Jun
21
2016

Republican Senate 2016 – National Security Is Job One.

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In light of the failure of the Senate… No, in light of the REFUSAL of the Senate to pass a single piece of meaningful gun legislation yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to note what they have accomplished, to see what sort of critical national problems they’ve tried to solve. Here is a list of some of the important things that became law this year:

 

H.R.4605 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 615 6th Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as the “Sgt. 1st Class Terryl L. Pasker Post Office Building”.

H.R.4046 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 220 East Oak Street, Glenwood City, Wisconsin, as the Second Lt. Ellen Ainsworth Memorial Post Office.

 

H.R.3866 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1265 Hurffville Road in Deptford Township, New Jersey, as the “First Lieutenant Salvatore S. Corma II Post Office Building”.

 

H.R.3735 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 200 Town Run Lane in Winston Salem, North Carolina, as the “Maya Angelou Memorial Post Office”.

H.R.2814 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Sevierville, Tennessee, the Dannie A. Carr Veterans Outpatient Clinic.

S.184 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Native American Children’s Safety Act

H.R.4957 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the Federal building located at 99 New York Avenue, N.E., in the District of Columbia as the “Ariel Rios Federal Building”.

H.R.4923 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016

H.R.4336 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

An act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery of the cremated remains of certain persons whose service has been determined to be active…

S.2143 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to provide for the authority for the successors and assigns of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company to maintain and operate a toll bridge across the Rio Grande near Rio Grande City, Texas, and for…

S.2755 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2016

S.1890 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016

H.R.2908 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

National Bison Legacy Act

H.R.2722 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act

S.1638 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015

S.719 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to rename the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Great Falls, Montana, the Captain John E. Moran and Captain William Wylie Galt Armed Forces Reserve Center.

S.1826 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 99 West 2nd Street in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as the Lieutenant Colonel James “Maggie” Megellas Post Office.

S.1596 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2082 Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio, as the “Specialist Joseph W. Riley Post Office Building”.

H.R.3262 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To provide for the conveyance of land of the Illiana Health Care System of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Danville, Illinois.

OK… So they may have totally sucked at stopping terrorists from getting semi-automatic weapons…. But DANG IT!  They sure can rename something when that kind of national emergency is foisted upon us!

 

Apr
3
2016

Evil Dictators… What’s A President To Do???

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This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but I felt I didn’t quite have enough information to be able to illustrate the point that had to be made. A puzzle piece was missing….. The database was incomplete.

Noting that terrorist organization and the conditions that lead to their development had been a part of the social / political landscape in the Middle East long before 9/11 and the ensuing Global War On Terror, the question that must be asked is this: What are the best options on how the US should deal with dictators in the Middle East in relation to terrorism?

When trying to answer this question in regards to current US foreign policy, I would say the place to start is Iraq. Continue Reading »

Mar
25
2016

Vinyl or Digital….

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Ah… The eternal question. OK. Not eternal. But something that some people get very passionate about.
 
Let’s start with a little history from my perspective. I grew up with vinyl. We did have cassette decks in the house, and 8 tracks and cassettes in the car, but for a quality listening experience, the vinyl LP was the way to go. If I think of listening to music as a kid, LP’s are the musical memories of my youth. I learned what music was, and my first music teachers include the following: Eagles, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago,  Peter Paul & Mary, Simon and Garfunkel (all of them), John Denver, The Carpenters, Led Zepplin (Zoso), Foreigner, Rush (2112), Heart (Little Queen), Aerosmith (Rocks), 1812 Overture, Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Alvin and the Chipmonks… It’s all on LP. Note CSN&Y was on cassette only. And yes, I learned about music from Alvin and the Chipmonks. they had some catchy tunes!
Fast forward a few years.

