Rants- Political, eBay, etc

If you are one of the many "fat, dumb and happy" souls out there… don't read any further.

I don't pretend that I have all the answers, and many call me "insensitive" and "arrogant".

Tough. As I said… if you don't want to encounter challenging questions, read no further.

If you, too, feel that we need to talk about these things, fight the internet led tendency to only talk with people who already share your point of view?

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British so-called "Royal" Mail…

What a decline in service since the government sold the family silver and removed the protections.

When a customer is not at home to sign for a parcel that needs a signature, the parcel goes back to the depot. A very clear note is left, with details. So far, so good.

Went along to the depot. Three people in the queue. Man at front, there for a time before I came in, had come in at 13:50 to collect something the postman had not been able to deliver at 11:00. The note quite clearly says, "Please give us 24 hours to get parcel available at depot". Fair enough to try at, say, 16:00 for a parcel that couldn't be delivered at 09:00. Fair to TRY at 13:50…. but here's where it goes wrong…

The man didn't have the card. Card needed to collect. Postal worker knew there were three people in the queue when she disappeared out back to look for parcel. (Four by the time she came back after eleven minutes.) Why did she look so long for something she couldn't hand over, when the man had given the system less than 3 hours to work, when she had customers waiting.

And it gets better still. Try phoning 03457-740-740, the number displayed at the counter for "concerns". I think it was four layers of telerobot to get through to a human. And more than two minutes on hold, once the robot had failed to discourage me.

And then the employee on the phone "couldn't" take my complaint without my name and address. In spite of the fact that the postal employees and their performance are tracked electronically. Any authorized person could have accessed the records for what "service" was provided at the place I'd indicated, at the time I'd indicated.

Another triumph for "the system".

Heard about the new UK tax?

In the UK, the cost of a divorce just went up. Used to be £140 to the government + the fees to all the parasites. Just rose to over £500. And they tell us inflation is under control.

Not fiddling expenses?

John Bercow, speaker of the house of commons, spent £367 of taxpayer's money taking a car to Luton to deliver a speech on how MPs were restoring their reputation after the expenses scandal. One can infer from the context that it was a chauffered car. (But it did it "legally". This was a "legitimate" expenses claim.)

Has he heard of the train? Of course, MPs are a bit wary of taking the train, after one of them arrived, Glasgow, I think it was, in a train to show his support of carbon emissions reduction… but then someone revealed that he had from traveled London by car, again if I'm not mistaken, chauffeured, hours of the journey, before making the 15 minute hop into the press cameras by train.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/24/john-bercow-expenses-claim-chauffeur-journeys

Ignorant, arrogant US govenment

Someone I know is required to fill in a long form for the US government. "FBAR". It demands addresses. And refuses to accept a space or a hyphen in a postal code.

Well, Washington, have you heard of the UK? There's a "special relationship" whenever you want "a coalition" to bomb some third world peasants. But, hey guys, take the space out of a British post code, and the meaning can be lost.

E.g. RH21 4HR/RH2 14HR…. which is it, after you take out the space? It may be that there are few postcodes with two digits at the start of the second field. Can you promise there are none? And even if there are not, taking the space out makes it harder to read.

Bah. Of course, the state of New Mexico has a simpler answer. They just completely mangle the address they put on messages to their overseas taxpayers. The same friend had an important document, one that New Mexico is leagally obliged to provide, sent to the equivalent of "Mr Bob Smith", "7 Main St", "United Kingdon". Incredibly, the British postal "service", for all it's declines in recent years, managed to deliver it!! (Declines: There's now a notice on the place I send mail: "Post from this box will be collected every day, not later than 9:30am". Not so long ago, there was a tag saying "Next collection will be at <a time>". Not only did this tell you whether you'd made it in time for a particular collection, but as the tag had to be changed by the postal worker when he did the collection (to show when the NEXT collection would be), it was also a way for the public to know whether the scheduled collections were actually happening.

It is want the Israeli people want… and the USA supports them…

Here is what the BBC said, my emphasis:

The newly re-elected leader of Israel "promised thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied territories. And he said that he would not allow the Palestinians to have a state."

This is the man who, in the summer of 2014, presided over the sending of tanks into one of the worst slums on earth… a micro-economy of Israel's making… and rained artillery down on, among other things, schools and hospitals.

And the US sells arms to his regime. And keeps angry neighbors from pushing Israel into the sea.

Congratulations "America", by which I mean "USA"… the land that says it believes in liberty and justice for all.

See also…

Killlers
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28666562

Destroyers
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29086193

(The following story, by the way, was here long before the one just finished. It wasn't added to "bring balance" at the time of adding the one above.)

Cretins or Bigots?

On the Sunday following some excellent documentaries on TV, etc, etc, in memoriam of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Chichester Cathedral (Anglican), Sussex, England decided that "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" would be a good hymn for evensong, 1 Feb. To the tune Austria, by Haydn. Nice hymn. Nice tune. So nice that it was the national anthem for Hitler's Third Reich, with the words "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles…". (The anniversary was the 27th of January, 2015. Not mentioned in the prayers.) Nothing wrong with using the hymn… another time. Not that weekend, surely?

Israel Still Out of Control

Update, 9 Aug 14, pp BBC page
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28666562
… which is dated 8 August, 14, and says its numbers are
for up to 6 August. Interesting graphics, depicting deaths
and location of deaths….

It says that TWO Israeli citizens have died, 64 soldiers.
Maybe if the Israeli army had not invaded Gaza, it would
have fewer dead soldiers?

It also says that 414 children and 87 men and women over the age of 60 have been killed in Gaza.

And that "the UN puts the number of militant dead below 200…". Palestinian men killed (civilian + militant: Over one thousand.

