Monday, August 31, 2009

Fire & Rain

Hurricane Jimena 155 mph sustained winds, just shy of being a Cat 5 storm.

Thanks NOAA for this diagram overview.
I hear the smoke is so bad they have health hazard warnings out for the air... smoke blowing all the way to Utah!
Stay safe folks. Thinking good thoughts for people dealing with fires & evacuations.
Be strong. Take care of your most important possessions-- each other!

Click photos to enlarge

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jumpin' Jimena- Hurricane season heating up

On the West Coast a monster storm is brewing- Hurricane Jimena has sustained winds of 140 mph-- a Category 4 Hurricane, that could jump to a Cat 5-- 156+ mph winds.
She is headed for Baja. Sounds like serious damage. The silver lining, may bring rains to fiery S. California & help put out the fires.

On the East coast, Tropical storm Danny is dancing along the U.S. coastline at 35 mph.
Hurricane Bill jaunted away, sparing us it's 135 mph Cat 4 wrath.


Watched the Memorial, Funeral and burial ceremonies of Ted Kennedy.
Such loving tributes to a man who spent a lifetime trying to better himself, and not only to be a public
servant, but care for all the children of his brothers, John & Bobby, whose lives were taken early & needed a father figure.
Even the biblical passage read @ the funeral mass referenced the passage that we are supposed to care for those in need. 
I hope his life's work softens the Senate's hearts to be inspired to honor him by passing a public option health care bill. 

Thank you, Ted Kennedy for your dedication and kind heart. You have inspired us to carry on.

Friday, August 28, 2009


From the CDC (U.S. statistics):

How many cases of novel H1N1 flu infection have been reported in the United States?

When the novel H1N1 flu outbreak was first detected in mid-April 2009, CDC began working with states to collect, compile and analyze information regarding the novel H1N1 flu outbreak, including the numbers of confirmed and probable cases of disease. From April 15, 2009 to July 24, 2009, states reported a total of 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection. Of these cases reported, 5,011 people were hospitalized and 302 people died. On July 24, 2009, confirmed and probable case counts were discontinued. Aggregate national reports of hospitalizations and deaths will continue at this time.

Week ending August 28~

Last week hospitalizations  7983 -------------472 additional hospitalizations

This week 8843-------------950 new hospitalizations

Previous Death toll 522--------45 people died of Swine flu last week
Current death toll 556 ------- 34 people died of Swine flu this week

War takes no Vacation....

Hat tip to Cindy Sheehan

August 26th, 2009 1:23 pmCindy Sheehan hopes to make peaceful splash

By Julia Rappaport / Boston Herald

VINEYARD HAVEN - Rabble rouser and peacenik Cindy Sheehan is jumping on the Obama vacation bandwagon. The activist, who made headlines when she protested in Crawford, Texas, during former President George W. Bush’s month-long vacation there in 2005, landed on the Vineyard last night to spread her anti-war message to Obama and the media.

Reached by phone from a Boston hotel as she prepped for her trek to the island, Sheehan said it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House - she’s not going anywhere. “First of all, I oppose the policies of the U.S. government in the Middle East. I have since before my son was killed,” said Sheehan, who lost her son in the Iraq war in 2004. “I opposed it when Bush was president and I oppose it now when Obama’s president.”

Sheehan, who has never been to the Vineyard before, said she is interrupting her own vacation for the trip, which will include press conferences, peace vigils and sailing excursions on what she’s dubbed, “SS Camp Casey.” Sheehan just came off a four-month, 36-city book tour for her 100-page “Myth America” and had intended to take all of August off. “But I decided that this would be a very good way to cut my vacation short,” she said. “To demonstrate to the world that there are still people in America who care about peace.”

Sheehan said she hopes her stay on the Vineyard will put the issue back in the spotlight. “No matter who’s president, we still have to keep our end of our democracy going,” she said. “Even though Bush is no longer in office, these policies are still continuing. In many areas, they’re escalating - the occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and now the horrible fightings in tribal regions. The killing of innocent people in the name of corporate welfare, or whatever this war is for, is certainly not about freedom or democracy or keeping us safe here at home.”

So what does the activist think about the presidents August vacation? “I think taking vacations is fine,” she said. “But what this country has to realize and what the Obamas have to realize is that while he’s taking vacation, devastation and heartache don’t stop. And also that so many people around the world and in this country can’t afford vacations, even if they have jobs.”

