Andrea Mitchell – You Lie! with the help of MSNBC of course

OMG! How long has it been since I posted a blog here? Years? What happened? Call it a combination of Great FW of China syndrome, work, and of course, parenting. But I digress. What has forced me to break my silence after all these years? The multitude of news, current events past by, social stories, fixations of the media over this or that and what was it that pushed my button? The last straw was a drive-by faux journalist hack job by none other then MSNBC, who is becoming more known for outright lying about “news” than the Washington Post and New York Times were for plagiarism in the past millennium.

I of course am referring to this weeks hit piece by so called journalist Andrea Mitchell where a heavily edited video, a la George Zimmerman 911 tape selectively edit hack job. Again MSNBC got caught doctoring information to sensationalize the news into a specific spin and expected outcome from ignorant viewers who do not question news organizations. While news companies and organizations do have a responsibility to the public to report just facts and provide clear warning of opinion coloring of the news, it is up to us, the consumers of news, to be skeptical of these companies and their agenda and not rely on past awards, reputations, or institutional creditability to seriously ask why they are presenting what they are presenting, identifying loaded terms and vocabulary, see if they answer all 5 questions of who, where, when, what, and why as well as how this is more important than other competing news for our attention.

I was alerted to the Andrea Mitchell political ad faux news via twitter. Thanks to SooperMexican and many others this WaWa-gate has taken up legs and is shedding a much needed and deserved light on inner workings of MSNBC “news” and how they are going to cover this year’s election coverage. Just like the George H.W. Bush grocery scanner “news” piece (false too mind you, just as this was) the truth have been exposed. Unlike the days of old the social media is able to identify and correct such biased and outright lying by groups like MSNBC (ask Dan Rather about the G. W. Bush Air National Guard duty roster debunked by bloggers).

The striking thing really isn’t Andrea Mitchell showcasing her liberal bias or even presenting the splicing hack job on the air, she is in the bag for Obama and everyone knew that years ago. The striking thing about this is the culture of looking the other way and dragging of feet to admit wrong doing and punish so called reporters when their lies are exposed and they continue to deny and perpetrate the lie! THAT is what made me get off my duff and finally write something.

The Wisconsin political atmosphere has been a fore-barer of what to expect this fall in the US as a whole. Those who followed it can see the parallels, from Occupy the State Capital to OWS, from senators fleeing the state to hold up the legislative process to the president issuing executive orders to circumvent the legislature and from the stark contrasts of progressive liberalism to fiscal conservatism the polarization of the nation is pretty much complete. Just as Wisconsin had very few undecided voters by the time the re-call election occurred we are seeing the same on the national level. Mrs Mitchell’s political ad paid for my GE, MSNBC, its sponsors and advertisers, and those in the news rooms at MSNBC are only playing to the political base by pandering to the image control and news massaging of things they can capitalize on to sway the ignorant middle American who can’t decide which side of the road to be on.

So, as MSNBC ignores its lying, cheating, politicking “reporters” and paying them to spew their misinformation the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and the Blogasphere are more than ready to take them on. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT a strong Romney supporter, not even a tacit one, but I think it is un-American and irresponsible to leverage news outlets for political pandering and biased views while passing them off as proof of this or that.

As a vet and someone who loves my country it is distasteful and downright infuriating when a Constitutionally protected aspect of our society/life is abused and twisted to influence people’s opinions. I did not risk my life so the 1st Amendment could be used as a tool by a political ideology to leverage and influence the citizens of the country. I am currently living in a country without a free press, at least the citizens here know its not free and the stories displayed are what the government only wants shown. For American to allow its news agencies to be the modern day equivalent of Pravda, or the People’s Daily is just wrong and shameful.

This goes for Fox News as well. News is news, it is neutral and has no bias or opinion. Reporters who can’t cover an event or report news without injecting their bias or opinion are not fit to be reporters and should be fired. With the 40 year anniversary of Watergate this fall it really is time for the news groups of the nation to get off this news massaging crusade they are on and get back to giving the public the dry, colorless, cold facts and leave opinions to the OpEd and Letters to the Editor section. Magazines are lost and who cares anymore anyway, the internet is killing them off quickly now. No, its time for news to be news, let the people digest the information and make up their own minds on where a story falls. If you can prove Romney is out of touch and an elitist then show it, no need to manufacture it.

We all have Obama’s record to judge him by, 3+ years without a budget even 1 member of his own party would vote for, more federal spending then ALL presidents before him combined, escalating the wars and intrusions on citizens freedoms in the guise of homeland security, mismanaging the government and allowing the worse recession in 70 years to sputter and backslide. We know his policies and if he could fix anything he would have started by now. Heck even his radical progressive professor calling for his ouster because he has NOT gone far enough to the left! Giving him 4 more years will only result in more of the same. More justice department selectively enforcing the law. More division and class warfare tactics to keep people pissed and mistrustful of each other instead of together to fix problems. More talk of bi-partisanship only to demand the progressive left agenda be followed without compromise or even discussing fiscal conservative alternatives, of which there are many on multiple issues. More speeches of soaring rhetoric of not resting until all Americans have a job right after decreeing the DREAM Act by executive order and then teeing up his 100th round of golf. More hope and change that end up being more of the same old same old.

In my closing I will play off the famous 1980′s League of Women Voters debate quote from, well most likely the last great president of my lifetime: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions ‘yes’, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don’t agree, if you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.” Well America, are we any better off, if we choose the same administration are we sure we will get anything different or improved off of the past 4 years? We are at a fork in the road, the media playing to fears, inventing misconceptions, and outright lying and pandering to their ideological brethren denies us asking those very simple questions. Anyone who must cheat, take aid from cheaters, or encourage cheating does not deserve to be in office, and you Andrea Mitchell no longer deserve to be in the news reporting business, become an editor at the Huffington Post, Salon.com, Newsweek, Time, or some other rag. What does it say about a party of “fairness and equality” when they stoop to and accept aid from cheaters, lairs, and snake oil salesmen disguised as reporters.

