Monday, April 30, 2007

My Weird Reason for giving Up a Nasty Habit

As of tomorrow morning I will be smoke-free. Probably crazier than batshit too but hopefully that will pass. If not I'll just fit in better with most of the locals so no worries.

I'd been wanting to quit for quite a while but the real kicker for me wasn't even the health consideration (I seem to be damned near impossible to kill) or social pressure (keeping people away always seemed like a plus to me).

The kicker is the millions of dollars going to wealthy Republicans in places like Kentucky and North Carolina every year. The same people that help support the insane pile of crap our government has become. I just can't do it any more. Between the two of us here I would hate to admit the thousands we've spent annually on cigarettes, it's downright embarassing but it's all over now.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, it was fun while it lasted but we've moved on. Time to go our separate ways, think of it as an extended one-night stand and you don't look so good this morning in the sunlight without your makeup. Don't try and blame this break up on the environmentalist movement or political correctness....fact is we just hate your asses because really, once we took a good look at you, you're just a tired, scheming, old whore. Send a thank you note to your friend Dubya and his buddies for forcing us to see you in daylight.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Squirrels in My Family Tree

Speaking of insanity in the many of us have a relative who leaves us unsure of whether to laugh or to pull our hair out?

Here's one of mine. A thoughtful "happy birthday" message from a close relation who has not spoken to me in about 6 or 7 months.

Quote: I hope you have a happy birthday. I felt you should know we are alive. Nobody on my side of the family seems to care about us.

Um. I think it had something to do with the writer telling us repeatedly "I wish you were all dead", "you're all a bunch of losers", "I wish I wasn't related to you" and "I never want to speak to any of you again, don't call me or contact me". one called them or contacted them. Be careful what you ask for is about all I can say. Correct me if I'm wrong here but if someone said "don't call me or contact me" and you continued to try....wouldn't that be classified as stalking???

Monday, April 23, 2007

We're Probably a Self-Limiting Virus

A couple of replies to comments on the last post, seemed easier to go ahead and make a post of it.

A golf course in Seattle has to do with events in the Desert Southwest... how?

Um...that's the Wynn Las Vegas Golf course. Confusing isn't it?

When I lived in Phoenix we had *lots* of golf courses. Without fail, they were all watered with treated sewage ("greywater"), not with potable water. How do you think they keep the grass so green? (heh!).

That's something only recently being considered in Las Vegas. Golf takes in roughly $250 million annually in greens fees here so it's not something that's going to go away any time soon.

Then again, golf courses are far from our only problem:

LAS VEGAS -- Although households collectively consumed the most, the Clark County School District topped a list of the 100 largest water users in the Las Vegas area, followed by a pair of golf course facilities.

Area schools and support offices used 2.75 billion gallons last year, enough to cover more than 8,000 football fields with a foot of water, according to records released by the district and water agencies.

The school district was the valley's biggest single user in 2002, but golf courses and hotels accounted for two-thirds of the top 100 users.

The figures were provided as southern Nevada develops plans to cope with the drought, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Paulson said the district, the fastest growing school system in the nation, serves 277 schools with 1,800 acres of landscaping. Grass grows on about 1,500 acres. About 255,000 students and nearly 29,000 employees use district facilities.

Also, a lot of these developments have housing associations. If you offer to donate 10 trees and plant them, many of them wil;l be grateful for the greenery.

Housing associations are more often than not part of the problem. Even in dry, dusty Las Vegas many require lawns. One was sued recently for not allowing a homeowner to use artificial turf, the association lost the case.

I would suggest moving your ass out of the southwest before it dries up and you all come over here looking for water and shelter from the dust bowl. I personally find it incredibly stupid that people choose to live out in the middle of the desert, especially when getting water to those developments is harmful to the earth.

Sounds simple but as usual it isn't quite that simple. That could work out pretty well for the wealthy but for the majority of people who depend on things, it isn't as easy as snapping ones fingers and moving off to some damper climate. The southwest is where the job growth is and has been for quite some time. Even assuming one could forcibly relocate millions of people to "wetter" locations it would simply shift the problems. Where are all those people going to live, work, etc? How long do you think water resources in the new locations would hold up to a massive population influx?

