Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Musings 68--The man by the side of the road...

We ran out of toner for the fax machine at the old print shop. I decided to drive up to the local Office Depot and buy a couple of rolls.

Now the local Office Depot is not that local, since it is about ten miles up I-64. It was just after noon, and the traffic was not that bad so I just took my time and rolled down my windows to enjoy the late summer breezes. I got to the store, bought my toner and started my drive back to Huntington.

I saw him sitting by the stop sign at the Madison Avenue exit off I-64. He was rather scruffy looking and had a metal crutch laying beside him. There were five cars in front of me waiting to merge from the stop sign, so I got a good look at him. He was wearing a greasy baseball cap and his scraggly hair stuck out on all sides. There was a faded red bedroll on the ground beside his crutch.

In his hands he was holding up a brown cardboard sign that said, "I'm a veteran & I'm hungry." No one in the four cars in front even looked at him. They each made their way into the flowing traffic until I pulled up to the stop sign.

I looked into my rear view mirror and saw that there was no vehicles behind. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20 bill and put it in my left hand.

His head was bent and he was looking at something on his bedroll. Still holding his sign, he had not noticed that I had lingered longer than usual. Rejection does not build hope.

"Hey!" I said. "Where did you serve?"

He jumped like he was shot. Like I said, rejection does not build hope, but it does build more rejection. "" he muttered.

"I said, 'Where did you serve?'"

His eyes focused on me and as he reached back into his memory for an answer. "United States Army. I served in the Nam...1972 and '73."

I looked him straight in the eye, and I new that life had not been good to this vet. He had either lost a fight with booze or drugs or both. I could see it in his gaze.

I reached my hand out to him with the $20. "Marine Corps, 1971," I said. "Buy a meal or a bottle...your choice."

He quickly snatched it from my hand as tears formed in his eyes. "God bless ya," he muttered.

"He has," I said as I made my left hand turn onto Madison Avenue. "He most certainly has."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Musings 67--Big oil gets fatter...

With hurricanes ravaging the Gulf of Mexico, the big oil refineries have shut down and must now be jump started before production can continue. Mr. President says that gas will probably go up as a result. He has once again tapped into the oil reserves.

Now it is clear that when refineries close down there will be a lag in gasoline production. However, before the hurricanes big oil companies were enjoying the largest profits in their greasy little histories.

Exxon Mobil shows a 32 percent increase in earnings over this time last year. (See link) That equates to $7.6 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2005. BP had a 38 percent profit of $6.7 billion, and Conoco Phillips recorded a 56 percent increase in third quarter profits of $3 billion.

When demand is tight in any other product, the federal government jumps in to make sure that no one does price gouging. Last year when the hurricanes hit Florida and building supplies were at a premium, the feds made sure that lumber yards charged the going rate for plywood and particle board. I wonder how come they haven't looked into excessive pricing of gasoline? Besides, big oil has shown huge profits not just in the third quarter this year but in the first and second quarter also. It is a good year to be big oil with a big oil president. It is not so nice to be a consumer. Three dollar gas takes a bit out of everyone's wallet.

Big oil also reaped a $6 billion dollar benefit from the new energy bill that just passed the congress. Hey, you say, it's the free market system at work. Well...not exactly, for you see there is no free market in big oil. The big guys control it all. If you are a little oil guy you can't get the needed permits to drill or the refineries to process your oil without owing big oil. They control it all. There are about five companies that rule the big oil universe. Maybe it is time that the congress looked into anti-trust legislation that break up the big oil companies like they did the big airline industries. Of course, the airline industry did not have one of their own as President of the United States.

Isn't it nice to know that big oil is getting fatter while your personal worth is shrinking away. It makes me warm and fuzzy...oh, wait, I'm not too warm because heating oil is the next thing that will be going through the roof. This winter heating costs will more than likely ruin entire families that cannot pay their bills. It will probably make gasoline look like a bargain. Stay tuned this episode is just beginning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Musings 66--A judge, a gangster and God...