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Crime, Consequences, and Social Acceptance

Call me old fashioned, call me a Neanderthal, call me a relic, I particularly don’t care because I know I am right.  If this year’s seasons are to have meaning, revolution spring for example, then this summer is flashpoint summer.  We have seen a series of mod attacks, riots, and outright fights in the US and UK thinly cloaked in the guise of racial socioeconomic inequality.  Horse pucky!  This summer’s rioting is just an excuse to go out and beat up people of another race and steal items you would like to have and use the shield of liberal philosophical inequality to mask your intentions.

Western countries have been hit hard by this, Europe more than others due to the financial crisis and resulting governmental spending restrictions.  Here in China you expect to hear of the occasional riot over social issues, land repossession, inflation, unsafe foods, or unfair socioeconomic access.  In developing nations you also expect to hear of riots over economic divides, access to natural resources, or social injustices.  It is very rare to see it happen in America and Britain and for the conveniently yet thinly veiled excuses of social divide.  I repeat myself because that is the best way to drive a message home.  These activities are not out of frustration, but fun and entertainment.  Many eyewitness and victim accounts speak of laughing, taunting, and casual socializing in the midst of beatings, robbing, and looting.  There is only one real explanation for this sort of behavior.  Lack of fear of authorities or the law and no sense of consequences for ones actions.

David Cameron has it part right.  There is a social decline in English speaking society today and it is not just reserved to the UK.  Washington DC, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia – all locations where highly publicized US mob violence occurred this summer.  One thing that was not so publically mentioned was the racial component, the rioters were predominately younger black males from the inner city using social networking utilities to gather, initiate, and spread violence against predominately other racial groups of older affluent peoples and in parks, shopping districts, or common areas utilized by all members of society.  We have a problem, but the “old way” of looking at it, through rose tinted liberal philosophy blinders isn’t changing the facts.

Where I am right is that the approach of the liberal mindset, the 1960’s era of utopian social cohesion has produced a more divided, fractured, and hostile breeding ground for violence waiting on an excuse to be released.  From the progressive takeover of the entertainment industry and pushing of the anti-hero and vigilante style of justice message to taking over the primary education system with political correct messages that uniqueness and self determination are evil and conformity and participation are the celebratory norm where all are equal and none are ostracized.   From my parent’s generation refusal to adhere to strict social codes and taboos that provided unwritten acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.  To my generation’s obsession with materialism and over indulgence and selfishness not seen before and fed by new technology.  Continued by today’s spoiled and incredulous self loathers who have never known patience thanks to DVD’s 24/7 cable TV and high speed internet, instant messaging and 3D computer games available at their fingertips and feeding their most freakish desire.  It has all been a long series of bricks into a wall we as a society are now backed against.

Lack of respect for authority and the law.  This is problem #1 and one that requires all 3 approaches to be implemented together and with a fervor and zeal not seen since WWII.  One of the London police was stating the rioters knew their rights and the law enough to how they could be treated but not enough to know what they were doing was punishable by the authorities… horse pucky!  That is the equivalent of selective hearing and is complete nonsense.  Its important to know your rights as a citizen but its a two way street, those you are acting against have rights as well and violating them comes with consequences.  We have to attack the root cause, that is lack of discipline in society today.

Discipline, discipline, discipline!  Today spanking a child is akin to child abuse.  Taking away a child’s belongings is akin to torture.  Parents and teachers try to be their child’s friend instead of parent or authority figure.  While child abuse laws serve a purpose and need to be strict and severe to protect children, parents AND teachers need to have tools at their disposal in dealing with the most severe cases of acting out.  Child abuse laws need to be redefined to specifically spell out what is physical abuse in clear and graphic detail so kids, parents, and teachers know where the line is and there is no room for error.  All schools need to mandate corporal punishment or have it opted to the parents on a case by case occurrence.  Inappropriate behavior needs to be curtailed quickly or the parents held fully accountable if they fail to do their jobs.  This means if a 15 year old robs a store during a riot they AND their parent(s) face the consequences and they need to be severe enough to ensure it won’t happen again.  Without discipline and well defined consequences for acting out being defined you raise children without morale compasses and selfish ideas of society’s role in their lives.

Teach responsibility and self worth!  We teach sex education to 3rd graders now, so lets reserve half of that time to the consequences of sex, parenting.  By the time that 14 year old girl gets pregnant for the first time and has her first child she should have a clue on how to raise a child correctly, as she was 14 when she got knocked up her parents obviously failed so she needs something to fall back on.  She needs to know what discipline is and isn’t and when and how to administer it just as much as she needs to know how to unroll and use a condom correctly.  Schools also need to abandon the “all children and unique and equal” poppycock sentiment and get back to competition and risk/reward in all aspects of education.  Science, Math, Social Studies, and Spelling competitions where clear cut winners and losers are identified and celebrated.  Same with sports, bring back tryouts and culling out inadequate candidates.  Its how the real world works and needs to be taught early so kids understand and know how to deal with disappointment in life.  Celebrate winning, dedication, team work, determination, and overcoming obstacles.  Participation isn’t winning, its just being there, and where is the self worth in that?

We have places for those unwilling to positively participate in society, show examples!  While we want to have lovely schools we must face the facts we need ugly schools too, reform based boarding schools where discipline and restriction is impossible to escape and troubled youths can be reformed before they fall through the cracks, give them an opportunity to wake up and turn themselves around before you turn a blind eye to them and allow them to enter into the perpetual cycle of incarceration.  Good people get bad breaks some times, everyone disserves a second chance.  Reform boarding schools can offer that to kids before its too late.  Get them away from bad influences and give them the tools needed to control impulses, desires, and just bad ideas by living breathing examples of consequences for acting out.  It has to be bleak and terrible to them to be effective.  No distractions and no reprieve, shape up or stay there until graduation and at least have the same education and tools the rest of society has to function and leave the choice up to them.  If they chose to continue bad behavior at least they will be more acclimated to prison life.  Refuse to allow ‘slipping through the cracks’ mentality and uneducated inner city youths growing up into ignorant adults angry at their misfortune of quitting society early.

