Thursday, December 27, 2007

3 Wise Beagles found on Christmas Eve..

(Please do CROSS POST to your own lists.)

View their photos here:

The short story:

On Christmas Eve, I found 3 pure bred Beagles on the side of the road.. 2 male and one female, all unfixed/unspayed. One of the males is quite old, but is gentle and bright. The other two are are 2-6 years old, behave like siblings, and are clever and gentle. The younger male likes to assert himself as the Alpha dog, but he is manageable and can be trained pretty easily with more time.

They curl up together to sleep. The two males sleep on top of one another, despite the apparent rivalry.

They appear to be seasoned hunting dogs, very friendly even affectionate dispositions, and really clever. They also get along with cats. My cat was not put off them, snoozing about a foot away from one of them.

They seem to be housebroken, having only one or two accidents. Given their emotional state, this is pretty normal to have an accident.

Anybody who knows anyone with a penchant or knowledge of Beagles, please call me to get these three into fostering or adoption. -404.932.6399 cell.


Beau Grant

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be measured by the way its animals are treated"

                                                                              Mahatma Gandhi

PS: If you want to adopt them directly, please fill out on adoption form on the Ga Humane Society website. I will work with them to get them spayed/neutered BEFORE they are adopted, and the adopting family can reimburse for the expenses. Under no circumstances will these be released before being spayed/neutered.. for obvious reasons.

The Long Story -
I just returned form visiting my family in Augusta. They live out on the Savannah River just over the border into South Carolina. It is the first nice neighborhood on that route. It appears that shrewd McCormick County, SC  red necks dump their pets on the road into the neighborhood.

This year on Christmas Eve, I drove past 3 beagles who were sniffing around a spot on the road. I passed them on my errands about 3 times. They never left the spot, so I when I was heading back up to Atlanta, and it was getting dark, I decided these must be abandoned. They appeared to be waiting for their owners return. They would inspect each car as it made the turn onto the road, making sure if it was the right one. Sooner or later, someone would carelessly run them over by talking on their cellphone, so there was no choice but to round them up.

I flagged down a car with a couple of guys who helped me put them into my car. The Beagles were very cooperative, the problem was that I already had my three labs in the car.  Popping the rear hatch window, we found that if inserted them backwards, then they would not snarl at each other. I suppose this worked because the new Beagles showed submission to the labs by presenting their backsides first.

Barely making my Christmas eve dinner plans back in Atlanta that evening, I managed to install the Beagles in the sunroom under the Christmas tree, where they drank all the water, ate all the food, and curled up on the dog beds. I decided to forgo the stand up-sit down-kneel Christmas church service routine, opting instead return home after dinner to give  them all a good cleansing, stem to stern. After a thorough scrubbing with gentle topical disinfectants, endless q-tips soiled with ear goo, and organic soaps and conditioners to remove the caked on dirt, sludge, brambles, fleas, and ticks, they emerged clean and vibrant. All the cuts and tears on the ears were dressed, and all in all, they emerged shiny and presentable for Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2007 Holiday year end wrap up!

2007 Bulletin!

Well the Christmas tree is up and looking good. All the ornaments are hanging in there, as the dogs know realize these are not toys for them to play fetch with. Last year, the first several feet of the tree were denuded by Cami pulling off the ornaments and presenting them to me.

As the year wraps up, it is time to look back on all of it. This past year has been packed with all sorts of events and happenings.

Aside from continuing as ever my commercial real estate brokerage business, I have been up to all sorts of other things.

My great aunt, Hattie, has been doing well since she went to the nursing home, Budd Terrace. Emory Healthcare does a great job, and with the added support of 24 hour sitters, we have some peace of mind that she will not have much opportunity to fall for a 5th time. She fell last November in 2006. Piedmont admitted her into the hospital on a fishing trip. She was livid, and so the nurses drugged her without our permission with Haldol. This sent her into a 15 hour seizure where she squeezed the blood out of my hand for hours. The floor had contagion protocol signs on the other doors, so it was not long before she caught eColi, in addition to pneumonia. The Haldol "burnt" her brain up, so she was transferred for special care. So.. after 2 weeks of intensive care at Emory Wesley Woods neuropsyche.. she managed to regain her faculties, as well as fight off the illnesses. Amazing.

She was dropped by her sitters on the floor, so she had to go into the hospital this past summer. Emory did a great job. The ER, the OR, the hospital care, all of it was top notch. She received 3 pins and a plate in her hip, and she is back up and at them these days. I have to say, Emory's service and level of care was superb, and a welcome change from the careless and rude manner of the staff at Piedmont Hospital.

As for day-to-day stuff, I try to stop by to see her every 2-3 days. We are encouraging her to use a Nintendo Wii. The director of nursing agreed that it would be good for her exercise as well as maintaining her mental sharpness. She likes watching us, not actually playing herself, play golf and tennis. She seems to enjoy the Brian Age game. I hope she will get up the pluck to try playing the tennis and bowling.

In any case, between bingo, Turner Classic Movies, smuggled in Chik-Fil-A nuggets, frequent, nearly daily, visits from all of us, including the dogs, daily activities at the home, and the constant presence of sitters and other staff, she has a reasonably busy life. Ironically, she has a busier life now, than before she fell and broke her hip to begin with 2 years ago. Turner Classic Movies has been a huge thing for her, as she is calm and entertained by the old movies they offer for free and without commercials. She really likes the classics with Jimmy Stewart, Claude Rains, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, etc. She always makes me look up all the details about the movie on the internet to remind her of all the actors names and the other movies they were in.

My brother, Drew, just passed the bar as well as earned his JD degree from Ga State Magna Cum Laude. He threw a big dinner party near Grant Park in Cabbage Town at Jack Sobel's restaurant, Agave. It was a lot of fun. The food and service could not have been better.

About the same time Drew graduated, I finished up a new degree from Georgia Tech, an Executive Masters of Science of Management of Technology, a modern day MBA program involving Venture Capital finance, entrepreneurship, technology change management, globalization trends, marketing, and best practices. I hope to put it to good use by pursuing business plans I have been working on involving Hydrogen fuel energy systems and another that is closer to home in real estate.

A professor from the program encouraged me to pursue a PhD in Economics. I am very interested in Free Market economics, and have several ideas that I have been researching that may offset some of the consequences we are facing with China, outsourcing, and the decimation our country has faced in terms of all of our production going off-shore. We are just now starting to feel these consequences, and I felt it was time to really consider how to go forward. The article is further down in this blog if you want to have a look.

Back in February, I resumed playing rugby with the Atlanta Renegades. I do not know how so many years got away from me, but it will not happen again. It is like having the most favorite thing in your life return and to find it even more fun than the last time around.

This past May, the Old Boys traveled to the Bahamas to play the Freeport Pendragons. In September, we went to Newport, Wales to watch the Rugby World Cup matches in Cardiff. Our team is twinned with the Newport Saracens. Rugby is the Welsh national sport, and World Cup is a very big deal there.

Since the mayor of the city and the chief of the police are both former Saracens.. we had a "fun" time. They threw a huge party at Terra Nova on the wharf in Cardiff. The interior was decked out as a 3 story high frigate ship. To give some idea as to how cool this was, this would be like being hosted at at the nicest and largest place on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

While visiting, we also played against Caerleon RFC and Newport Saracens RFC on the Roman drilling fields in Caerleon, King Arthur's true backyard and the original site of Camelot. King Arthur's round table was supposedly across the street from the pitch, in a roman amphitheater.