Sheehan said she wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a one-on-one with the president. “I never got the answer to my original question to George Bush,” she said. “What noble cause? And I’d like to ask Obama the same thing. You didn’t start these occupations, but what noble cause are you continuing them for?”

End Quote

I have to agree w Sheehan. Even though Obama announced in his campaign this is what he would do-  a surge in Afghanistan, he later said this action was to avenge 911. We can't ignore the suffering, death & destruction, and the very real expense that robs us from being able to fund health care, education, and a myriad of things, that would be better use of the money.

We have to break loose from the notion that we are always involved in wars, and have dulled our senses to it. These ongoing wars, are bankrupting our country both morally, and financially. 

Perhaps George Orwell said it best:

The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rest in Peace~ Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away @ age 77.
He did not live to see Universal Health Care come to America, and was not well enough to champion the cause recently.
Ted Kennedy did spend the last few years writing his memoirs, due to be released next year.
Thank you Ted, for your life's work, and for standing up for Civil Rights, Human Rights, Minimum Wage, and Health Care Rights.

One of my favorite Kennedy speeches---
Ted at the podium on the Senate floor "roaring" about Minimum wage.
If you have limited time tune in @ 4:35.

Wednesday tune

Jackson Browne ~ Doctor My Eyes

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pandemic Preparedness~ Work & School primer

So many businesses these days have very strict attendance policies. Point systems, or "incidents" are tallied, and a certain number of them will get you fired-- no matter if you are a top-notch star employee, and have an otherwise excellent work/attendance history. My workplace has such cut & dried, hard & fast rules & I have seen people get fired, even when they are actually being responsible, such as not coming to work with a highly contagious disease.
No matter. You breach the policy, without getting FMLA (family medical leave) medical documentation, you're fired.

This is a huge concern as we head into flu season, in the midst of a H1N1 Swine flu pandemic.
Literally, employees may be having to choose between life & a job, under these kinds of strict attendance rules.

The CDC has posted guidelines for Employers & Schools, that advise revising their policies to address the needs of those who are sick to take time off, and those who are at high risk (with other chronic medical conditions, and or compromised immune systems), to be allowed to take additional time off work, to avoid exposure, should an outbreak occur.

Will employers with these strict guidelines respond appropriately?

From the CDC Flu page:

Plan now to determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick workers, those who stay home to care for ill family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for these workers.

Actions Employers Should Take Now

Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan;
Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;

Have an understanding of your organization’s normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.
Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information;

Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;

Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close;

Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them;
Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts; and
Add a “widget” or “button” to your company Web page or employee Web sites so employees can access the latest information on influenza: and

Important Components of an Influenza Pandemic Plan

Be prepared to implement multiple measures to protect workers and ensure business continuity. A layered approach will likely work better than using just one measure.
Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed tools to determine if your employees are at risk of work-related exposures and, if so, how to respond - (click to see OSHA link).

Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, employers should visit the Department of Labor’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites. 

Allow employees to stay home if they are ill, have to care for ill family members, or must watch their children if schools or childcare facilities close.

Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), when possible, to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if local public health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple workers who may be able to work from home.

Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.

Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s response plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.

Plan to minimize exposure to fellow employees or the public if public health officials call for social distancing.

Establish a process to communicate information to workers and business partners on your 2009 H1N1 influenza response plans and latest 2009 H1N1 influenza information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.

Over the past several years, HHS, CDC, DHS, OSHA, EEOC, and other federal partners have developed guidelines, including checklists, to assist businesses, industries, and other employers in planning for a pandemic outbreak. Review these resources to assist in your planning efforts. 

In closing, some workplaces may be ill prepared to allow extra precautions during a pandemic. 
If your employer is already very strict about attendance, know that you may have additional rights to protect yourself & your job, during a deadly pandemic. 
Employees should not have to choose between caring for kids, or being severely ill, and worried about keeping your job. 
If you know you will need to be out for a while, cover your ass & apply for FMLA paperwork to care for you or your immediate family. 
No one needs to be worrying additionally, about losing your job while dealing with a medical crisis. 

They also have published guidelines for Schools ~
  Higher Education &  K-12. (click to get to the link).
Which also includes revising attendance policies, and allowing high risk employees & students to modify attendance accordingly. 

