Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

2014-08-07_08-41-18Out of the horror of World War II came one of the great achievements in all of human history: the Geneva Convention of 1949. It was a statement from humanity to itself that, in the aftermath of the bloodiest war in history, some decency might still be rescued. Despite the millions of senseless dead, despite all the mass murder and genocide and terror bombing, despite all the filth and hypocrisy and witless incompetence, the Convention states these things shall be held inviolate in war:

Wounded and sick soldiers shall be treated humanely, and medical facilities shall be off-limits to attack.

The same shall be true of wounded, sick, or shipwrecked sailors, and humanitarian ships.

Prisoners of war shall be treated humanely.

Non-combatants shall be treated humanely.

In 1988, President Reagan signed into law a treaty adding another stipulation to the list:

Torture shall be absolutely forbidden.

Reagan was no saint. His foreign policy caused tens of thousands of pointless deaths in Nicaragua alone. But he worked hard to get this treaty passed, and it is to my mind his greatest achievement. It added a bright star to the narrative of human progress….

Let’s compare that to the text of the Convention Against Torture:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of President Obama (aside from his unflappable, even cadence) is the way he instinctively tries to understand and legitimize both sides of every debate. When well-applied, as it was during his famous speech on race during the 2008 campaign, it adds needed nuance and complexity to difficult subjects.

Torture, on the other hand, is a simple subject that has little nuance or complexity. It is an absolute evil that has no place or function in a civilized, decent society. It is illegal under United States law. Only a complete idiot would try to use it to gather intelligence. Its only effective uses are thoroughly totalitarian: to intimidate, punish, and extract false confessions.

SOURE: President Obama’s despicable whitewashing of torture – The Week.

For the most part I am going to let the words above speak for me. Torture and anyone condoning it is simply idiocy. Yes, I kind of agree that one of President Obama’s most distinctive characteristics is trying to legitimize both sided of a debate.  Many times he is just too intellectual for his own, or the country’s good.

I also agree that Reagan was no saint but he came through with his abject hatred of torture.  I wonder how that affects his image for many of the current crop of conservatives who condone that tactic? Torture simply has no place in humanity.  Enough said…..

The Triangle Factory Fire was a defining moment in US history. Here is a little about what Wikipedia says about it

2014-04-30_09-32-20The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911 was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of the city, and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history…

The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men [1] – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three…

Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks[6] – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

I recently watched a very moving documentary about it on PBS. One of the shocking things I learned from that program was just how much the “system” was against the striking workers. The police, judges and city hall did monstrous things to beat the women back.  It would take J.P. Morgan’s  very privileged daughter to turn this trend. When she came out in favor of the workers things finally started to shift.

For those who might misunderstand the meanings of my words I want to state up front that I believe capitalism is the greatest monetary system in the world. Nothing else even comes close.  But this tragedy is a lesson learned that you just can’t have unregulated industrialization.  Without regulation greed overwhelms the capitalistic system. The owners who caused these unnecessary deaths took their insurance money and basically disappeared with no consequences for the deaths they caused.

I do thank God that these sort of things don’t happen in this country today but they continue to happen in those countries that supply us with our unquenchable desire for more and more cheap goods. We have current government agencies such as OSHA and although they are generally very understaffed compared to those they regulate they do a good job of reigning in unsafe corporate greed.

 

 

Nearly 25 years later, the North Korean People’s Army, Navy, and Air Force are relics of a different era. Nearly everything is obsolete. North Korean tanks and armored fighting vehicles are up to 50 years old. This summer, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was photographed onboard an old Romeo-class submarine, an antiquated design first produced in the 1950s. The North Korean Air Force is only slightly better off; its newest fighter jets are now 25 years old most are closer to 50.Not only is the equipment obsolete, it’s becoming unusable. Late last year during naval exercises, two North Korean People’s Navy patrol boats sank within days of each other, killing tens of North Korean sailors. On June 24, a helicopter exploded in midair.One major problem: North Korean equipment is so old nobody makes spare parts anymore. For years the military has cannibalized some equipment in order to keep the rest running. The fact that three MiG-19s have crashed in the span of seven months is a strong indication that cannibalization is no longer working and entire types of equipment are overdue for a trip to the junk heap.

SOURCE: North Korea’s military is falling apart — is Kim Jong Un’s regime next? – The Week.

The above article is good news but also bad news.  We just might be able to see some light at the end of the Korean tunnel. As more and more of their military equipment breaks down the North Korean despot will lose more and more power. But that is also the bad news.  As he loses power he will likely strike out on a last ditch effort to maintain his stranglehold. I know he is frantically trying to build a nuclear bomb and if he manages I have little doubt that he would use it!