Update, 8 Aug 14, pp BBC page
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28702394

Palestinian deaths

1,922 killed, including at least 1,407 civilians
448 children
235 women

Israeli deaths

64 soldiers
2 civilians
1 Thai national in Israel

(Source: OCHA; 0500 GMT on 8 August)

"Israeli government officials said they had pulled out of Egyptian-brokered negotiations. Israeli government officials said they had pulled out of Egyptian-brokered negotiations…"

At least 10,000 homes destroyed.

- - - - - - -
July 2014- Israel at it again…

Have you raised latest atrocities in Gaza with your friends? Why not? Does no one care?

When the Nazi's conducted reprisal killings, this was bad. Gaza is different how?

In particular the kids on the beach incident.

What do you know about the Gaza strip? Don't you think, the number of times Israel has attacked it, you ought to know something? Israel makes these attacks with weapon and ammunition which trace to "the West", after all. If you live in "the West", have you expressed a view to "your" representatives?

Gaza Strip: an Israel-created hell-hole slum. I'd compare it to the old West Berlin in some ways, except that the Gaza Strip has no friends, and few of my readers will understand the relevant characteristics of the divided Berlin, unless I am mistaken.

Gaza Strip: Population density 13,000/sq mi (DC, USA, is 10,588), median age 18

And it is "okay" to drop shells into this area?

1.8 million people jammed into a strip about 24 miles long by 6 wide. Next time you are on the highway for 25 minutes, imagine a strip 3 miles to left and right. As you drive along, count off 10 seconds… and image the 12,500 poeple you've "just passed"… and then imagine, if you can, the effect of a mortar round or two.

When will Obama and the rest stand up to Israel? At least "persuade" "friends" not to sell Israel weapons and ammunition? (And stop US firms doing same.)

eBay… Good and Bad

eBay "works" for me… when it works.

But it sucks otherwise. And doesn't appear to give a damn. Take the "sponsored link" I foolishly travelled to today…

http://srx.uk.ebayrtm.com/clk?RtmClk&m=450841&ch=1&g=cc52a53b14b0a3574462dad2fffe6e4f&i=35872872&pi=3693&iid=4444657244773303806&pn=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fstat.dealtime.com%2FDealFrame%2FDealFrame.cmp%3Fbm%3D152%26BEFID%3D96459%26aon%3D%255E%26MerchantID%3D504143%26crawler_id%3D504143%26dealId%3DNkuaj4rDo4oNjMKu5jMnpQ%253D%253D%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Ftracking.searchmarketing.com%252Fclick.asp%253Faid%253D1250038382%2526lightinthebox%26linkin_id%3D8084356%26Issdt%3D150302093511%26searchID%3Dp30.b40a4a14acfd17cff594%26DealName%3DWanscam%2B-%2BWireless%2BIP%2BNetwork%2BCamera%2Bwith%2BMotion%2BDetection%2BAlarm%26dlprc%3D16.19%26AR%3D5%26NG%3D2%26NDP%3D10%26PN%3D1%26ST%3D7%26FPT%3DDSP%26NDS%3D%26NMS%3D%26MRS%3D%26PD%3D%26brnId%3D14804%26IsFtr%3D0%26IsSmart%3D0%26op%3D450841%26CM%3D%26RR%3D5%26IsLps%3D0%26code%3D%26acode%3D136%26category%3D%26HasLink%3D%26ND%3D%26MN%3D%26GR%3D%26lnkId%3D%26SKU%3D216941&rk=5&cpc=0.07&id=450841

Good God. I hadn't realized until just now what went out when I clicked that!

Another reason to dislike eBay.

Anyway. The link led to a page with a "super discounted" IP Cam. Except you couldn't add it to your cart, even after, foolishly, "registering" with the bozos "selling" it. And the discounted model didn't appear on their website.

So far so bad… but what REALLY annoys me is that 20 minutes of trying turned up no way to register a complaint with eBay about the BAD SITE that THEY has sent me to.

Pity… there are good and honest sellers on eBay… but I won't buy anything there that I feel I would mind if it just didn't come.

Visit Boston? Use as port of entry to USA? I don't think so!

Late July, 2014….

Flew from abroad to Boston.

ARRIVED okay… well, plane landed.

Then we had to wait for a gate.

Then we had to wait outside the customs hall.

Then about a long first line.

Then play with a machine, have our photos taken. (Of course, they've done that for years, but this was an extra step, and much more in your face, to reinforce the message that Big Brother is Watching..

Answer again most of the questions we'd answered on the form we have to fill in. (Funny bit: The airline accidentally handed out the UK immigration forms. I was half-way through filling mine out, when I realised "This can't be right… it must be one left over from a previous trip TO the UK (I often have one or two floating around) It wasn't until much later that I realized, from the fact that it was stuck between the pages of a book I've only just started reading, that it couldn't be. Oh well. Next "to UK" form "pre-completed"… If I can find it when needed….)….

ANYWAY… finished with machine. Got in ANOTHER line…

All the while passing signs about how the authorities "respect and value" us, and "customer charters", AND SIGNS SAYING "WHY ARE YOU WAITING" (signs inviting us to sign up for Global Entry… which don't mention the $300/year fee to access the government's "skip past the lines" for the boarder checks service.)…

… and see one of the TWO agents provided to check ALL of the arriving US passport holders… at a busy time of the Logan "day".

Thence baggage claim….

Bags and people everywhere, not surprizingly. Bags off belt (to make room for the next batch.) Some of them. So you got to check both the belt, and the changing piles of stuff off belt.

My bags were there! (BagS… I had TWO… very unusual for me. I was terrified I'd forget the extra one, but didn't.

And…

ANOTHER line. Well… sort of. Though they had the "cattle chutes" set up… they'd "roped off" some of the lanes, and over a hundred people were milling in a "scrum", just trying to get into the cattle chutes. It was genuinely difficult to tell where to join the scrum, and of course some people's "confusion" over whose turn it was duplicitous.

… to wait for: TWO men checking your "ticket" to exit. This not just for all arriving passport holders, but for EVERYONE… except (fair enough!) crew, and, you guessed it, "government" types.