In that event you could just as easily say people are stupid for living in areas prone to tornados or hurricanes....should we relocate everyone living in the midwest and in the southeast? Wisconsin and Minnesota could get extremely crowded.

Getting water to most desert areas is not the issue. We have water, groundwater. The majority of towns here (with the notable exception of Las Vegas) do not import any water at all. The problem is with the ways we use it and the number of people we try to support with it.

From Wikipedia: The theory arose in the late 1860s and 1870s during the westward expansion of white settlement west of the Missouri River and across the 100th meridian west, the traditional boundary line between the humid and semi-arid portions of central North America. At the same time, there was a spread of farming from the area near Adelaide northwards to areas of much lower rainfall. Specifically, In the early part of the decade, white settlement had spread into central and western Nebraska along the Platte River. Emigrants on the Oregon Trail began reporting that the land in western Nebraska, previously known for its yellowed dry vegetation during the summer, had seemingly become green. Out of this evidence, some scientists of the day concluded that change was due to the settlement and the effects of cultivation. One of the most prominent exponents of the theory was Cyrus Thomas, a noted climatologist of his day who made a study of the recent history of Colorado, concluding the increase in moisture was permanent, and that it coincided exactly with the first homesteaders. Other prominent advocates of the theory were Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, the noted geographer who had explored and surveyed parts of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and Samuel Aughey, a professor at the University of Nebraska.

Thomas and other climatologists offered a variety of explanations for the theory. A common idea was that the plowing of the soil for cultivation exposed the soil's moisture to the sky. In addition, newly planted trees and shrubs increased rainfall as well, as did smoke from trains. Another hypothesis stated that the increased vibrations in the atmosphere due to human activity created additional clouds, from which rain fell, an idea that led to the widespread dynamiting of the air across the Great Plains in the 1870s.

The theory was widely embraced in its day, not only by scientists, but land speculators and emigrants. Some historians have argued that the theory was embraced readily as an outgrowth of Manifest Destiny, the idea that God had ordained the white race of Americans to spread across the North American continent. The theory is regarded as partially responsible for the rapid settlement of the Great Plains in the later 19th century.

Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner is a great book to read if you're interested in water issues in the Great Plains and southwest. Will definitely give you a different perspective on the Army Corps of Engineers among other things.

Agriculture, at least initially, created the push for development in the west. The western population grew up under government sponsored programs that saw it as the bread basket of the to feed the growing eastern population. Sorry East coasters, no one gets a pass on this one.

The area I live in developed because of farming. Cotton, mint, alfalfa, etc. were all grown here but as the available groundwater for irrigation became depleted the farms were sold off for other types of development. The current number of homes actually uses less water than what the farmers did back in the day. Still too much but there it is....6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

It just boils down to there being too many of us using up far too many resources. The good news is that in spite of our best efforts the planet will chug along just fine, it just might be without us on it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day

PHOENIX - The 25 million Americans who rely on the Colorado River for water should expect continued — and even worsening — drought spells and water shortages as rising temperatures and growing populations create a double whammy, experts warned in a new report.

Water conservation measures have helped somewhat, but consumption has boomed in certain areas. For example, Nevada's Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, saw water use double from 1985 to 2000.

"The combination of limited water supplies, rapidly increasing populations, warmer regional temperatures, and the specter of recurrent drought point to a future in which the potential for conflict among existing and prospective new water users will prove endemic," the research council said in a statement that accompanied the report.

The report was commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and two California water agencies.

Human-induced change in Earth's atmosphere will leave the American Southwest in perpetual drought for the next 90 years, a new study finds. Live Science

Meanwhile, development in much of the Southwest is booming. In the Phoenix metro area alone, permits were issued for 63,570 new homes last year.

"Planners should consider that there's a limit to the water resource and that we're starting to push that at times," Meko said. "This recent drought was a good example. That's going to happen in the future more and more as demand increases."

