Archive for January, 2010

Terrorism and privacy

January 26, 2010

Took me a while to get around to this, but it’s been percolating through the dark recesses of my troubled mind for some time now.  You have all heard of the Christmas Day Panty Bomber.

I don’t get it.  Since 9/11 there can be no doubt that the government is snoopy snooping to a greater degree in each of our lives.  If we fly we need to take off our shoes and belts.  I couldn’t even carry a little Swiss Army knife into my state capital.  You know the gubmint is capturing, tracking and analyzing all of our banking, phone, credit card and Internet activity.    Anyways, I feel as though the government is imposing itself into private aspects of my life since 9/11.

So the father of the Christmas Day Panty Bomber actually called up the authorities to alert them.  U.S. government officials tell The Associated Press that the Nigerian man charged with trying to destroy a jetliner came to the attention of U.S. intelligence in November when his father went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to express his concerns about his son.”

I just don’t get how if the government is collecting all of this information, our privacy is being diminished, we’re being watched and taped more often and more inconvenienced rather than less, how they let this guy get on board a plane.  I mean why the hell do we put up with Big Brother getting bigger every day, week and year if there if there is no benefit in it for us.   I want to know what the hell they are doing with all of this information that they are collecting if they can’t even use it for its intended purpose.   I know the government has infiltrated meetings of peace activists.  Maybe the information is being used to track political enemies or for commercial gain.  One thing for sure though, it doesn’t seem like it’s making us any safer.  When one is looking for a needle in a haystack I never got the point of making the haystack insurmountably large.  Privacy, with the ease and speed that information is transmitted,  is too easy to destroy.

Why do we stand for Government trespasses?

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. B. Franklin, 1759

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!!

It’s that time of year.  It was a beautiful weekend.  Saturday was cold, dry and sunny so there was maybe an inch or two of fresh snow on hard pack.  Sunday was 40 or so so the snow was all soft like mashed potaters.    I like skiing abandoned ski areas.  I like skiing through trees.  I like to walk up and ski down.   This is a picture of the trail where the t-bar used to run.  You can see the big rusty old pole with the wheel at the top that the cable used to run along.   The trail is a bit overgrown.  This trail is maybe five feet wide and, trust me, it is much steeper than it looks.  In fact if you don’t ski you may not even be able to see a trail running straight down the hill.  This truly was first tracks, not even footprints.

And here is another nice trail.  I am always literally dumbfounded that I hardly ever run into anyone else when I am recreating in the out of doors.  If you ski you gotta appreciate how nice this trail is.    If you look at the horizon you can see massive office buildings and neighborhoods of houses.  Amazing to find hidden little jewels like this in the center of suburbia.  There were some footprints, but I was the first person to carve some turns.

And there is not a less crowded , better or cheaper ski trail in all of New England.  So for your own mental and physical health GET OUTSIDE EVERY DAY!!!


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Healthcare and the big senate race

January 20, 2010

Well by the time you read this we’ll know who won the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

I don’t get it.  Healthcare is broke.  Maybe not healthcare, but the way it is administered and paid for.  Personally, I believe that at a minimum we should have a public option.  I would really like to see universal coverage.  I think it would save money.  Imagine if all the the capital being drained out of the system by for-profit providers was instead funneled into patient care.

I hate insurance companies.  Do you think that a for-profit insurance company’s interests and your interests are congruent? I’d propose that they are not.  I’d like to see the profits used for care.  That’s just me though, evidently, as every time the Democrats try to address the issue, the other side, Republicans, are able to put the scare of change into American voters and derail change.

So I saw that Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown may pull out an upset victory for Ted Kennedy’s old seat over his rival  Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.  I don’t like either one of them.  I don’t think he is bright enough to be one of 100 in charge of such things as the tax code, making law and treaties and judicial appointments.  I think he is way over his head and not ready for prime time.  I also don’t like his stance on pot.  Brown thinks it should remain a Class D.  I think it should be legalized.  He is against gay marriage.  I couldn’t care less who gets married.  He doesn’t believe in providing basic human rights to those detained by the US Government.  I don’t like the precedent it sets and think everyone should have the right to confrontation, putting the burden on the state and  against cruel and unusual punishment.  As for Coakley I also see her as a lightweight, plus I didn’t like her involvement with a notorious Massachusetts court case that may have imprisoned an innocent man and sent a family through hell.

If Coakley, the Dem, wins the Dems retain control of the senate and Obama’s platform rolls on, for what that is worth.  If the Repub Brown wins than the Dems lose their filibuster proof majority and Obama’s healthcare plan has a tougher row to hoe.  Because this is an election with national implications, and I live in Massachusetts, I have received no fewer than 30 phone calls in the past few days.  Now I know how folks in Iowa and New Hampshire must feel.

So anyways, they expect the Republican to win.  Guess how the stock of health insurers reacted.  They went up.