So… thanks a lot, Boston. You won't find me recommending you as a tourist destination (as I have, for years) again in a hurry.

Google. Sigh

It all started so well. A wonderful service, a boon to all mankind. And then the Dark Side began to grow. Oh well… it DOES still do a great deal of good, as well.

Will use eBay less

Getting tired of problems with eBay buying. Was once a great fan, but…

I bought an "LED" clock. Because I wanted and *LED* clock. When it came, it wasn't one. Never heard from eBay after registering my dissatisfaction.

Recently bought an $80-ish CCTV camera and some $4 accessories. Accessories came. I assumed camera (different packing problem) would be in second parcel. Didn't turn up. When I went to leave feedback on accessories, eBay records show camera as delivered.

Recently bought a pair of "smoke detectors". Except they weren't. They were only heat detectors… if they even do that. Tried to contact eBay. Tried to request refund. Spent frustrating time going round and round "help" pages. Apparently, I'm supposed to "discuss" with seller…. eBay doesn't seem to see that as something it should do, to protect its other sellers from the bad behavior of people eBay allow to advertise on its site. I'm expected to have the hassle and expense of returning the goods. Let me guess, if I don't use an expensive signed for service, I won't have evidence that I did return the goods, and so no refund will be available if seller says he didn't receive them. In any case, a dishonest seller only has to say "Yes, we received a parcel, but no, the goods weren't in it."

I've every sympathy with, say, an ISP who, to my way of thinking is blameless if someone, say, plans a bank robbery via email, across the ISP's service. However, eBay is a participant in the sales process… they take fees, sale by sale. Makes me think they should share responsibility. I buy books at Abebooks.com. In less than 5% of my dealings there, there have been snags… and Abebooks assisted me when help was needed in resolving problems. Thus I trust people who sell via Abebooks.

At other places, the knaves prosper, the honest sellers can no longer reach people like me who once used eBay with confidence that the bad sellers would be dealt with by the marketplace manager.

- - -
The first part of that written early in dispute process. Heard back from eBay, words to effect of "Now you have to wait for seller to respond. IF you aren't happy with response THEN you can "escalate"… a week from now, but not yet. (Note that I have to write them again to do this. How many people lose their chance to redress because in the meantime it slips their mind? But of course, the system wasn't designed with that in mind. Perish the thought.) If you don't do that (in under a month) then forget it, all your rights to redress lapse."

Protect buyers? The heck with that. Governments protect corporations from consumers. Some online marketplaces to me seem more concerned for their vendors than for the customers who might support honest vendors at the marketplace.

—-
Story continues: A seller listed a HEAT detector as a SMOKE detector. I said it wasn't acceptable. Now I feel like I'm getting a run around. Have been asked (twice in under 18 hours) to send photos… when the device looks just like the image they used for selling it. And from the eBay so-called "Resolution Center"…. the following. Note that they say seller offered another solution. Do you see it?

"-------------
The seller offered another solution


Hi ——,
The seller has responded to you and offered another solution to solve this
issue.

Seller's message:
"Sorry for the inconvenience. Would you tell us more details about this
item?It's important to us to comfirm the specific reasons and make
resolutions. Your early response will be highly appreciated."

(That's the seller's whole message. And they ask me to give an early response? As if I don't have other things to do? Once before (out of many eBay purchases) I had a similar situation. When I finally obtained a refund, but no compensation for the time I had to waste to get it, it seemed to me that the complaint against the seller was "airbrushed" away from his eBay rep. (Speaking of time wasted I suspect that if I didn't answer both copies of the above demand for "more details", eBay would say my complaint was dropped because I "wouldn't negotiate".)

—-
Seller says "How about partial refund?" I said i would accept that… but would be happier with full.. and, delight of delights… received full! Hurrah! Seller also asked if i would revise feedback. What part of tried to sell something as a smoke detector when it wasn't a smoke detector has changed? Ebay closed the "Resolution Center" "Case" without further ado. "Case Closed: Issue resolved"
" I'm so glad that they think I am happy now. Apparently eBay doesn't consider the time this has taken me an issue.

—-
Seemingly same item now appearing at yet another eBay store… againl described as smoke detector, days after negotiations started. Looks like eBay are really proactive in chasing, punishing, mis-representation.

Cheap trick. Would a "lesser" organization be allowed to pull it? (UK Postal services)

On March 31st 2014, the cost of sending a 9g letter to the US from the UK rose from £0.88 to £1.28 (A little over US$2) (9 grams is more than enough for, say, a check and a cover note.) At the 2009 price rise, same time of year, it went to £0.62. I wish my income had doubled in five years. Or at least that my quality of life hadn't declined.

The post office's cute trick? There used to be a rate for sending up to 10g. They abolished that. Now you have to pay for 19.9 grams, even if you only send, say 7… which easily covers many things I send.

Makes me wonder about the sort of people running the post office. I wonder how they do with the mirror test, in the morning. I.e. are they proud of the actions of the person they see in the mirror?

Nice work if you can get it. My local area car parks are directly managed by local government. Their prices rise so fast and so steadly that I think the "beware new prices" stickers on the boxes where you pay are now left over from the price rise before the last one. (I suppose I should be glad they're saving money on the stickers?)

Government Hassle

If only they were joking. If only it could be ignored… From a government website, 4/14…

Filing Form 8938 does not relieve you of the requirement to file FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), formerly TD F90-22.1, if you are otherwise required to file the FBAR.

Foobar, seems to me. "When I was a boy", I knew that if I murdered someone, that was bad, and I could expect problems. If I wanted to do something complex, with potential to create problems for others, like operate an amateur radio station, I would have to satisfy The Government that I was competent, and give them assistance with keeping an eye on my activitities. Today? You need to go to a lawyer to make sure you're not breaking too many rules by breathing. (The above gobbledegook… complete with changes to things that I half understood, but now need to re-learn, for the new forms… is something any US citizen with financial assets… e.g. a bank account… outside the US needs to worry about.)