 

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This congress, like the last one is known as the “Do Nothing Congress”. But I guess it is hard to get anything done when one party is against everything except shutting down government and leaving this country totally to the greedy capitalists. It looks like those yahoos are going to go on another long vacation without passing any highway funding bills. *

We are the joke of the world when it comes to our infrastructure. Like so many other things the rest of the first world countries spend what is needed to keep their roads and such pothole free and up to date. I have even heard stories that some German companies refuse to put another factory in our country until they see us get serious about bringing up our standards in this area.

Our congressmen spend less time in their job than any other profession I can think of except maybe teachers :)  But at least teacher to a certain degree get the job done. The politicians seem to just manage to scream and diss each other and anyone else who disagrees with them. What a joke…..

* UPDATE

It isn’t often that an individual, company or government gets everything wrong simultaneously, but members of Congress, clinging fiercely to ideology, expediency and cynicism, are regularly doing just that. There can be no better illustration than the pathetically ignorant and immoral “solution” fashioned last week to forestall the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

No thinking person — Democrat, Republican or Unicorn — can possibly believe that encouraging companies to further shortchange already inadequately financed pension plans is a sensible approach to funding highway construction. Nevertheless, that’s what Congress just did, before rushing off to an ill-deserved vacation.

SOURCE: Highway funding bill illustrates everything wrong with Congress | Dallas Morning News.

2014-08-03_11-10-40But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth.  It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.  The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

These quotes above drive home what I believe is a very basic reason our economy is still in the state that it is. We just give too much power to the most avid capitalists among us. In other words we give too much power to those few who control most of our nation’s wealth. I am a firm believer in the idea that government’s role in a democratic/capitalist society is to reign in the greed that naturally comes with capitalism.

Unions used to have some control over this wage vs established wealth issue but that is just no longer the case. As is typical of these sort of thing unions themselves became too powerful and as a result too self-focused and corrupt to continue to hold the influence they once had. Unfortunately there was nothing there to replace the void left by the extinction of unions so it is necessary for our government to step in. But even that is another tragic failure in this very disjointed country.

With the almost total breakdown of the ability to govern, especially at the national level, this dichotomy between wages and wealth has gone unabated for a couple of decades now. Our economy is almost totally based on consumer spending but if consumers are stripped of any sense of discretionary income it seems like that is a natural spiral that we will not escape from. The richest among us just don’t eat out 10,000 times a month to replace those who can no longer afford such luxury.

We depend on our government to reign in the excess of our capitalist system and that is just not happening in today’s world.

2014-08-04_09-16-05WASHINGTON AP — The United States declared Sunday it is “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” attack on a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

Related Stories US ‘appalled’ by ‘disgraceful’ UN school shelling Associated Press US ‘appalled’ by latest UN school shelling in Gaza

In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.

SOURCE:  US calls Israeli attack on UN school ‘disgraceful’ – Yahoo News.

This is the second and last day on this subject or me. I will keep this one short and to the point.

It is nice to finally hear that the U.S. at least at some level is saying “enough is enough” to the Israeli bombing in Gaza. They have now killed over 1,900 mostly citizens in Gaza. The Israelis call it a war but by most standards it would be called a slaughter.

The U.S. was very quick to condemn Russia in the  Ukraine because they might be supplying some of the rebels with weapons. They then followed up  this condemnation with some severe sanction proposals.  I hope to hear a like-minded thing for Israel. At least we could limit the number of new bombs and missiles we send to them to replenish their arsenal. If Israel won’t listen to reason maybe they will listen to us taking their weapons away?

 

2014-07-11_07-59-24Apparently, the new iPhone 6 will incorporate a more advanced vibration motor that could offer better tactile feedback to users, depending on the app they’re using or the area they tap on the screen.

SOURCE:  Secret iPhone 6 feature uncovered? – Yahoo News.

I have had my iPhone 4 for about three years now and am for the most part very pleased with its operation.  But one areas that needs improvement for me is the vibrate mode. Since I am deaf I rely exclusively on vibrate to let me know when text messages come in. The current vibrate mode is rather weak and sometimes hard to detect especially when my mind is on other things.

While the ring mode has dozens of options, the vibrate mode is limited to two short bursts only. So, I was pleased to hear of this new secret feature. Yeah, I am one of those guys waiting for iPhone 6 to do an upgrade. I guess there are millions of us out there. I know Apple phones are more expensive than some of the competitor but given its overall features it is well worth the price.

