Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Your "stimulus package" check and big oil

Bush and Cheney are oil men. Oil men have financed their campaigns during their entire careers. This has paid off big time for oil companies again and again.

While gasoline prices have skyrocketed during the Bush presidency, oil companies have enjoyed spectacular and record breaking profits …and remember, some of these oil companies have been around for 100 years or more. These same oil companies get huge tax relief despite the windfall profits.

Also, our nation is at war in the Middle East over oil (yeah sure, go ahead and try to convince me Iraq is all about "fighting terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”).

Former oil company executives hold positions of power in the government and government leaders often go on to positions of power at oil companies. Oil companies held sway over their buddies George and Dick in terms of the environment too...resulting in the U.S. bailing out of the Kyoto treaty.

So, is it any surprise that recently the oil-man-in-chief…aka, “The Decider”…recommended that Americans can spend their “economic stimulus” checks (ours hasn’t arrived yet) on gasoline? You know, to offset the bite we’re all feeling because of high prices.

Putting aside for a moment how asinine, pandering and ineffective the stimulus check idea is, this really pisses me off.

Our money pays taxes that support the government. The government is run by oil men and women and beholden to the oil industry. At the very moment when maximum profit for big oil coinsides with big time pain at the pump for everyday people, these oil men suggest you put that money right back in the hands of…you guessed it, the oil companies?

Is our government a wholly owned subsidiary of big oil? Has our government – 100% led by Republicans in six of the last seven years – simply created a massive funnel to shift tax dollars to oil companies? And, has all of this radically diverted time, money and effort to the things our country should really be focusing on?

Yes is my answer.

What are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Picture of the Week - April 27

Last October, my wife Diane and I went to France to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We spent most of our time in Provence, but hit Paris on the way in and on the way out of the country.

The picture of the week this week is one I took of the Eiffel Tower with my Nikon D70 digital SLR on the very last night of our trip. We had dinner at a great North African restaurant called Chez Omar, and then took the Metro back to the vicinity of our hotel...near the Eiffel Tower.

It just so happens that this was the same night that France upset the heavily favored New Zealand "All Blacks" in the Rugby World Cup - a tournament held in France last year. Anyway, upon arriving at the tower, there were throngs of cheering, celebrating and drunk team France fans all around the park where the tower sits. A carnival atmosphere prevailed with thumping music and revellers everywhere. I have pictures of that stuff too, but sticking to the picture at hand...

The tower is obviously big and this was well after dark had set in, so lighting was going to be a problem. But, I adjusted the camera for night mode and I was able to get this slightly blurry effect...which I actually like quite a bit.

Earlier in our trip I took a similar picture of the Moulin Rouge with the same slightly blurry effect. The blocks of floodlit green and yellow (go Ducks!) of the Eiffel tower, combined with the blocks of red and yellow of the Moulin Rouge produced a very nice pair of pictures that really capture the excitement these two icons of Paris at night.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Creating a "Genesis-nuetral" world

Today, Phil Collins announced he is retiring from music - saying he will no longer tour or record. Thank God. What took him so long? Rejoice.

But, don’t think the danger is over because, indeed, the unholy presence and unthinkable survival of music by Genesis and Phil Collins transcends band breakups or retirements. Yes, the scourge that is Genesis and Phil Collins music continues to threaten the well being of America and the entire world – just as global warming does.

Like our nation’s unending addiction to oil, western society continued to taken in by Genesis and Phil Collins well into the 1990s and even up to this day in continued sales, airplay and the occasional reunion tour.

My theory is that Genesis and Phil Collins have endured because the average music listener does not know all the options he or she has…and simply believes that Genesis is as good as it gets. These underlying causes need to be addressed, but that’s a much bigger issue that will take time.

No, we need immediate action to curtail the damage. And now, taking advantage of the celebration of Phil hanging it up for good, I’m here to suggest some ways to do it.

OK, think of every time you listen to a Genesis or Phil Collins song as a pollutant and a wicked affront to the musical ecosystem…just like every time you drive your car you put carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

Just as many of us have taken up the challenge to reduce our “carbon footprint” in the battle against global warming, here are a few recommendations to reduce your “Genesis footprint” in combating the equally vexing problem of really, really bad music pollution:

  • Reduce. The easiest thing you can do, and for most people this is a snap. Just turn the radio station or hit mute on your computer or TV when a song by one of them comes on. I have a “no Genesis (and no Phil Collins) policy” for my car that I obey religiously.
  • Offset. As much as Genesis and Phil Collins have polluted the world’s musical ecosystem, this damage can…over time…be offset by listening to much better music instead. The good news here is that it’s really easy to find music better than Genesis and Phil Collins. So, find something…anything…and listen to that. Three quick suggestions: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Manic Street Preachers, British Sea Power.
  • Educate. Talk to your friends and at least get them going on the “reduce” regimen and offer them some alternatives.

