Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Where is George W. Bush? Not at the site of the disaster, that's for sure!

Where is the President of the United States when his peopleneed him the most? Why wasn't he in a chopper Tuesday surveying the scene along the U.S. Gulf Coast?
Why is he in California comparing himself to FDR? What idiot advisor thought this would show him to be "Presidential?"
Shame on President Bush for giving the appearance that Iraq is more important than New Orleans, Gulfport or Biloxi. You'd think Daddy would have called to explain what happens when you are a no show to disaster.
It is a disgrace and there is no way around it but to call out the President on this. Sorry that his precious little vacation got cut short, but he should have told the folks in Coronado, "Sorry, gotta be where I'm needed." And that wasn't at some photo op political rally for some damn war. Hey, Mr. President, Mother Nature dropped a bomb on the Gulf Coast and it looks worse than Baghdad.
In truth, what's really more important? And who is really more important? It sure looks like he doesn't give a shit for these people ... because they ain't got no oil.
I must say it was pretty cheeky on the part of the President to compare his military action to World War II in his speech and his vision to that of FDR. That's awfully high cotton to be standing in.
Sadly, President Bush didn't quite study history enough. From his speech as reported by the AP, "He portrayed Roosevelt's vision as similar to his own - a commitment to spreading freedom even when U.S. allies were not convinced it was the best course."
Oops, history reveals that the U.S. was the last nation to enter the war in 1941, even after European allies begged us to get involved to stave off the Nazi assault across that continent.
And in 1941, we knew exactly which country comprised the enemy - Germany, Japan, Italy. You'd be hard-pressed to ID participating terrorist nations because, potentially, there are SO many. We attacked the one that contributed the LEAST to the 9/11 attack. Otherwsie, we'd be stomping all over ... Saudi Arabia and that ain't a happening thing.
All this chest-thumping at a time of real national tragedy in the Gulf states is quite unbecoming the office. And certainly it's NOT Presidential.
Yes, a caring President would have cancel the trip for one that demonstrates that he gives a damn. (Right, Mr. Rove? Bill Clinton would have been on the scene the next day).
And I guarantee you President Bush won't be at any memorial ceremony for the victims. No political points to be gained.
Only flag-waving, chest-thumping Fox News took time away from the only story America cares about right now to prop up the President and then spend two segments verbally whacking Jesse Jackson for meeting with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Hey, can't you guys give it a rest for one goddamn day?!?! (Nope, edict no. 4 at Fox - never pass a chance to bash a liberal ... even when scores of people are drowning under torrents of flood water).
A pox on the Fox house.
Again, God spare New Orleans from further harm. It's just too wonderful of a city to be obliterated like a modern-day Pompeii.

God watch over the people on the Gulf Coast

Even for a news junkie like myself (and most of y'all), I just cannot watch anymore reports on CNN, MSNBC or Fox where cameras continue to show miles and miles of utter devastation along the Gulf Coast. It's just too much hardship to absorb and there's nothing new being reported.
I must say that I was totally moved last night watching CNN's "Newsnight" and the exchange between anchor Aaron Brown (one of the few smart enough to stay put in NYC) and reporter Jeanne Meserve. She broke down while talking with Brown and it was too genuine for even the most jaded of watchers. You felt her heartache for what she saw.
Which brings me to my main point - how many TV idiots are running around saying how New Orleans was "spared." I ask, "Compared to what???" Eighty percent of the city is under way, the levees have brown from Ponchartrain and are flooding the poorest of neighborhoods and no one knows how many deaths there have been because no one can reach these people.
If that is being "spared," I don't want it. However, the need for instant analysis cause such snap judgments to be made and it is a detriment to the rescuers, the victims and the survivors to hear such crap.
God watch over that area of the country. Those people surely need something good to happen.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Stop blaming the messengers when you actually hate the message

As a former publisher, newspaper owner and editor, I find that the general public has no clue about how a newspaper ends up on their front lawn every single day ... nor, all too often, do they care.
They complain about:
· not enough space for ALL the stories that each individual wants to read, or cares about (which would make the DMN the same size as War and Peace);
· too many ads for them to skip (although it represents 80 percent of a newspapers revenue source - 1 of 3 ways [subscription/single copy sales, advertising, classified and retail]. I always told people that ads were "paid news.");
· the amount of time it takes to actually process an event into a printed newspage (despite technological advances, it STILL takes time to get it done).
· limitations of staff (you can't be everywhere and cover EVERYTHING at once).
And to explain it all would mean a full journalism course that isn't taught anymore at schools like Texas A&M. It's too bad because if people knew more about the product they read, they would understand the difficulty and reason to publish a permanent record of history on a daily basis.
So I guess if everyone is complaining, then most newspapers are either doing something wrong or something right (the latter meaning people care enough to voice complaints). It is when they go silent from NOT caring that you HAVE to start to worry).
Still, why does everyone blame the press for what it reads (or hears) when most of the time, the media reports what people want to see or read. Emphasis on stories reflect the public’s interest. Most of the people would rather hear about celebrities, or focus on a single mother in Crawford than spend time on issues that would hurt one’s head through stimulated thought process. After all, if the President doesn’t go in depth, why should anyone else?
Reporting isn’ the problem; retention and attention are the problems. We remember little and have the focus ability of a dead cactus.
Just watch in 2006. All the incumbents will be re-elected; no Democrat will run in GOP-dominated areas and the same bunch of fools will be returned to Austin and DC. You can book it like seeing the sun rise each morning (through the pollution, of course).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Identity theft made far too easy