Illegal for you to read what is on your driver's licence

If you live in Washington State, it is illegal for you to read what the government has put in the machine readable part of your driver's licence. (Authority: Scientific American Magazine, Jan 2009, pg. 6)

Recent Wars

Tell me why we went to war in Iraq? (Either time) And Afghanistan? Etc.

Do you really believe what you are telling me?

Tim Sebastian, journalist and fiction author wrote a book called "Ultra" in 1997, after spending two years researching Gulf War Syndrome. You remember… I hope.

The book makes a good read, if you just want a thriller. But it also gives an alternate idea of what these wars might be about. And I'm sorry to say, I find it plausible. "Sorry" because it deepens my despondancy about where we might be, and because you'll probably think I've "lost it". But… hand on heart… have you really thought carefully about the "reasons" given for going into these wars? Do they really make sense to you?

His premise is simple: The wars give the weapons engineers a chance to see if their work is satisfactory. Do the new "toys" work? Notice how these modern wars are always in the back of beyond? Little places that no one cares about. Etc.

A second premise in the book is that the US and UK governments have been "taken over" by the military/ industrial complex, by a few people who stand to make a lot of money from certain big corporations. Again… not a mainstream thought. I doubt that "the man in the street" in, say, Leipzig, in 1937 had much idea of what the people in Berlin were really doing. Are we as blind?

In this second premise, it is not just thriller writers and conspiracy nuts who worry. See….

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

… for a write up of a a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page which concludes that the US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

Of course, everyone knows that university professors are pinkos, out to cause problems where none exist. My Congressman told me so, and he had it from Mr. Hoover, years ago. At least then, we knew who was suppressing dissent.

350,000 people were unaccounted for in the UK in recent years. Are you sure no one is disappearing?

I certainly hope Sebastian's premise is just a bit of fun. Am I sure?…

Hilarious! Republican Garrison Keillor

I love Garrison Keillor. In my heart, I know his warmhearted view of mankind… excuse me, person kind, is probably right. and then the Rabid Republican in me says No! Enough government regulation! Give me back my light bulbs that actually, um, LIGHT the room, etc….

So… take 8 minutes to enjoy the Republican's Garrison… Bill Whittle, Afterburner. The whole clip, by the way, is him speaking to camera. Don't be distracted by "When are the pictures starting?"

http://www.youtube.com/embed/4CDFxeB7Y-s

And no, despite the title, you aren't going to see the usual crazy workplace behavior which jollifies many such YouTube clips.

USA's spending

The people of the USA elected people, told them they could raise taxes, spend money.

The nice people in Washington alone… and don't forget that the politicians at the state level are of the same ilk… have achieved the following with that mandate from the voters:

  • $ - - 2,170,000,000,000 U.S. Tax revenue
  • $ - - 3,820,000,000,000 Fed budget (i.e. planned spending, before over-runs)
  • $ - - 1,650,000,000,000 New debt (Difference of first two)
  • $ - 16,271,000,000,000 National debt (What US owes, has borrowed)
  • $ - - - - 38,500,000,000 Proposed budget cuts.. and will they be implemented? When?

Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

  • $ - - 21,700 Annual family income, last year
  • $ - - 38,200 Money the family spent, last year
  • $ - - 16,500 Amount of debt ADDED TO the credit card, last year alone
  • (Note how this figure compares to annual income)
  • $ - 162,710 Outstanding balance on the credit card
  • $ - - - - - 38 Total budget cuts so far

Get It ?????

OK now,

Lesson # 2, Debt Ceiling:

Here's another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:

Let's say, You come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood….and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.

Do you raise the ceilings, and keep flushing things down the upstairs toilets?

Answer: Vote in the PRIMARIES, so that when it comes to the elections we don't have to "choose" between two nut cases put on the ballot by a handful of zealots.

Something tells me that a lot of creditors are going to be left empty handed, and that the US won't be able to do any new borrowing before very long. Ah well.. the people of the US can go back to working for a living. Oh. I forgot… much of the world's manufacturing is now done outside the US these days, isn't it? People don't seem to want to buy from US firms. We can't all become ballet dancers, as Tony says.

How big is a billion?

In a single year, the US government recently spent $1,650 billion more than it collected from various sources.

Just how big is a billion?

There was a very nice man who, with his twin brother, stood on a street corner, and gave out one dollar every minute of the day, (over 24 hours), every day of the year (365- 1/4).

They were continuing a family tradition. Mary's husband, Joseph started the tradition. How much do you think the family has given out in 2013 years? (I have provided the answer just a little further down the page, to give you a chance to think a bit before you see it. Answer just after the item "Lunatic Control")

Nothing new under the sun

Stand by for distressing news item….

Background: The latest fodder for "the media" is that here in the UK, horse meat has mysteriously turned up in the human food chain.

Sold quite openly and routinely for human consumption in FRANCE (maybe it SHOULD bother me!), it has never been deemed "appropriate" here in horsie loving Britain.

And it wasn't just some backstreet Sweeny Todd butcher shop… one of the major "ready meal" producer was turning out "beef" Lasagnas which in some cases weren't "tainted" with horse… they were 100% horse.

I keep seeing advertizing that just screams out for a little bit of "tweaking". E.g. a banner proclaiming "Farm fresh produce" could be improved by a pre-pended "Horse" grafitto, don't you think?


That's the background.