Of course this is all common sense & humane-- but let's face it, corporate workplaces & institutions sometimes fail to be humane and or use common sense. 

Know your rights!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Remember Harry & Louise?

The Harry & Louise ads were introduced in 1994 when the Clinton admin tried rolling out 
a public health care concept.
Here's Harry & Louise now ~

Here's the new 2009 version

The Original ad & some follow up:

U.S. Swine Stats

Week ending August 21~

Last week hospitalizations  7511 -------------1005 additional hospitalizations

This week 7983-------------472 new hospitalizations

Previous Death toll 477--------41 people died of Swine flu last week
Current death toll 522 --------45 people died of Swine flu this week

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Bob Dylan Wedding Song

Happy 22nd Anniversary Dear ~ & if there is eternity, I'll love you there again.....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Town Hall on Healthcare ~Lame in Lane County

One of 2 long lines to get to the Town Hall Meeting. 

I high tailed it out of work ASAP to get to the Health Care Town hall meeting. 
They had announced the night before, that they were moving the venues to bigger spaces. 
Ours was now to be held @ the Hilton Conference center. 
The lines of hundreds of people extended down two long halls and out the door and down the street by another block. 
There were lots of Police there both in Uniform & plain clothes. 

The Raging Grannies- a faction from Corvallis Oregon were there in the hallway singing their "socialist" songs, while donning extreme Granny garb-- big floppy hats w lots of flowers, aprons, canes, singing songs about why we don't have money for health care. 

I love the Grannies & hope to join their ranks some day. 

I just came out of the bathroom & they opened one set of doors. 
A crush of people went for the doors. Within the line were handicapped folks- in wheelchairs, with walkers, on crutches.... the first thing I noticed was they had no handicapped access to this meeting. An Older gentleman with a walker, & his wife were behind me, as the rest of the crowd
pushed their way in.  Can we make some space for this person to get in please, I called out. 
Folks did kind of yield & let him in. 
The cop at the door confirmed they have no alternate handicapped access in place. 

 What does that say about the state of affairs??? 
No thought was given to those with disabilities ~ at a Health Care Town Hall Meeting!


Anyway people filtered in & in this Blue State liberal College town,  it was a solid majority of pro public option, and some maybe 30% of the brainwashed.  One lady even stood up &  mentioned she got her info from Fox Snooze.... there was a low groan from the majority in the room. Her wisdom included the fact people just need to eat right & exercise more. I got the impression she was pretty much tuned out once she mentioned  "Fox", and "News" in the same sentence. 

Get the hook!
Her Fox based (forget the FACTS, just FOX??) theory may have a glimmer of truth, but it falls flat on it's face when you are talking about major, chronic, expensive diseases. Go tell the kids fighting for their lives in the Cancer ward, or the family in medical bankruptcy, struggling to pay for a lifesaving surgery the insurance company will not pay for, that they need to change their diet to make everything alright?

There was a guy who was hung up on abortion, and that was his entire focus. 
Guess what Sir-- bringing a baby into this world who will not have health care coverage is a topic you probably never considered. Preemies can become million dollar babies in short order, if they have an early or complicated birth. That is a huge fundamental rift I have with the anti-choice people, all they care about is *having babies*, they do not care about what happens to them after they are born. 

They gave people tickets for a chance to speak in a lotto- but people did not know what they were for--they were just handed a ticket as they walked in the door. 
 so when DeFazio started calling out numbers.... people were not raising their hands to speak... to claim the ticket. 
We wasted a bunch of time with the dead air lotto.... and when people said I have a question, they were refused, because he found sticking with the ticket system worked best. 
Yea~ pretty easy to call out numbers, and not have questions asked. WTF???

Meanwhile, 300 to 400 people, Mr. Ramblings included had, as he put it, had "the doors of democracy closed" on them.  They had reached the 1200 capacity for the room & no one else could enter the room unless someone left the room. Not only are people locked out of healthcare, but they are locked out of the healthcare meeting. Damn!
Many opted to talk amongst themselves & hold signs by the road. 

I never got to ask my questions. 
Nobody else brought up the items I wanted to address. 
For a time, when the meeting stalled calling out lotto speaking numbers 70% unclaimed....
I thought of just having a verbal outburst-- knowing full well I would get thrown out, but at least the important topics would be mentioned. 