We also watched the Newport Dragons practice, a professional level team.I became pretty badly injured when I decided to pick up the ball in front of a 300 lb. man, who leveled me. However, the good news is the British National Health System, which is grossly under-rated, did a great job. It is just going to take time to heal.

After the lads returned home, I hired a car and drove up to Thirsk, Yorkshire.

As if I stepped through the looking glass, I literaly stepped into the world of James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small, the basis for the popular TV show on the BBC. The people would not let me buy my own pints, replacing mine so quickly, I was never without a full and fresh pint of Yorkshire Bitters. The landscape is unchanged from the TV series, and I can well imagine little has changed much since the 1930's when the books was set. The characters in the books still live in the area, as do Tristan and Sigfried Farnon's real life counter parts. I was regailed with tales from the books from the children of the characters or the characters themselves. What a trip!

So.. in lieu of being able to actually play.. I underwent training as a Rugby coach, and am now certified by USA Rugby as a coach. I have been helping out at Kennesaw State, Lassiter HS, and Ga Tech.

On other fronts, I rescued about 10 or so dogs by working as a foster with the Georgia Humane Society. I now have 3 dogs, Chip Conner and Cami.. 2 black labs and a half pint version of a Golden Retriever. They are great, get along with each other, and seem to make a great pack.

After banging on it for about 3 years, I was thrilled to receive an approval from the City of Atlanta qualifying our street for speed humps. You imagine that I was thrilled. Now, we have to get 75% of the property owners to sign the petition, and we will have some measure of safety. Personally, I can't stand speed humps, but they are really the only thing to get people to stop doing around 50-mph in front of our houses, especially since all the traffic tries to use our street as a cut thru. To give some idea, 3 of the 10 worst intersections in Atlanta are next to our neighborhood. We have had one house on the 5 o'clock traffic report, as it was hit by a car.

On the topic of cars.. Last month, I bought a new car, trading in the Volvo.. the Volvo has lived at the shop, so this time I went for something foolproof, a Toyota. I wanted the Subaru Outback, but I test drove the FJ Cruiser, which is a totally different sort of car, and did not look back! the dogs love it, and it is a great off-road vehicle. Check out the video on the Toyota homepage where the FJ literally crawls over huge boulders. It is a descendant of the first car to ever summit Mt. Fuji, so appropriately named "FJ", the modern version of the old Land Cruisers. It is a blast to drive. I named it "Yona".. Cherokee for Little Bear.

On other fronts, I have been trying to help at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, serving on their board to help raise funds ($2m) for the renovation project. Also, I've been busy serving on the board of directors for the Grant Park Conservancy (donate) with similar goals and where we have secured a Memorandum of Understanding from the City to manage and fulfill the goals of the Master Plan which hopes to restore the park to its original beauty.

Last year, after the Master's program residency in Europe concluded, I went over to London to help my friend with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (Donate). The happy news, in a truly tale of ruthless extinguishment of the animals in the name of palm oil and biofuels, is that the new TV program, Orangutan Island, has been critically acclaimed and generated loads of awareness here at home in the US. The rest of the world has been hard at owkr helping for a few years now, so we here are behind the curve. The best thing you can do to help is to send them some cash, avoid food products containing Palm Oil (10% of the products on the shelves), write some letters to the Indonesian government if you are really plucky, and not wear Patchouli.. the hippies will love that! (The plant this oil is harvested from is also grown on plantations that cause forest fragmentation.)

I have also cooked up a plan to transform a 14 acre area, otherwise known as the Gulch, into the Atlanta International Sports Gateway. I could use a hand this whale of a project, so let me know if you want to help! The project basically involves the following..

• Professional venues would be inserted
into a parking deck that extends from the current
facility under the surface park at the dome.
• The parking deck would hide beneath a park that would entirely cover the top level of the deck structure, similar to the park between the Dome, Philips Arena, and the Ga World Congress Center.
• Each venue would rise 2-3 stories above the level of the
surface park.
• Tennis for Davis Cup, Track & Field by the AUC,
Football-Soccer-Rugby-Lacrosse multi-use venue- host
to future GSU Football team, Atlanta Silver-backs
Soccer, Georgia’s Div. 1 National rugby teams, and
college lacrosse tournaments.
• The deck would house covered basketball courts, tennis
courts, velodrome, criterium track, and a ground level skate/bmx park.
• Visually, it would blend with Centennial Park as well as
the existing park at the Dome.
• Connect to GSU via underground viaduct following
Wall St. Connect to Centennial by redevelopment
of Spring-Marietta-Techwood garage -
the Gateway to the site. Wide pedestrian footbridges
connect to the AUC.

I was also trying to get a better solution implented for our traffic problems. They have been using, literally, designs from the mid1980's to the early 1990's to alleviate the snarl we exist in. I am pitching a two block "round about" that would completely improve the gridlock in our nieghborhood. Here is a diagram.

Besides that I have been doing CrossFit at my friends new gym, reading some books, and trying to stay on top of my life!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

All the best..


aka.. Samwise “Lizard” Gamghee, el mosquito bandito del pescadors..
Sam really was the only reliable Hobbit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cheney in 1994 on Iraq

Cheney clearly stating why the US has no business invading Iraq. Amazing how 10 years can change one's mind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A proposal to foster free markets and what to do with China.

Folks who know me have been hearing me talking about this for at least three years.. So now, it is finally taking shape.

China dumping their Treasury bond holdings in response to our requests for tariffs.
( )

The important thing ignored by this article is that the US Treasury bonds held by China , represent about 1/4 of China's budget surplus. If China dumped a small portion, say one eight of the position, it would send the dollar into the $2-$3 per Euro range, yet this amount is minuscule to China. It would reduce our ability to buy from China, force the vlaue of the Yuan to increase, and reduce the value of China's dollar currency reserves.

While some argue that a $2.50 -$3 Euro is coming in the next 24 months, and if introduced over that period of time, it could be an advantage to level our trade imbalance, people also ignore another factor, what exactly do we export these days besides know-how and services? The old model of devaluing our currency can't be nearly as effective as it once was, when we had the commanding heights of the economy running strongly, when our exported goods and our own commodities were in high demand and were not produced elsewhere; when the world believed that our way was mostly the right way, versus the Soviets. This is NOT the case in today's free markets.

Another factor, the imbalanced labor laws, environmental controls, and democratic processes in China all incentivize our own business leaders to ride this Rickshaw wagon til the wheels fall off. We have had a few US CEO's already indicted for lobbying against labor in reforms in China. China, if they are tired of buying oil, can simply put the entire country onto bicycles in a matter of days, at the point of a gun. They have, if you combine N. Korea, 3.4 million troops, not engaged in an active war, and possess long range nuclear capabilities. China does have its own viable space aeronautics program.

We are no position to dilly dally with tariffs. However, there is another solution.