A Political Quiz…

August 4, 2014

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This is an interesting quiz that is said to melt down politics to its essentials. They say over 22 million people have taken the quiz.  I showed it above with my answers tagged. Can you guess where I ended up in the spectrum.  Liberal you say??  You betcha…..

To take the quiz yourself just click on the image above…

I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster despite how, of course, it’s not, and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the [president is the] “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back

They didn’t hear me, of course; the orgasmic thrum of their perfect lives drowned out my chuckle, and as I turned and looked at this beautifully entitled, happy crew from my vantage point only a few feet away but a million light years in perspective, we all shared one of the most spectacular, envied locales in the world and all of us sipped superb regional grape and not a single one of us suffered the slightest personal, social or economic indignity, every first-world need instantly met, every crab cake perfectly formed, the sunshine as flawless as Jesus on toast and no lines at the restroom and lots of free parking for his Lexus SUV…..

Even so, I desperately wanted to ask Mr. Newport Beach what his stock portfolio looked like a mere six or seven years ago, when Bush & Co. ravaged the country and led us into one of the deepest, most brutal social and economic pits in modern history. Did he lose half his net worth? More? Was he worried he couldn’t feed his family or pay his mortgage? Did he lose his house? His job? Did he blame Bush? Clinton? Islam? The gays?

And by the way, how does he like the recovery so far? Which of his three perfect, multimillion-dollar homes was he on his way to, right now?

I also wanted to know, when Bush/Cheney lied to the world, openly violated the tragedy of 9/11 and invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands, was he furious? What about now, when even Fox News is calling out Cheney and declaring Iraq invasion a colossal mistake, a lie from which we’re still unable to extricate ourselves?

SOURCE:  The Best Worst President Ever | Mark Morford.

Mark Morford has become an instant hero of mine. This post says almost exactly how I feel about those rich guys who are so much against making healthcare a right instead of a privilege for all America’s citizens. I agree exactly with his amazement of calling our current president the worst ever while he is benefiting from all the massive recovery, at least for those who own a lot of stocks, that has occurred under this president.

I agree completely that it totally confuses me how this rich guy can completely ignore the disastrous condition that the previous president left the country in after eight years in office and how he put us in a $trillion+ off the books wars that the current president had to dig his way out of.  Compared to his predecessor the current president deserves  top three status in the presidential list.  How can this rich jerk even swallow the vitriol words that spews from his mouth.

But then I have to step back and recognize that this rich guy probably doesn’t represent most in his financial category. Or at least I hope he doesn’t? The hypocrisy of this rich guys words strike me as being one of the root causes for the trouble this country still has.  Thanks Mark for getting the words just right…..

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The U.S. spends the most of any country on its health care system, and yet it ranked the lowest out of 11 industrialized nations in overall healthcare quality, according to a report published Monday by the Commonwealth Fund.The report, which covered the years 2011-2013, compared more than 80 indicators of U.S. health care spending, quality and performance to the likes of Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Sweden, among other developed nations. The UK, which was ranked highest, blew the U.S. out of the water, despite the fact that the country spends less than half as much on health care per capita $3,406 on average, compared to $8,508 in the U.S.. The U.S. also spends the most on health care as a percentage of GDP 17% than any other nation.

SOURCE: US continues its losing streak in health care quality comparison – Yahoo Finance.

I am about to finish one of the six or so  books I read at the same time; this one about the culture of the United States. It shows numerous places where we are the most creative people on earth. But then comes our ideas of healthcare. We just can’t seem to understand that our current system of taking care of our citizens is a loser and a big waste of money by almost all standards. We spend twice as much as anyone but get so little for our dollars.

It seems idiotic but it seems we are opposed to doing what has proven to work. Why,  because much of the rest of the world already has it figured out and therefore the solution would not be an “American idea”? We need to get over the idea of shunning anything not invented here and simply go with what works. We need to be as much pragmatists as we at least used to be inventive.

We need to get over the idea that somehow anything socialist is un-American.  We presently allow our government to handle our healthcare needs for about half of us but going all the way seems to be a big problem. Perhaps the most socialist healthcare system in the world is from Britain and of course from the above graphic we learn that they also provide the best care by most standards.

A person working sixty hours a week at a minimum wage job will earn about $21,000.  But according to the above they would likely spend about half that amount just for their family’s health insurance! I know I seem to harp on this topic often and that is because it is an obvious solution that is for some reason vastly ignored by so many of us. We need to take a big bite out of the humility apple and learn what the rest of the world can teach us.