In a telephone interview, Meko told LiveScience that the study results "should put a limit on how much growth can occur in the arid parts of the Southwest
." Live Science

In the meantime development and population growth continue unabated and we keep building more of these.......

Just something to think about.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Republicans at Play: Shoot the Mexican

Watching the Alberto Gonzales circus yesterday I was struck by the same thing it seems everyone else was, how little support he received even from his own party.

Now ok, if I believe a Democrat is crooked or incompetent I'm not usually shy about saying so because I don't see any value in defending people that I believe are just plain old bad for the party. Quite a few Democrats have a similar point of view, it's earned us the reputation of being "disorganized" and "fractious". I can live with that if it means we stay open to culling the herd of rotten apples.

The thing is, Republicans do not have any similar tradition. Point of fact is they have a well established history of rallying around their own regardless of what heinous crime the person has committed or what foolishness has been done. I'm not even going to attempt to list the number of outright criminals and fools they've stood by and vigorously defended....too many to even begin to count.

They essentially went into attack mode on Gonzales. What was so different about this case?

I really don't know, truth is I wouldn't even place Gonzales' actions in my personal Top 10 list of Stupid Republican Tricks....he might make the top 100 at best.

That being the case and in spite of not being a fan of Mr. Gonzales or his actions I had to ask myself if the Republican senators would have reacted the same way if Gonzales had been, say, a white man.

Somehow I can't quite bring myself to believe that and I couldn't muster up much glee over his treatment at the hands of his own because I don't believe they were offended by his behaviour at all.....I believe it was his color that made it acceptable to them to make him their sacrificial lamb.

Maybe down the road they'll show me they are capable of weeding out their rotten apples regardless of race, religion or whatever and prove me wrong. I hope so, I really do, but right at the moment I'm not buying that pig.

May Long Term Forecast

Nothing too exciting there, as usual much of the west is above average. The northeast froze while we were cooking.

Anyone who missed it: our military is becoming increasingly concerned about climate change.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Global warming poses a "serious threat to America's national security" and the U.S. likely will be dragged into fights over water and other shortages, top retired military leaders warn in a new report.

Living in the southwest all of my life this isn't very big news to me, it's always been an issue here. Population growth has put ever increasing pressure on our water resources and the decrease in snow cover over the winters has steadily reduced groundwater supply.

So far, so good for well is cranking along just fine for the moment but it's a worry as development continues here. Hoping we can get outta here before the locals take to shooting each other over declining water tables.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 3: Open Forum for Morons

Ok, overall the media coverage concerning the tragedy at Virginia Tech has been excellent, at least on CNN, I've been avoiding much of my usual trolling of news stations because in this case I don't feel up to dealing with wingnuttery of any flavor and CNN is about the safest of the bunch in that department. I have to give them credit, for the most part (so far) they've picked intelligent and knowledgeable commentators and not given much air time to the nutwing factions.

Thumbs down to MSNBC unfortunately. I watched Chris Matthews cut off a guest who actually knew what she was talking about so he could go to a clip of the roommates. Sorry, I'm sure they are traumatized by this but they weren't the brightest bulbs in the pack about this and they have nothing informative to add to the discussion. Had to change the channel, twenty-something young men with nary a clue about human behavior I might feel empathy for...I'm not interested in listening to them ad infinitum.

Scarborough Country featured the Rev. Franklin Graham, my personal pick for moron of the week.

This is what we have to understand. There is—there is evil in this world. There is a devil who‘s called the god of this age, who wants to seek and destroy your life and my life and every life.

Yes, of course, let's blame it all on some imaginary devil who is out to get us if we don't walk the prescribed Christian path. It absolves us of all personal responsibility and we can turn a blind eye to our culture of violence and other annoying issues like how we fail to care for the sick and frail among us. Instead of working to develop a more effective mental health delivery system we can just call in the occasional exorcist and pat ourselves on the back for being good Christians. Ignore brain dysfunction and hope it will go away. Good luck with that.

Then the one that really got me going, Steve Capus, president of NBC news. I'm not going to pound Capus too hard, he only said what most people think but it 's at the heart of our problem. Referring to his decision to air some of the video sent in by Cho Seung-Hui he said it was "the closest we could get to seeing inside the mind of a killer".

