Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Negative Ghost Rider, the patern is full.

This has to be one of the dumbest photo ops in the history of photo ops. Flying a 747 low over Manhattan chased by two F16s, just to snap some PR pics. The people in New York were brought right back to that bright September day in 2001 when their lives changed.

This would be like the Denver SWAT team holding an 'active shooter' drill at Columbine High School without notifying the school or the students.

Someone, or several someones, should be fired over this, not just offer an apology, or have a letter put in their permanent government file, they should be putting their personal items in a cardboard box and being escorted out of the building.

Good grief.

Can I get swine flu from bacon?

If you ever want to know what is wrong with the news business today, I give you exhibit A; the Swine Flu coverage.

Here is the Headline from the Washington Post; "Mexican Schools Shut as Epidemic Hits 'Critical' Point" Oh goodness, not a critical point, anything but that!

You know the LA Times is going to go hog wild with their converge. (I know it’s a bad pun, but this story is rife with pig puns)

"Schwarzenegger, Obama ramp up efforts against swine flu"
By 'ramp up' I think they mean they will use this crisis to spend even more taxpayer money.

"California's governor declares state of emergency, opening the door for quicker action by state agencies. Obama seeks $1.5 billion to fight swine flu. Number of cases outside Mexico rises above 100."
Wow, 1.5 billion, I guess this is more serious than I thought.

Or this one from Yahoo News; "Is Swine Flu Pandemic Imminent?" the pull quote - "The swine flu drama is advancing like wildfire, with the Mexican death count rising steadily, U.S. cases doubling, and the World Health Organization moving a step closer late Monday to declaring the incident a full-on pandemic."

Now I am staring to get concerned, “full-on pandemic, U.S. cases doubling"

This is a classic case of reporting facts and figures without the proper context. Doubling from what? If there were fifty cases of swine flu reported in the US, with no one seriously ill, and the next week there are one hundred, that would be a doubling of swine flu cases. Sure it's something to keep an eye on, but I'm probably not going to start sealing my doors and windows with duct tape and plastic sheeting.

The news folks know what sells newspapers, and gets people to tune into the nightly news cast, I call it FUD; Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

If you see a headline in your local paper that the swine flu hits a critic point, you may spend two quarters just to see if you need to stop by Home Depot before they run out of Duct tape and plastic sheeting.

Could a swine flu epidemic be major health problem here in the US? Sure it could, but if we start to bring a little context to the discussion, we can also use a bit of reason as well. Here in the US’ in a given year, the seasonal flu kills close to 40,000 people. That is a lot of people, but out of a nation of 303 million folks, those numbers are not quite as scary.

I will continue to keep an eye on this story, this virus could morph into something very dangerous. For now, I want you to know I am doing my part to stop the spread of swine flu; I am having ham for dinner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Parties; if you don't understand them, maybe you're part of the problem.

I was unable to attend the recent Tea party in Sacramento because of my work schedule, but I was pleased to see the great turnout at the capitol on tax day. When thousands of regular, hard working people take a day off to protest, you know that something is stirring deep within the fabric of America. People are concerned, people are frustrated and yes, people are angry.

What is the object of their concerns and their anger? The government is taking more of their money with each and every new fee, license and tax hike. Combine that with the new thinking in Washington that for every problem, the solution is borrowing trillions of dollars from China and sending the bill to our children and grandchildren, and you will have people stand up and say, enough.

As much as the media would like to dismiss these tea parties as “silly stunts” and try to portray them as right wing craziness, they cannot hide the truth. This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue; this is a struggle between two groups. People who think the government will solve all their problems, and those who think that government has a limited role, as defined in the Constitution. Sadly, many people have no idea what our constitution even says. I guess we are busy teaching kids about Earth Day and other such priorities, rather than our founding principles.

On the issue of spending, many of my "progressive" friends will start every conversation on this topic with the refrain that Republicans under President Bush overspent and grew government. Fair enough. I agree wholeheartedly that Republicans grew detached from their constituents and became enamored with spending other people's money. That is why Republicans were defeated in the last two elections; you cannot be both for and against the same thing at the same time. However, if too much deficit spending was the problem, how can the solution be doubling our national debt in five years through even more reckless spending?

The media and politicians also talk about raising taxes as a cure-all for any problem. The line they use to justify raising taxes is always fairness. They say that rich people have to pay their “fair share”. Fair share? The top 5 percent of rich people pay 60.14% of all Federal taxes. What is fair about that?

Here is the little secret they do not want you to know. Over the years, we have changed the tax code to where almost 45% of American’s do not pay any Federal income taxes. When that percentage reaches 51%, the remaining 49 percent of “rich people” will be one the wrong side of the equation. When the majority pays no federal income tax, they will vote for politicians who promise to make their lives better using the minority’s money. If you do not have to split the check when it comes at the end of dinner, you will order whatever you want, plus desert. That works great, unless your the guy stuck paying the bill.