What I would have said, if I could have spoken:

• Mr. DeFazio-- I understand health care is expensive and cuts must be made in order to afford it. Might I suggest the WAR BUDGETS  be cut.  A trillion Dollars could have purchased a decent health care program.
(Nobody-- not one damned person brought up War spending  the entire meeting--although Wall Street bailouts were mentioned. Also DeFazio has never turned down war funding.... because he "supports the troops".)

• I have serious concerns about Ethics, and conflicts of interest. With the Health care industry profiteers & Big Pharma stuffing the pockets of Congress with millions of dollars, how can they be impartial voters on the matter, and how can families in medical bankruptcy, and those struggling without any health care compete?
 Why are we allowing it on this very important subject?

I wanted to use word *prostitution*... because certain members of congress sure seem to be whores taking the money from big biz johns. 

Overall, the meeting was too tame. Too anemic. Too civilized. 
Not that I wanted rude yelling, but people who had questions at the ready-- fire in their belly, if you will, were not allowed to speak. 
There were a few huge signs with the NoBama & the killing Granny rhetoric.... mounted on large sticks.... I was surprised those were allowed into the meeting - large signs with sticks could become weapons.

So frankly-- I thought the meeting sucked. 
We all sat politely and listened to some lame assed questions. 

 House Rep DeFazio was even able to pull some slick rhetoric- a few days ago saying he would not state where he stands on the topic until he sees the final version of the bill. 

OK, I understand you won't sign off on a watered down bad bill. 

But have enough spine to get off the fence. 
Either say you will fight for a public option, or you are opposed. 
Cut the bullshit & take a stand. 

Maybe HIS pockets are full of industry payoff $$ too???

There was another Town Hall meeting in the next town- which I am guessing would probably be more lively- more wingnuts & red leaning talk radio types. 

One meeting was all I could take (and not being able to speak, when number after number was called with no response). 

So I guess the moral of this story.... is it is all about the numbers. 
Money for war
No money for healthcare
Money flowing into Congress to buy votes
A democratic majority in both houses, struggling to come even close to getting it done. 
Just like the meeting itself- more people in need of healthcare, being shut out & left in the streets to fend for themselves. 

The whole process seems adrift at sea. 
People are literally dying for health care, and someone echoed the talking point...
What's the hurry?

Overall it was Lame in Lane County.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary Woodstock

Really~ What can I say about the epic concert? Take a stroll down memory lane......

The Set Up

Fortunate Son ~ Woodstock Retrospective

Janis Joplin~ Piece of my Heart

Canned Heat ~ Woodstock Boogie

Richie Havens ~ Freedom

Arlo Guthrie~ Coming into Los Angeles

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swine Check....

As of Aug 14, 2009:
Last week hospitalizations  6506 -------------992 additional hospitalizations
This week 7511-------------1005 new hospitalizations

Previous Death toll 436--------83 people died of Swine flu last week
Current death toll 477--------41 people died of Swine flu this week

The CDC changed their widget link to the Know What to do about the Flu focus...
It has tips & info

But you can still access the weekly update at the CDC website.
Click on the U.S. map on the right  to get the weekly update stats. 

Know What to Do About the Flu

Drawing of a boy with a thermometer in his mouth
  • Cover your cough
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hrs after that fever has ended
  • Get a vaccine when it becomes available

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Got Health Care Insurance?

Right now, we have no system.
We have 52 million Americans without health care coverage.
We have For Profit Insurance companies tending to their profit margins.
The way they profit is by taking your money, and limiting what they will cover.
You can be excluded from coverage because of a medical condition (i.e. the people who need medical care the most are denied access).
In most cases, not having access to basic care results in more acute care/trauma at a much higher cost.
At any point your health care coverage can go away- with a job loss, or even if you have a major catastrophic disease or condition that "maxes out" the limits of coverage.

60% of bankruptcies are Medical Bankruptcies-- CNN:
Most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners, according to a report that will be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
"Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country," says lead author Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Mass. "If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that's the major finding in our study."

Three-quarters of people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance

I'm quoting Blogger Nonnie on this easy to understand public option explanation:

It's really not that difficult to explain to people why a public option is a good thing:

1. if you lose your job, you will still be covered.