Wrong. The closest you can get to seeing inside the "mind of a killer" is inside your own head. We are all natural born killers. Trying to separate people like Cho from the rest of the pack is the biggest mistake we can make.

Every single one of us is fully capable of behaving exactly like this guy did. A few misfiring neurotransmitters is about all that differentiated him from the rest of us and sent him down the path he took. He was not "demon-possessed" nor was he some unique sub-type of human being, he was 99.9% just like the rest of us.

We have all these myths about mental illness that it's high time we exploded. Mental illness is not glamorous, exciting or exotic. It's mind-numbingly dull and entirely too common. It's living in a perpetual state of fear, superstition and distortion for those who suffer from it. Picture seeing reality through a mental shield of carnival funhouse mirrors or walking around with Anne Coulter in your head talking 24/7 and you get some idea. Do you really think most of us would react much better given those circumstances?

Cho wasn't a freak. He suffered from a disorder that is all too common and he'd probably been suffering since his early teens, possibly even childhood. Life in a neverending state of fear and paranoia that led to isolation and then hatred for everyone and everything outside of himself. The only thing that was freakish about the entire tragedy is that none of we supposedly "normal" functioning human beings ever did anything about it. Apparently we hoped if we ignored him he'd just go away. Now who's crazy?

If the measure of "sanity" is dealing with reality then maybe it's time we dealt with the reality that people who do things like this are not so terribly different from the rest of us and if you're of a religious frame of mind you might do well to remember that "there but for the grace of God go I".

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Inclusiveness is All

I'm not trying to "make sense" out of what happened at Virginia Tech, that would be pointless as there is no sense to it. If you are trying to make sense out of it, please stop before your head explodes.

Despite all efforts by some quarters to lay the blame on any single or even group of items there is not a simple one-size-fits-all answer.

Would lack of access to firearms have prevented this? Not likely, this guy was determined to go out with a bang, minus firearms he'd have used a bomb or some other method. Ask my better half who had the privilege of assisting with "cleanup" after an employee decided to take out his supervisor and a few others with a backhoe.

Would more professional intervention have prevented this? Maybe. Truth is, once upon a time when it was easier to treat the mentally ill involuntarily we did what we usually do.....abused the system. People were subjected to all manner of horrors in the name of "treatment". Too often the people receiving said treatment weren't even mentally ill or were not in any way potentially dangerous, just people someone wanted out of the way for whatever reason. Inevitably laws were changed to make it nearly impossible to treat a person against their will, they almost have to commit a serious crime before they can be court ordered.

Based on the information coming out it seems at least some staff at Virginia Tech went above and beyond in trying to reach this student and in trying to protect others from him. That is actually the only thing I find surprising and speaks to the level of professionalism amongst the teaching staff there. They were obviously fighting a losing battle with a system not equipped to deal with people like Cho Seung-Hui but they recognized the potential danger and did everything within their power to prevent a tragedy, that's more than could be said of most institutions. Hats off to the professors who put themselves out there.

The truth is there are always going to be damaged people among us. The last 20 years have seen great strides in our knowledge, understanding and treatment of mental disorders but the sad fact is only a minute number of the people suffering from mental illness ever reap the benefits of the best possible treatment. The funding simply does not exist and our laws are so outdated we only treat those who have already managed to come into contact with our legal system. Even assuming a person is fortunate enough to belong to a family that is knowledgeable enough to recognise a problem their odds of being able to obtain better than substandard treatment for the afflicted person are slim to none.

Decades of cuts to mental health spending and the outsourcing of treatment to for-profit corporate entities have left us with a system that closes the barn door after the horses have already escaped. Toss in the usually extremely poor job law enforcement does when coming into contact with the mentally ill, the general level of and acceptance of violence in our culture, social stigma, and our cultural hatefulness in general.....recipe for tragedies like this one.

"Kinder and gentler" nation has become a cliche but it's way past time we pulled it back out and "un-cliched" it because until we start living it we can expect to see more tragedies like this one and most likely with increasing frequency. Two decades in forensic mental health and I can break it down for you this easily: more than half of our troubles are directly caused by the fact that people treat each other badly.