The tea party movement will continue to grow, but it will never become a grassroots revolution. Two factors are holding it back. The Media has taken sides in this debate. They will continue to focus on the fringes of the movement, all the while trying to frame the discussion as the rich wanting to deny the poor what is rightfully theirs. The other factor is statistical. When 45% American’s will never feel the impact of higher income taxes, which is huge block of people who will vote in their own self-interest.

Even if most Americans see through the media and progressive's class warfare propaganda, the numbers will be hard to overcome. When so many Americans have no reason to oppose higher taxes, they will not understand what the fuss is all about.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Woodland, he's just not that into you.

As someone who did not grow up in Woodland, I may not have the proper hometown perspective in the "Dumpgate" issue, but I will offer up my thoughts anyway.

If you are reader of my blog, you will remember my posts on the Red Sox World Series titles and Dustin's MVP award. Although I did not grow up in Woodland, a local guy making the majors and becoming the MVP is a pretty big deal. Not knowing Dustin personally, I could only watch him play and watch the interviews with him to get a sense of the guy. I love the way he plays, scrappy, determined, hair on fire, and excuse my language, but the term red-ass seems to fit the Woodland native.

When I first saw the comments made by Pedroia about Woodland, I thought I had better read the entire interview to see if he was misquoted or if his comments were taken out of context. It does not seem that he was. If you read the entire interview, Pedroia seems to be fueled by a personal sense of anger, a need to succeed and to prove other people wrong. Maybe Dustin is a sweet guy and his friends would say he has a heart of gold, but from the outside, its hard to come away with any other impression.

"It's a dump. You can quote me on that. I don't give a s---- Everyone wants to get out of there. You don't want to stay in Woodland. What do you want to stay in Woodland for? …

"The newspaper there, I don't really get along with. I come from your town. You should embrace me. I play for the Boston Red Sox. You haven't had a lot of major leaguers come out of your city."

It's not just one sentence, it's not just the 'dump' comment, I hate to say it Woodland, but he's just not that into you.

I remember Woodland celebrating his accomplishments and the headlines in the Democrat. The naming of a baseball field in his honor was a pretty nice gesture. I was writing about Dustin's career and thought he was a great player. What about the other side of coin?

Maybe I missed this living in Esparto, but I don't remember the annual Dustin Pedroia charity baseball camp, or bowling night to benefit Woodland little league or the YMCA. I would think that if you loved your hometown, every charity in the city could count on you for signed memorabilia or attendance at charity events.

Having lived in Sacramento, Kings center Vlade Devac was everywhere, donating his time, his memorabilia and even dragging his teammates to community fundraisers. It was easy to tell that Vlade loved his adopted hometown. I realize that not every person may be comfortable in the spotlight, but if your deeds are not speaking for you, your words will.

After the story came out, Pedroia started backpedaling. As a professional athlete, Pedroia's image as a spoiled kid who hates his hometown could cost him lucrative endorsements. I am sure his agent has pointed out to him. It’s a no win situation for everyone. Woodland has its feelings hurt, the Pedroia family must be shocked by the community's reaction, and everyone would just like this whole thing to go away.

The legal trouble facing the Pedroia family could be a major part of Dustin's issues with Woodland. Brett Pedroia will have his day in court, and that is how it should be. No one would consider local news coverage of a family member's arrest and legal problems as a good thing, or think that coverage as particularly fair. Being a public figure dragged into the news by a family member cannot be an easy thing to handle, and maybe this is the lens we need to view Dustin's comments through. Just when he is trying to enjoy a MVP season, the stresses of his family’s struggles are pulling him down.

Dustin does not need Woodland. He has enough money and security to live anywhere he wants and not give a rip about what his hometown thinks. This is his right. Woodland does not need Dustin, but it sure could use his popularity and celebrity for community fundraising and civic pride. I would love to see Dustin come to Woodland and really give back to it. Even if he has to endure a few jeers, he could show everyone where his heart is.

Here is the one thing I would say to everyone. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that we all say things we regret, not very many of us have it printed for the world to read.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Close, and other subjective terms

While I usually embrace new technology and try to stay up with the times, I have learned over the years, not everything that glitters is gold. Take online reservations for example. Having recently lamented the fact that I never get around to doing some of things I really want to, I asked for a few days off to take the family to Yosemite. Even though I am heading up a new project at work, things fell into place and my boss gave me Friday and Monday off.