Two Matters arising…

a) Feb 2013: I was reading a collection of satirical essays by Jeremy Clarkson. Hve you ever seen "Top Gear"? He's the big, shambling presenter. The whole show is a laugh a minute with their irreverent comments and child-like, though not childish (well, not all the time) outlook on life. I tried to find one or more of his essays online, but failed. Go to Amazon, buy one of the ink-on-paper collections available there ("And Another Thing…", $4, incl p&p)

So… the other evening I was reading an essay from Dec 2003. Jeremy was cross because "they" (the government) were requiring that he get "passports" for his three donkeys… paperwork and fees. Fines for non-compliance. A new EU "requirement". So that the medical history of any horse carcass can be assessed to see if it has had medications which render the meat unfit for human consumption. But my donkey is not going abroad! Doesn't matter. No one (or so we thought) eats donkey in the UK. Doesn't matter.

Sigh. But- nothing new under the sun!

And then there was the Nice Man from the (governement) Food Standards Agency. He was saying that the horse meat in packets labelled Beef Lasagna was nothing to do with his agency. Some complicated argument about how the Agency merely SETS standards, it isn't about making the manufacturers comply with them?

Interesting fact: some time ago… 20 years, was it, food costs were 50% of the average UK home's weekly spend. And now we spend 15% on food. Hmmm.

Speaking of "the media": I was listening to BBC Radio Three yesterday. At noon I had to shake my head. I was sure I'd just heard a news bulliten saying that the news was that the BBC's journalists were on strike, and that BBC news services were cancelled for the day….

Lunatic control

It seems the US has another tragedy involving guns almost every week when the "news" media don't have something more titilating to use to sell soap powder.

And then we get the "We should have more gun control. People don't need guns".

Um. Excuse me. Canada has more guns (per capita) than the USA. Do they have routine tragedies?

What we need is more care for those with mental illness. But that would cost money.

People don't need high powered sports cars. They kill more people than guns do… but they also make money for big corporations. Guess which will get banned first?

And answer me this: In many states, to get a gun permit, you have to have a clean criminal record. So how come, after 90,000 people ticked the "No, I haven't been convicted of a felony"… when they had… how come only 3% were prosecuted for the perjury? How hard can it be for the authorities to catch the people who've previously been convicted of breaking serious laws when those people try to get a gun they are not allowed? The problem isn't the lack of "gun control". Or lack of restriction on gun ownership. Increase either of those, and you disproportionally hurt innocent, law abiding citizens going about their pursuit of happiness. Let's demand that the fat cats in Washington and their local cousins do what they've already signed up for.

++++Answer to question above:

Minutes since Christ was born: Just over a billion. (1.06 billion)

To put the US government's $1,660 billion overspend FROM A SINGLE YEAR differently, if George Washington, in 1776 had started salting away money to cover that one year's overspend, he would have had to arrange for savings of $13,000 per minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (That figure doesn't allow him any interest on the savings over the term of the saving, of course. It also rounds off a trifling $236. (Those (trivial (in the context)) scraps would amount to a million dollars in less than three days.)

Of course, millionaires are far more common than they were when I was a boy… but a millionaire is someone who, over a lifetime- to- date, has accumulated assets worth a million. The US politicians aren't SPENDING a million every 19 seconds… they are spending a million more than they are taking in every 19 seconds.

Insurance/ bank parasites

(BBC news, 11 Dec 12)….

Government figures claim almost 600,000 claims for "whiplash" in UK car accidents last year, estimated to have added £90 to average car insurance policy.

(TV programme, previous evening. Ch.4 "Dispatches")…

70 cases a day going to banking industry ombudsman where bank refuses… perhaps rightly, but it is a problem area, none- the- less to refund card charges both claim are fraudulent. The dispute is over who is perpetrating the fraud. And that's only the cases the bank dares to challenge. And of course, there are some… many?… cases of identity theft. Can they ALL be the customer's fault? Or is the system deficient.

Both… the whiplash and the fraudulent charge cases… illustrate a growing phenomenon: A "small" number of thieves taking "small bites" which get passed on to the honest people in the system. I'm told that a horse can die from a burden of ticks. Each tick takes but a small amount of blood…

The insurers and banks need more demanding customers… but it won't happen, I fear. Measuring the "pass it on to the whole customer base" figure for the first kind of fraud would be next to impossible, and even the simple global figure for all refunds for security breaches in the latter will never see the light of day, will it. Not in a culture when the banks can get away with lying to the public over security matters. (A few years back, a UK bank claimed that someone's access to another's account was a one off…. when that hit the news, it emerged that they'd been told of a prior incident three weeks earlier.)

I've some sympathy with the banks, especially in the UK… we want "security"… for us… but refuse to countenence a robust personal identity card. Neither would we be very enthusiastic about more complex card verification procedures. Some sympathy. Not much.

Nice work if you can get it…

(Figures from…
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20499836

The UK government doles out millions (billions?) to people who "can't" work.

They persuaded 878,000 of them in the past 13 months to have a go at getting a job which would last. Now… if someone was giving me money, I would have thought I would have to treat their requests quite seriously… "pays the piper", and all that.

Meanwhile, the government gave over £400 million to various bodies to help these people get jobs. (That number… present in the 5pm R4 broadcast news… is missing from the online version. Why am I not surprised?!)

And the benefit to the taxpayer? 31,000 of those in the program found a job which they lasted in for six months or more. Let's see…. £400,000,000/ 31,000… about £13,000. That 31,000 includes people who would have found work anyway, don't forget.

Online mendacity

This is longer than most of my Blogik posts…. skip down, if you like… the next has a heading like the above, saying "The US is Toast"

There are some interesting stories floating around the internet.

It is said that Obama said "My father served in WW II."

According to Snopes.com, it was in a speech 28 June 2008.

Strictly speaking, in some senses, not true, as the emails will tell you.

However, Snopes explains the history of Obama's up-bringing, and claims that a man who stood in the place of his father from when Obama was 10 onwards DID serve in WW II.

Yes… it would be nice if our highest officials spoke with rigorous accuracy. Obama should have said, perhaps, "the man who was as a father to me", or somesuch. I don't mean to suggest that inaccuracy of expression is a trivial lapse. (I suppose Bill Clinton… when he wasn't saying that Obama should be carrying suitcases… would have said "It depends what you mean by 'father')

But was the comment a bald-faced lie, evidence of contempt for the electorate? I'm afraid I can't share that view.