I was an early teen when the CD was first introduced to the market place. At first they didn’t sell because the machines were way too expensive for ordinary folks to buy, as were the CD’s themselves – 25 bucks a pop – and the catalog of CD’s that WAS available were mainly classical recordings, and what self respecting teenager was going to buy that???? But in short order, prices began to fall on both the CD player and the CD’s themselves, stereo systems started to include CD players as part of the package, and the record companies started to print more and more rock records on CD. My first good system, A Fisher Studio Standard component system, was purchased from Macy’s in 1983, It included a really loud AM / FM receiver amp – did I mention that is was really loud… it kicked arse! – a turntable, a cassette deck, and a CD player, which was useless because I didn’t have any CD’s. My first CD’s were Toto IV and Genesis ABACAB. Within a couple more years, there was this little album from Dire Straits called “Brothers In Arms” that EVERYONE had to have, because it was, so they said, the first album to be recorded digitally, whatever that really meant. It was a FANTASTIC album (the previous Love Over Gold was even better, but that’s a topic for a different day) and listening to it ply from the CD, especially the title track, was probably as big a music high as one could have experienced back then! The dynamics were unreal!!!!!!!!!! The LP just couldn’t match it. It was so “thin” in comparison.

Granted, not every CD sounded like that one did. During the first couple of years, when CD’s were still selling far below that of LP’s and cassettes, the record companies were just putting out product to fill shelves, and not really paying much attention to the sound of the CD’s themselves. Most rock CD’s that were released were recorded before the advent of digital technology, and were duplicates from the vinyl master. They also sounded kind of thin. But because of the greater fidelity of the digital media, you could also hear things that were inadvertently recorded that didn’t get noticed on the LP format. On the CD version of the Carpenters song “Bless The Beasts And The Children” you could clearly hear a door opening and shutting at the beginning of the song. It was kind of amusing to hunt down flaws like that on the first generation of Cd releases. It would be a few more years before the ideal that maybe these old recordings should be remastered to better take advantage of the digital medias strengths.

So, what about vinyl?

 I have nothing against vinyl. But if you want to know why CD was a great improvement over vinyl, look for an interview with one of the great sound engineers of rock music, guys by the name of Bob Clearmountain and Bob Ludwig. You lose a lot of dynamics on vinyl, especially at the lower end. As a musician who had recorded a few things here and there, I can say from experience that if you want to hear what the artist actually recorded in the studio, what his or her sonic intentions were, digital is the way to go.

Here is Ludwig’s experience on mastering the Band’s “Music From Big Pink” on vinyl and later, on CD:

“At age 23, Bob Ludwig was an up and coming audio engineer at A&R Recording in New York. He was asked to create a test pressing of the Band’s debut, and in the process he tried to capture what was on those master tapes. When he heard the final product, however, his ears were in for a surprise: “All the low, extreme low bass that I knew was there, was chopped right off.” It wasn’t until many years later when he was called in to do a remastering of the album for compact disc that he found a note in the box of the original master tapes. It was written by the engineer who cut the actual disc for pressing, with the instructions to cut the low end, as it was apparently too much for the vinyl to handle, sometimes causing the needle to jump.”

 

Here is Bob Clearmountain:

“I’d just listen and go: ‘Jesus, after all that work, that’s all I get?’ It was sort of a percentage of what we did in the studio. All that work and trying to make everything sound so good, and the vinyl just wasn’t as good. If you’re a musician… and you get to do a mix and you listen to it and you love the way it sounds, and then it’s transferred to vinyl and suddenly it’s got noise and ticks and pops, for me that’s an extremely unmusical event”.

“It wasn’t until CDs actually started to sound good [that I went]: ‘That’s what it sounded like. That’s what I remember doing in the studio. The great thing for me about digital, about CDs, was that I could do things that I could never do for a vinyl record.”

That said, there is nothing wrong with vinyl. I don’t blast MP3’s either. The listening experience, and the joy one takes from it, is what counts. As a regular listener, I’m just happy to have music on my phone and able to play it with the touch on the screen. But if I am listening with musician ears, dissecting and taking apart a song to get to know all the subtleties of it, then yes, I’d prefer CD quality at least.

