Friday, August 28, 2009

BHI July August 2009

BHI July August 2009, originally uploaded by Watts4.

Erosion of the Old Bald Head Dune from July to August 2009

The pictures are from different angles, but should be close enough to get the idea.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lovin' me some Weiner

Anthony Weiner (D-NY), that is. And Morning Joe, for that matter. Check out this article from The Nation:

"Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday's Morning Joe. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York pointed out that the health insurance industry has no clothes, and Joe Scarborough, after first trying to spin it some gossamer threads, broke down and said, By God, you're right, this emperor is a naked money-making machine!

Well, he didn't use those exact words, but Joe did seem to finally get that America has granted insurance companies the right to create bottlenecks in the financing of healthcare in order to extract profits out of the suffering of ordinary people--without providing any actual healthcare whatsoever.

"Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?" Weiner asked Scarborough. "Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why," he asked, bringing it all home, "are we paying for their TV commercials?"

Weiner, who recently warned that President Obama could lose as many as 100 votes on a health bill if a public option is not included, really wants single payer--Medicare for all Americans is his goal. What a crazy, way-out, reckless notion, Joe went into their encounter believing. But Weiner asked some simple, direct questions that no politician, much less Obama or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has managed to pose:

What is an insurance company? They don't do a single check-up. They don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation. Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate. The real question is why do we have a private plan?

"It sounds like you're saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in healthcare," Joe asked at one point.

Weiner replied: "I've asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?"

Scraping the bottom of a seemingly bottomless pit of spin, Joe is repeatedly left speechless, "stunned" and "astounded," he said, by the questions themselves. Indeed, when confronted with unfettered capitalism's massive failures, the right usually has nothing to say. The "free market" is supposed to eternally grow, not crash under its own greed. They're left ideologically crippled."

Weiner goes all the way, to the heart of the matter, something that my favorite compromizer, Pres. Obama, has been unwilling to do (so far). I say it's time to jettison bipartisanship and own this, Democrats. You're not going to get the Repubs on board without making things worse for our health care system. The problem to a large degree IS the health insurance companies. Partly because there is no real competition (I could choose at most between 2 companies, but what's the difference? They both have the right to disown me if it suits their needs), partly because of natural capitalist greed that works for most things we barter and buy, but not health care (or military).

I also must note one of the comments from this article, it's too good & juicy to pass up:

"To all rightwingers trying to subvert The Nation via neurotic nonsensical diversions ...

You didn't rage when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount & appointed a President.

You didn't rage when Cheney allowed energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn't rage when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't rage when the Patriot Act took away so many of our rights.

You didn't rage when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't rage when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't rage when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't rage when you saw the Abu Grahib photos (except like Rumsfeld to fume that they were ever allowed to be taken).

You didn't rage when you learned we were torturing people.

You didn't rage when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't rage when we didn't nab Bin Laden.

You didn't rage when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

You didn't rage when we let a major US city drown.

You didn't rage when the deficit hit a trillion dollars.

But you finally start raging when the government decides that people in America deserve the right to see a doctor when they're ill."

Posted by sloper at 08/21/2009 @ 06:18am

Where are the Christians? Wouldn't Jesus say that the poor & sick deserve health care? Where are the farmers who accept gov't subsidies to not grow crops? Where are the potential entrepreneurs who stay working for "the man", 'cause they're the only ones have reasonably priced health care plans? More to come on that....

In the meantime, enjoy the Weiner.

Bye-Bye Bald Head Dune

There it sits, on the beach.

Moving the shipping channel closer to Bald Head, and then pumping the dredged channel sand over to Oak Island has devastated the southwestern tip of Bald Head, and now the Old Bald Head Dune faces imminent collapse. The bird habitat is gone, and no turtles have nested near there this year.

Photo courtesy of Marvin Neuwirth

Update: The Star-News reports in an article titled "No deaths or major damage as hurricane Bill passes"...

"Battered on Bald Head

The peak of the season is worrying Bald Head Island residents and officials, where the beaches continue to erode.

Officials evacuated eight homes on Sandpiper Trail as well as on South and West Bald Head Wynd because the homes had five feet of water underneath them, Bald Head Island Mayor Larry Lammert said.

He said power to the homes was turned off as a precaution to avoid any chance of electrocution. Most of the people in the homes were leaving anyway because the rentals run from Saturday to Saturday, he added.

Bald Head Island resident Watts Carr said the island has been gradually eroding since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started dredging the Cape Fear River shipping channel earlier this year.

“The hurricane, certainly, just makes it worse,” he added.

Carr and others are wondering how the island will hold up if at storm actually hits land. Since February, island officials said they’ve lost more than 150 feet of beach in places, with erosion losses continuing as the island tries to find its new equilibrium.

Lammert said he believes Hurricane Bill wiped away the last of the sea turtle nests Friday night.

“It’s just terrible,” he added"

My Dad also reports they're losing 10 feet with each high tide. No major damage though, according to the (a-hem) f'ing headline.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Angels at U2 Gig in Barcelona

I'm not usually into the "I see Angels" thing, but this one caught my eye. Click the picture to see what folks are saying on Twitter.