I DO believe he has to go… even if it means 4 years of Romney. We need to send a message to all of the bastards in Washington. But I don't feel Obama "lied"… on this occasion. Which leaves the question of whether the people putting out the story were just "confused", or whether their contempt for us all extends to knowingly telling lies about an opponent, and thinking we won't notice.

The Snopes article is at….

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/service.asp

===
Other "facts" "proving" him a liar are circulating in connection with an alledged copy of his birth certificate, posted at the White House website….

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf

At 24 Sep 2012, to me, what you get from there (it is a small .pdf) appears to me to be a photo of an actual document generated in 1961. (Critcal to the allegations in the emails). In it, is father's race is listed as "African", not "African-American". Were he listed as "African-American", that might seem a phrase used ahead of its time. But "African", for someone born in Africa? Doesn't seem a great stretch, to me. Especially in a state where a degree of sensitivity to racial monikers might be ahead of the game.

The place of birth is indeed listed as "Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital"… the conspiracy people are worried by this, as they alledge…

to Kapi'olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital until
1978, when these two hospitals merged.
on a birth certificate dated 1961 if this name had
not yet been applied to it until 1978?

… which I have not researched. Maybe by the time this reaches you, Snopes will be able to help?

The birth certificate also says he was born in "Kenya". The conspiracy people are worried by this, as accordking to them…

According to the 2009 World Almanic, Kenya did not even exist
until Dec. 12, 1963, two whole years after Obama's birth, and 27
years after his father's birth. How could Obama's father have been
born in a country that did not yet exist? Up and until Kenya was
formed in 1963, it was known as the " British East Africa
Protectorate".

… which, again, I have not researched.

I can't help but wondering, though, in the case of both names where the "new" names came from, when they were officially adopted. Is it not possible that, for instance, the two hospitals were working together, and sometimes referred to carelessly by a logical, if not accurate, name, BEFORE the by-then-possibly-de-facto name replace the old "official" name?

===
There's a Wikipedia article which may be of interest, too…

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories

Please pass this on? Help sift away the chaff so that the wheat can be seen? There's so much incorrect or misleading stuff out there, that I would guess I sometimes dismiss true things, because of their context.

Articles which say "he said…" without telling you when or where are the ones I pay the least attention to.

Articles which say "Snopes says so…." often SAY that when Snopes doesn't. No link to the Snopes article: Red flag. But check the link. See what Snopes ACTUALLY says… and beware phishing links, while you're at it.

For something like the birth ceritficate… go to the equivalent of the White House site. There are "copies" of his "birth certificate" on other sites out there which are different from the one on the White House site.

Or just give up, and be Fat Dumb and Happy. The politicians and others will love you. I have a nice bridge for sale in East Manhatten, if you're interested. You can pay for it with your part of the fortune that I have in Nigeria but can't get out without a little help from you.

(This response to "Obama lied" initiated 24 Sep 2012, in England)

The US is toast…

(Post written 27 Aug 2012)

Please pass this on? Copy and paste it, or just send people here, http://blogik.wikidot.com/blogpol

Especially at this season, we get a lot of "noise" about "the economy". The 800 pound gorilla is the government. Cut taxes? Spend less? Etc, etc… but what are The Figures???

At last, someone has pointed me to the right place. Most families have a budget. All corporations do. What about the governement?

(All of the following is based on the proposed budget for 2013.)

Pop quiz: if every dollar of "security" spending was cut to 95 cents, what would be saved? Ditto Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid?

Where does the money go? Where does it come from?

If every personal income tax bill went up 10 cents on the dollar, how much closer would we be to a balanced budget?

How much of our money spent by the government is taken from us via our personal income taxes? Of course the other taxes come out of our pockets in the long run. Where do you think the money for the tax Walmart pays on its operations come from?

How much of the tax revenues taken from us get burned up just paying for CURRENT borrowing… and watch that rise in the near future as borrowing AND interest rates rise.

Ever had a friend get into trouble with out of control credit cards? Income after debt service insufficient for basic needs, and so debt rises, so monthly interest demanded rises? Well, folks, those nice people in Washington have taken us ALL there, now. On an incomprehensible scale.

If you want to look at the numbers for yourself… if you believe anything the government puts out… they are in Table S-5 of the .pdf at…

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tables.pdf

If you want a done presentation, even if it is rather scary, go along to…

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EW5IdwltaAc?rel=0

Said to have been done by a retired IBM accountant. Be sure to keep watching until the comparisons between US and Greek economies.

Answers to pop quiz….

How much of the tax revenues taken from us get burned up just paying for CURRENT borrowing? $248 billion… 8.5% of the government's total funds. But that will rise in the near future as borrowing AND interest rates rise.

If every dollar of "security" spending was cut to 95 cents, what would be saved?: $42.5 billion… less than a fifth of the interest bill.

Ditto Social Security/ Medicare/Medicaid? $86.2 billion.. roughly 1/3 of the interest bill.


Where does the money go?

"Discretionary"…
a) "Security" (Armed forces, Homeland Security, etc): 851 billion
b) Other: 410 billion

"Mandatory"… I would guess this means things for which laws
were passed which says "governement WILL spend.."
a) Social security: 820 billion
b) Medicare/ medicaid: 806 billion
c) Other: 766 billion

"Interest"… the killer… money spent for nothing… $248 billion
If only yesterday's voters had Just Said No.


Where does it come from?