 There is one caveat here that makes me sometimes long for the old analog records; noise floor issues, and the endless destruction of headroom in modern recording practices. Because of the digital experience, we’ve grown accustom to having our music louder LOUDER than was ever possible when I was growing up in the 70’s. I listen to some recording today and shake my head at how bad the dynamics are. One recent example is the last Toto album, Toto XIV. And yes, I know not everyone is a Toto fan. Ignore whether they are your cup of tea and focus on the final product and the sonics of it, at least on the digital copy. No headroom anywhere! Nothing breathes! It sounds soooo compresses, at all times, even in the quieter songs. It was a real disappointment. And I’m not the only one that noticed. Many of the reviews of the album said the same thing. This might be a case where the vinyl copy may have ended up being better than the digital copy.
Mar
23
2016

Donald Trump Is NOT Hitler.

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So… I totally forgot to acknowledge my eleven year blogiversary at the beginning of the year.

Happy Blogiversary To Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that that is out of the way….

 

If you’re not dead, and have been paying the mere slightest attention to politics, or if you’re alive, I’m sure you’ve come across someone saying “Trump Is Hitler!!!!!”.

No. He’s not. Hitler actually had a core set of beliefs. He wrote about those beliefs in Mein Kampf, even as he was becoming politically active. And he pretty much stuck to them and expanded on them once he gained political power. Yes, his beliefs were twisted and delusional, and yes, evil. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that the Jews caused Germany to lose World War One, never mind the “final solution”. Thing is, Hitler really really REALLY cared about things. Twisted and insane, yes. But he cared and had a real passion for his country.

Trump?

The only thing Trump really cares about is Trump… And money. He has no core set of beliefs. That can be said of Hillary Clinton, and there is a lot of evidence that can support that claim. But at least she usually takes a few years to completely contradict a previous statement. Trump has taken three different positions on things within a span of hours! And that’s on the few items he has expresses real opinions on.  He doesn’t care about the country. He doesn’t care about Republicans. Judging by his lack of command of any foreign policy issues, even relations with Mexico, it’s clear he doesn’t care about the fate of the nation. He only cares about one thing, and that’s building the Trump brand. And what better way to do that than run for President.

If we really want to compare Trump to someone, I would say a better figure from history to compare him to would be Andrew Jackson, except without the political or military experience. Both Trump and Jackson made their fortunes by speculating on real estate. Not so with Hitler. Unlike Trump, Hitler was very politically active by the time he was, had risen up within a political system, and had helped shape a new political party. Jackson, and Trump, hijacked a party that already existed. Trump, like Jackson before him, were called on by the public to run for President, and both are seen as the ultimate outsider. But, in the end, the comparison between those two men is not a strong one. Jackson at least had political experience before he decided to run for President; he was not a complete novice. He, like Hitler, also had a strong sense of mission coming into the office. Of course, many of those Jacksonian ideas, including the removal of Indians and the elimination of the National Banks (the predecessor of the Federal Reserve) had dire and longstanding repercussions for the nation.

In short, there is no need to invoke Hitler when there are better role models that are native grown and are probably a better match.

 

Jan
18
2016

Flint’s Water Supply Disaster… Who Is To Blame?

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“Hello. This is Miguel Del Toral from EPA Region 5, and I’d like to speak with you about problems with drinking water in Flint Michigan.”

(EPA Region 5 lead-in-water expert Miguel Del Toral)

As most are well aware, the city of Flint, Michigan is in the midst of a very serious problem with its water supply, caused by lead that seeped out of old plumbing and poisoning the community. The city had switched to a new water supply a couple of years ago, from the Detroit water system to using water from the Flint River. The new water supply was harder water than the Detroit supply, and that inadvertently caused the very old pipes to leach lead into the drinking water, poisoning the community.  Up to today, I was certain that it was strictly due to a cost-cutting move, and nothing else, and the Governor is, rightly or wrongly, being vilified for not acting sooner to stop Flint from using the water. That is the way the New York Times spelled it out:

In a cost-cutting move in 2014, the struggling city switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. Residents began to complain, and elevated levels of lead were found in some children.