2. if you have no insurance now, you will be covered.

3. if you have a preexisting condition, you will be covered.

4. you will not have to declare bankruptcy and lose everything you have, if you get sick.

5. if you have insurance that you like, you can keep it.

We are being screwed by profiteer insurance companies.
So many people have no coverage-- but even the people who do have coverage, the so-called lucky ones, as Michael Moore called them in his movie SICKO, the coverage is iffy and spotty. Who amongst us has not seen work Health Care Insurance be a roller coaster of exceptions, exclusions, addendums, and a whole lot of fine print gobbeldygook, that basically boils down to a long list of what they will NOT cover.
This lengthy list of exclusions is often coupled with higher premium costs, co pays, and out-of-pocket costs.

You pay more for the coverage.
You pay higher co pays
and then you get an additional percentage of the original bill, the insurance did not cover.

It's like the insurance company says- let's split the bill 50/50.

That's coverage?

The irony and absolute tragedy is, for 52 million Americans- that would be an UPGRADE.

I cringe to hear the calamity of contrived uproar from the wingnuts.
Conjuring up visions of death panels.... deciding who could live under an *evil* socialized health care plan.

Guess what? We have death panels by default now- people are literally dying for lack of health care coverage.

All that clamor is choreographed by those who stand to lose big profits by the people uniting together & demanding better coverage.

Bottom line: Amidst all the noise & confusion-- Do you hear the GOP offering any serious alternative plan???

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday meditation

Something for your Monday ~ time to meditate & de-stress

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Joni~ Blue

Joni's song Blue sung by Sarah McLaughlin

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Swine Flu update

Keeping an eye on the United States Swine Flu statistics...

Week ending 8/7:

Last week hospitalizations 5514
This week hospitalizations  6506 -------------992 new hospitalizations

Previous Death Toll 353 (51 died the week of 7/30)
Current Death toll 436-------------------------83 people died of Swine flu this week

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting personal

President Obama visited Elkhart Indiana this week. Elkhart's lifeblood was built around the RV industry. When Monaco Coach began shutting down plants last year, the town was devastated. 
It was the textbook example of the domino effect of the full impact of a recession. 
As the company went from lay offs to massive terminations, they entirely shut down operations, and eventually filed for bankruptcy. 
Not only did the jobs vanish, but the health care went with it too. Next the small businesses in the area began to have to downsize, or they too went out of business. Foreclosures followed. 

Here is a clip from Obama's visit:

I know this story too well. We were involved with the "other" plant in Oregon. 
2,200 workers were laid off, then, a few months later received termination notices in the mail. 
The plug was pulled on the Healthcare without notice. Our family just emerged form the main wage earner being out of work for 6 months. 

During that time, Monaco filed for bankruptcy, and was purchased by Navistar. It has now reopened it's doors, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar.  They started out with a skeleton crew-- Monaco in Oregon had been cranking out approximately 35 Coaches a week, plus towables. For now they are making two coaches a week. They are slowly ramping up their production. Mr. Ramblings was fortunate enough to be called back to his job in June. 

It is very encouraging that the Obama administration is kicking in money for industries to get electric/hybrid vehicles & support structures up & running. It's good on the environmental front, and it is good on the employment front. 

Also- my fifteen year old vehicle that suddenly began to literally fall apart (yes not having a driver's side windshield wiper tends to be an issue in a downpour while driving on the freeway at higher speeds), really needed to be replaced. Just when it began to genuinely need repairs that exceeded the value of the vehicle itself, the Obama administration rolled out the Cash for Clunkers program. I know it is a narrow set of qualifying rules, but as luck would have it, ours was a bona fide Clunker. If that $ was not available, we would not have purchased a new car. 
Which is a scary endeavor, but will likely be an excellent investment in the long run. We went for the full 10 mpg (remember those new fuel numbers are not calibrated the same, so they are even getting better mileage than posted).  I have been driving the car for 2 weeks, and still have a 1/2 full tank of gas. 

These programs do not help everyone, and in the big picture, there is still so much more to resolve-- but my point is they are making a difference, and we have to start somewhere. 

The fact environmental issues are not just on the table, but actions are being taken to move forward, and give incentives to address & remedy long term problems. 