Individuals' income taxes: $1359 billion (From other sources: Remember: 40% of the nation gets an almost free ride… between them, they contribute 25-30% of that. 50% of the nations contributes less than 5%)

Other taxes… ultimately from our pockets, too, of course…
Tax on corporations: $348 billion
Taxes on payrolls: $949 billion
Other: $235 billion

If every personal income tax bill went up 10 cents on the dollar, how much closer would we be to a balanced budget? 15%. And you think we can "fix this"? What about raising other taxes? 47% of the money the government spends was taken from us via income taxes. All the other taxes come out of our pockets too, anyway, if only in the long run.)

Finally, remember: All of this is just what the nice people in Washington are doing. Pay any state or local taxes? Maybe their budgets are prudent and responsible. Even if they are, we're toast anyway.

The politicians bought a lot of votes over the years, promising today's dollars to yesterday's voters. Unless you can tell me how we can sustain massive tax increases, JUST TO STAY IN THE BAD PLACE we are in, even if interest rates don't rise, some people are going to have to give up their hand outs from the rest of us.

The money we "paid into our retirement funds" never went there. It went to yesterday's supported- by- the- taxpayer crowd. It's gone. Are we going to take our children's future income?

Step backward for justice. UK to become more villain friendly

It isn't often you hear me saying I want the government to do more. But here's one:

The UK, in its "wisdom" has decided to discontinue holding English and Welsh forensic records centrally. If police working in, say, London, want to check records of an incident in, say, Birmingham, they will no longer use a central "library".

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18880701 for details.

Supposedly to save money. Now there will be 43 new "libraries" set up. And they can do the job even as well, and more cheaply? Sounds like a good way to create jobs in the IT industry and to shift expenses off of central books onto regional government books. If they can find enough clever wheezes like this, goody, goody! The taxes I pay to central government might go down £5. While my local taxes go up £10. Duh. What am I missing here? Always follow the money, when asking why a politician is up to something.

Oh yes… and if that London policeman want to check something everywhere, instead of just in Birmingham, he will have to generate 42 enquiries. Oh yes, that sounds like a great step forward. Of course the policeman may be able to send "one" enquiry… but it will need to be processed at 42 destinations. This saves money?

Funny!…

Someone's comment, in an urbane and intelligent discussion of "the economy" over the past 30 years, and of inflation, bond yields, etc…

"Consumers, in very recent years, have paid down some debt, (but)governments have more than made up the difference, spending like drunken sailors to stimulate, without much effect, their lagging economies…"

(Thus more than cancelling out the good steps, however small, taken by the consumers.)

A Dilemma

In my childhood, the Boy Scouts were an important positive influence. And you have to hand it to an organization like that successfully evolving, remaining popular today.

However, consider the step taken by the Australian Girl Guides (the original name for Girl Scouts) in 2012…

Their oath used to say (I) "… will do my duty to God, and serve the Queen."

Now it says "… be true to myself, and serve the community."

The humanists have won! Forget external standards! If you are happy with yourself then that's okay then!

Having said that, I do applaud the attempt to get away from two things that are too often twisted to the agendas of zealots… but I'd rather try to get people to understand the valid principles behind "duty to God" and "serve the Queen" than "go with" the Australian attempts at improvement. And I hope that those in the US Boy Scouts who are rabid Christians and homophobes can be weeded out. (BBC news, 7/12: US Boy Scouts officially reaffirms policy of excluding gay men and boys. If a heterosexual man were willing to help with a girl scout troop, would the fact that he might want sex with the girls be a reason to decline his offer?)

I guess the "serve the community" part is okay, for Australia… but even there: the oath shifts from recognizing a higher authority to isolating the individual. Ants "serve their community". People, for all their demands for "freedom" like to serve… the trick is to find someone or something worthy of allegiance and obeisance. One of the reasons our societies are unhappy is that trust that someone's in charge is weak, and thus hope for the future is weak. I suppose it beats being in, say, Iraq, in 2000. Someone was in charge… but that's not enough, is it?

Bumper Sticker:

… Who cares where Obama was born?
… The problem is where he lives.

Now then… don't think that I think the alternative is any better… but we need to teach the politicians a lesson, and for ten years simply vote against all incumbants. Anyway… by doing that, we will root out the powerful. When the government is weaker, it will be less able to line the pockets of their friends, and less able to waste taxpayer money.

Please tell me it isn't true!

I hope the following is a pack of lies… just one of the many mendatious emails created by the unscrupulous. I tried checking with Snopes. The references to sources are promising… but I must admit I haven't checked. Sigh… but for what it is worth…

Two messages here…

A recent "Investor's Business Daily" article provided statistics
from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years
after diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%
Canada 42%

Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received
treatment within six months:
U.S. 93%
England 15%
Canada 43%

Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it
within six months:
U.S. 90%
England 15%
Canada 43%

Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within
one month:
U.S. 77%
England 40%
Canada 43%

Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million
people:
U.S. 71
England 14
Canada 18

Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are
in "excellent health":
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%

And now for the last statistic:

National Health Insurance?

U.S. NO
England YES
Canada YES

—-
And then there's….

The percentage of each past president's cabinet who had worked in the private business sector prior to their appointment to the cabinet. You know what the private business sector is: a real-life business, not a government job. Here are the percentages.

T Roosevelt 38%
Taft 40%
Wilson 52%
Harding 49%
Coolidge 48%
Hoover 42%
F Roosevelt 50%
Truman 50%
Eisenhower 57%
Kennedy 30%
Johnson 47%
Nixon 53%
Ford 42%
Carter 32%
Reagan 56%
GH Bush 51%
Clinton 39%
GW Bush 55%
Obama 8%

Would you be confident with an administration, the Obama administration, if only 8% of them have ever worked in private business?

That's right! Only eight percent—-the least, by far, of the last 19 presidents! And these people are trying to tell our big corporations how to run their business?

How can the president of a major nation and society, the one with the most successful economic system in world history, stand and talk about business when he's never worked for one? Or about jobs when he has never really had one? And when it's the same for 92% of his senior staff and closest advisers? They've spent most of their time in academia, government and/or non-profit jobs or as "community organizers." They should have been in an employment line.