Rising health care stocks led the market higher as the prospect of a logjam in Washington eased concerns that profits at companies like insurers and drug makers would suffer. Among health stocks, insurers Aetna Inc. rose $1.30, or 4.2 percent, to $32.66 and UnitedHealth Group Inc. rose $1.38, or 4.1 percent, to $35.13. Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. advanced $1.15, or 2.9 percent, to $40.62 and was the biggest advancer among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow industrials.

So if I was writing copy, which I do no longer, I think I’d write something like: A vote for Republicans is a vote for Humana or Don’t let Cigna down vote for Brown . Do you like?  Can someone tell me what the Republican healthcare plan is?

Don’t be a tool for the health insurers.  They are middle men standing between providers of services and consumers of services.  Think for yourself.

And most of all GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!! I don’t care who you are, you have 15 minutes to spare to take a walk outside or sit under a tree and watch the clouds move across the sky.

Another abandoned ski area not too far from my house.  Massachusetts has hundreds of abandoned ski areas.  This one was called Cat Rock.  We already had a coating of snow and the other night we received an additional few inches.  A fresh coating means fresh tracks so I had to get out for an hour or two.  I grabbed my 30 year old Kniessel Red Stars and headed out.  To paraphrase Bob Marley, ‘my feet are my only chairlift.’  Yup, hike up, ski down, hike up, ski down, hike up, ski down.  Like chopping your own wood, hiking to make your own turns seems to feel better.  At least to me.

This is the main trail looking up.  I’d guess it’s maybe a few hundred yards long with a couple hundred feet of vertical.  It’s actually fairly steep.  Like I always say, much steeper than it looks.  You can see I got first tracks.  And uhh no it’s never groomed – rocks, grass, shrubs grow where they may.

This is the same trail looking down.  At least here it looks a little steeper.  Not ideal conditions because we did get some rain and than it froze. The snow was crusty.  Still I was able to carve huge beautiful arcing turns.  Great fun.  A couple of snowboarders did show up after a while.  There’s a little trail on the side of the main trail where the rope tow used to be.  If you don’t know what a rope tow is it is a loop of rope that runs up the hill.  These things used to run over car wheels hung from trees and were powered by old tractors or Chevrolets.  You grab onto the rope snaking up the hill at 15mph and it yanks your arm out of your socket and pulls you up the hill.  Due to liability issues, you don’t see rope tows any longer.   It used to be the ride up could be more fun than the ski down.  This trail where the rope tow was is maybe five feet wide.  That is a good ski down!!  If there ain’t trees and ice it ain’t New England.    New England skiing the way it was meant to be!!

American economy

January 14, 2010

Been awhile.  If you are like me, most likely you don’t need anyone to tell you that the last decade from 2000-2009 was crap for the average man.  I don’t know if you saw the article in the Washington Post, Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers.

The writer, Mr. Irwin reports that “There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent.” Who among us either hasn’t been laid off or know someone who has been?

Tough to imagine digging out of this recession/depression/cycle when for the first time since they’ve been keeping track of such things that “Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999…”

The assets of the average man have also lost value.  Our houses are worth less now than just a few years ago.  If you bought real estate not too long ago than you are most likely under water too.  401Ks Hahaha!!  For all the public sparkle about the “Recovery” your stocks and mutual funds are also worth less.

I just read an article in Business Week The Disposable Worker.” The article laments that there are more of us working less full-time jobs that provides benefits.  One woman works as a customer service rep from her house.  She gets paid 25 cents a minute ($15hr) but only for the minutes she is actually taking a call and of course no benefits.  She is very grateful for the job.  Companies now hold all the cards and are trying to reposition payroll costs from the fixed to the variable cost category.  I work three jobs.  I’m not complaining.  I like it, but I work as a contract worker = no paid time off, no paid sick time, no paid vaca time, no pension nor 401k.  I have to pay my own taxes and both sides of FICA.  Then I also work as a part-time worker for a college.  Same deal.  No nothing.   It’s coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

It seems that most of the problems were due to easy credit.  Too much money available to build/buy too many unnecessary structures.  Up here in Massachusetts you can’t drive around without seeing dozens of signs for commercial office space.

And guess what, there are still dozens of projects in the pipeline.  In my town there is a new project that will create half a million feet of office space.  Right up the street there are 000’s of feet for rent.  Why in the world would anyone build commercial space when there are so many vacancies? I have  some friends in the trades.  People are still building brandy new houses.  Strange when I look in the paper everyday and see pages of foreclosures.

Don’t be lulled.  I think what you see is what you got – slow slide.   What I fear the most is likely to happen is an increase in energy prices.   For lots of people it may soon cost them more to get to work then they get once they are there.

It still is and always will be cheap as shit to GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!!

Just a nice little old cross country ski trail.  I ski down on the left side of the footpath and make as many turns as possible. Yeah, I’m pretty good.  Beautiful winter day about 30 degrees out.  The ski down was so much fun I hoofed back up it a couple of more times to ski back down.

Another nice trail.  Trust me.  They are much steeper than they look.