Thursday, September 30, 2004


Something scary…

I just noticed this comment from my Yahoo financial page.

Sellers rush in in the opening minutes, prompted by what has been some lackluster economic data and devastating news from Dow component Merck (MRK 32.61 -12.46)... The drug giant announced it was voluntarily withdrawing its blockbuster (FY03 sales of $2.5 bln) arthritis drug Vioxx after a private study revealed it increased the risk for heart attack and stroke... Every one dollar change in Merck equates to a roughly 7 point change in the Dow - thus, most of the Dow's losses are the product of MRK's tumble...

The Dow had just dropped 69 points in the first 10 minutes of the trading day.

What’s scary you ask? The most obvious is the fact that it took a private study to find out about the dangers of this drug. Where was the FDA in all of this? The same FDA that proclaims that only American drugs are safe…that only the rigorous testing mandated by the FDA will keep the consumer safe from harm.

Second; why does the bad news about a drug company affect the economy in such a powerful way? Have we allowed the pharmaceutical industry to become the backbone of our economy? No, I don’t think so…but it is obvious that they have far too much influence in the economy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

An ethical question

Ethics is the subject. I was listening to that conservative NPR station again and they had a very interesting program on ethics. By the way, this proves that NPR must be a conservative station as everyone knows that liberals never talk about ethics, while conservatives just love to talk about ethics! But I digress…

The point that I found interesting is just how specific ethics have become. There are medical ethics and there are political ethics. (Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron) There are business ethics and legal ethics. Apparently there are ethics for just about every human endeavor. And the odd part is this; they are all different! Shouldn’t all ethics be very similar?

Believe it or not, business ethics are somewhat less restrictive than medical ethics; although that is a statistic in flux…

Do we really need ethics for every situation? Isn’t there a simpler way? You know, like, maybe we could all use that old one, “Do unto others…etc, etc.” You must remember that one. You do remember it…don’t you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


I just had a thought, actually a memory, and that is prompting this typing. Here it is:
In the 1960’s, I remember life as being quite good. We had saved some money and we were able to make a down payment on a brand new house. True, the house was located far out in the country and the commute was quite long, but it was all ours! (Or it would be after 20 years of payments) I made enough money as a carpenter so that my wife was able to stay home and work as wife and mother for our two children. Then a mistake was made; in 1966 Ronald Reagan was elected governor. California began to change as more taxes and more government were added. Incredibly, the people of California elected Reagan once again in 1970; as if he hadn’t done enough damage during his first term. Inflation soon made its appearance and the real wages of one job per family were no longer enough to support that family (mine) at the same level. My wife had to get a job. (1973) Taxes were increased. The beginnings of Proposition 13 were brewing…

You say that it didn’t happen that way? Have you ever heard of the saying that “perception is reality”? We lived through those years and that is exactly how we perceived them. If you were born after 1950, you only know what the historians want you to know about Reagan. Remember, only the winners write the history. For me, reality is quite simple. Prior to 1966, life was better than after 1966.

One memorable thing that struck me as wrong about Ronald was his closing of the mental health hospitals. Our new house was located about 2 miles from Camarillo State Hospital and I remember it as a haven for those who couldn’t take care of themselves. I thought that the hospital was a work that, as a society, we should do. I still think so…but now those who would be safer in a hospital are out on the street and we call it our “homeless problem – street people”. Again, perception is reality. How did Reagan sleep at night?

Another Reagan idea that created so much havoc was his idea of Supply-Side Economics, later tagged as “Voodoo Economics” by none other than the father of our current president. Government spending then increased by nearly 300 % as those companies with the right connections to the government got more than their share of the tax dollars. The premise was simple; spend lots of government money and the profits that the companies made would then “trickle down” through the many socio-economic levels and everyone would get a share. But humans have a perverse nature and a lot of them wanted to keep that money and stop the trickle. Many never saw even a drop from the trickle.

The trickle down economy has never worked and never will. There is no success story, but the current holder of the presidential office trots out this failed idea as if it were a new “horse” that we had never seen before.

As I was googling, (or is it googleing?) I found this interesting piece on economics.

Monday, September 27, 2004


NPR. That stands for National Public Radio, and according to those who inhabit the right side of the political spectrum, it is a disgrace and an embarrassment to our right thinking republic. The knee jerk rightists use a lot of energy and volume denouncing NPR as a bastion of liberal (read “wrong”) thought and opinion. But is it?