One of the worst feelings you can have is to suspect that someone – a stranger or even a family member – is screwing with you and has stolen YOUR identity in order to ruin your life. It's a silent attacker because you could be kept in the dark for days (or weeks) before unearthing something that's a crime being committed against you.
This type of theft can (and DOES) happen in dozens of ways – by stealing credit card information you openly provide, by stealing banking and credit files that should be better guarded by agencies and companies and by using many surreptitious methods that get publicized by the news media almost daily. A little vigilance on your part can stop many (but not all) efforts to have strangers take advantage of you.
It should not, however, happen with the full assistance of the federal government and one of its largest, and most public but fucked up, entities – the United States Postal Service. But that’s exactly what happened to my family and others need to be warned.
After three years of living in our home, my wife’s sister moved out to another community (thank God!). In doing so, she sent a change of address card to the local U.S. Postal Service center (Plano’s Coit Station for our zip code). The woman uses a hyphenated last name, employing her maiden name and married moniker; something apparently more prevalent these days than in the past.
On the change of address form, she mistakenly marked “Family Forward” instead of “Individual,” meaning, in postal terms, ANYONE with EITHER of those last names would have their mail forwarded to a new address effective at the prescribed date. Upon closer examination of the form, the boxes are printed in barely readable skin tones. It seems to be a far too easy of a mistake to make for something so important. If your son or daughter is headed, say, to Texas Tech and makes the same mistake, all your mail is going to go to Lubbock. Chew on THAT cud for a moment!
You can send this document to the postal service without benefit of identification or any legal documentation (driver’s license, etc.) stating you are who you say you are. A total stranger can forge any kind of signature and then have that person’s – or family’s – mail sent to a new (and undisclosed) location.
Our suspicion was only alerted when we failed to receive any kind of mail (first class, packages, junk) at our home for two consecutive days. When I first contacted USPS-Coit Station, I was told that there was nothing to indicate any interruption of service. It was just an anomaly and the supervisor would check with the carrier. The next day, mail arrived and we thought nothing of it.
Until we took a closer look. The mail was only addressed in my name; nothing was delivered to my wife, who still employs her family name – the same name that is included in the hyphenated name used by her sister. A second call to Coit Station offered the ugly truth – all mail with that name, regardless of who is was for ­– was being re-directed to a new address. It didn’t matter that it was wrong; the form for “Family Forward” had been submitted and accepted.
My wife was forced to complete a second form (Form 3546) that stops the forwarding process, but she was told it would be a week or so until the ship was righted. Until that time, she would not know which credit card bill, which package of prescription medication or which correspondence was floating aimlessly in the postal system, waiting for proper clearance to land. Oddly enough, no one at the Coit Station in Plano asked for her identification and she never signed that Form 3546 because none was required.
And that hasn’t solved the problem. Apparently Form 3546 never made it into the fucking USPS computer system and the incorrect status quo remains. Seems as if the form …. got lost in the mail. What assholes!
Can someone explain how this can happen to people? How can any schmuck off the street send a card – without proper identification – and steal your mail, fuck up your credit and your very life and yet it has the full blessing of the U.S. government and postal service?
The USPS can lamely apologize all its wants and make empty claims about long-standing regulations, but something needs to be done to prevent what happened to us from reoccurring again. No one - NO ONE - should be able to anonymously seek forwarding of mail without first producing legal identification – in person – to a postal official (sorry, your Sam’s Club card won’t do, putzhead). You can’t change your address of your driver’s license by mail; the same standard should apply for your mail.
And second, any forwarding of mail should be for individuals ONLY. Sorry for the inconvenience, but if you get mail for four or 40 family members, you need to send an individual change for each individual member. Simply permitting a blanket movement of mail by last name only fails to allow for the very situation I described.
It’s tough enough to fight all the dickheads out there doing their dead level best to scam you and I out of our hard-earned life.
We shouldn’t have to worry about the post office, too. Damn!
Chuck Bloom can be reached at chuckbloom@hotmail.com.