Start today. Quit expecting "the government" to solve all of our problems, we are the government and we are part of the problem. Pay attention to the people who are around you, especially the ones who've probably only been "background noise" to you. Treat people with equal courtesy whether they are dressed in an expensive suit or dirty rags and pushing a shopping cart. Courtesy and thoughtfulness don't stop at your social circle. It won't cure all of our social problems but it would make for a damned fine start.

Friday, April 13, 2007

That Whole Meme Thing

I'm not really pro or anti memes, kind of one of those many things that can get carried too far sometimes but can be fun too so I don't mind participating now and then.

I got tagged by A Big Fat Slob while I was busy trying to pull my head out of my butt and I'm so perversely amused to see that I made the same list as Mahmood Ahmadinejad I have to go with it. That has to be one of the top 5 funniest things to have ever happened to me.

5 Reasons I Blog

1. So my head won't explode. Like ABFS, my dogs are also bored by my commentary and I think it's bad form to torture my husband incessantly.

2. It seemed like a reasonable alternative to doing bizarre and disgusting things to Bill O'Reilly's face on the TV screen.

3. I love the fabulous people I run across doing this. They keep me cautiously optimistic about the human species. Sometimes I lose sight of how many good and trying-to-better ourselves people are out there, the people I meet here remind me it isn't all hopeless.

4. Because I can. For all the negatives that have come with greater access to media it has also given everyone an outlet. Sometimes that is a terrible thing, sometimes it is a great thing, every now and then it allows some of us to communicate with others we might not necessarily cross paths with in our everyday lives. That has to be a good thing.

5. It is illegal and uncivilized to shoot people, even very bad people we hate.

Not so sure about tagging people, I know some don't like memes so I'm going to leave it open, if you're linked here consider yourself tagged if you want to participate and if you want, leave a comment here and I'll list you here if you do.

Sometimes I Hate Us

Sometimes I simply reach the point I can only describe as "I have no more words for you", you know, that same point most everyone has reached with at least someone or other in their lives who persistently behaves in unproductive ways. Periodically I get to that point with the entire human race and more specifically with my countrymen so the only thing I can do when it hits is tune most of it out and focus on something basic and soul renewing like my compost pile until I can find a grain of hopefulness in the mess. The alternative would be to become as looney as the people and things I find so appalling.

Five minutes into my self-imposed timeout the Imus cirque du insane came along to shove me deeper into my hidey hole. No, Imus was not a big deal in my world but yes, the entire incident disturbs me at more levels than I can hope to express.

My first reaction was "well, he's always been a crazy asshat, why is everyone acting surprised?" Kind of like being shocked to find out Bill O'Reilly hates puppies, not very. I must have missed the memo that Don Imus was now considered a "credible" news media persona.

Now my better half always bore him more animosity than I did, he felt the I-Man's signature hat was a legitimate target for shooting practice. I was more neutral because I never could figure out more than half of what the man was saying, I don't speak squirrel-ese. I only knew he existed because of frequent insomniac channel surfing at 4 am.

Color me not surprised he finally went and said something completely disgusting. Did he mean it the way it came out? I have no idea, I can't read squirrel minds either and the man is most definitely a squirrel.

Did he deserve a suspension? Definitely in my book. Did he deserve to be taken off MSNBC? Mixed feelings about that since I question why he was on a supposedly "legitimate" news channel in the first place but ok, take him off and have done with it. While we're on a roll could we now please remove about a half dozen other even more insidiously hateful media personalities who do more damage to our national sanity on a daily basis than smoking a daily ounce of crack cocaine.

Nope, guess that wasn't good enough for us. We won't be satisfied until we've completely destroyed one foolish, crazy old man and burned him at the stake. At the same time we have some unhelpful members of his fan club sending hate mail to the young ladies of the Rutger's basketball team. Get a clue people...they didn't bring about his downfall, he and the rest of the media circus did that without any help from them. Call me crazy but I just can't get into whipping someone who has already been beaten and I sure can't get into flaming the targets of his original butt-ugly comments. Seems like we're missing the point here which was if I'm not mistaken, that we are sorely lacking in any degree of civility both in our media and in our private lives.