In the old days, you would call the park to see if they have any vacancies or look for campgrounds around the park and make a few more calls. Eventually, either you find a campsite, or you find you need to pick a different weekend. However, in today's point and click world, you go to the Yosemite website, click on reservations, and input your requirements. Fill in the blanks for trailer length, full hookups or self-contained, number of nights etc., and presto, you have your reservation. Now for the subjective part; "close to the park entrance."

That word close can have many meanings. In this particular case, close meant, it is closer to the park than your house is.

On a map, Eastman Lake even looks "close" to the southern entrance to Yosemite. Sacagawea, the name we have given to our GPS unit, says its only 37 miles from Eastman Lake to the south entrance. When I saw this on the online reservation page, I was thinking, okay its 45 minutes from the park, an hour tops. Woops.

Some two and half hours from our campsite, we pulled into Yosemite Valley. Granted we did make it to the park's southern entrance in one hour and forty-five minutes, it takes quite a while to get from there to the valley floor.

It was worth the drive. We brought our bikes, rented one for our daughter, and we rode the bike trails all afternoon. We rode all over the valley floor, something my thighs will swear to in a court of law. We parked at the village center about 10:30 and the crowds were just starting to arrive in force. By 2:00, it was crowded anywhere you went.

We spent most of that day just looking up and saying, wow. Pictures are great and the movie they show at the visitor's center is nice, but you really have to see it for yourself.

So as the shadows grew longer, I thought we might cut some time by going out the main entrance and finding a new way back to camp. Woops.

Following the Merced River down the valley to Mariposa, we plugged Eastman Lake into Sacagawea, and with her smooth yet annoying voice, she said, “Turn left in point seven miles." That took us to Ben Hur Road. Imagine Ben Hur Road as a corkscrewing ribbon of potholed asphalt that goes on for miles. I did enjoy seeing the cattle grazing on the hills as I drove my Dodge 4X4 down the rough road, smacking my head against the roof the entire way.

Three hours from leaving Yosemite, we pulled back into our campsite. The next day, we stayed at Eastman Lake. While not as visually exciting and majestic as Yosemite, it did have one thing going for it.

It was "close."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Signs, signs, everywhere signs...

Maybe you have seen this photo, or a sign somewhere with the same message. I know that some Christians may get their feathers ruffled by it, but don't count me among that group. While I don't agree with its conclusion, my real issue is with its premise. If you believe there is a God, you're riddled with worry and cannot enjoy life? Really? What kind of Christians has the person who made this sign been around?

It sure isn't me, or anyone in my small group Bible study. I conveyed the message of this sign at our Tuesday meeting and we all had a good laugh. In fact I made the point that if could rewrite this sign I would change only one word.

There's probably is God; now stop worrying and enjoy life.

I know there are certain groups of Christians who focus more on the 'Shall nots' rather than the 'Shalls' in the scriptures, and there is a definite place for rebuking a friend who has strayed from the path, but as our pastor says; telling me I'm a sinner isn't good news, in fact, it isn't news at all.

We all fall short of the glory, but the idea that belief in God, especially Christ, is somehow a shackle that keeps me tied in knot of guilt and worry is as wrong as wrong can be. My relationship with Christ Jesus is based on perfect love, overflowing grace and a peace that can only come with the personal relationship I have with my savior. Enjoying life? You darn right I am.

How many folks do we read about who 'have it all', fame, money, success, the adoration of multitudes? I can think of a few who were found dead, alone in a room. They were victims of their own pursuits, trying to find happiness by 'enjoying life'. If you watch an evening of entertainment news, you will find so many broken lives, broken relationships, broken people who, from the outside, seem to "have it all".

I have experienced some very trying times in my life, the death of my father, personal events and more than a few financial challenges. I can honestly say I don't know how I would have made it through some of these darkest days without God. I certainly don't have all the answers, I don't have the secret to never experiencing sorrow and pain in my life, all I know is this; God is with me in all my joys, and my sorrows.

(Mathew 6:34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Live for today, that is a very cool saying in our culture, live each day like it’s you last. Eat, drink and be merry. Spend all your money on yourself and bounce the check to the undertaker. Those are great slogans for sports drinks and tequila advertisements, but what if there is more to this life? What if there is so much more out there that can never be found by pursuing personal enjoyment?

I may not have a Porsche, or take a two week vacation in the Bahamas each winter, but I am pretty darn happy. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have nice car and take my wife on a nice vacation, but that is not the ultimate pursuit in my life. I want to live each day praising God for his love and grace, everything thing else is just a vapor in the wind.

I am a terrible excuse for a Christian, I get wrapped up in all kinds of worldly desires and wants, but I try to do a little better every day. My goal is to take each day one at a time, because one day, it will be my last one.

What happens after that?

And they think I am the one who is worried?