Bring back the days of the scarlet letter!  Ok, not that far but the gist of it needs a renaissance.  What I am talking about is social enforcement of social taboo and overt peer pressure to conform to social norms.  If parents allow their kids to run around and drink they should be called out by the community on it often and overtly until they get the message.  Likewise if kids hang out and act inappropriately society needs to call them out, chastise and demean them until the quite.  Examples of model citizens need to be identified and celebrated as well, overtly and publically.  Make it a two way street.  Show there are consequences for your actions, good actions have good consequences just as bad actions have bad consequences.  Neighbors need to know and understand neighbors.  Pressure them to succeed and scare them of failure.  Take back neighborhoods from gangs and strangers who kill their families as we tell the press they were just “quiet and distant” people.

Finally, let the letter of the law be just that, the LAW.  Justice is blind, let it be blind.  The police have the discretion to arrest you, the DA has the discretion to charge you with a crime, the judge should be there to ensure the facts of the case are clear and just and the sentence should be blind.  The ends do not justify the means, a crime is a crime.  There are avenues in place in the US judicial system to make sure those who deserve punishment get it, and even those wrongly convicted to get vindication.  There should be truth in sentencing and the punishment should fit the crime.  Prisons should be humane and protect cruel and unusual punishment yet they should be punishment, not resort layovers between crimes.  The food should be nutritious yet punishment.  The clothing should be adequate yet punishment.  The cells and common areas should be humane and safe yet punishment.  There should be no place in prison to hide from the fact you are being deprived of your freedom of choice because of your actions.  People should be looking forward to getting out, vowing to do anything to keep from going back in.  Again with second chances, those who commit non-violent, non-drug related crimes willing to work, work hard, sacrifice, demonstrate reform, and stick to it should be rewarded with reduced charges upon release to allow them access to good employment and redemption, if they fail the should not get a third change and should feel punished appropriately.  Lastly they should repay society for their crime against it.  Not with just time and isolation from society but through labor.  Chain gang public infrastructure projects/works, license plate stamps, maintenance of roadways and interstates from road repairs to trash collection/grass cutting should all be done by prisoners to repay society.  This way tax dollars used to house, clothe, feed, and watch them is used to maintain our national networks saving outside contract labor costs and freeing up those firms to more complex and specialized works.

Western civilization has been declining steadily for decades, faster since the progressive liberal movement spread globally in the 1970’s.  Some societies are declining faster then others, Greece, Italy, Portugal.  The US and UK are quickly catching up to the rest as their societies have quickly turned into visions of Rome just before the collapse of that empire.  Massive credit, debauchery, shifting morale acceptances of behavior, dependence on outside resources to sustain, its all a recipe for failure.  Surviving the current financial situation is easy, just return to fiscally sound practices, surviving the conditions that have culminated into youths running through cities and attacking racial minorities and looting without fear or reprisals from society is much harder to survive.  The current condition is a cancer in our culture and it is metastasizes into at the very core of our continuation, the youth.  Until we stop pointing fingers and begin acting, electing officials willing to act and rewarding their actions, and stop the past 60 years worth of progressive liberal social experimentation will we have a hope of surviving this.  As the progressives famously like to say, repeating the same action but expecting a different outcome is the definition of crazy… lets try something radical and new, dropping progressive social ideals for an era with Western societies were strong, robust, and the envy of the developing world.

Posted in Life in General, News and politics, Rantings | 2 Comments

Lost Determination

One of my long standing personal codes is to wait a week before commenting on a large event.  For one, I am not a reporter or passing along information but opinions and observations.  The amount of misinformation and speculation is always highest in the immediate moments after an event.  The natural disasters of the Japan earthquake and subsequent monster tsunami were devastating in their own rights, destroying numerous lives and livelihoods, and crippling a nation already struggling with numerous issues and small trials in comparison.  It is in the observations of the aftermath of an event like this we are all humbled and reminded of our insignificance as inhabitants of this planet, as well as our minimal impact and ability to control even a fraction of a percentage of the raw power and potential energy locked inside our spinning ball or rock, metal, water, and gasses.

The impact of these events on the human condition are not going to be the focus of this blog post.  This is an unfolding real life tragedy and not something to be made into some sort of macabre theater as the western media has geared up to deliver via their tentacles of outlets.  I could rail on against the media’s portrayal and overt glee in covering an event in a way that plays to our fears and curiosity, this is too easy and would be a waste of time, energy, and pixels.  As a student of life and self proclaimed watcher of the human condition I am more concerned on the basic tenants of the reporting world and much larger issue which is being used to generate and validate the most horrible of fears.

My favorite comic book hero led his imaginary life based on one simple statement, with great power comes great responsibility.  Our modern news outlets need to place this simple statement at the head of their mission statements, core values, or what ever the business fad of the decade is that reminds employees of their company’s focus.  I have long considered modern news as a bane of the present society.  Since the days of deep throat and the Watergate scandal the news outlets have become hooked on the potential power of shaping, swaying, and driving public sentiment capable of destroying the most powerful individuals, corporations, and governments.  This new found power has gleefully been leveled at those the news rooms feel are threats and ignored to those they feel are allies.  They throw their power around with little to no regard to the impacts on the public in general and society in whole.  Who is watching the media and placing a check on them?  Good question as it appears to be no one.  Ok, so I have a small rant here, but its over now.

My issue is the unfolding nuclear crisis.  I was not a big fan of science or math in high school, and focused my science studies in college to earth and electrical over biology and chemistry.  I did participate in college prep classes and that led to science fairs.  One of my fonder memories was a science paper I wrote on nuclear energy.  I am biased on this topic as I am very pro nuclear power.  I have studied this well beyond middle and high school and continue to read up on it.  The US Navy have been using nuclear reactors on its ships since the USS Nautilus was launched in the early 1954.  Guess how many nuclear accidents and melt downs have occurred on US Navy ships?  None, with over 5,400 nuclear reactor years of service and operating a current fleet of over 80 nuclear powered ships there has been 0 incidents of meltdown or serious accident with a reactor.  All this on floating war ships of various configurations.  On land based, obviously much larger and more complex, reactors the safety record is less convincing.  27 nuclear incidents have occurred since the 1950’s, including the current issue in Japan.  Of these 27 incidents only 8 have occurred since 1990 and of these 8 only 1 explosion and 1 incident of critical mass event occurred resulting in 3 deaths and 4 leaks (2 of which were containment water leaks due to human or maintenance error).  The current events are not counted as they are still unfolding.  Of all the reactors globally we have 14,424 reactor years of service or 3 times the amount of the US Navy’s.