About The Judge

The vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States should be filled by the current nominee Judge John Roberts.

In watching the hearings, I have come to the conclusion that Judge Roberts is probably as good a it gets. He is smart and deliberate. He doesn't rattle easily...which is a very good thing.

Now, I don't agree with him on all things, but that really does not matter when a judge is selected. What matters is that he be impartial and weight all matters with the scales of current law. I think that Judge Roberts will do this. Of course, I've been wrong before...I used to think that Sen. Bill Frist was a good majority leader. These days he is one of the worst. Go figure!

About The Gangster

If anyone has really paid attention to the news--other than hurricanes--you would see that a farce of justice has been once again carried out in our court system. (See Link) John Gotti, Jr., has been freed on bail due to a mistrial in his attempted murder of Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa. It is interesting that life and corruption in the "big apple" is still racing along at its normal pace. Junior Gotti apparently hired some inept hit-men to kill Sliwa, a radio host. Sliwa had been giving Gotti hell over the air waves. Junior Gotti sent two thugs to whack Sliwa, but the Guardian Angel managed to escape by jumping out the window of the car. He was, however, shot a time or two.

The prosecutors say they want round two. Well, I hope they do, but I hope Curtis Sliwa has a panic room at the radio station...and a bulletproof vest.

About God

The folks who believe in intelligent design should just take a powder and relax. It is not in the best interest of our country to have the Scopes Monkey Trial played out again. Science is science. It should be as pure as can be. Science is fact based not faith based. Hence, it cannot be taught in the public school. We should just let the churches teach it, if that is what they believe.

The argument faith-basers give is that science changes its position and even can be proven wrong. Well, this is absolutely true. In the quest for facts, sometimes a supposed truth is found to be false. Science adapts and corrects itself and is stronger for it. Thus, it is, I repeat, fact based. Intelligent design is not nor can be fact based. It is faith based. The belief in a Supreme Being has to be taken on faith, since God has not talked directly to man in recent history. I know this to be true because FOX News would have covered the hell out of it.

If you take away the book of faith, the Bible, then all that is left is science and its quest for facts. Both of these beliefs can exist in the same world. There is room in intelligent thought for both sides. Hmmmm...Intelligent thought as compared to narrow mindedness (sometimes referred to as a strong will). Are you listening, Mr. President?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Musings 65--Making big money off the dead...

It just boggles the mind how Mr. President is entwined with a close circle of friends that make money off of everything he does--good or bad.

Case in point: Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management is a division of Service Corporation International (SCI). (See Link.) SCI goes around the world cleaning up dead bodies that wars and disasters stack up. SCI is a Houston based organization that had a bit of a scandal when Mr. President was governor of Texas. If you follow the link above you will see "funeralgate." Hit it and you will learn about this bit of scandal that surrounded Mr. President when he was a lowly governor.

A few years back a subsidiary of Kenyon, Menorah Gardens, was involved in some really shady deals in Florida. (Next Link.) Apparently these guys were selling burial plots over top of used plots that were quite old. They just went in and dug up the old dead guys and tossed the bodies out in the woods for the wild pigs to eat. Then they sold the plots again and buried another round of customers. This is so weird that you cannot make this stuff up. These guys eventually had to payout $100 million dollars to make all the law suits go away.

The guys in charge of cleaning up mass graves in Iraq is also Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management. This just boggles the mind. Friends of Mr. President do really good.

Now we go to New Orleans, and guess who FEMA hired to take up the dead bodies floating in the water? Yep, you guessed it...Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management.

With Haliburton doing its part in Iraq and Kenyon doing their part in Iraq and New Orleans, Mr. President's friends are making out like the robber barons of old. Life is good when you got your guy in the White House.

