young University—Idaho, and LDS Business College seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will

Be honest
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Respect others
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

Specific policies embodied in the Honor Code include (1) the Academic Honesty Policy, (2) the Dress and Grooming Standards, (3) the Residential Living Standards, and (4) the Continuing Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement. (Refer to institutional policies for more detailed information.)

The first thought that came to my mind was that if every University basketball team had enforceable rules such as these, it might end collegiate basketball such as we know it to be, or at least it would dramatically reduce the number of students that could meet this criteria and thus play basketball. Of course if you expanded the enforcement of these rules to where they included every student, including those who were not involved in intercollegiate sports, what would that do to college life as we have known it to be throughout history?

Can you imagine a world of one of our more libertine colleges or universities trying to enforce such a set of policies after-the-fact? I submit that the lawyers would have a field day. Of course, your thoughts and religious beliefs may differ.



Olsen skates while Shonto Pete gets a headache…

Good evening, Netizens…


I'm mad as hell about the court ruling on behalf of former police officer Jay Olsen but I don't know if there is anything anyone can lawfully do about it at this late stage of the game. Olsen purportedly shot Shonto Pete in the head after a night drinking at Dempsey's, stating that he believed Pete had attempted to steal Olsen's pickup truck, although no evidence was ever brought forth to support such a charge. Olsen later quit the police force before Chief Anne Kirkpatrick could decide whether to fire him because of the charges against him.


When criminal charges against Olsen were dropped for lack of evidence, Shonto Pete attempted to file civil charges against Olsen and the City of Spokane and that, too, has now been dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward F. Shea upon a motion by Olsen's legal counsel.


Perhaps Shonto Pete said it best as he was leaving the court room when he stated in part, “That’s what you call justice? Justice is a joke.”


It does not seem to me that there will be any justice for Shonto Pete, much less anyone else who comes across a drunken Spokane City Police Officer. Approach at your own risk. Of course, your beliefs may differ.



Is there a civic-minded billionaire?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

According to cartoonist David Horsey, is there such a thing as a civic-minded billionaire, or are they all as self-serving as this cartoon suggests they may be?

I've been in the homes of a few billionaires and millionaires and in nearly every instance they seem so understated about how wealthy they are. It's like the difference between examining the clothing of a middle-class route salesman who travels around his district attempting to sell whatever product(s) he/she has to offer and the clothing of a billionaire in some cases. One possible exception, of course, is Warren Buffett who prefers to drive his own middle-class automobile rather than a limousine and dresses in natty suits. In some cases it is difficult to tell a billionaire from a route salesman, and perhaps they like it that way.

Behind every Buffett or Microsoft's Bill Gates, there beats the heart of a philanthropist, if you believe any of the PR which they are quite capable of generating. In some cases the philanthropy is genuine enough. Gates has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes, as has Buffett. Both men have extensively donated to charitable causes, and despite how they live or dress, they have lengthy histories of giving to those less-fortunate in life. Where does one draw the line between charity and being civic-minded?

According to Horsey's cartoon, perhaps the real test of a billionaire's civic-mindedness is how many new jobs they have created in our current economy. Economic development always seems to come back to native American ingenuity; the ability to take a good idea from scratch and make something of it, including the creation of new jobs in any given community. You do not have to be a billionaire to make that happen, but if you believe economic history, a lot of billionaires have been made with just a few good ideas mixed with seed capital.

Perhaps one of the truly outstanding facets of life in Spokane is how charitable ordinary citizens, not the billionaires, have proven themselves to be over time, for without their civic-mindedness, Spokane could be a lot more grim a landscape in which to live than it already is. Of course, your opinions may differ…


An electric VW Hippy Van for the masses….

Good evening, Netizens…

Here's one for Jeanie's Mechanic Man.

One of the many mechanical loves of my life was a 1969 pale green and white Volkswagen Van which I acquired from a semi-destitute student after he had blown a rod through the sidewall of the standard 60 HP VW engine. At the time I had about three weeks of disposable time, and being somewhat naive about it, I figured I could find a good used engine in one of the many wrecking yards in the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead I found a six-cylinder fuel-injected Porsche engine in good running order, and after nearly six weeks of nightly design and repair work in my neighbor's garage, including the purchase of a used transaxle and axles from a Porsche, numerous and sundry other parts, I had a VW bus with a five-speed transaxle, that was capable of climbing tall passes without breathing hard. True, it no longer got 28 miles per gallon, as it once did, and it was nearly six weeks later before I got the heater working as it should, but I had a one-of-a-kind Volkswagen van with some incredible horsepower.

In this AP photo we see the next generation of the VW van which probably will never achieve the popularity of what the news media sometimes refer to as “the Hippie VW Van”, so named because of the copious space inside, suitable for passengers. Not only does this prototype van not totally resemble the infamous vans of the 60's, it is all-electric and uses an iPad to control the entertainment system, climate control and other functions. The original vans had an anemic heating system, although later models came equipped with an optional heater that worked after a fashion.

Named the Bulli, according to its manufacturers, it is capable of traveling up to 186.4 miles on a single battery charge and has a top speed of 87 miles per hour, although nothing is implied about how well it will climb tall hills.

Sad to say Volkswagen has not confirmed this concept van will go into production. At the very least, they could take out and dust off the old van design with a fuel-injected Porsche engine and perhaps relive part of the delightful history of the Hippy van era.



First Lady gets panned for her garden…

Good evening, Netizens…

While I'll concede here in Eastern Washington, it is perhaps a long time before we will once again begin turning the soil in preparation for our gardens, it seems inevitable that once again some of our families will begin that annual ritual of gardening. Some years, such as the most-recent, all our efforts have been less productive than we had originally hoped for, as Mother Nature does have a habit of either rewarding our efforts with bounty, while other years nothing seems to grow as it should. Or, as some of the old-time farmers have suggested, anytime you plant a crop, regardless of its scope, you are gambling with God.

Any optimism I may ever enjoy about gardening stems from several years ago when, against the odds, Suzie planted row after row of sweet corn along the East Side of our house. As the fates would have it, she planted the sweet corn, a crop that doesn't always thrive in urban gardens, in an area where we had been dumping our yard wastes for several years. The net result was that, due to the enriched soil, we had a plentiful stand of tall sweet corn, so much so, in fact, that we shared our wealth with the neighbors. Although last summer, despite the cool weather playing havoc with our tomato crop, we still managed to eat lots of tomatoes.

In this edition of David Horsey's excellent cartoons we see a side of politics which, at least from my vantage point, I had not considered— the politicizing of First Lady Michelle Obama's garden in part of the White House lawn. According to my limited sources, all the produce that comes about as a result of Michelle Obama's gardening goes to good, properly charitable causes, food banks and such, while some of it actually is used in the White House kitchens for meals.

Of course, it does seem possible that almost anything either President or Michelle Obama does will probably be misconstrued or otherwise painted off-color by the various members of the Republican Right Wing, but then your opinions may differ.


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