The safety of of course a grave concern, however we have to practical and rely on logic, risk aversion/acceptance, and common sense to seek a way forward from this.  Listening to or reading the news and it is hard to surmise if the ineptitude of TepCo and conflicting information or fear mongering of the media and environmentalists is justified or warranted.  The situation is bad, no doubt about it and there are real hard lessons to be learned from this, but we have to be realistic and place the situation into its proper perspective.  In 21 years we have only had 8 incidents, of which only 3, including the current one, were serious risks to the general public.  This is from over 443 global reactors in 29 countries and generating 14% of global electricity production.  62 are under construction and 158 are planned.  Given our need for electricity and aversion to fossil fuels and inability for wind or solar to match we have to wonder where we will get the power to charge cell phones, mp3 players, power tv, computers, internet and telecommunication services, electric cars, medical machines, etc.

We have fallen into an old and predictable media trap.  Vilifying an industry based on an isolated and unpredictable event.  The current situation is occurring at an old, 1970’s era power plant that should have been shut down and replaced 10 years ago.  While the fears and impact of a nuclear event are serious and need proper attention and commitment, we should not let that stand in the way of a critical supply for the one resource we as a species can not survive without.  Japan alone has 55 reactors generating 25% of their power with 2 under construction and 12 planned, or were planned.  In order to generate that much power from conventional sources would require over 110 of the world’s largest coal fired power plants to make up the same power (the largest nuclear reactor is in Japan).  Think of all that green house gas, sulfur dioxide, mercury deposits in ocean fish, and other environmental issues we are trying to run away from.

We are correct to take heed of this current crisis and take a step back to review the present situation.  We own it to our species and future generations to act properly and with progress and advancing ourselves in mind, not running away from “what ifs”.  Every nuclear power plant constructed prior to 1990 should be shut down and replaced with modern plants built off of all the lessons learned and experiences gained, that is called progress.  The sheer generating power of a nuclear reactor can fuel the growth needed to progress our societies without wrecking our environment.  What about the waste, what about it?  Nuclear materials come from deep within the Earth, the heat and pressure cause electrons to be added to heavy metals to the point of stepping up the periodic table and becoming more heavy.  For this reason we should take spent fuel rods and return them to their point of origin or recycle them, deep within the Earth to continue the decay process and complete the chain.

We need to update and progress our current positions to incorporate the knowledge gained over the last 30 years.  Add this to an updated realization of threats and possibilities and we can improve the safety and reliability of the plants to take into consideration all the possible knows we can engineer into them.  This will challenge and advance multiple industries as only through adversity and challenge can we progress and advance.  New reactors seldom have issues or incidents.  There have been multiple lessons learned over 30 years including this current one where the industry can positively respond.  Face the facts, solar, wind, landfill gas recapture, geo-thermal, wave capture, and bio-fuels can’t come close to matching even oil or natural gas power plants much less coal or nuclear.  Either we will have to go back into the dark ages, limit global population growth, replace land for planting crops and habitation for “green” energy production, or use what we know will work and is available now.  If we can find and perfect fusion then we can abandon fission, until then we need to use what we have.

For the counter point groups in Germany, the USA and now Japan whom question and demand the ceasing of all nuclear power plants, why now?  If nuclear power is so scary, so dangerous, so evil… why aren’t you demanding the UN, NATO, and EU to sanction, disrupt, and take action against Iran and North Korea, both being classified as rogue nations with suspect motivations and aspirations including militaristic ambitions for which nuclear weapons are either an over part of or strongly suggested to be apart of.  Of the 14% percent of world electricity production and 443 plants that would require massive polluting coal power plants numbering over 900 equal to the largest one in the world in South Africa, now how green and environmental is that?  The demand for coal would explode, causing strip mining, driving mining companies deeper into the mountains to top cutting or deep Earth extraction increasing mining accidents and issues, of which China has numerous each year resulting in hundreds or deaths to power the world’s most populous society.  If German, a responsible and engineering innovator isn’t allowed by its environmental left to continue updating and advancing nuclear power then what is their alternative?  What sources of power do we have today, on the shelf so to speak, to use?  Notice they are rallying and demonstrating to shut down nuclear power based on the 7th largest earthquake in recorded history and subsequent tsunami, but not providing a viable alternative.  Solar, only good for 8 to 10 hours a day for most of the year.  The amount of land solar requires and the inability to use that land for much else has negative environmental impact (taking away absorbed heat to the planet’s surface resulting in who knows what.  Wind, even less as wind speeds have to be within a specific speed to operate – too much have to shut it down, too little and well no power.  Add in the dead birds, headaches due to flicker effect, and limited areas they can be deployed and well, not enough places.  Hydro, requires dams and reservoirs netting decreased river sediments robbing river valleys and delta of vital nutrients necessary to support river bank and brackish water eco systems.  Landfill gas recapture yields far too little power potential and releases pollution.  Geo-thermal is limited in where it can be used and usually requires applications close to volcanic susceptible areas as well as pumping in water into these areas which may or may not be a good thing.  The rest are all experimental or low yield solutions.