***Late closing note: Haliburton has a contract to help with the clean up of New Orleans and the coastal areas. Plus, I also find that Kenyon did the lion's share of the body clean up during the Tsunami. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Musings 64--Mr. President's watchful eyes...

So the horse show guy who ran FEMA into the ground in New Orleans is now gone. By all accounts, Mr. President did not know that Michael Brown had resigned. If this is true, it is just another in a growing list of dunderheaded things that make up the character of George W. Bush.

Back when the Homeland Security Department was established and all the "Chicken Little's" were screaming about the sky falling, I had serious reservations about creating a Nazi-sounding cabinet department out of wholecloth. (Every time I hear some use the term "homeland" it conjures up guys in black uniforms and goose stepping.) I was equally upset when FEMA was placed inside it. FEMA had been the one organization that had been pretty much above the political fray. The people at the top were professionals and had proven that they could respond to emergencies.

Under Mr. President, FEMA was gutted and good buddies were appointed to positions of authority. It basically became a place to park cronies of the Bush administration--I mean, how badly could they screw up emergency management. Most of those bozos had business degrees so they must have learned something. (For the record, I have a business degree and I would hate to have me in charge of anything bigger than a small print shop.)

Mr. President is now finding that his stock is dropping and that folks do not feel as secure as they once did under his tutelage. If you can't manage a hurricane then what would happen if a major terrorist attack hit a large metropolitan area? We know that hurricanes will come every year. We know that a terrorist attack may come in the future. My homeland doesn't feel so secure under Mr. President's watchful eyes.

Maybe the reason that Mr. President spends so much time in Crawford is that he figures that when the big one hits he has a good chance of being on vacation. It is a thought worth pondering.

I was hoping that maybe Mr. President would build from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and learn some humility. He has never struck me as an humble person. I have never heard him admit a mistake. Of course, then his mother speaks of those "under-privileged" folks in the Houston Astrodome and I understand his lack of humility. Because if you have "under-privileged," then you have got to have "privileged." And, that puts the silver spoon in Mr. President's crooked little mouth.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Musings 63--Where have all the guardsmen gone?

Back in the day, the Kingston Trio had a hit record entitled "Where have all the flowers gone?" One of the other verses picks up the standard refrain by asking "Where have all the soldiers gone?" That would be the question for folks in Louisiana about their National Guard. I guess you could also use the Trio's refrain "long time passing," since about 11,000 of the Louisiana National Guard are now in Iraq.

Since Hurricane Katrina has killed thousands (by some estimates), then it would be nice if the governor of Louisiana could call up the guard to take charge. But, you see, this can't happen due to the fact that Mr. President has them off nation building in Iraq.

I have never understood Mr. President's perchance to use the National Guard for support and combat missions. My definition of the National Guard is just that. National, meaning here in the old USA, and guard, meaning guarding the homeland. The army, navy, air force and marine reserve should be the citizen soldiers backing up the main troops in any wars or dust-ups that we get into.

The lack of rapid response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is another bugaboo of government. In years past, FEMA was its own cabinet level agency that had its own head and responded on its own. Now, FEMA is part of the Homeland Security Department. It can't wiggle without the directors say so. It is a clear case of bigger is not better.

Five days after the hurricane, people are still dying in New Orleans. Food and water have not reached all areas of the city. We did a better job in Baghdad City. Life is precious--except if you are poor and live in New Orleans. Many of the conservative commentators have asked the question as to why the people didn't flee the city when they could. Well, it might be that they couldn't afford the gas for their cars, if they had a car, or the price of a hotel for their families. There are many people in this country who live paycheck to paycheck. Usually a couple of days before the next paycheck their lives are pretty empty. Folks with bucks don't have that problem. They can't comprehend not having enough money for a hotel room or tires on the car that won't last a 200-mile round trip.

Mr. President and his merry men should wander out of their ivory palaces and take a look at how the rest of us live. Maybe the tragedy in New Orleans will cause him to take pause...or not.

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