Everything I have read/listened to lately * seems to indicate the exact opposite. And I have the same feeling when I listen to NPR. Oh, those who do the reporting seem intellectual, witty and polite all right, and normally that would be a clear signal that you are listening to a liberal. But you need to listen to what they are saying and that is when it becomes quite clear that NPR has fallen to the right. What a shame…

But, then again…I listen to KVMR most of the time anyway and they are wonderfully liberal in their views. There is a place to go for fresh air…and Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman at 6 each evening.

*I wish I could find the written version of report I listened to, but it indicated that over 60 % of the content on NPR could be labeled “conservative”. I will continue my search...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Charlie who?

I was recently reminded of a great book…but that’s nothing new, I’m always being reminded of some book I have read. But this is one that you should take a look at. Its title is Charlie Wilson’s War and it was written by George Crile.

Here is a link to a review that I don’t personally agree with, but it does give you an indication of what the book is all about.

The reason for my disagreement is that I felt the reviewer was downplaying the fact that Charlie Wilson was a fraud and a thief. (My opinion)

That small criticism aside, it’s certainly a book that I would recommend to anyone, as it tells the true story of just how corrupt our government could be. To be truthful, it’s the story of how any and all governments can be corrupted. It’s also an exciting book as it reveals how the CIA and Congressman Charlie Wilson use the greed of others to conduct a long and secret war in Afghanistan. The amounts of money that were stolen are beyond belief!

But that was then and this is 2004. Things are different now. Believe me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Do you feel a draft?

It’s time to say it clearly…No matter who wins the election, we’re not leaving Iraq in the near, or even distant future. And in preparation for that, Selective Service boards are being reconstituted. There are bills in Congress, (companion bills: S89 and HR 163) that will bring the draft back to life. The current administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so the draft can begin as early as spring, 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election. These bills, among other things, eliminate higher education as a draft shelter and will include women in the draft for the first time. For details, go to this link…

You know what? I would be so glad to eat crow and tell you how wrong I was about this, above…and I wish I hadn’t read this, below.

The following, including the references, were copied from an announcement from -

“To hear President Bush tell it, Iraq is a bed of roses: "Our strategy is succeeding," he said last week. Yesterday at the U.N., he said Iraq is "on the path to democracy and freedom."

Yet the CIA told Bush recently that the scenarios we're really facing there range from a quagmire to a bloodbath. The CIA's July report outlines three possibilities for Iraq, ranging from "an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous" to "civil war," according to the New York Times. [1]

Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) is calling on Bush to level with us, by releasing the report, formally called a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), to the public. Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has read the NIE, and he thinks we all should see it too.

It's not just Democrats who are questioning the President's grip on reality.
Senator Chuck Hagel (NE), a Republican, says: "The worst thing we can do is hold ourselves hostage to some grand illusion that we're winning. Right now, we are not winning. Things are getting worse." [2] "The fact is, we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq." [3]

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also supports releasing the NIE [4] and says: "We made serious mistakes right after the initial successes by not having enough troops there on the ground, by allowing the looting, by not securing the borders."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), says "he believes the situation in Iraq is going to get worse before it gets better, adding that he believes the administration has done a 'poor job of implementing and adjusting at times.'" and says "We do not need to paint a rosy scenario for the American people...." [3]

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) says it's "exasperating for anybody look at this from any vantage point." [1]

Those are Republicans talking. Here's what the generals and national security experts are saying, in a terrific recent piece in the UK's Guardian newspaper:

Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, said: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."

Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, [said]: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options.... The priorities are just all wrong."

Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true..."

W. Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's strategic studies institute -- and the top expert on Iraq there -- said: "I don't think that you can kill the insurgency"... "The idea there are x number of insurgents, and that when they're all dead we can get out is wrong. The insurgency has shown an ability to regenerate itself because there are people willing to fill the ranks of those who are killed"... "Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators."

General Odom [also] said: "This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies."... "I've never seen [tensions] so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster." [5]

Just as important are the opinions of those whose loved ones are serving in Iraq, like Martha Jo McCarthy, whose husband is on National Guard duty there. She says: "Everyone supports the troops, and I know they're doing a phenomenal job over there, not only fighting but building schools and digging wells. But supporting the troops has to mean something more than putting yellow-ribbon magnets on your car and praying they come home safely."