If you have a friend who likes Genesis and/or Phil Collins, you have a decision to make. How much do you value that friendship? Can you continue to be friends with this person if he or she continues to pollute the world with noxious junk? The answer is probably yes, as a good friend is hard to find after all. But, I urge you to go to work on this person by suggesting new bands to listen to – be aggressive. Send links to web sites of cool bands, burn your “friend” CDs of stuff you like.

If you yourself are having issues giving up Genesis and Phil Collins, you are like the addict who needs to first recognize you have a problem before you can solve it. Plus, I have one word for you…Sussudio! Come on, get real. You really think that’s good? Seriously, random blips and scratches are more entertaining and probably more inspiring that…”Sus-sus-sudio.”

OK, enough. You get the point. Bye bye Phil. Genesis and Phil Collins = bad. Do America proud and find something new.

NOTE: The picture in this post was NOT taken by me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Picture of the Week April 20 - Taos Pueblo

Diane and I went to New Mexico a couple years ago with some friends. First time visit for us.

Between Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, the area has some really interesting cities, great food, art and culture.

One of the most impressive things we saw as the Taos Pueblo.

Indigenous peoples built the structure about 1,000 years ago, and people still live in it. Surrounding it are similar but smaller buildings. The area is now mostly a tourist site.

I took the picture above when we were there. The clear blue sky and angle of the sun made taking a picture pretty easy!

Simple, beautiful (to my eye at least) and clearly enduring, this structure evokes a quintessential vision of the Southwest...but more importantly the genius of the native Americans who built and maintained it through the centuries.

Lots of info on the structure here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NYC Eating

Well, I'm on the road to NYC for much of this week. And where is the first place to go to get a quick bite to eat after an early evening arrival into Manhattan?

You got it...Gray's Papaya.

The. Best. Hotdogs. Period.

New Yorkers will back me up on this...including Anthony Bourdain.

My wife Diane and I tasted these little pieces of heaven...along with a chilly delicious papaya drink...a few years ago on a visit and I try to stop by when I'm in the city. You should too next time you're here.

I like the old school location of 72nd Street & Broadway. More info and other locations here.

OK, off to do e-mail and watch the PA Democratic primary results come in.
NOTE: The picture in this post was NOT taken by me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is the Dem PA primary the key to the entire presidential election?

This isn’t a political blog per se, but...

Could the PA Democratic primary this week literally decide the entire presidential election? Will a Tuesday in April be the key date in deciding who will be our next president and not Election Day in November?

If Obama wins the PA primary by any margin, it’s definitely over in my book. Clinton probably gets out and he goes on to sew up the nomination and can quickly turn his attention to battling McCain. In my opinion, he would likely succeed…being elected President.

If Hillary wins by a lot (say, 15-20 percentage points or more), will she then become the unstoppable candidate who could also turn focus to McCain for a successful campaign to election? Would Obama become the faded star without momentum? Both seem likely in my opinion...especially with the corporate media dying to tell that dramatic of a "comback" story.

But, as is most likely I think, what if Hillary wins PA by only a few percentage points?

Obama would retain his delegate and vote lead. Clinton obviously would continue on presumably to do as well as she can and then try for superdelegate support and the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated (in her favor, of course). But, this will mean a long, drawn out campaign of bickering, division and damage among the Dems (and a “pass” for McCain) for so long that, really, you get this guy elected President in November....

So, to me, it kinda comes down to how things go in PA this week.

What do you think? Do you think there is a scenario in which Barack and Hill battle it out down to the very last primary and into the convention…but still pull the rabbit out of the hat and defeat McCain?

My gut tells me this is not likely to happen…and I’m scared what that means for us all. I hope I'm wrong.

NOTE: The pictures in this post were NOT taken by me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Your e-mails don't disappear - unless you're named Dick Cheney

I work for a company that – among other things – creates and sells software and online services for attorneys to conduct legal discovery electronically. E-mail messages typically make up a huge volume of documents that lawyers want to look at when trying to find relevant documents for their lawsuit.

Anyway, I’ve learned by talking to the digital forensics experts at my company that short of shooting a hard drive or server into space, lighting it on fire or dropping it to the bottom of the ocean, it is virtually impossible to completely get rid of e-mail records. There are too many backups, sent copies and even deleted e-mail is recoverable. And they find them.

On the flip side of that coin, many people (even those who really should know better) simply do not think that what they write on e-mail will ever be seen by anyone else. Not true.

And so it was quite interesting last week when the
story came out abut e-mails showing the owner of the Seattle Supersonics, Clay Bennett, had been lying to the city of Seattle, the Washington state government and the NBA about his intentions to not move the team to Oklahoma.

All this is a very recent example of how e-mail is accessible and useable by the law. So…

I’m really scratching my head about how every time over the last year when e-mails from Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, the Republican Party or the White House are requested as part of investigations into the suspect firing of state attorneys general not willing to do Rove’s bidding, the buildup to the Iraq war and Cheney's energy task force…they simply can say “well,
they were deleted,” or “we lost them.” And, nothing happens. It’s just over. Why? In short, just what the hell is going on here?