Here is how The Atlantic portrayed the switch:

“To save money, the city began drawing its water from the Flint River, rather than from Detroit’s system, which was deemed too costly. But the river’s water was high in salt, which helped corrode Flint’s aging pipes, leaching lead into the water supply.”

CNN:

“Flint, Michigan, lies about 70 miles from the shores of the largest group of fresh water bodies in the world: the Great Lakes. Yet its residents can’t get clean water from their taps.

Nearly two years ago, the state decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron (which they were paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River, a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth.”

The story of how this happened is murky though and not just as a cost-cutting move as is presented in some articles. As CNN notes, the plan was to build a new water supply from another water distric, which would draw from the same source as the Detroit system, Lake Huron. It would be as safe as the Detroit system. The plumbing will  be newer, and when completed, it will indeed save money. Seems like a win-win. The plan seemed sound from what I can tell.  Note too that the community at large supported the move:

“Flint and Genesee County voted in 2013 to form a new water authority to draw their own water from Lake Huron and treat it. Flint had long complained about the price Detroit charged for water.

When Detroit calculates a water rate for a community, it factors in how far the water must be pumped. Elevation increases pumping costs.”

So the switch was not just an arbitrary thing as some are making it out to be. It was discussed at length. When it became clear that Flint was going to move into a new water delivery arrangement with another supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department threw a fit! They complained to the state that Detriot, which is already in bankruptcy, would be further hurt financially from the lost sale of water, and when the state declined to get involved, Detroit gave it’s one year notice of the cancellation of water delivery to Flint, so Flint could not keep buying water from Detroit until they new system was on line. Detroit does offer to renegotiate a new water contract, but Flint declines. That is why the city ended up using water from the Flint river as a temporary water source before the new water delivery system was in place.

Note, the river had long been considered an alternate source of water in the city plans, and was thought to be safe. The lead that has caused the problems is NOT from the river itself, but from the pipes delivering the water to the community.

Governments, like people, make many decisions over time that seem fine at first. But it’s only when the results of that decision plays out that the downsides of that decision become obvious.

Fast forward to now… And the obvious. The handling and delivery of the new source of water was a disaster. The blame for this falls squarely on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the states equivalent of the EPA. They did not apply adequate anti-corrosion procedures to ensure the water would be delivered to the Flint residence safely. Here is a summary of the timeline of events that lead to the present situation:

* Water was switched over in April of 2014. By June, residents are complaining about the smell, color, and taste of the water coming from the tap.

* In August, the Flint water supply tests positive for E. Coli, and residents are urged to boil their water.

* By October, GM has switched to a different water supply for its Flint factories because there are too many contaminants in the water, which interferes with the manufacturing process of engines and other parts.

* In January of 2015, after apparently getting rid of the E. Coli problem, Flint officials are telling residence that the water is safe to drink.

* Around the same time, the Univ. Of Michigan tests high lead levels in the water supplies on campus. They think it is a problem with the old water pipes on campus.

According to the Detroit Metro Times, the first indication that something was very VERY wrong surfaced in February, shortly after the UoM detected high levels of lead:

“On Feb. 26, Jennifer Crooks, Michigan program officer for the EPA’s Region 5, sent MDEQ staff an urgent message regarding high levels of lead in the water at the home of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters and her family, according to documents obtained by the ACLU of Michigan through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Crooks reported to MDEQ that Flint’s utilities manager, Mike Glasgow, had tested Walters’ home for lead.

“WOW!!!! Did he find LEAD!” Crooks exclaimed.

Lead levels of 104 parts per billion were detected — seven times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

“She has two children under the age of 3,” Crooks wrote. “Big worries here.””

At that point, because lead poisoning is so serious, there should have been immediate action. Instead, the response was this:

“The next day, the MDEQ’s Stephen Busch, district supervisor for the Flint region, replied with an email assuring the EPA that the city of Flint did indeed have an optimized corrosion control program. But he offered no specifics.”