While the unfolding crisis at the 6 reactors in Japan are frightening and worrisome it should not be a clarion call for absence from the best solution we have to meet the expounding need for power that drives our very survival.  If we had abandoned air travel after the Hindenburg or all the air crashes leading up to the post war era where would we be?  If we had abandoned rail travel after the numerous derailed trains and run away locomotives and head on collisions in the last 2 centuries where would we be?  How about shipping with all the wrecks at harbors, sunk ships, or pirates, where would we be, well not in the new world for one.  How about space travel, with the test flights gone wrong, rockets exploding on lift off, or re-entry, where would we be?  Our modern risk aversion societies have weakened our spirit of perseverance, retarded our spirit of inspiration and creation, netted a culture of fear and anxiety.  The real issue is not nuclear power or natural disasters, its our outlook of the world and our place in it.  We have always lived on the edge of survival until the last 200 years.  Too long ago it seems to remember what it is like to live by luck, wits, and sheer determination.  Japan will rebuild, just as Indonesia and Thailand did in 2005.  Time will heal the scars, but will it steel our resolve or crush it in regards to nuclear power?  This is a question that needs to be thought out, carefully and rationally, not due to a knee jerk reaction for a sporadic and rare naturally occurring event that is part of our environment.

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Ideologue

ideologue n. an adherent to or advocate of some ideology
source: Webster Dictionary.org

My last US based location before my move was Wisconsin.  Having lived there 6 years I have become connected with with it and its politics much more than I am with either Michigan or Alabama.  The recent backlash against the progressive answer to our nation’s ills produced an unprecedented sweep of conservative minded leadership.  The result of this has been placed on the national stage by a feverous battle of wills between fiscal conservatives and progressive pro union groups.  As I have some inside insight and continue to keep abreast of the situation via various sources I find it amazing in this day and age of twitter, Facebook, 24/7 cable news, and instant publishing local newspaper websites that so much misinformation, misinterpretation, and outright lies were incubated and delivered with fervor not seen since the LA riots after the Rodney King police brutality verdict.

It is no secrete I am conservative minded, politically of course.  I have passed another milestone lately the years and experiences have added another layer, or ring, to my life.  As we age we tend to filter what we see and hear.  This is a self protection mechanism really, one that selectively validates our world view therefore giving us comfort and psychological support we, and our views, are right and correct.  As we have years invested on our particular paths we need this comfort in order to ensure our dividends will pay out a positive return.  Every so often we meet cross roads that test and shake our world views and these are dangerous events as we tend to filter our views, see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear.  The only real way to inoculate oneself from these pitfalls is to; A) identify the cross road B) approach the situation with healthy cynicism C) use logic and past experiences to check your initial conclusion D) view the alternatives before dismissing them.  Sound complicated?  Its easy, think of all the situations we use this process in our everyday life to survive.  What to wear, what to eat, what tasks to undertake, what priority each event in our lives takes, when to go to bed.  So why is it that this process has broken down and started to falter so much in the last 2 years in America?

Of course people will say this criticism of my culture and society is viewed through tinted glasses, perhaps, but I am aware of my slants and views and make no excuses for them… placing me ahead of those unaware of their views as I am more guarded to keep as much of an objective take as I can.  Call it an “Emperor’s New Clothes” aversion, but surrounding yourself with “yes men”, even if they are in your head, only leads to disaster.  So what does all this have to do with ideology or political gridlock?  If you have to ask this you are a new reader or have forgotten my style of approaching a topic.

The Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill has widened the chiasm between the political left and right in the state.  Passions overflowed like the waters over Niagara Falls, and just like the Falls, it overflowed in just one direction and from one side.  Watching the players and theater over the last month has been frustrating and at time comical.  From the 14 Democrat senators who fled the state to deny a quorum, for 3 weeks, to the tens of thousands of protesting teachers and doctors giving out notes so they could claim a sick day off work, it all made for a comedy of errors.  Oh, and now one of the 14 is proposing a state constitution amendment to make it illegal to do this again, why???  The more troubling aspect was despite the tragic events of the beginning of the year with Democrat Repressive Giffords being shot along with numerous people at a local event, the rhetoric had again raised to soaring levels of hate and anger with death and violence taking center overt reoccurring themes against the governor and GOP members with no press scrutiny and that spoke volumes to what has been unfolding over the past 2 years.  How can I exaggerate chalk outlines on the Madison square and live ammunition from a high powered rifle casually strewn over the capital grounds?

The larger picture is much more interesting than the smaller micro view of the bill’s dissolving of collective bargaining for public state employees or pension and healthcare benefit contribution levels.  The problems with this political theater is it falls into the trap of losing the forest for the trees.  The battle is not over union “rights” (a grotesque misnomer by every rational stretch of the definition) but over power and preserving the status quo.  Despite all the hype, promise, and aspirations of our 44th president the reality is he and his administration are a rehash of the same old same old, just updated in a post millennium exterior.  Has he instituted a new era of transparency within government that has restored faith in American politics?  Has he created a new era of accountability that has restored pride and honor to American politics?  Has he or his party delivered on anything substantive to correct the path of decades of debt and out of touch political processes separating the masses from the bedrock principles and foundations of American politics? 

No, and that was evidence at the November thumping the DNC took ushering in one of the largest swings in political landscape in both federal and state/local governments.  His policies, practices, and tactics gave birth to the largest and strongest grass roots political movement seen in generations.  The proverbial sleeping giant of fundamental belief in the nation’s core founding principles has risen and taken charge of the political debate, to the chagrin of the main stream media and their political party of choice darling Democrats.  So what does this have to do with anything?  Follow the money.  The macro view of the fight, and real fear of the DNC is a domino effect where public sector unions, the largest financial contributors to DNC campaigns, begin to lose their status quo power in numerous states.  Its always about the money in politics.