Scotty writes in the @U2 forum:
"Definately not photoshopped! I was there and I saw this, it was amazing. It was during moment of surrender. I am the only one in the group i was with to see it as we were in the pit and for some reason during this song I looked behind me.OMG! I was starting to think I imagined this. This is the first mention of the Barcelona angel and I keep telling people to look out for it at the shows, all my U2 mates think I'm imagining things, i have been to 5 360 shows and only saw this once. Glad someone else saw it too!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wars, What Are They Good For?

Wars. Well, they're good for some things, like defense contractor stock prices. Maybe some things, like Military and Health Care are not the best candidates to share in our praiseworthy capitalist system. Capitalism relies on profits, and these two sectors should not be driven by profit, because that leads the inherent bureaucracy to do things for money rather than doing what is best. Defense contractors are driven to fight long, extended wars just as medical companies are driven to come up with drugs to treat patients over a long term. You get the most money that way, over a long term. Sittin' pretty.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Capitalism.... clearly it drives the world economy and has been pivotal in the development of civilization. Yay Capitalism, really! But military and health care are too central to us as humans, as spiritual beings, that we cannot allow profit to run them. In War, an innocent civilian cut down for arbitrariness sake, in medicine, a patient dies for lack of insurance, unable to afford the medicine needed to save or extend their lives. Surely we as humans cannot accept such things. We cannot trust Capitalism when it comes to war and health, just like we can't trust the Government, unless we truly believe that We the People ARE the Government. I can't think of a better way to "promote the general welfare" than to provide modern health care. I consider basic medical care a human right. If this makes me a liberal, so be it. I'll still defend most of Reagan's Presidency, Bush I's, and even good ol' Jesse Helms if you want me to.

But back to the military spending. The two wars we've been fighting, by the latest estimates, will cost us between $2-$3 Trillion. Yikes. Just think if we'd spent that on say.... health care? But if it was REALLY important to fight those wars, you know, maybe that's what we had to spend. I'd have been OK with just Bin Laden's head on a stick. We've "shuffled the deck" a bit over there, but solved nothing, and we've paid a great cost.

“On my last day in Iraq,” veteran McClatchy News correspondent Leila Fadel wrote August 9, “as on my first day in Iraq, I couldn’t see what the United States and its allies had accomplished. … I couldn’t understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed.” ...

“Since the Iraq War began,” Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive wrote, “aerospace and defense industry stocks have more than doubled. General Dynamics did even better than that. Its stock has tripled.”

An Associated Pressaccount published July 23 observed: “With the military fighting two wars and Pentagon budgets on a steady upward rise, defense companies regularly posted huge gains in profits and rosier earnings forecasts during recent quarters. Even as the rest of the economy tumbled last fall, military contractors, with the federal government as their primary customer, were a relative safe haven.”...

The element of “risk,” so basic to capitalism, has been trampled by Pentagon purchasing agents even as its top brass rattle their missiles at supposedly enemy governments abroad. If this isn’t enough, in 2004 the Bush administration slipped a special provision into tax legislation to cut the tax on war profits to 7 percent compared to 21 percent paid by most U.S. manufacturers.

“As of summer, 2007, there were more ‘private contractors’ deployed on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq (180,000) than there were actual soldiers (160,000),” Scahill said. “These contractors worked for some 630 companies and drew personnel from more than 100 countries around the globe. … This meant the U.S. military had actually become the junior partner in the coalition that occupies Iraq.”

And each Blackwater operative was costing the American taxpayers $1,222 per day. The Defense Department remains, of course, America’s No. 1 Employer, with 2.3 million workers (roughly twice the size of Wal-Mart, which has 1.2 million staffers) perhaps because America’s biggest export is war.

“Who pays Halliburton and Bechtel?” philosopher Noam Chomsky asked rhetorically in his Imperial Ambitions. “The U.S. taxpayer,” he answers.

“The same taxpayers fund the military-corporate system of weapons manufacturers and technology companies that bombed Iraq. So first you destroy Iraq, then you rebuild it. It’s a transfer of wealth from the general population to narrow sectors of the population.”...

As Stiglitz and Bilmes remind us, “The money spent on Iraq could have been spent on schools, roads, or research. These investments yield high returns.”
Or Health Care!

On the other hand, maybe Americans want to keep paying to operate 2,000 domestic and foreign military bases and spend more money on armies and weapons of death than all other nations combined. Maybe they like living in the greatest Warfare State the world has ever known.

My hunch, though, is a lot of Americans haven’t connected the country’s looming bankruptcy with the greedy, gang from the military-industrial complex out to control the planet, its people and its precious resources.

OK, now that guy is more liberal than me, maybe even a crazed loon for all I know, but he's right about our military spending. No one's to blame, it's the nature of bureaucracy, as Eisenhower warned. We just have to recognize it and use our humanity to correct it. When all is said and done, We the People have to run everything ourselves anyway, we are the Government. So we may as well... no, it is our duty as Americans, to show humanity to our fellow humans by avoiding war, and helping the sick. Seems like the Christian thing to do as well, so "bonus", right? Right on! Go America!

Sunday, August 02, 2009