"I read the casualty Web site every day and ask myself, 'Do I feel safer here?' No. I don't think we can win this war through arrogance. Arrogance is different from strength. Strength requires wisdom, and I think we need to change from arrogance to solid strength." [6]

[1] New York Times: U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's FutureSeptember 16th, 2004

[2] Washington Post editorial: Mr. Bush and IraqSeptember 18th, 2004
[3] Washington Post: Three GOP Senators Urge Refocusing of Iraq PolicySeptember 19th, 2004
[4] 'FOX News Sunday', September 19th, 2004, transcript
[5] The Guardian (UK): Far graver than Vietnam (opinion piece bySidney Blumenthal, Washington Bureau Chief of 16th, 2004
[6] Washington Post: Quiet Calls for Change (column by David Broder)September 16th, 2004

Our hero!

I have been out looking for newspapers since about 5:30. It was around 6 when I found the Chico newspaper and it was a laugh a minute to read. One item caught my eye; a bulletin that Israel will be purchasing almost 5,000 “smart bombs” from the US. Since it is assumed that Israel has spies in the Defense Department, I’m sure that the munitions sales approval was no surprise to Israel. They probably had the check already filled out. Oops! I forgot; they don’t actually pay for any of these things. And I’m glad to see that we’re still doing our very best to promote peace in the Middle East.

Then I read the article about Representative Wally Herger’s trip to Iraq. I think it was entitled “How I spent my summer vacation”? No? Perhaps I was mistaken. In any event, Wally and a whole bunch of staff flew to Baghdad and spent some time in the “Green Zone”; that portion of the city that is surrounded by fortifications and troops. From there, he concluded that all is going as well as possible and how no one knew that it was going to be this difficult to bring democracy to Iraq. No one knew? Perhaps we should have asked an Israeli. And he also noted that we have “only” been there for a year and a half. He also took a helicopter ride and said that he noticed Iraqi’s waving from the ground as he passed over, and from that he was able to pronounce that they were supportive of the US action. Way to go, Wally!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Conservatism in action

I had an interesting exchange of e-mail messages with an old friend recently and our electronic discussion focused on the CBS reports concerning Bush’s commanding officer and the memo’s he may or may not have written. What I found odd about the exchange was my friends’ reaction to CBS. He insisted that CBS had been working this story for a number of years? And then he went on to say how much they (CBS) were like McCarthy; they believe something is true, see a danger and then accept any evidence that supports their belief. I had to admit that I was somewhat stunned…isn’t that the same argument that we had with Bush and his belief in WMD’s?

Then he went on to say, “And, now CBS is trying to say, "Well, the documents may be forgeries but the story is still accurate." My God! A major network news organization is saying that if a story is plausible and is very likely true, then actual hard evidence is not needed. Luckily for now, even the NY Times and the Wash. Post disagrees with this journalistic arrogance”

Now I am really stunned! Bush and CBS are clones…it certainly sounds like it if his argument is valid.

Ah, the conservative mind is a fascinating thing to observe in action.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Today is the day I irrigate the orchard and so I am out early for that chore. So early, in fact, that it is quite dark when I make my way up the path to the canal. Flashlight in hand, I study the gate that I have to open to get water to flow down to our place. Something, something dead and bloated, (a pig?) was bobbing in the current near the gate. I gave it a shove with my shovel and off it went, heading down to the next orchard and not mine. I tried lifting the gate, but it was held in place by the great amount of water flowing by. Grasping the handle of the gate a little more firmly this time, I heaved it upwards and was rewarded with a large “burp” from the pipeline as the water poured in. This phenomenon always covers me with water and is a good reason to wear old clothes. It’s also a good reason to take a shower afterwards!

Back in the orchard I have time to contemplate as the sky turns silver and finally a pale blue. The wind was still blowing, though not as fiercely as it had on Tuesday. I have my trusty rake in hand to move those things that obstruct the free flow of the water as it creeps across the orchard. After awhile, the water was deep enough to reveal ripples from the push of the wind across its surface.

No one else is around to talk to and so I watch the horses on the property next door as they trot in for a drink at the bathtub that serves as a watering hole. The horses are curious and spend some time staring at me. A couple of mares get irritated about something and get into a kicking contest that lasts for only a few seconds. Both seem satisfied with the outcome and wander off.

An hour after I started, the orchard is covered with a few inches of water and it’s time to move the water down to my neighbor. I open the gate to that channel and watch the water sweep away an army of “critters”, beetles, which live in the channel. They will be back…and so will I. I really enjoy this time!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

More data!