C. Vivian Stringer gets it, she seems to be one of the few who does. As terrible as this incident is she sees an opportunity here, an opportunity to clean up our acts not an opportunity to get some kind of perverse pleasure in destroying the lives of all the people involved here. The unabashed hatred that has been coming from all sides in this matter ought to be enough to make us all take a step back and look at some things....starting with ourselves.

I'm not in any way attempting to defend Imus or his comments but at the same time I have to look at the bigger picture and feel we are once again looking at style over substance. I believe intent matters and in this case there are many, many more dangerous and damaging people in our media than a foolish old man like him.

Where is all this public outrage when Bill O'Reilly essentially blames the victims of the New York fire that killed eight children? How about when Lou Dobbs advocates taking away the US born children of immigrants and placing them in foster care so we can deport their parents? Damaging as the foolish words of Imus were I don't think they quite reach the level of inhumanity that these two do on a daily basis. By the way, anyone notice that Tom DeLay is now a regular commentator on Fox news? How is that for the "lowering media standards" bin?

Then we get Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker and possible presidential candidate saying speaking another language is “the language of living in a ghetto.” Don't even get me started on Robert Byrd, Trent Lott, et al...and these are elected representatives, not shock jocks. We the people elect these walking hairballs of hate and stupidity, what the hell are we thinking???

You know what, when we start giving these people their walking papers the minute they show their true colors then I'll take the outrage seriously. Right now from where I'm sitting it looks like we're just picking off the the weakest members of the herd.

Face it, we live in a society that watches the ever-lurid Nancy Grace for entertainment, one of our most popular television series' is about the Mafia, and it's ok for television talk sh0w hosts to call a female presidential candidate a "bitch". How do you suppose it would go over if I got on national TV and called Rudy Giuliani a "gutless prick"? Wait a sec, slutpuppy might be more fun.

Quite a while back I finally stopped watching the Tonight Show. Even Mr. Mainstream, Jay Leno figures it's alright to pick some targets and let fly and I personally got sick and tired of having another self-important asshat decide who was fit to live and who wasn't. The more mainstream folks don't make the outrageous comments some of the others make but they take the cowardly way out, they label and disparage groups of people we've decided it's acceptable to make fun of. Same phenomena, different's who we've become. Only shiny, pretty people with lots of money should be allowed to suck air.

Anderson Cooper asked the most relevant question in this mess. He asked what it says about us as a people if we've been watching people like Imus for years and people like him always seem to have the highest ratings? Well Anderson, here's your answer: we're a nation of asshats.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

And the REAL Issue is.....

I thought about posting something about my take on the British Marines being held hostage by Iran but Boris at The Galloping Beaver posted his and lo and behold, it's identical to mine and he already did it so nicely.

Just a few highlights here, click above link for his full post.

First, it is seeking to drive a wedge between the UK/US alliance.

And secondly, in light of US rhetoric and carrier deployments off the coast of Iran, having UK military hostages puts a dent in any designs the US has on attacking Iran as a unilateral US strike on Iran now would effectively end UK cooperation in Iraq.

Isolating the US in Iraq is a bit like calling a bluff. Bush can bluster and harrummph about Iran all he likes, but when Iran starts stripping away what few allies he has, they are effectively narrowing the terms of engagement - mano y mano. Iran isn't caving, they're pushing back.

I tend to think sanctions often do little but increase tension in an already tense atmosphere.

Bill Donohue Bitch-Slapped by a Fellow Catholic

I really wasn't very interested in the Chocolate Jesus controversy but I loved the way artist Cosimo Cavallaro handled the always foaming-at-the-mouth Bill Donohue. You go Bill, get this guy all the publicity you can because without your attack dog tactics most of us would never have paid it any mind at all. Happily for me some thoughtful person posted a video of it on You Tube.

I'd let him display his Chocolate Jesus here but I'm afraid it would melt in the Nevada sun.