The reasoning for this is simple, and logically induced.  For one collective bargaining is NOT a right.  If it were then Federal employees would have it, and they do not.  Why is there little to no mention or marching on the White House demanding Federal union workers have collective bargaining?  Second, rights are guaranteed in the constitution, those that are deemed important enough are placed in the Constitution and they are granted to ALL citizens, not just some public sector union members in one state and not private sector unions or public sector unions in another state.  Lastly collective bargaining has resulted in public sector unions establishing and maintaining legacy pensions and health care benefits long extinct in private sector jobs (except the auto industry and we all saw how well that is working out).  Add this together with how public sector unions in the states that have them operate; statue union laws in many of the union states prohibit non-union workers, state payroll collects union dues and delivers to the union head office automatically, tenure rules keeps only longer serving and more invested union members in the rank and file, union leadership is drafted from pensioners and true believers to keep unwavering front office support, political clout and contributions are leveraged against local governmental board members who negotiate contracts.  Horsepucky I hear, hogwash I reply!  If this were not the case why is it public sector unions in Wisconsin are rushing to sign contract extensions for 2 years now while the WI Democrat Secretary of State delays and stalls the law publication giving unions and friendly local districts 10 days to get extensions in place knowing they can’t raise taxes or increase any local fees to make up the looming state aid cuts to education coming (resulting in all the new teachers not tenured to bear the brunt of the layoffs retaining the older and higher paid true believers)?  The tactics are dirty, the money is dirty, and the power if corrupting.  The progressive left rails against big corporation contributions and influence in the private sector, yet they turn a blind eye to the facts 36.2% of the work force comprising of public sector unions make up the largest groups of DNC donors with $87.5 million funds handed over in 2010 (by contrast outspending all RNC contributors by $31.5 million) .  By contrast private sector unions make up only 6.9% of the work force and while slanted DNC they act more responsibly and conduct business more civilly (which yells volumes when the teamsters are tame compared to teachers, bus drivers, and janitors).

Speaking of money, do you know who the highest paid Wisconsin state employees are?  If you think its the governor or elected official you are dead wrong.  In 2009 the highest paid WI employees were buss drivers, coming in at $159,258 is John E. Nelson or which $109,892 was overtime pay.  His co-worker, Greg Tatman, earned $125,598 putting them among the city’s top 20 earners in 2009.  In fact 7 bus drivers made over $100,000 that year.  Speaking of over time, just the Madison WI bus system alone drummed up $1.94 million in overtime.  Who are the rich and who are the middle class in Wisconsin?  When the highest paid public workers are bus drivers making more then 2.5 times his annual salary in overtime, well we have a problem.  Don’t think the schools or other public sectors are any more sane.  Given a choice to not be in the union, forcing the unions to collect their own dues, take a majority certification vote annually, therefore jeopardizing their largest political leverage, money.  Yep, its all about the money, for money buys access and ensures favors for friendly and symbiotic relationships ensuring a friendly environment cementing the status quo.  How does that look for the change ushered in with all fan fare in 08?

Who is wearing rose colored glasses now?  Have I selectively filtered through all my fiscal conservative bias and out all the wimpy, hypocritical, and lily livered biases to validate my world view and self image?  Have I shut down my objectivity or cynicism with prejudice?  Actually that wouldn’t be any fun.  Regurgitating bumper sticker talking points and nationally outlined emotional bullet points is rather boring and repetitive.  In all honesty both sides are manipulating the 20% of the population that swings the election cycles from one extreme to the other.  We are in a time when they will be most likely running from one extreme to the other.  This is troublesome because it resembles a run away diesel engine.  Anyone familiar will know unless you choke and slow down the cycles the engine will speed up to the point of tearing itself apart.  I am smart enough to see through the GOP smoke and mirrors as well as the DNC set.  Still the GOP side is much milder as its actually trying to fix the fiscal mess of Wisconsin with a real solution combating the real problem, high taxes and too much spending.  Just as the UAW found out the GM and Chrysler union won gains during flush with cash times can’t be sustained forever.  Seeing the public sector unions only grabbed more and more and never conceded or restrained themselves they set the stage for a radical and painful solution we see today.

As for the overall argument at the very kidney of the matter, remember money is the heart of this situation, the relevancy of unions in America.  Most of the DNC propaganda concerning pro union relevancy is actually just the opposite, irrelevant.  Oh, here come my politically slanted opinions again.  Well, consider this.  First, child labor laws nationally and in all 50 states prevent people under 16 from working without a permit and limit the hours and days they can work, so union protections against child labor is mooted.  Second, 40 hour work weeks, overtime pay, holiday pay, and shift limitations are all outlined by labor laws both nationally and in all 50 states.  Third, OSHA oversees workplace safety and laws ensure safe, productive, and standards for work place environments nationally and in all 50 states.  Forth, national and state laws enforce equality in the work place by outlawing discrimination based on sex, age, religion, and even offer workers with disabilities avenues to work.  Fifth, federal and state laws prevent environments where corporations set up environments where they own the factory, town, and company store setting up indentured servitude conditions.  Lastly, if unions were the only thing standing in the way between freedom and oppressive working conditions, why do they only make up 6.9% of the private working sector?  Remember union membership has been falling steady for 12 years, yet pay and benefits have not fallen, why is that?  Why do companies provide company match for 401k, group medical plans, insurance options, vacation days, sick days, etc.?  Because their competition does, not because the 7% of union work places (mainly factory, construction, and auto workers) do.  In order to attract and retain top talent companies have to provide incentives, both financial and life quality. 

For the public sector unions, they make up 5 times the number of employees but still are restricted to less then half of the US states.  Do public employees in the majority of the US States suffer or have worse working conditions then the minority working in states like Wisconsin?  Besides the tax payer funded plush fringe benefits no.  Remember, all because of payroll, pension, and lavish healthcare (sold by the unions) and role over sick days with insane overtime (remember the Madison bus driver), it takes several private sector employees to pay for just 1 public sector employee.  How much?  Good questions and it varies from state to state and city to city.  State and local taxes are small compared to FICA and income tax rates.  These state and local taxes pay for all services, including civil servant payrolls and benefits.  Property taxes pay for schools and other city services (renters have this tax added into their monthly rent so they pay it too).  While the Federal government does help pay for roads, schools, medical and safety through matching or granted funds the majority comes from tax payers.  Civil servants collected taxes are a wash as they can’t really count their taxes due to their pay it comes from is actually collected from their private sector neighbors.  If your total state and local taxes come to 14% of gross pay you can bet the majority covers civil servant payroll and pension funding.  Speculation would state 5%, so it would take 20 tax payers to fund 1 employee’s pay with the remaining taxes to pay for the building, lights, vehicles, mass transit, sewer, garbage, parks, etc. (remember property taxes pay for schools, police, and fire).  At least private sector unions costs are held in check with company health, if the costs spiral out of control the company goes bankrupt and fails or re-structures.  Government does not go bankrupt.