More Data! Tidbits from the Economist’s little book of facts…

Defense Spending (As % of GDP)
1. Eritrea 20.9
2. Angola 17.0
3. Oman 14.4
4. Saudi Arabia 14.1
5. Afghanistan 12.2
6. Kuwait 12.1
7. North Korea 11.6
8. Syria 10.9
9. Ethiopia 9.8
10. Israel 9.5

(Wouldn't you think some of these countries might have prioritized their needs a little better?)

Armed Forces – regular army only, not counting reserves
1. China 2,310,000
2. United States 1,368,000
3. India 1,263,000
4. North Korea 1,082,000
5. Russia 977,000
6. South Korea 683,000
7. Pakistan 620,000
8. Turkey 515,000
9. Iran 513,000
10. Vietnam 484,000

And last…some stray data I spotted.
1. From July 8th 2002 until November of 2003, George W. Bush never uttered the words "Osama Bin Laden" in any speech, press conference or public appearance.

OK, you have all the facts, now make up some good stories with them!

Trust me

BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 13 - Top officials of the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged for the first time on Monday that antidepressants appeared to lead some children and teenagers to become suicidal.
Dr. Robert Temple, director of the F.D.A.'s office of medical policy, said after an emotional public hearing here that analyses of 15 clinical trials, some of which were hidden for years from the public by the drug companies that sponsored them, showed a consistent link with suicidal behavior.
"I think that we now all believe that there is an increase in suicidal thinking and action that is consistent across all the drugs,'' Dr. Temple said, summarizing the agency's presentation to a special advisory committee. "This looks like it's a true bill.''

Yes, I'm certainly thankful that the F.D.A. is on the job...

Isn't this the same F.D.A. that keeps those dangerous Canadian drugs away from us? Telling us that only American drugs can be trusted...?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Oops - wrong country!

I had an interesting conversation the other day and the topic was Indonesia. And during that conversation I mistakenly placed the city of Kuala Lumpur within the borders of Indonesia. Wrong! But not by much, as it actually belongs in Malaysia and that is close by.

Why talk about Indonesia? Probably because it has all the ingredients to make it a world class problem for all. And as I was looking up the location of Kuala Lumpur, I ran across this interesting website…

(Imagine that! The CIA shares some information…)

As you look at all of the data from this site, you can find the hints of a major story about to happen.

The population (238,452,952) is 88% Muslim.
The population lives on 6,000 islands.
Not quite 10% of the land is arable.
The majority of the population is young…almost 30% are under 14, while only 5% are over 65.
27% live below the poverty level.
The military budget exceeds 1 billion dollars.

There are lots of data here, so you can make your own story if you wish.

More Liar, Liar

We're already into the middle of September and I can truthfully say that we are very fortunate to not have a television. From what I have read, the election advertising is becoming more vicious by the day.

As the election year grinds to an end, it becomes more important than ever to pay attention to what is being said by both sides. To verify the statements and not just nod your head and say, “I knew it! That’s just the kind of guy he is…” Finding the neutral observer and reporter is more difficult than ever. But, with the lies flying fast and furious you need to do more than simply listen and hope you can filter out the truth from the garbage. A thinking voter has a lot of reading to do!

This year may turn out to be the pivotal year for election law. Both candidates have already written off some states and are concentrating their efforts on pivotal states. Does this, in effect, disenfranchise some voters? Public funds are being spent on both campaigns and some would say that all voters deserve equal consideration. Also, there is a growing concern over the use of electronic voting machines and lawsuits are just waiting for a narrow win/loss in this election. And after the Florida debacle in 2000, many concerned citizens are questioning the Electoral College system. And last, now the politicians and voting officials have realized that there is a large and growing segment of voters who will vote via absentee ballot. How do you exit poll these voters? Both parties now have to face the fact that millions of last minute advertising dollars are going down the drain because the vote they were seeking is already sealed in an envelope and is waiting to be counted…after the election!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Politics rears its ugly head...again

I can't stand here it is.

Take a look at this...yes, it is a week old but it is still worth a read.