In the current free trade environment, there are two losers. The less obvious losers are those from developed economies who have the most restrictive laws. The obvious losers are the 3rd world poor who have no access to the free markets. The poor in developing nations have no access to the markets because they have few if any instruments of legal trust such as title rights to property, credit instruments, or savings security. Meanwhile, the 1st world nations must buy from nations like China who undersell our own labor and production lines owing to our highly evolved regulatory laws and the fact that China and countries like them can all but ignore these rules to benefit their bottom line. China can use conscripted slave labor to produce questionable products with methods which foul the planet's ecology, all at a bargain rate so that average consumers can't afford NOT to buy the goods. Sure, they will execute a government official that is so negligent that the entire world complains about the products, but beyond that public outcry, there is little oversight beyond what cash the communist government can rake in off our dependencies.

WHAT IF... we try another approach. It is in the business leaders' and government's best interest to alleviate a growing poor population's pains, and not through the misguided altruism of aid packages, but rather let's allow the "poor" full access to the capital markets for their own betterment. Given them the chance to improve their own status. It is also in our business leaders best interest to maintain a strong working middle class in developed nations.

In order to do we should pursue two courses of action:

In developing nations, we should provide clear means for the establishment of titles to property, credit access, and other basic laws that enable a trust based free market to occur.

In developed nations, instead of using misguided and poorly designed tariffs, we could instead target the companies in those countries. Any company selling into our own markets, for example, would have to demonstrate they make good faith attempts to match our own domestic legal standards. Since they are able to benefit by the lax regulatory environment in the countries in which they operate, and since the governments are unable or unwilling to change legislation so that the laws governing business and production reach a level in parity with developed nations, why not start a program modeled loosely after what Wal-Mart does with it's vendors? Wal-Mart has the power to compel it's vendors to make expensive and radical changes just to sell into the stores.

Is the USA less powerful than Wal-Mart? The US and the EU are the most lucrative consumer markets on the planet. The developed nations are the most lucrative markets for these goods, offering the highest retail prices. Anyone should be so honored as to be able to sell on these shelves. We should no longer maintain laws which allow for our own laws to be circumvented by outsourcing and imports. Our middle class is at risk. Our way of life is dying. Democracy will fade when the markets are not balanced and stable.

In order to be allowed access to these top end markets, a company would have to agree to a pre-determined code of corporate standards whereby they agree to end several practices that allow the disequilibrium to exist. These could range from putting a halt to child labor, installing smokestack scrubbers, or other similar policies that a business in the other country would have had to obey. Market's will correct themselves, either financially, or through wars, famine, and other negative social means.

The goals is to convince these companies to act in parity with the laws of the markets they are selling into. These measures can be introduced over a period of time, say 5 to 7 years. At the end of each year, the company would offer a report on it's website as to the progress achieved to reach these goals. At the end of the transitional period, if the goal is not achieved, then the company can not sell into the market without accomplishing the transition to parity. Given that their own government may at times prevent the company from achieving these goals, there would be the opportunity to appeal for one-two years provided Good Faith efforts are clearly demonstrable. In any event, these efforts would easily discernible by any auditor or investor, much less a regulatory official with a shiny badge.

These two courses of action would have two effects. The poor could participate. They would be enabled to actually sell among themselves and translate that value into the wider markets at their discretion. The countries that undercutting developed nations through what amounts to shirking the law in the other country, these countries would eventually find traction and direction for the legislative process to move towards a parity of basic set of interchangeable laws that the trading community agree must be in place to preserve stability of the trading markets.

In the absence of another economic policy solution, such as Socialism, Capitalism is the only remaining system available to the world. The question is not whether we are going to be capitalists, it is whether or not we want to ignite the remaining 80% of humanity with access to the markets. Be forewarned if we do not, those left out will find myriad ways to ruin the market system such as what we have been seeing these past 15 years. Without stability, the disenfranchised will find a locus of power to leverage to make their point known. When they do, the markets will be at risk.

A great resource I found is "The Commanding Heights- the Fight for the Global Economy", an amazing comprehensive view of the history of modern economics as it has evolved into the current era of free market initiatives. Everyone is in the series. Finance Ministers, Presidents, economists, protest leaders, union leaders, and whoever else has been battling on either side of the efforts. It is a must for anyone living in the global economy, which means all of us.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 Article: A weak dollar and the Fed

A weak dollar and the Fed
The New York Times
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Despite the Federal Reserve's latest stay-the-course message, investors are betting on at least one interest-rate cut by January, intended to quell turmoil in the markets and to juice the slow economy. But with the dollar also weak - recently hitting its lowest point in 15 years against an index of other major currencies - the Fed may be reluctant to oblige.

A declining dollar is a source of inflationary pressure because it can boost the cost of imports. So if the Fed tried to rev up the economy with a rate cut at the same time the dollar is falling, it could end up provoking even more inflation. That would be a drag on economic growth rather than a boost. In an extreme case, it could result in a toxic combination of weak growth and high prices that is a central banker's nightmare.

How did the Fed lose room to maneuver? The answer is rooted in the Bush administration's misguided economic policies.

Over the last several years, America's imbalances in trade and other global transactions have worsened dramatically, requiring the United States to borrow billions of dollars a day from abroad just to balance its books.

The only lasting way to fix the imbalances - and reduce that borrowing - is to increase America's savings. But the administration has rejected that responsible approach since it would require rolling back excessive tax cuts and engaging in government-led health care reform - both anathema to President George W. Bush. It would also require revamping the nation's tax incentives so that they create new savings by typical families, instead of new shelters for the existing wealth of affluent families - another nonstarter for this White House.

Stymied by what it won't do, the administration has gone for a quicker fix - letting the dollar slide. A weaker dollar helps to ease the nation's imbalances by making American exports more affordable, thus narrowing the trade deficit.

But to be truly effective, a weaker dollar must be paired with higher domestic savings. Otherwise, the need to borrow from abroad remains large, even as a weakening currency makes dollar-based debt less attractive. That's the trap the United States is slipping into today.

Among other ills, it could lead to a deterioration in American living standards as money flows abroad to pay foreign creditors, leaving less to spend at home on critical needs. Or, it could lead to abrupt spikes in interest rates as American debtors are forced to pay whatever it takes to get the loans they need.

In volatile economic times like now, leadership is crucial - and notably absent with this administration. Officials have made no effort to orchestrate a more coordinated and comprehensive realignment of the world's currencies, in part, it seems, because the administration is unwilling to have America do its part by saving more.

Until the administration - either this one or the next - is willing to acknowledge the source of the economy's imbalances, and starts addressing them seriously, the dollar is likely to remain weak. And the Fed's ability to maneuver will be constrained.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pet the dog, eat the cow: Our confused relationship with animals

My brother sent this article from The Philadelphia Inquirer. The article touches upon an interesting idiosyncrasy of humans and the animals we have stewardship over. Personally, I struggled with this issue about 7 years ago. After fouling up my system by following a poorly designed vegan diet, I concluded, for better or worse, that I am beef eater that somehow likes animals as well.

At the time, my uncle hunted. I asked him to teach me to hunt.Since I am to be a carnivore, I should at least appreciate what it takes to personally track, kill, prepare, and then eat the animal. It is an odd way of being able to look in the mirror and say "I now have more integrity because I don't simply consume factory produced flesh from a plastic bag." At least the animal I consumed had the luxury of living free and naturally until it crossed paths with my dinner plans. It should be mentioned that hunting, if performed in accordance with DNR regulations, is NOT shooting ducks in a barrel. It requires tons of time in the off-season tracking and studying the movement of the game you wish to hunt. One does not simply climb a tree one cold morning and expect a herd of deer to come by on schedule 30 minutes later and go home. You can spend days in the woods sitting quietly, having tracked your quarry, and they never emerge. As for poachers, which is basically anything that falls outside of the DNR regulations, there are enormous penalties and sentences. So you anti-hunters, rest assured the DNR is hell on enforcement and people go to jail all the time for violations. The game animals are far batter protected than the animals who provide the meat available in your grocery store. And since our ancestors exterminated all the predators, culling the herds are now our job.