(Remember the "is this true?" disclaimer at the start of this.)

A rave, for a change…

"Attaboy, Richard"…

Turns out that one of my senators is a sponsor… only one of nine, I'm told… of a bill to facilitate… at no taxpayer expense… the repatriation of the K-9 elements of our Afghan nightmare for de-mob and re-homing.

Disgraceful state of affairs exists. Apart from the welfare of the dogs, consider the harm to handlers' psyches if they have to abandon their partner in that hell-hole? Details at…

American Society for Prevention of Cruelty… Military dogs story….

http://www.aspca.org/militarydogs

Don't be alarmed when that takes you out of the ASPCA site. (It will take you to…

http://capwiz.com/aspca/issues/alert/?alertid=61336366

…. which gives you a quick, easy way to write YOUR senators… ask them if THEY are voting for this bill.

If you'd rather start at the ASPCA site, go to…

http://www.aspca.org/Fight-Animal-Cruelty/Advocacy-Center

… and look for the link to "USA: Support and Protect Retired Military Dogs" in "Action Needed Now".

(Whew! Thank you WikiDot! I left this page without saving the above… but "the system" had saved my work as a draft! Love you, WikiDot!)

Time bomb ticking: Cuba

Bay of Pigs…

Cuban Missile Crisis…

Watts riots…

The USA's Gaza?

I read a good article in the Economist recently….

http://www.economist.com/node/21551047

It reminded me of the US's shameful and dangerous policies affecting Cuba.

Can the US afford to have a festering boil of bad government and poverty on its coastline? No? Then perhaps the people of the US should tell their government to stop denying the people of Cuba a chance of the good life.

Now… I'm about to say some things that I don't have "facts" to back up… but I'd be surprised if what I say isn't true….

US government takes money from US taxpayer. (good so far, anyway!) Government gives the money to sugar farmers in exchange for the US sugar farmers selling sugar at less than it would cost buyers without the payments from the government… but still more that we'd pay for Cuban sugar without government's interference, even not counting the hidden cost. And, just to be safe, government prohibits import of sugar from Cuba. So we pay more… in two ways, and people who want to work in Cuba are denied a market for what they could produce. Cuban demagogues are given a "Bad Guy" to demonize. Poverty flourishes.

Let's look at another aspect of the US government's behavior:

USA: "Land of the Free"? Well…. yes. Land of the freeER, in some ways. But don't think you, as a US citizen, are going to be allowed to have a vacation in Cuba, which is not hard to get to and not expensive, and has wonderful beaches, wonderful hospitality.

Mr Obama made a big deal of how he was going to reduce government interference in the lives of US citizens. "Vote for me", he said, "and I will rescind the prohibition on travel to Cuba". (And close Guantanamo). Nice campaign speeches. I wonder how many US citizens have relatives in Cuba? They're the only ones allowed to go there under Mr Obama's changes. And we know what happened on the Guantanamo promise.

Do go and read the article in The Economist. Here are some highlights…

"Time for America to get over its 50-year tantrum

"… there are several reasons for all sides to prefer an orderly transition to capitalism and democracy in Cuba. The sudden collapse of communism risks civil war, or at least the danger that Cuba’s formidable security and intelligence agencies will become hired guns at the service of drug trafficking and organized crime….

"… American policy towards Cuba resembles a 50-year tantrum, rather than a coherent plan for encouraging a transition to democracy. The hurt suffered by the exiles was indeed great, but it should not supersede the national interest of the United States. The 50-year-old economic embargo of the island, which this newspaper has long opposed, has done more than anything else to keep the Castros in power. The abiding trope of the brothers’ propaganda is the need for “unity” against the aggressor…

"The exiles’ powerful lobby in Miami and Washington, DC, maintains that going easy on the Castros, even when they are opening up, is a betrayal of American ideals. This is nonsense. The Cuban people are not free, but neither are the Chinese or Vietnamese, and America has concluded that it is in its interests to have normal relations with their countries…

"… outsiders need to ask is how they can best speed change in Cuba. In the short term regime change is not likely. The dissident groups that American policy favors are small and isolated. There is no Mandela in waiting. The rest of Latin America has concluded that encouraging the regime down the road to reform is better than stopping it…"

US in Iraq

See…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16690300

… for at report from the BBC on the outcome of a trial of a US marine who pled guilty to something, and at the same time avoided trial for a number of counts of manslaughter in connection with killings. Sgt Wuterich is alleged to have lost control after seeing a friend blown apart by a bomb, before leading the soldiers under his command on a rampage.

Among the dead were women, children and elderly people, including a man in a wheelchair.

His former squad members testified during the hearings that they did not receive any incoming gunfire during nor find any weapons at the scene of the killings.

He will serve up to 3 months in jail… not Abu Ghraib, as it happens.

And people wonder why the US isn't popular in the world. And why it won't submit to the international court in the Hague.

In a radio report of the same story, it said 24 dead civilians were admitted to, Wuterich had 9 manslaughter charges dropped, and is serving his time for dereliction of duty… he was in charge of the squad alleged to have killed the civilians.

In related news…

"Soon after the deaths in the above incident, US Marines ordered their troops to attempt to distinguish between civilians and combatants." What bozo behind a desk came up with that memo? Worthy of a Monty Python sketch! Afghan farmer, tilling his crop of poppies, with a placard 'round his neck saying "civilian", picks up AK-47, placard changes to "combatant" (or, better, of course, "terrorist"), puts down AK, placard changes back. Put several such in a tactical range scenario, picking up and putting down their guns, with GI Joe rushing down it scoring points for getting the farmers when they have the AK in their hands, losing points when they don't. Sigh.

Please don't think that I fail to have enormous sympathy for the troops involved…. but having sympathy isn't the same thing as saying the troops should escape the consequences, if they did what they were charged with. Everyone who does evil has some "reason". A society should expect to be judged for what it tolerates.

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