On an entirely different subject. Try listening to a group named Django Pearl. This group plays "Hot Club" or Gypsy Jazz and they do it quite well. If you were or are a fan of Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli (Quintette du Hot Club de France) then you will appreciate this. I heard them after downloading some of their work and as soon as I heard it, I was onto the Amazon site (via Dennis's webpage, of course!) and ordered a couple of cds. They have titles you can listen to on the site.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Go directly to jail

Here are some more statistics from the 2004 Edition of Pocket World in Figures, published by the Economist magazine.

Total prison population ...Total population
1. United States 2,021,223 .... 285,900,000
2. China 1,428,126 .... 1,285,000,000
3. Russia 919,330 .... 144,700,000
4. India 281,380 .... 1,025,000,000
5. Brazil 233,859 .... 172,600,000

Per 100,000 population
1. United States 707
2. Russia 638
3. Belarus 554
4. Kazakhstan 522
5. Turkmenistan 489

I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel safer!

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

More statistics

I believe I will concentrate more on statistics these days. Politics have taken their toll on me. Both candidates are foul mouthed and are liars as well. Why should I bother? Oh, don't get me wrong, I will vote, but not happily.

Let's look at the donor list; those giving foreign aid, bilateral and multilateral. As a percentage of GDP.

1. Denmark 1.03
2. Norway .83
3. Luxembourg, Netherlands .82
4. Sweden .81
5. Belgium .37
6. Saudi Arabia .35
7. Switzerland .34
8. Ireland .33
9. Finland, France & U.K .32
10. Spain .30

Don't you love statistics? They tell such great stories with just a few numbers...

Friday, September 3, 2004

What a day...

It has been one of those days. A day when little things seem to irritate far out of proportion. It started when I picked up the mail and opened a letter from the Democratic National Committee. It was addressed to me...which is odd, as I'm registered as independent. Inside was a weird letter telling me that they had enclosed a "beautiful" picture of the candidates, John and John. Sure enough, there was a cheap color photo of the two of them. The photo even had a "registration" number as if that made it special. Of course they wanted money...But I immediately thought of all the money they wasted by sending out this particular flyer! Who is in charge of stuff like this? The whole thing had all the charm of an Ed McMahon sweepstakes letter.

And then...As I was surfing, I ran across these two interesting accounts of things from the Republican camp.

and this one...

And the days grow shorter.


Whoah, terrible! I just read that Economist review again and I have to say that the writer has a terribly inflated view of him or herself...If you have already read it...I'm sorry I included it. It seemed funny at the time. (I will go back and edit it out) are some of the statistics I promised...

The World in Figures…from the Economist.

Highest number of marriages. (Per 1,000 population)

1. Bermuda 16.7
2. Barbados 13.1
3. Cyprus 12.3
4. Jamaica 10.4
5. Ethiopa 10.2

14. United States 8.2

Highest Divorce Rates (Per 1,000 population)

1. Belarus, Guam & United States 4.3
2. Puerto Rico 3.9
3. Bermuda 3.7
4. Cuba 3.5
5. Ukraine 3.4

So what does this tell you about Bermuda? I know that it makes me wonder about their Community Property laws.

Good news

Once a year, the Economist magazine puts out a slim little volume of facts about our world. Lots and lots of data! There is no editorializing to go along with the facts, they speak for themselves. But, let me digress. The lack of editorial bias is one of the reasons that I enjoy the Economist so much, as they seem to be able to simply report the news and what its effect was. Simple is good. Liberal or Conservative, your viewpoint is noted in the stories but it is never the focus of the story. Often, I find myself being corrected by the facts as reported by the Economist.
If you want to see some reviews of this magazine, visit this site…

It has much more intellectual rigor than most other writing you see these days outside of academia. They will gladly show elasticity curves and other theoretical constructs that are important for gaining deep conceptual insights into current issues - The stories are also much more data-driven than almost any other publication. Frequently, they dig up just the right long-term data points to really tell you what is going on in ways that are much more credible than mere words.At the same time, you don't need a degree in economics or a Ph.D. in math to read the magazine. .

Now that review alone should make you rush out to buy a copy! Super smart? No, it doesn’t require that kind of intelligence to appreciate this magazine. Hey, I have no degrees! And, no, it isn’t all about business. The Science and Technology section alone is worth the subscription price!

You have to be asking yourself if I am in the business of selling magazines and how much do I make for each subscription I can garner…but no, I just like to read it and enjoy letting others know about it.

I started this blog by noting the arrival of the 2004 edition of the Pocket World in Figures. Now I need to share some of the facts with you. Stay tuned...