It takes about 5 minutes of googling to find enough reliable information about factory farmed animals to nauseate and revile any normal person.
We have cruel testing practices on dogs happening right here in Atlanta in labs at Georgia Tech. When attempting to make a few changes with their circumstance, not even the local media batted an eye. Still, we bend over backwards to save one dog, while 3-4 million a year are euthanized because someone didn't bother to neuter/spay along the way, or someone was making a living running an awful puppy mill or raising dogs to fight.

Yet, we don't see volunteer groups rescuing a sow who has not touched the ground since being trussed up after having its first litter, being repeatedly re-impregnated and jacked up with every imaginable medication to speed the production cycle and enhance growth of the offspring. We do not see people turning their heads in disgust at the prospect of eating a lamb, which play organized games among themselves. Most people relish veal, the production of which is just a horrific practice. Would you lock your puppy up for 2-3 months in a pen with no light, then slaughter and eat it? No, but is is OK if it is a cow.

Then, one has to consider the inefficiency of the meat production cycle. A majority of effluent sewage contaminants and chemicals in the water supply result from all the run off from the treated fields, and the untreated sewage of the meat industry. The amount of grain required to raise on cow could feed somewhere around ten x the number of people with the grain as opposed to the resulting slaughtered meat.

The reality is these products taste good, fan our egos, and provide needed nutrition. Yet, as responsible people, it is good to consider where all of the bounty comes from, and what it had to endure to provide for our tables. For me, it means simply not overeating when it comes to meat, dairy, poultry, and fish. It means purchasing products from farms that respect the animals and not from corporate producers.

It means remembering to take full appreciation of the sentient entity that gave its life to give me sustenance and culinary enjoyment. It means learning how to prepare food to a higher level. After all if it died, one should make the very best of it possible. It is remembering to pray and thank the animal. Many native Americans do this.

Cherokees, when building a sweat lodge, would cut saplings for the lodge's construction. On the remaining stump, they would place a portion of tobacco, and thank the tree for giving of itself. Imagine a lumber company doing that!

Nonetheless, all living things are imbued with Spirit. When one fails to respect and honor Spirit, that can serve no good purpose.

Here is the article.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Benjamin Lynch <>
Date: Jul 28, 2007 9:33 AM
Subject: Pet the dog, eat the cow: Our confused relationship with animals
To: Bryan Grant <>

Pet the dog, eat the cow: Our confused relationship with animals
By Crispin Sartwell
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Article Last Updated: 07/27/2007 09:11:29 PM MDT

The Michael Vick dogfighting case, and all of the attention on dogfighting and its attendant practices, show one thing very clearly: As a society, we have no idea what we think about animals. We don't know how much we ought to take them into account, morally. We don't even know how to figure it out.
I watched cable news recently, and almost every anchor interviewed an official of the Humane Society, and all expressed horror, especially that Vick's indictment had accused him and his fellow defendants of executing dogs in ways apparently designed to be as cruel as possible: drowning, strangling, electrocution. One official compared the practice to child pornography.
Then I went into town for some lunch, driving past all of the franchises peddling ground cow for human consumption - the same ones you'll find on every American highway exit.
If killing dogs is the equivalent of child pornography, while eating cows is simply a way to put off mowing the lawn, we seem to be conflicted - or reeking with hypocrisy and confusion.
We have a set of intuitions, driven partly by our interactions with pets, that many animals can experience pain in a morally significant way, that they can suffer, or be used and degraded. Perhaps they have somewhat less of a claim on us than human beings do, but they make a claim.
But another set of intuitions is driven by our dietary habits or our experience of thumping squirrels and armadillos on the road: that an animal is little more than an inanimate object, and can be used in whatever way a human being sees fit.
Our moral evaluation of animals seems to vary with their proximity to ourselves - both their everyday interactions with us and their perceived similarity to us - so that by the time you're done attributing love, loyalty and inferential reasoning to your dog, you have recognized her as a de facto human being, a member of the family. It works both ways, and your dog recognizes you as leader of the pack.
Cows have big, sad eyes, but less personality of the sort that arouses our recognition. And these days, unless you're directly involved in the farming and food industry, your interaction with cows is limited to, let's say, the drive-through lane.
In practice, the moral claims of animals vary by species and track our sense of the animal's proximity - cognitive, emotional, physical - to ourselves. We become truly sentimental: We write memoirs with our dogs, talk baby-talk to them, let them lick our faces. But about other species we are as hard-nosed as possible. Essentially, we do whatever we feel like to them whenever we want.
But there is no rational justification for this distinction. Pigs aren't more stupid, or less emotionally complex or less capable of experiencing pain than dogs, but they seem to lack that certain something (well, all except Charlotte's Wilbur).
One might simply rest the problem with dogfighting on its effects on human beings - as in, "Dogfighting is debasing not to the pit bull but to the quarterback who participates."
But if we really believed cruelty to animals debased humans who participate, we'd have to accept that our massive, industrial-scale systems of cruelty to cows deeply debase all humanity.
If there were an argument for dogfighting, I suspect it would go like this: The dog is bred to fight; we admire its violence and participate in it; it is a primal and even noble enactment of our life here on Earth. Perhaps the dog would rather die than lose, like the world's greatest athletes or businessmen.
This resembles the animal-rights argument: It reads a dog's motivations as though they were human. But it has a different sense of what it means to be human.
We need to decide: (a) Do animals count? and (b) How, exactly, not as dwarfish, or four-legged, or stupid people, but as real things whose existence is, though connected to ours, profoundly external and different?
Until we grapple with these questions, our condemnation of Vick and our tender treatment of Beau the miniature dachshund are equally irrational.

CRISPIN SARTWELL teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. He wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Senator Saxby Chambliss: Oil exploration along the Ga Coast

Dear Senator Chamblis,

Thank you for your response to our letters about the exploration and extraction of oil along the Georgia Coast, the Outer Shelf being the chief parcel of my personal concerns.

Unfortunately, your position only focuses on the national energy security strategy as related to Oil and Natural Gas. Furthermore, this particular tactic represents little more than a reactionary short-term stop gap measure, rather than a well conceived plan to stabilize our nation. As I wrote to President Bush seven years ago concerning ANWR, I would have less of a problem with prospecting for oil in these sensitive areas so long as we are putting forth significant efforts to reduce our dependency on non-renewable fuels. Practically nothing has been done towards finding alternative ways to keep our country's energy supplies viable besides actually in creasing our consumption of oil by incentives consumers to purchase gas guzzling vehicles. Once an area like ANWR is exploited, we have to keep looking for our next fix like some mendicant drug addict, yet we have not invested in other means to alleviate our needs. We find ourselves back at square one, over and over again, compelle to make war to secure our economic interests.