We have laws protecting workers and ensuring their real rights, you know the ones in the constitution, are protected.  The laws force fair and balanced working environments and go well beyond fairness unions tolerate.  Unions have tenure rules forcing a last in, first out policy instead of merit.  Speaking of merit, you don’t get paid based on work performance but on years in service.  Unions do not allow non-union workers in the same work place.  If you no longer want to be in the union you have to quite and most likely move to another state.  You have to pay the dues, of which proved above go towards political action campaigns, and if you don’t agree with what your dues go to, well you have to pay anyway and your voice is oppressed.  Unions reward loyalty as only those who support and mirror their stance advance and progress up the ranks.  Unions have transcended from quasi mob affiliate to full blown legalized mobs ripe with extortion, intimidation, oppression, assaults, and cohesion as well as conspiracies the mob never reached financially.  For these reasons unions need to be flushed and allowed to regroup only when they can demonstrate they can operate in similar manners to their private sector brothers and sisters and government spokesmen actually negotiate with the unions instead of being their patsies and giving them what they ask for.  The Wisconsin union’s stance is thin, tissue paper thin on all fronts of its arguments.  I have not seen 1 articulate and valid point over 3 weeks of heated emotional rhetoric.  Notice I didn’t state debate, because just as I learned in the Navy, you can’t rationalize with a drunk, and it seems to apply to liberals as well.  They shout, yell, and sound bite and prevent real and honest debate.  They can’t stand to hear an opposing view and only wish to restrict free speech, free flow of ideas, alternatives to the status quo, and offer no viable alternative to closing the multi-billion dollar budget gap their own party created over 4 budget cycles.  If they would be honest and just state they want to tax corporations (the very vehicles they use to invest their current pension fund pools, IRAs, and receive the overall majority of the tax revenue collected from), the overtime laden rich bus drivers and other with personal income above 100,000/year, small business owners (who’s taxes are based off of gross income before payroll and internal business re-investment), and yes, the poor tax payers and citizens through sales tax, license fees, and other nickel and dime fees.  They can’t state this because that 20% of the voting block who decide elections would run from them back into the GOP camp in an instant.

No, my eyes are wide open on this.  I admit my biases but can back up my positions.  I can offer proof and logically derive my conclusions from facts and unbiased information.  I see where the other side is coming from and understand their position and why it is they are doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying.  I dare one of those foaming at the mouth teachers to do the same and will compare their argument to mine to see which is more sound and able to stand the test of scrutiny.  Their arguments are riddled with half truths and fallacies including straw man, slippery slope, and ad homonym.  The telling contrast is the southern neighbor, Illinois.  Wisconsin has pledged to close the budget shortfall without raising taxes and improving the tax climate to attract more employers with a target of 250,000 private sector jobs that will bay for the public sector spending (including payroll), and finally to cut state spending.  By contrast Illinois has maintained the status quo, raised taxes, issued more bonds taking on more debt (putting off the repayment for years), and increasing state spending.  Time will tell which state will be closer to fiscally sound standing and health.  I am afraid the only one with blinders on are the ones refusing to talk through the issue, and that includes running away from the state for 3 weeks to grand stand and give the union puppet masters extra time to out maneuver coming budget plans (hamstringing the local communities and forcing them to lay off teachers creating a perceived political plus for them as they can stand the laid off teachers before the crowds and state it was the GOP who caused it).  Who has blinders on, time will tell.

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Hibernation

Seeing my last posting was back in November and discussing the North American event of Thanksgiving and we are now in the awakenings of spring and celebration of rebirth it seems to be a proper time to chime in and make another post… or two.

While at times hibernation seems like a good idea, my self imposed time away from active participation in cyberspace has been an accumulation of family, work, and lack of time as I can only multi task so much before everything begins to suffer and family comes first, work second as both are required for life.  The past few months have netted numerous things, nearly 6 months worth of which so much has slipped away.

I also found the forced migration of my blog from the defunct MSN Spaces to WordPress an less than positive experience.  The community feeling, my regular readers, and frequent commenters are now all but gone and its akin to moving to a new town and the promises of keeping in touch with past acquaintances only to lose touch soon after.

While I have been eager to restart posting and get back into a regular pattern of voicing my observations, opinions, and experiences the villain of time and energy have been constant road blocks to that desire.  Has anything changed?  Not really.  My time as become more compressed as my youngest is walking, talking (a little), and always checking in on me to make sure I am around.  My work responsibilities have increased as I have decided to begin working on global projects again as well as keeping my supervising regional IT support role netting in about 60 hour work weeks. 

The events of this early spring have presented too much for me to stay on the side lines.  From Middle East turmoil and calls for freedom from repression, continued polarization and crystallization of my home country’s clashing political ideology, to the recent natural disaster in Japan and subsequent nuclear situation unfolding in this era of light speed, knee-jerk, instant communications.  As the unconfirmed and suspect old Chinese curse, only found in literature from 1936 on, goes: may you live in interesting times.

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Transporting Thanksgiving

This will mark the 4th Thanksgiving I have spent in China, the 3rd in Shanghai.  Last year we decided to try one of the local expat hangouts and it was a good experience, better than the first one we tried (a double date just before our first was born).  While last year my wife was quite pregnant the atmosphere and food of the Texas style BBQ house was very good and much better suited, they offer 2 dinners, an early one and later one for the more raucous crowd.

There are some obstacles to this purely North American holiday in China, remember the Canadians also have Thanksgiving but earlier in the year.  The most notably is we have to take a days vacation, the oldest is in school, and there are just a few places offering dinners.  As homes in China rarely have an oven, usually only 2 stove top burners, trying to cook a turkey in a toaster oven just isn’t what I am thinking would work, and the deep fat fry method here would be hazardous as the oils are suspect.  Still I am trying to maintain some resemblance of the tradition for my daughters.