There are so many daunting issues, and problems in every direction that this administration inherited. It is easy to criticize and complain. 

These pilot programs ARE making a difference, and have personally had a positive impact on our lives. 

You might say I'm looking at the tank as *half full*. 

Judging Sonia

Congratulations Sonia Sotomayor~ for your confirmation as newest kid on the block on the Supreme Court.  Justice Sotomayor is an historical pick, as she is the third female justice, and the first Hispanic person on the high court. 

More than 1/2 the U.S. population is female, but the supreme Court has been predominantly male- and white. 

It's refreshing to see diversity at the highest levels of the various branches of Government. 

Our newest Lady Justice once lived in the housing projects in the Bronx. 
Sotomayor later graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to attend Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal. 
You've come a long way, baby------------------------------------------->
Baby photo of Sonia

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Going Postal

The United States Postal Service is about to get stamped *INSUFFICIENT FUNDS*. 
The USPS stands to lose about $7 BILLION dollars this year. 

One remedy would be to shut down Post Offices that are too close to other locations. 

Here is the proposed hit list of Post Office closures (scroll through it because it is by region, not just alphabetical order).

Another cost saver would be to deliver mail 5 days a week, instead of 6. 

We could take a clue from our neighbors to the north. 
Canada Eh?

Every business day, Canada Post provides service to 14 million addresses, delivering 40 million items. Delivery takes place via traditional "to the door" service by 15,000 letter carriers, supplemented by approximately 6,000 vehicle routes in rural and suburban areas, and truck delivery of parcels in urban areas. There are 6,800 post offices across the country.

Canada delivers mail FIVE days a week. 
Can the U.S. handle dropping Saturday mail delivery??

The United States Postal Service employs over 760,000 workers, making it the third
largest employer in the United States, after the United States Department of Defense, and Wal-Mart.
 It operates 32,741 post offices and locations in the US. In August 2009 the Postal Regulatory Commission put forward a preliminary list of about 1000 it is considering closing to save money. Its employees deliver mail at an average yearly cost of $235 per residence as of 2009.

The USPS operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world, with an estimated 260,000 vehicles, the majority of which are the easily identified Chevrolet/Grumman LLV (Long-Life Vehicle), and the newer Ford/Utilimaster FFV (Flex-Fuel Vehicle), originally also referred to as the "CRV" (Carrier Route Vehicle), as shown in the pictures below. In an interview on NPR, a USPS official stated that for every penny increase in the national average price of gasoline, the USPS spends an extra $8 million to fuel its fleet.
 This implies that the fleet requires some 800 million gallons (3.03 billion liters) of fuel per year, and consumes an estimated fuel budget of $2.4 billion, were the national gasoline price to average $3.00. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Censorship Circa 2009

Remember the movie Good Morning Vietnam?
A great Robin Williams film, meant to portray the real story of Adrian Cronauer, sent to Vietnam to improve morale by doing a radio show for the troops. 
There is a part of the movie where Cronauer witnesses the aftermath of  Claymore mine shrapnel devices, at a local restaurant, and the honchos tell him he can not report the incident. 
He gets on air & says "According to the military, absolutely NOTHING happened last night."

Here is a clip of the REAL Adrian Cronauer talking about censorship in the military:

I am bringing all this up because today the Marines, according to WIRED magazine, has banned social networking. 

"The U.S. Marine Corps has banned Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from its networks, effective immediately.

"What we can't do is let security concerns trump doing business. We have to do business... We need to be everywhere men and women in uniform are and the public is. If that's MySpace and YouTube, that's where we need to be, too," Floyd said.

The Marines say they will issue waivers to the Web 2.0 blockade, if a "mission critical need" can be proven. And they will continue to allow access to the military's internal "SNS-like services." But for most members of the Corps, access to the real, public social networks is now shut off for the next year. "

In classic Government/Military style, while the Marines put a 1 year BAN on social networking capability... the Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook. 

When all else fails, manipulate the data. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Change

From Z Net- Written by By Dahr Jamail 

Search & Avoid

Writing on his blog from Baquba, Iraq, in September 2004, Specialist Jeff Englehart commented: "Three soldiers in our unit have been hurt in the last four days and the true amount of army-wide casualties leaving Iraq are unknown. The figures are much higher than what is reported. We get awards and medals that are supposed to make us feel proud about our wicked assignment..." 