As a nation, we have consistently failed to foster these alternative means to power our economy. Electric cars were removed from the roads (EV1), despite high levels of customer satisfaction, good vehicle performance, and very low emmissions from the actual vehicle. Hybrids cost more than regular cars to maintain and purchase, the hybrid credit falling far short of the price differential it was designed to offset. The farm vehicle credit was reduced, but you still get a hefty credit for buying a huge vehicle if you are an LLC. The farm vehicle credit is several time larger than the hybrid credit. The gas guzzler tax was completely repealed in 2005. The failure to regulate building material energy efficiencies and allowing a mushrooming housing market to build cheaply has over burdened our already over taxed utilities wasting our energy both in the time it takes to work long enough to pay the bills and in terms of the overall energy consumption. Our failure to secure global commodities agreements has left the door wide open; allowing China to pin down the resources we need, has placed our entire economic future in peril. This has lead to a $1.36/Euro from a $.83/Euro in 2001. We have all lost in real dollars about 39% of our former purchasing power. ( read why here) Meanwhile, the government has distracted us with an agonizing war that only benefits the companies who have the contracts to rebuild what is destroyed. Meanwhile, oil prices have significantly INCREASED since President Bush from the deck of the carrier declared, "Mission Accomplished". We have not necessarily reduced our exposure to terror. If buying fuel from countries who sponsor terror increases the threat of terror, then we are cutting our nose to spite our face.

Related to this matter, four years ago I wrote and submitted to the Icelandic Parliament a road map to a hydrogen economy based on their access to geothermal resources. They are well along into the actual deployment of this proposal and are reaping the benefits . Currently, I am working with a Utah based company that has already developed fuels systems that supplement fuel with Hydrogen to gain 20-30% mileage performance improvements, quad fuel vehicles (H2, Ethanol, NG, Unleaded), and the founder, Tai Robinson, is the first American to successfully drive round trip on Hydrogen only.This was accomplished nearly 4 years ago. (published Press Releases & Coverage)

The crucial mission for our nation involves energy security and economic sustainability. Your plan would only serve as a knee jerk addictive reaction which only make certain companies that sponsored certain political campaigns a little bit more profitable, yield minuscule amounts of crude to the national supply, and would certainly endanger our state and national treasures for the short term goal of energy exploration.

We have in our state of Georgia one of the leading think tanks for energy security. Mr. John Endicott is the Director for the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy at Georgia Tech's Ivan Allen College. The center hosts a regular series of presentations which are attended by the military as well as private sector individuals. You would find establishing a dialogue with this resource to be formative and provocative.

In closing, your position lacks the foresight necessary to stabilize the energy security of our nation. I call upon you to expand your view of what is possible and the economic growth our state and nation can experience by truly pursuing these alternatives. These alternatives are already proven to be functionally sound. We must, as with most public service related initiatives, legislate the adoption of these technologies on a wide scale so the investors can see fit to patronize this effort.

I invite you to explore these possibilities and deploy the power of your chair as a senator to building a stronger America.


Bryan "Beau" Grant
Convivia Group
Commercial Real Estate Broker
Skype: malacandra
SecondLife: Jebediah Raymaker
Google Chat: bgrantenator

Letter from Senator Chambliss:

Dear Mr. Grant :

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Department of Interior's initiative to boost oil and natural gas production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska . I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

High energy costs are hitting Americans in their pocketbooks due to supply problems with oil and natural gas. This plan will begin to alleviate our supply problems and provide us with greater independence from foreign sources of energy by opening up millions of acres for energy exploration.

According to the Department, the program could produce 10 billion barrels of oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over 40 years, generating almost $170 billion, in today's dollars, in net benefits for the Nation. The OCS is a vital source of domestic oil and natural gas for America , especially in light of sharply rising energy prices and increasing demand for these resources. This energy production will create jobs, provide greater economic and energy security for America and can be accomplished in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

I will continue to support an energy policy that will make our country less vulnerable to fluctuating gas prices by promoting renewable energy sources, developing alternative sources of energy like hydrogen, encouraging greater use of ethanol and biodiesels, and increasing domestic refinery capacity and domestic sources of fuel.

If you would like to receive timely email alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my web site at: . Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Geopolitics, China, and poisoned pet food.

In comment to Susan's thoughtful letter, a raw diet ( ) is great for those who have the time and income to manage it. It really does result in a very healthy pet. For those without the resources to undertake such an effort, Innova (below) makes a good alternative. Often overlooked are acupuncture and chiropractic for pets. Both are very useful, especially for athletic and/or arthritic pets.

The pet food tragedy takes home the point that global trade requires careful management and stewardship. eColi in spinach, bird flu, mad cow, rabbits in Australia.. this is not a new story, but this time it results from a country that has been granted every license to bend the rules for nigh on 30 years. It is time to revisit this relationship, assess the consequences or benefits experienced thus far, and speculate on the future fall out should we carry on the current course of trade policy.

Today in China, a bright ray of hope emanated to the world press. From China, where a student was run over by the tank in Tienanmen Square, where riots are quelled with real bullets, where labor issues are resolved with torture, jail time, and executions, I was simply amazed to hear the news. It was like the Dr. Seuss book where the highways were built over the two immovable protagonists (reference please?). A lone woman has protected her home from demolition for two years now.. in China. Hard to believe. I bring this to the fore, as the rest of this article would seem a bit grim without the inspiration of what can be done in the face of terrible odds.

While this tragedy has happened to our best friends, our pets, people may also wish to concern themselves about our trade involvement with China in general. There is not much stopping this same effect from happening to our human friends. The fact that our government allows China to sell products into our country while China artificially lowers its currency versus our own, is killing us. To further discount their Costs of Good Sold into our own markets, China gets huge breaks compared to the USA and Europe with the poor labor, legal, banking, and environmental controls. The Feb 27th market plummet is directly related to the poor framework for investments and reporting in China. Adding fuel to the bonfire, our own CEO's have even been identified as lobbying against improving labor standards in China, which directly contradicts the spiel we were being given last year in executive management school about globalization improving the status of workers and societies. Yes, the source is a bit liberal for my liking, but this is not about left or right spins on rolling pork barrels, it is about national security and global economic stability in the context of a "free" world. In many ways, I am optimistic about the result of outsourcing with India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and perhaps even Vietnam. China is another animal altogether from many perspectives.

One quickly sees why we are able to buy are Chinese goodies from places like Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot so cheaply. After all, China is the same country which sent between 7 and 9 divisions of troops over the frozen Chosin, where my grandpa McCarthy, being there shot twice, with Marine Fox company held the pass for the Marines retreat to the sea . Thousands of Chinese men and boys were sent to their deaths. The much smaller Marine force took heavy casualties, but held the pass owing to two main factors.. pure guts, and the Chinese sent their own in under equipped. For the Chinese, attrition is a fact of life. A few years ago, China relocated up to 1 .9 million people from their homes and obliterated the 3 Gorges, the cradle of their 5000 year heritage along with 11100 unstudied archaeological sites, for a power dam.

Invading Tibet, they forced pacifist monks to shoot each other, razed over 1800 monasteries, and raped whoever they could get their hands on. Anytime you think the US has "moral issues", just spend 5 minutes with google and read about China. You will feel a lot better about our own "quality". The "Great Wall" was built on 100% slave labor, and is a monument to human suffering, though that point appears lost to most visitors. China could easily, if it suited their national interests, and they are truly totalitarian communists, put their entire nation back onto bicycles within two weeks at the point of a gun.