The city brushed off the high levels of lead in Mrs. Walters house as a problem with the house itself and not from the city water. It was, they explained, the pipes in her house that were shedding the enormous amounts of lead. The problem with that explanation is that her pipes were newer plastic PVC, which does not even contain lead. And the college would have filed a report on their finding of high lead in the water system at the college.

When asked about the extent of their anti-corrosion procedures to treat the Flint river water, the MQED says:

“The City of Flint…Has an Optimized Corrosion Control Program Conducts quarterly Water Quality Parameter monitoring at 25 sites and has not had any unusual results.”

Which, as it turns out, is a complete lie. They didn’t have an anti-corrosion system at all.

The Flint Water Supply Updates blog takes the story from there. At one point, the local EPA region 5 water expert Miguel Del Toral starts to get involved, and examines the situation at Walters’ home. He does confirm that her pipes are new PVC and could not have contaminated her water. But instead of taking immediate and urgent action to protect the citizens of Flint, which is their job, they side with the MQED, and go after Del Toral for leaking a document spelling out the dire situation that was unfolding in Flint.

But that, for now, is something to be dealt with later. Here is a superb article laying out just how horrific and criminal the MQED was in dealing with this very serious public health crisis in Flint, including “revising” reports and tampering with test parameters and results to try and cover the problems, and their serious mistakes.

Someone needs to go to jail over this.

Jan
2
2016

Meet The New Corrupt Bosses… Same As Blah Blah Blah.

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So the news broke a few days ago via the Wall Street Journal that the NSA has recordings of Netanyahu bribing members of Congress to oppose the Iran nuke deal this fall. Caught them red-handed.

Raise your hand if you think anyone will be punished for it….

Of course they won’t. This is standard operating procedure. This is not new news. They were caught about 5 years ago doing the same thing. Nothing happened. Not every member of Congress is corrupt of course, but corruption and bribery are accepted practice in Washington. It’s so blindingly obvious.

And people wonder why so few get out and vote anymore.

Nov
15
2015

Thoughts Of The Attacks In Paris.

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A poem or something I wrote, inspired by an article this morning about one of the survivors of the massacre at the Bataclan theater in Paris.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

I’ve never seen a man walk so slow as he moves along the street
His eyes stare in the distance, focus on nothing
Not registering the flashing lights, the mournful cries
Or the chaos that surrounds him

Nov
15
2015

THE CONVERSATION AFTER PARIS: WHAT SHOULD THE UNITED STATES DO???

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I was having an interesting conversation on Ruben Navarette’s facebook page, started when one commenter said the following:

“It is unconscionable for us to have the power to take down ISIS but to do as little as possible instead.”

After rebuffing that notion, someone asked me this:

“What do you suggest we do? Sitting back and doing nothing while ISIS gets stronger is an invitation for more of last night and then some.”

Here is the long and the short of it. Even though we and other western countries have been hit a few times, ultimately, this is not our fight. The only way this is permanently settled is going to be by the countries and populations in the middle east. This is a civil war. It can no more be won by us than our own civil war could have been one if Briton fought for the north instead of the Union soldiers themselves. Continue Reading »

Aug
29
2015

Mary Alexander: Sept 18, 1932 – August 29, 2015.

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I just got word that my wonderful Mom passed away this morning. We knew this was coming soon, but was not expecting it so soon.

I’m still numb to the news. As happened when Dad died, it took a few days for me to really grieve. I’m expecting the same with Mom. It will happen when I get into full reflection mode on all the wonderful times I, and the family, had with her…. Because of her.

Since I can’t grieve yet, I’m writing a song called “Waiting For The Tears To Come” in her honor. It’s the thing I can do right now.

 

IMAG0525_1

May
4
2015

Vote Dan Schwartz For GOP Nomination

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Vote for Dan Schwartz for the GOP nomination!!!!!!!!!

Write him in if you have to…. To quote Tony The Tiger….. “Heeeeee’s GREAT”!!!!!