Over the years, in response to such feelings, some American soldiers have come up with ingenious ways to express defiance or dissent on our distant battlegrounds. These have been little noted in the mainstream media, and when they do surface, officials in the Pentagon or in Washington just brush them aside as "bad apple" incidents (the same explanation they tend to use when a war crime is exposed). 

But in the stories of men and women who served in the occupation of Iraq, they often play a different role. In October 2007, for instance, I interviewed Corporal Phil Aliff, an Iraq War veteran, then based at Fort Drum in upstate New York. He recalled:

"During my stints in Iraq between August 2005 and July 2006, we probably ran 300 patrols. Most of the men in my platoon were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan and morale was incredibly low. Recurring hits by roadside bombs had demoralized us and we realized the only way we could avoid being blown up was to stop driving around all the time. So every other day we would find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapon caches in the fields and everything was going fine. All our enlisted people had grown disenchanted with the chain of command."

Aliff referred to this tactic as engaging in "search and avoid" missions, a sardonic expression recycled from the Vietnam War when soldiers were sent out on official "search and destroy" missions. 

Sergeant Eli Wright, who served as a medic with the 1st Infantry Division in Ramadi from September 2003 through September 2004, had a similar story to tell me. "Oh yeah, we did search and avoid missions all the time. It was common for us to go set camp atop a bridge and use it as an over-watch position. We would use our binoculars to observe rather than sweep, but call in radio checks every hour to report on our sweeps." 

According to Private First Class Clifton Hicks, who served in Iraq with the First Cavalry from October 2003, only six months after Baghdad was occupied by American troops, until July 2004, search and avoid missions began early and always had the backing of a senior non-commissioned officer or a staff sergeant. "Our platoon sergeant was with us and he knew our patrols were bullshit, just riding around to get blown up," he explained. "We were at Camp Victory at Baghdad International Airport. A lot of the time we'd leave the main gate and come right back in another gate to the base where there's a big PX with a nice mess hall and a Burger King. We'd leave one guy at the Humvee to call in every hour, while the others stayed at the PX. We were just sick and tired of going out on these stupid patrols." 

Saying "No" One at a Time 

"There was nothing to be done," Corporal Casler says of his time in Iraq, "no progress to be made there. Dissent starts as simple as saying this is bullshit. Why am I risking my life?" 

Sometimes such feelings have permeated entire units and soldiers in them have refused to follow orders en masse. One of the more dramatic of these incidents occurred in July 2007. The 2nd Platoon of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in Baghdad had lost many men in its 11 months of deployment. After a roadside bomb killed five more, its members held a meeting and agreed that it was no longer possible for them to function professionally. Concerned that their anger might actually touch off a massacre of Iraqi civilians, they staged a quiet revolt against their commanders instead. 

Kelly Kennedy, a reporter with the 
Military Times embedded with Charlie Company prior to the revolt, described the shape the platoon members were in by that time: "[T]hey went right to mental health and they got sleeping medications, and they basically couldn't sleep and reacted poorly. And then, they were supposed to go out on patrol again that day. And they, as a platoon, the whole platoon -- it was about 40 people -- said, 'We're not going to do it. We can't. We're not mentally there right now.'" 

In response, the military broke up the platoon. Each individual involved was also "flagged" so he would not get a promotion or receive any award due. 

To this day, troops in Iraq continue to be plagued by equipment and manpower shortages, and work long hours in an extreme climate. In addition, their stress levels are regularly raised by news from home of veterans returning to separations and divorces, and of a Veteran's Administration often ill-equipped and unwilling to provide appropriate physical and psychological care to veterans. 

While no broad poll of troops has been conducted recently, a Zogby poll in February 2006 found that 72% of soldiers in Iraq felt the occupation should be ended within a year. My interviews with those recently back from Iraq indicate that levels of despair and disappointment are once again on the rise among troops who are beginning to realize, months after the Obama administration was ushered in, that hopes of an early withdrawal have evaporated.

The IRR  [Individual Ready Reserve]  is composed of troops who have finished their active duty service but still have time remaining on their contracts. The typical military contract mandates four years of active duty followed by four years in the IRR, though variations on this pattern exist. Ready Reserve members live civilian lives and are not paid by the military, but they are required to show up for periodic musters. Many have moved on from military life and are enrolled in college, working civilian jobs, and building families. 