Our meal last year was at a table shared with a Belgian family who had lived in the US for a few years and liked the idea.  Talking with them I realized I don’t want my children to see it in the same light, a night in which the whole family goes out, or stays in, for a special dinner.  While that is part of the holiday the real meaning behind it needs to be kept alive and passed on.  The winters the first Europeans spent in American Northeast were particularly rough and with a bad summer and ruined planting season of transported European crops could spell sure starvation.  The bounty of uniquely American foods, game, and help from the other half of my ancestors is part of the background.  The other is to sit back and reflect on the true and most important blessings we have been granted and most often take for granted.

My oldest is not bringing back hand drawn turkeys, construction paper cornucopias, or being in a play about the first Thanksgiving, so I have to go the extra mile there.  Realistically however this is a blessing as I can ensure I am the one passing down the tradition and not some agenda driving, misguided, well intentioned but disillusioned idealist who is hijacking a tradition to push some agenda or pass along sour grapes.  This year I have so many things to be thankful for, a healthy family, good careers, able to spend quality time with the family, and having seen all I have and lived to talk about it AND still have all my fingers and toes.  It is time we, the families of America, stand up and retake our traditions.  We should stop relying on the schools and governments to teach our kids most of what they learn.  The job of the schools is to teach the “3 Rs” and prepare  kids for college by giving them the scholastic basics and tools to learn more, or function in society and contribute through standard blue color employment.  Everything else is the product of lazy parenting and over reaching government programs we have allowed to creep in like kudzu.  

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Family Time

In either troubled times, like the financial meltdown of a couple of years ago, or prosperous times, the giddy excesses that lead to the troubled times, it is easy to lose sight of really matters in life.  The stresses of supporting a career, family, and yourself can at times become overwhelming.  This past weekend the wife and I decided to take some much needed family time.  I know, we just got back from a 2 week public holiday so how much family time do we need?  Well, vacation time and quality time are completely different.

Vacations tend to be more work then work.  There are reservations, deadlines, schedules restrictions, all of it can become quite tiring which take the whole fun and point out of being on a vacation in the first place.  For those reasons we visited a long overdo ritual we used to observe weekly, a lazy Sunday brunch followed up by a couple of hours in a park.  Its always the simple and most humble of things that make life worthwhile and place things into perspective.

A familiar theme for many American workers is to dedicate a lot of time and energy to your profession, its a reflection of yourself in our minds.  Unfortunately we tend to forget those who are supposed to matter more, our families.  It should not get to the point of scheduling family time, setting aside time for spouse and kids, or becoming strangers to those we live with.  Life seems to move much faster today, its best not to get caught up in the rat race and keep priorities where they truly belong, at home.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!  So this is what WordPress is all about?  I am here after Windows Live pulled the plug on its Blogging service – Spaces, and am happy that the service is accessible and viewable from where I am currently located, behind the Great Firewall of a country with another famous wall.

I had stopped blogging primarily due to the birth of my second daughter, expanded role at work, ongoing saga to get my PMP certification, and ever growing commitments to balancing time between family, work, hobbies (photography, writing, classic gaming, travel) and something had to give, blogging was it.  Add in Windows Live has been becoming a virtual ghost town with people flocking away from it for sites like Facebook, Blogger, and WP.  Without readers and feedback it was becoming a bore to spend a few hours writing for just a handful of people.  Lets see how this goes.

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Visiting Wuhan

Over the first half of the holiday period the wife and I traveled to Wuhan, she graduated from college there – its the top college in China.  We took the high speed train there and back, arriving at the original train station and departing the new train station.  The trip took over 6 hours as the train could only get up to 250kmph for longer stretches between towns. 

Wuhan is an interior city dissected by a major river and geographically is larger then Shanghai!  The city is undergoing massive infrastructure upgrades currently and due to that the traffic conditions there are a mess.  There isn’t a subway system but the bus network is huge and there are every kind of bus imaginable there, well not the 2 story tall ones you can drive under, Beijing is pursuing that project.  Wuhan is not a tourist destination so there weren’t the typical crowds at the couple of landmarks we traveled to, the Yellow Crane Pagoda, Buddhist temple, or the iron bridge. 

Much of what my wife remembers from her college days is gone now, favorite restaurants converted into high rise shopping malls and quaint neighborhoods turned into 6 lane surface streets.  I explained the old saying, "you really can’t go home again" and she understood what it meant.  While some of the regular tourist trappings associated with other places we have traveled in China were not there, a 5 star hotel in Wuhan isn’t even a 3 star here in Shanghai, its local flavor and hussle and bussle have an authentic charm that is missing from the likes of the water towns or exploitation sites around Xian.  I have put up some pictures from our travels and may expand this posting more, as right now we are packing to go to Guangzhou and Hong Kong over the October 1st holiday.

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Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk 2010 – Shanghai

This year’s Photo Walk is coming to Shanghai China this year led by yours truly.

When:   Saturday July 24th 2010
Cost:     FREE
Where:  Meet up JingAn Temple Line 2 exit in front of Donut King 12:45pm
Distance: 3.2Km walk 40 min (2 hours time to take pictures
Route:   Walk starts 1:00PM photographing JingAn Temple and surrounding area, walk to Shanghai Exposition Center, cross street, explore parks and apartments, walk ends on HuaHai Middle road, ends at 4:15.  Route will be marked, sidewalk chalk.

Interested parties need to register in order to join, signup sheet will be checked at beginning of walk, those not registered can join but can’t participate in photo contest and won’t get free souvenir.  Click the banner above to get more details!

Recommendations:  Wear light, lightly colored clothing, bring a hat, sunglasses, 2 bottles of water, comfortable shoes, small bag for camera gear, cell phone, money for afternoon tea, the rest is up to you.  The day before, check camera batteries, memory cards (film), flash batteries (if you bring a flash), clean equipment, check for filters, card readers, lens cloth, lens brush, or any special items you wish to bring (monopod or tripod if you are adventurous).  The final venue will need to be finalized but will be announced in the next week or two.

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