China has the world's largest standing military at 2,840,000 soldiers, double our own, the second largest, at 1,200,000. We tend to publicly downplay North Korea's power, China's erstwhile ally. Yet North Korea, maintains the 5th largest at 1,055,000 troops and our troops actively engage them from our forward base at the 38th. Simple math shows us that a simple agreement between these two politically aligned neighbors would create a military 3.24x our own. As if they are not already large enough, they are taking all the money from the stuff we buy at "Wal-Mart/Target" and upgrading their infrastructure and have increased spending and have in effect destabilized the Asia-Pacific region as a result. Furthermore, they do not have to put up with a congress that can rein in the executive branch, much less parents and veterans that can sue the pentagon or camp at the president's ranch with TV reporters.

In other words, China has free reign to do whatever they please ( Index of Economic Freedom assessment) compared to our own free society. Never mistake that the bright lights you seeon CNNi in Shanghai are a baroque potempkin village that we have fostered for the past 30 years, in hopes that capitalism would win over communist ideology. Instead, we have financed the communist reinforcement of thier military powerbase, created a veneer of Chinese capitalism that is bankrupting industries in the US and Europe, have handed over the Panama Canal (security is managed by ex-Chinese military employer Hutchinson Wampoa LTD (the firm which congress tried to implicate with the Clinton Chinese campaign funds scandal), our shipping, energy, and materials rates have skyrocketed, and we with the UK gave them Hong Kong, one of the world's largest economies, on a silver platter. We even built them a $4b new airport and highway bridge as a parting gift.

We (the US as well as the free world) will be paying the piper and soon, given that in 2001 the Euro cost us $.83, and now it is around $1.47 for 1 Euro. To date, the Euro has gained 92% since 2001. Why haven't we felt the sting in terms of inflation? China has kept its currency pegged lower artificially and unilaterally. Our government, the politicians, has been well aware of this fact for at least 4 to 5 years. "so long as China maintains controls on capital outflows, runs surpluses on both the overall current and capital accounts in its balance of payments, and accumulates international reserves in large amounts, there is a compelling case that the Chinese currency, the renminbi (RMB), is significantly undervalued. Our preliminary estimates suggest that the undervaluation of the RMB is on the order of 15 to 25 percent...." China's Exchange Rate Regime Testimony before the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology Committee on Financial Services US House of Representatives Washington, DC October 1, 2003

We allow this to persist because according to the International Herald Tribune, "The slip in inflationary concerns can be traced, in part, to China, according to some analysts. A few months ago, investors were worried that a surge in commodity prices, reflecting demand from China's booming economy, would stoke inflation. Now the recent plunge in the prices of industrial commodities and China's ability to make low-cost goods that Americans like is seen as downward pressure on prices. " China has the bull by the horns and by the tail, and we are just waiting for the coup de grace.

China, as of 2002, became the second largest bond holder of US treasury Bonds. While contemporary thought comforts itself with the idea that China would never do anything to put its own investment at risk, that amount in 2002 was 1/4 of China's foreign exchange reserve. alone would wreck the US, and take Europe down with us shortly thereafter. Enter China to rebuild the world economy with its own version of the Marshall plan. Well if you want an example of how they rebuild economies, read up on how they "integrated" their brother Tibet in the 1950 and 1960's.

So, it is sad our fine and loyal friends had to be the first ones to catch the fallout of this imbalance of trade policy enforcement, but I am sure it is only the first round of events.

...back to the topic..
Meanwhile, a good alternative if you cant afford the raw diet, which is a great way to go otherwise, is Innova Evo. Nothing but good meat in it, and some good veggies. Costs about the same as Eukanuba but is a whole lot better for them.

Moisture 10.0 %
Protein 42.0 %
Fat 22.0 %
Fiber 2.5 %
Calories 1929 Kcal/lb
Calories 4243 Kcal/Kg
Calories 537 KCals/Cup
Turkey Meal
Chicken Meal
Herring Meal
Chicken Fat
Natural Flavors
Cottage Cheese
Alfalfa Sprouts
Dried Chicory Root
Rosemary Extract
Viable Naturally Occurring Microorgani sms

Click here to compare a competitor's product with information about Natura's Innova EVO Dog

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why Atlanta Can Ultimately Succeed

As a long time Atlanta native, I visited the zoo as a child, as did my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. Our family has seen the zoo evolve from an small offering to a medium sized zoo that rapidly became obsolete in the 70’s to restoration in the 80’s to a national level zoo. That it costs around $50 for 2 adults and one child to visit is an affront to my sensibilities, given that comparable zoos, like St.. Louis are even free. The zoo announced today they may wish to leave Grant Park. Why not use the money to build up a mediocre zoo, increase accessiblity, and reduce ticket prices? This mentality and lack of good sense is par for the course in our city.

Two other obvious locations have been discussed. Lakewood is a relatively dangerous area. Just ask anyone who has a steel cage around their AC unit next their house down there, or had their copper piping removed while on vacation. I have personally talked with officers on roadblocks to pick up would-be Johns and prostitutes at Cleveland Avenue one exit south. This is a regular and ongoing operation.

The other is Ft. Mac – with Bush’s increasing the troops, primarily in the Army, we may just see Mac being reopened. After all if was 2nd CenCom behind Cheyenne Mtn and the Pentagon. They have a lot invested in that facility. However, this might be a good spot, as it is easy to find off Lakewood Freeway, easy to secure, and does have at least one direct rail stop and another nearby. But this does not address the real matter of the 100's of millions it will take to relocate when the city desparately needs to fund basic services like Police cars, pensions, and firemen's salaries

The simple solution would be to maximize the space they have, propose an attractive garage facility along Boulevard that sinks into the slope so that the road elevation can only see the roof of the garage. Then on the roof, have tennis courts, inline hockey, pavilions, roller skating, or any number of fun offerings. Then open up the other lot to more handicap spots.

Given that the City of Atlanta is still not doing very well economically despite the past 3 years of operating in the black is a function of the city choosing to blow money on things it really could have reallocated more wisely elsewhere.

The area has a long history of political animosity and brinksmanship among the 15-20 municipalities. We also have a way of stopping in the race to pick up the Golden Apple, much like our namesake Atlanta did when she lost that fabled race. Shortsighted, reactionary, quick and dirty planning characterizes the majority of the decisions made at many levels of Atlanta area society. This is why Atlanta is footing the entire multibillion$ bill for the sewer repairs, which tripled our property taxes in 2003. Our ex-mayor was convicted of criminal fraud, but we could not muster a jury to deliver more than a slap on the wrist to him.

It is why the other counties will not let MARTA in. It is why we are top 5 in pollution and drive times, but continue to build 1950’s style subdivisions in East Bumble amplifying sprawl. It is why we are going to spend $billions on 27 lane I-75 expansion, farm it out for private management (Drexel Burham Lambert), but we cant even get a train to run from Atlanta to Athens to make the trip safer and cheaper for our children. God only knows how many kids have died on GA316 since the $4million rail feasibility study was funded for the Athens rail line in 1994. Give me $4m and in 6 months we would have a bar car, wifi on the other cars, and GT and UGA students designed stops along the way. "I never leave Atlanta without being amazed at the monumental screwups I see from the air," said [former Georgia governor Roy] Barnes (AB '69, JD '72). "If we neglect and allow nature to just take its course, we will become a state of strip malls and mistakes."