At any point, however, a member of the Ready Reserve can be recalled to active duty. This policy has led to the involuntary reactivation of tens of thousands of troops to fight the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, the Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, told Congress on March 3rd that, since September 11, 2001, the Army has mobilized about 28,000 from the Reserves. There have been 3,724 Marines involuntarily recalled and mobilized during that same period, according to Major Steven O'Connor, a Marine Corps spokesman. (According to Major O'Connor, as of May 2009, the Marines are no longer recalling individuals from the IRR.) 

Ironically, under a new commander-in-chief whom many voters believed to be anti-war, the Army is continuing its Individual Ready Reserve recalls. "The IRR recall has not seen any change since Obama became president," Sarah Lazare, the project coordinator for Courage to Resist, says. "It's difficult to predict what the Obama administration's policy will be in the future regarding the IRR, but definitely they haven't made any moves to stop this practice." 

Needing boots on the ground, according to Lazare, the military continues to fall back on the Ready Reserve system to fill the gaps: "Since these are experienced troops, many of them have already served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan." Lazare adds, "When Obama announced his Afghanistan surge, we got a huge wave of calls from soldiers saying they didn't want to be reactivated and to please help them not go." 

The Future of Military Dissent 

Right now, acts of dissent, refusal, and resistance in the all-volunteer military remain small-scale and scattered. Ranging from the extreme private act of suicide to avoidance of duty to actual refusal of duty, they continue to consist largely of individual acts. Present-day G.I. resistance to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan cannot begin to be compared with the extensive resistance movement that helped end the Vietnam War and brought an army of draftees to the point of near mutiny in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, the ongoing dissent that does exist in the U.S. military, however fragmented and overlooked at the moment, should not be discounted. 

The Iraq War boils on at still dangerous levels of violence, while the war in Afghanistan (and across the border in Pakistan) only grows, as does the U.S. commitment to both. It's already clear that even an all-volunteer military isn't immune to dissent. If violence in either or both occupations escalates, if the Pentagon struggles to add more boots on the ground, if the stresses and strains on the military, involving endless redeployments to combat zones, increase rather than lessen, then the acts of Agosto, Bishop, and Shepherd may turn out to be pathbreaking ones in a world of dissent yet to be experienced and explored. Add in dissatisfaction and discontent at home if, in the coming years, American treasure continues to be poured into an Afghan quagmire, and real support for a G.I. resistance movement may surface. If so, then the early pioneers in methods of dissent within the military will have laid the groundwork for a movement. 

"If we want soldiers to choose the right but difficult path, they must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they will be supported by Americans." So said First Lieutenant Ehren Watada of the U.S. Army, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse a combat deployment to Iraq. (He finally had the military charges against him dropped by the Justice Department.) The future of any such movement in the military is now unknowable, but keep your eyes open. History, even military history, holds its own surprises. 

Dahr Jamail has reported from Iraq and writes for Inter Press Service, Le Monde Diplomatique, and other outlets. He is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and the forthcoming book The Will To Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Coalition Military Fatalities By Year and Month~ Afghanistan



VP Joe Biden had said when they do the surge in Afghanistan, they expect to see an uptick in casualties. Unfortunately, he was right, as July 2009 has the largest coalition death toll since they began the Afghanistan war in 2001. We don't hear much news about it- that other war- it is almost like a black out on news from Afghanistan. We hear random updates about violence in Iraq. As the Iraq war winds down, the Afghanistan surge winds up. 

The following are IRAQ Statistics

U.S. Military Deaths By Year/Month

View Graph: U.S. Fatalities By Month/Year

Self inflicted Fatalities

Fatalities - Self InflictedArmyNavyMarinesAirForceTotal
Died of Self-Inflicted wounds1544261185

185 soldiers were so distressed by the traumatic reality of War, they committed suicide. 

I never thought the Afghansitan surge was a good idea. 

Openly announcing it in presidential campaigns gave Afghanistan a very pubic heads up to ready for the surge, and roadside bombs continue to plague the troops in a very different, harsh & rugged geography, and few roads. 

What the troops endure is beyond imagination, but it is also these war budgets that prevent us from doing better things... like having money for health care.