Sad sight in Gaza because Hamas still wants to kill

vAlthough I am no fan of continuing Jewish settlements in Gaza, and understand (better than this administration) that the Israelis and Palestinians need to live together in respectful and nonviolent fashion, I am greatly disturbed by the reaction of Hamas to the forced withdrawal from Gaza by the Israeli army.
These ... yahoos ... proclaim that violence on their part have driven the Jews out of Gaza and that Hamas will continue to employ the same strategy to keep up the fight until all Jews are gone from the Middle East. This is SO old-timey Gamal Nasser and does not portend well for the future of the region.
When an Israeli settler goes berserk and kills three Palestinians, it is a tragedy according to everyone. When a Palestinian suicide bomber blows him/her self up and kills scores of innocent Israelis, it is yet another "chapter" in the unending circle of violence.
I see NO action from the Bush Administration to halt the powderkeg that is this direct conflict. It has SO lowered expectations in this region (Iraq, Iran, Saudis included) as to become nothing more than spectators and a yet-to-be determined interest level.I agree with trading land for peace, but I don't see, and haven't heard, a single Palestinian official condemn what Hamas has said. It is for damn sure they won't do anything to stop them physically or militarily.
And, sadly, neither will be former Big Dog on the street because,as demonstrated in Iraq, the Big Dog doesn't have the same bark or bite as was once believed. And that's the dog's fault.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

When the majority ain't the majority no mo'

So whites are no longer a majority in Texas, but they are STILL the super plurality. And, folks, white people are still in control of almost all major governmental offices and machinery.
Besides, aren't WHITE trash neighbors just as bad as Hispanic trash neighbors? Trash is trash, regardless of the background. What's worse? The drunken conjunto party or the freaked-out rock and roll meth lab in the bathroom?
When I lived in South Texas, populated by MORE than a few real-life Mexicans (pronounced MEZZ-i-kans), they separated themselves by WHERE they originated from. The ones from the urbans areas acted quite differently (and more civilized) than the rural Mexicans (which were called Indios because they were of Indian or Aztec descent). Those people were far more rough in attitude and deed, drinking excessively and showing a greater tendency toward criminal activity.
The two groups only shared a mutual country - and that was it.
The disclosure of the changing face of Texas will disturb some, but they have been disturbed for a long time. They feel the same about Vietnamese, African-Americans, Jewish-Americans and any other "furr-iners" they could name (well, the French don't count, do they?).
To quote David Crosby: "It's been a long time comin'; got to be a long time gone."
Actually we can solve the immigration problem in a non-militaristic manner:
Simply line up all the soldiers and civilians you want, arm to arm and lock hands, and yell "Red Rover! Red Rover! Let's (fill in the name Juan or Juanita) cover over!"
Then a candidate for immigration runs across the Rio Grande and into the American guard line. If he/she breaks through, they stay. If not, they go back and star in their own Right Guard deodorant commercial.
Alas, American ingenuity at work! Earn your way across!
Makes the same funny sense as Kinky Friedman's five Mexican generals proposal, which is logical in its owne twisted way. If this sounds stupid, compare it with current policy or proposed legislation.
You'll think twice.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A 'point' about Raffy

Baseball's Rafael Palmeiro, known to his fans as "Raffy" (as opposed to Israeli children's songster Raffi), sat in front of the TV cameras, Congress, and the world, pointed to those cynics in the room and flatly exclaimed that he did not then, before or ever use steroids as a player.
"Ever. Period." He emphasized his innocence with a pointed finger and all but challenged anyone to the Gary Hart test - catch me if you can.
Oops, Donna Rice has shown up in Raffy's life. She is the he that administers the drug tests in Major League Baseball. And the net has snared Palmeiro, with the announcement of the 10-game suspension immediately following Raffy's personal career achievement of 3,000 hits to go with more than 560 home runs.
Even now, Palmeiro states sheepishly that he has never "knowingly" use steroids and doesn't know how in the world the substance got into his body and those test tubes. Even a fan like George W. Bush believes that bit of fantasy (he publically stated that he believes Palmeiro's non-explanation) but we could go on about weapons of mass destruction and other tales of fantasies that the White House holds to be gospel.
Here's the problem. Palmeiro COULD be correct. He might NOT have knowingly taken a steroid but still ingested something that had ingredients with steroid-like qualities. This is making assumptions not yet in evidence. One of the major problems with "nutritional supplements" these days is the amount of non-disclosed additives that have steroid-like effects on the body. Almost all these ingredients are kept secret from the person using the product. Hence, you might THINK you are OK when in fact, it isn't.
The public and press keep thinking that steroids can only be injected. Not true anymore. When Jose Canseco, in his book, claimed to be shooting up half his teammates with the magic juice, that was in 1992, and this is 13 years later - a world of technological difference. It can now be ground into a powder, drank as a milk shake and marketed as a power builder to maintain strength.
Does this make you dumb? No. Does this make you feel stupid? Of course. Do this make you out to be a cheater? No. But do you have to pay a penalty? Yes.
Canseco is gaining credibility by the day and for a person who was fairly rotten to his coure, as selfish a player as ever donned a uniform, it would be a shame for him to come out as some sort of hero.
Of all those accused in that text, Palmeiro seemed the least likely because he didn't look like he was a user. No huge muscles, nothing special about him physically. Just a quality player with 20 years in MLB. His home runs weren't like those of Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa - moonshots that traveled half the distance to the sun. His were just home runs, over the fence because his swing (which steroids can do nothing about) got better over time.
The home run swing can be achieved by brute force and muscle or by speed, timing and perfect contact - much like seeing a 5-6 man outdrive a 6-4 player. Palmeiro refined his swing and changed it into more of an uppercut finish to add loft. Then, if you play long enough against lousy pitching in ballparks built for HR hitting, you can get to 500 for a lifetime.
It's been a strange year for baseball. This is just one more chapter. Stay tuned.