It is why there is only ONE interstate off ramp to visit Atlantic Station, which at that time was the nations largest development ($2.2B). The other approaches all require driving through a residential neighrborhood, literally. To drive to IKEA, the worlds largest at 360,000sf, you MUST go through a neighborhood. It is why Atlantic Station has NO STATION, though it is 200 yards from Amtrak, a joke of a station, and 250 yards from the MARTA rail line. Bankhead in the ‘hood has a multimillion dollar station with its own rail spur. Atlantic Station has a bus lane. Brilliant. IT is why MARTA never has serviced the Braves Stadium or the zoo, but it sure serviced Grady Homes. It is why I-20 was rammed through several otherwise vibrant neighborhoods, dividing them, and eventually destroying their values, while there was a viable corridor that runs along Dealk Avenue that could have linked Decatur, Atlanta, Avondale, Lithonia. and Stone Mountain. It is why you can’t even get out to Stone Mountain on the train. There are tracks, they are not in use, and still NO train.

We had trolleys until the late 40’s that ran from Union Point to Decatur, Downtown to Marietta Square. Today, gridlock, waste, frustration, and expense. No trolleys. No alternative means for anyone to get anywhere. Gridlock and hassle.

It is why we demolished the Atlanta Fulton County Statium where the Beatles played, and Hank Aaron hit his famous home runs. We could have had a world class level soccer team based in the stadium. At the center and cross roads of the entire city, it nothing more than a heat generating waste of a field with no other economic value than some parking fees. It is why the Georgia Dome is slated for demo in 2015 and we are going to enjoy a brand new one in 2016. It is why Mayor Franklin referred to the Beltline as the 100 year project, while Salt Lake City and Denver have discussed, master planned, and BUILT there own rail systems in the time we have been talking about doing it. It is why we have interstate billboards asking citizens to report Airport Corruption. It is why if you get a ticket by APD, you have only a hearing date, no time of hearing, nor location. Due process requires all three items be present. It is why Underground Atlanta is losing $7.5m/year, but GSU is spending $1B on new construction on student housing, and never even considered overahauling Underground as a residential area for students. All the bars are out of business there for the most part, and with World of Coke relocating to Centennial Park, there will be little reason for people to run the gauntlet of the street panhandlers to visit Underground. It is why the Zoo and the old and new Braves stadium are not serviced by MARTA rail, meanwhile in 1975, MARTA demo’s a huge chunk of the then viable Underground Mall, leading to its demist 3 years later.

It is why APS has the highest drop out rate in the region. It is why the test lower. I went to Northside High, and in those days it was pretty good (1985). Why did the city let it fall into the hands or cronies with their hands in the till? Good question.

So if the Zoo is going to move, and if it wants to move, no amount of comments on a blog are going to affect their decision much less determine whether the enormous expense would be better allocated on reinforcing there current position so they can increase access through lowered ticket prices and better educational experiences which it does lack except for the most basic informational signage.

My opinion is that Atlanta, despite all of this, still manages to overcome through strength of character, tenacity, and perseverance. We have good climate, clean water, abundant land, good roads, good hospitals, strong banks, and a vibrant business community. We have everything a city needs to grow like Kudzu! The only hinderance is our personal attitudes and the character of those we put in office. We really must take this city back into good management. Mrs. Franklin has done as good a job as could be hoped for, given the devastation she inherited from the Campbell administration. Let’s build on this capital, and in the next 15 years carefully decide how we build the world’s next great world-class city. We will need transit. We will need MUCH better schools. We will need cooperative mindset and unified development codes and standards. We will need third party independent audits of government processes and controls. We will need more referendums. In short, we need everyone who lives here to put aside their pettiness, find something to work on, and get moving.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reindeer Stuck in the Mud Santa was all dressed up and no place to snow.

A few years ago, I visited Rovaniemi Finland and Pyhatunturi, Europe's northernmost ski resort. It was summer. The aspens quaked, the sun did an odd route through the sky, and the weather was beautiful. We stayed in a log cabin, and had a grand time with the Italians in the next cabin.

Fast forward... to December 2006. I just came across an article about British tourists, who go there with their kids to do the authentic Santa Claus thing. Apparently, Santa Claus' legend emanates from near this town.

No snow. Not a flake. Some mud. Some slush. That is all the White Christmas, little Johnny and Jane Britain is going to enjoy in Finland this year. This.. in a place where the airport officials freely givespecial cold weather garments for tourists arriving ill-prepared to take on the brutal cold. You get a free suit at the airport. It is THAT cold..normally.

It's getting hot in here people!

Break out the shorts, hotdogs, and sun tan oil.. we were going skiing.

I had the idea to get a bunch of people I had just met during my Europe trip together, rent a chalet in the alps somewhere, and enjoy one of those epic ski adventures in Europe where the resorts are literally around 100 times larger than the ones here at home..

So I log in and start checking the snow stats... I thought my little snow checker app was malfunctioning.. 22cm here.. 33cm there.. seriously poor numbers...

It is so bad that below 1500 meters altitude, German and Austrian banks are no longer extending business loans to ski resorts. (BBC UK)

In Utah, when you get such a warm fall, usually it bodes well for January. Well all that common sense is obsolete. It has just blown in and kept on coming.. great for tourists.. bad news for the patrolers out there blowing the avalanches before you wake up in the AM.

Wengen, home of James Bond movies, world class ski events, and typcial swizz style skiing, has.. 5.8" inches total. Count 'em.. 5.8 inches. The summits at Kleine Scheidegg or Männlichen
both boast a whopping 50cm.. about 2 feet. Whoo hoo. *a-hem*.

Les Arcs.. known for high altitude skiing is just pitiful as well. at 2000m they have about 1.5 feet... TOTAL. They have a good historical chart of the snowfall month by month, year by year..
That should send you to bed with a globally warm fuzzy.

In any case, if you are a masochist.. just have fun with this Snow Reporter site hosted by Salomon.. one stop shopping for the global skier.

Meanwhile, I am going to mow the grass on the ski slopes.. just to say I could do it in January.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Heads in the sand. US versus the world in Global Warming

This is a quick one. I thought something was different when I was traveling. Folks in Europe take Global Warming and human causality as read.

We at home in the US are truly the march of the fevered and clueless., trucking around in our monster SUV's, taking up to $25,000 first year tax credits for vehicles OVER 6000 lbs GVW, during a war on oil and terrorism... and no one here seems to think they are unpatriotic for driving a gas guzzler. In fact, last year, the GAS GUZZLER TAX was repealed! (See my other blog entry..)

So.. here we are with our heads in the middle eastern sand... just waiting for the inevitable boot to connect with our proud rear-ends that are pointed sky ward.

Don't believe me, then believe the International Herald Tribune and Novartis.

Jes' the facts ma'am.

Question: When are we going to stand up and tell the emperor that he is naked and has no new clothes? Oh, I guess that would take some self-confidence and guts, something that boardrooms and local governments across the nation seem to be quite short on.

The funniest example of this is when people say I do not disagree with you but".. well if you do not disagree with me.. then say but, what the H are you doing? ;-) Just grow a sack and say what you feel and believe in!

We are fighting a war against terrorism. The power base of the terrorists is derived by money made from oil. Yet, we are actively finding "new and innovative ways" to increase oil consumption, find new fields to mine, and then wonder why the world thinks we are insane?

Ha ha. We are insane. EOF.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy New Year?

Well the new year is here. Two years until the US federal elections. (follow the donor money here) Significantly dim economic news. Worries of Global warming, Greenland's ice disappearing, chicken flu, and whatever else the news and media establishments can cook up to make folks more stressed out.

Slowing wages - one of our largest ongoing problems..

How our failing currency could snap back and hit the rest of the world..

And here is the mild mannered view of our Fed Reserve Chairman..

A great article about two opposite economic views of the illegal immigrants in the US.

And most Americans view themselves as secure because of the inflated values of their homes. However, once they figure out they can't sell the homes.. and the ARMs are coming due.. all that largess will quickly realign itself into a much grimmer picture.

And.. to top it off.. new home growth is slowing..

If you don't believe the links to the media, just go to the source data here.

Looks like it time to store some nuts, put on some midnight oil, roll up our sleeves and fix these problems..

Friday, January 05, 2007

Federal Government Drug Screens Welfare Recipients

Yes, actually I can easily imagine a big brother government handing out urine cups.

This posting was written in response to the following mailblast I recevied from a relative. Since the letter emanates from the CDC, then circulated all over the CDC, and then was forwarded to the non-government employee pulic, I can only presume CDC employees support this initative only to increase CDC budget demands thereby perpetuating their own version of welfare via a jobs program. Oops, the gloves came off. ;-)

From: Wes Ulrich
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2007 8:30 PM
To: Lou Ulrich; Steve Gosa; Gerald Honeycut; joe howard; DAVID HUFF; Chuck Barnwell; Aaron Blackwell; bonnie Bruce; Corey Cunningham; Fleming David; Jason Driggers; Garner, Jennifer (CDC/CCHP/NCBDDD); JEFF DUVALL
Subject: Just a thought

I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the Government distributes my tax money as they see fit.

This person fails to see that if the government was not doing that, he would not have his job to pay taxes on to begin with!

In order to hold my job I have to take a random urine drug test. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people that don't have to pass a urine drug test to get welfare or other public assistance.
If I have to pass a urine drug test to keep my job, shouldn't one have to pass a urine drug test to get public assistance? Please understand I do not have a problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do have a problem with helping people sit on their butt and do nothing.
Can you imagine the money the government would save if the people had to pass a urine drug test to get a public assistance or welfare check?

From a legal perspective, an employer's drug testing policy is based upon an "at will" model. In the absence of public lobbying or legislation to put a halt to drug screening, the existence of screening procedures is simply a voluntary requirement for work at a given company. Your decision to work for that company is VOLUNTARY, so your decision to undergo testing is also voluntary. The logic being that you could have possibly found a job where they do not screen. The reality is that MOST employers screen, so you really will not be able to find a job where they will not screen.

Personally, I view any form of proactive screening as an invasion of privacy. In Germany, for example, all of your personal data is sealed from any company, including marketers, credit cards, and the unsavory underworld of spammers. An "Opt-In" model, the public is protected by its own government against mining one's personal data and history. You are not even allowed to send mail to someone who has not requested to be contacted. Germans must feel that billboards and TV ads are sufficient to generate the promotional interest. Huge consequences exist for violators, including for the government itself.

Here, the public has been mostly silent, docile, and accepting of this practice which is essentially an "Opt-Out" model. The default status being you can be called, contacted, and spammed unless you proactively contact every possible source of data about you and inform them directly. For your convenience I have attached a legal letter for this purpose that almost always generates a call from the vendors who receive it. They also abide by it, which is the important bit. Logically, it follows that drug screening is also legally viewed as acceptable in the US. The basis for its legality stems from the idea that no one is forcing either party to enter into an agreement with one another.

It is quite another thing to allow the government to presume guilt and therefore enact screening protocols that can in effect to entrap all manner of other citizens in the very same net. If the ACLU would work on this sort of issue instead of dabbling in religious squabbles, I might actually respect them!

Habitual drug users have very good and affordable resources at their disposal to counter screening efforts. The drug abusers are pro's at skiving the tests. The tests are just a humiliating way for an employer to send a message to otherwise good employees. The unstated message being "Stay in step, obey the rules, we are watching you, and we can even check your fluids when we want to." How dehumanizing is that? Statistic research results do not support the argument that drug testing actually is effective in identifying habitual drug users and thereby preventing their hire. Testing is done so that if a company is sued related to the actions of an employee, they can demonstrate diligence to prevent such occurrences. At the end of the day, the tort lawyers do run the country.

The larger issue is just what does welfare really provide? Welfare in our country is a joke. I have been to the unemployment office. The placement services are weak at best. You get a fraction of your pay, and that for only a couple of months. An average middle manager who has been laid off takes, on average, 14 months to find another similar position.

There are those who can game the system and make some amount of money from graft, but one has to wonder why they bother. For if they are smart enough to do that, why not make more money gaming a more lucrative system? I guess there are more clever people than actually intelligent people.

When compared to other first world countries, our welfare system is about as bare bones, ruthless, and unforgiving as you can get. When traveling in Japan, and Europe, I heard Americans characterized as callous and irresponsible for allowing the deep poverty we all know exists here to persist. As a social experiment, I challenge anyone of you to try to live on the welfare equivalent income for two months. The mere thought seems impossible, so you get my point. It is not as if this is some gravy train to the good life.

France is a good example of what benefits our European counterparts enjoy. As a woman, you get 6 MONTHS paid leave for maternity. Try that in the US, and you would be fired by the third or fourth week. And we wonder why our kids show up at school with guns. French families get quality day care that EVERYONE uses, not just the so-called poor. You get access to a ton of classes for child rearing.

It is just a different culture than ours with very different societal values. They got bombed into oblivion during WWII. They have different way of dealing with things after that experience. For example on Dec 17th, 2006, a few tent manufacturers and the French government got together and provided tents to every single sans abri (homeless) person. Now when you walk down the Seine, you see North Face style tents all in a neat and tidy trashless row, zipped up tight against the elements of a European winter.

In Europe if you do want to work, you have a bus and train system that is reliable and runs on time. I challenge anyone one of you to work a job outside of 9-5 M-F and try to ride the bus to work. You would be fired in a week or two. If the employer found out that you ride the bus as your transportation to work, you would never have been hired.

How much with maintenance, gas, taxes, insurance, and maintenance does a car cost? If you are earning the average salary in Atlanta, which happens to be a whopping $28k/yr according to the ARC, that is a HUGE chunk of your income. Atlanta, by the way, is the lowest average income earning city of the 15 peer cities in the US. I wonder why so many people come to work here? I guess they neglected a bit of homework in selecting this city. By contrast, the Northeast US major cities and ALL of europe, you have public transportation that is actually a viable option for commuting. Then factor in at least $400-$900 for childcare for a 2-4yr child, all of a sudden you are on welfare or working for your credit card company.

This is a roundabout way of giving a full response to the idea that our government should be handing out piss cups to qualify welfare recipients. If the government can't even prevent people who can not find a job from gaming the welfare systems, then how can anyone expect them to be able to accurately manage drug screening of millions of welfare recipients. And the hidden danger is to regular people - maybe they will start screening for other things, marriage licenses, voting access, gun ownership, cell phone use, or whatever other issue du jour that can conjure up a political sporting event.

Freedom is neither free nor is it safe.

Ben Franklin - Those who desire security at price of freedom deserve neither. (loosely quoted)