Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yeah, What He Said - Again

It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Little did I realize while sitting in Detroit's air-conditioned Cobo Arena, my ears assaulted by the screaming feedback and wild guitar playing of the "Motor City Madman" that one day we would live in the same area of Texas and I'd be reading his opinion column in the local paper.

And agreeing with most of what he writes.

His latest column in the Waco Tribune: Terrorists who drink and drive is another example of "Yeah, what he said."

Just over a year ago, some good friends of mine lost a son and grandson because of a drunk driver. This young man was riding in his best friend's Jeep, not wearing a seatbelt. His friend was driving way too fast on a country rode after having a few too many beers. The Jeep went out of control and this young son/grandson/husband/father was ejected from the vehicle and slammed into a tree. He died a few days later because of massive trauma which caused his brain to swell.

Driving while drunk or high on drugs is a leading killer of people in the US. It's not funny and it's not a game. It's a real problem which affects real people in unimaginably horrible ways. Ted describes a great example of a real person whose life was changed in an instant because of someone else's selfishness and stupidity.

"Friends don't let friends drive drunk" should be a way of life, not just a catchy phrase. All the punishment in the world doled out after someone is killed or injured comes too late. Drunk driving needs to be stopped before it happens. Responsible drinking includes someone who doesn't drink who can help those who are drinking by making sensible decisions for them and not letting them get behind the wheel. It's more than just a designated driver, it's a designated thinker

Joining MADD, DADD or SADD is a great idea, but take it a step further and make a promise to yourself that in your circle of friends you will not let them drive while impaired. And let them do the same for you. The rewards are well worth the effort.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hugo Chavez - Marching to that Totalitarian Beat

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Demands Hugo Chavez Free Jailed Protesters

I just wonder how people can be so fooled. Hugo Chavez is elected to head Venezuela, the parliament gives him dictatorial powers (only for a limited time, though, wink-wink). Now the people are surprised when he puts people who publicly challenge his actions in jail and that he shut down a television station because it aired opinions contrary to what he dictates.

The people who disagree with jailing dissidents and shutting down free media demonstrate and many of them are themselves jailed. It should really come as no surprise the Venezuelan Government is making such moves as these. Not fair? We can still protest peaceably and freely in the United States, but the same is not true of Venezuela.

One person who lives in the United States and enjoys the freedoms of speech, press and assembly is the actor Danny Glover. I have watched many movies in which Mr. Glover appeared. I found his acting to be quite good and the movies he worked on very entertaining.

However, I will no longer watch, rent, buy or otherwise participate in anything Mr. Glover has a hand in. Why? Because Mr. Glover is a huge fan of Hugo Chavez, even going to far as to praise him on Chavez' talk show "Hello, President." (See Hugo Chavez to Finance Danny Glover Movies) He is among a group of celebrities who support Chavez and seem to have no problem with the increasingly totalitarian and communistic government headed by their friend.

Mr. Glover basks in the blessings of freedom he gets by living in the United States. He has every right to go to Venezuela, or anywhere else for that matter, and get financing for his projects from whomever he can.

As someone who defended those rights by spending most of my adult life in the military, I will exercise my right to ignore him completely from now on. To paraphrase something Rush Limbaugh once said: "He has the right to say whatever he wants, but he doesn't have the right to be listened to."

Useless Warning Label?

I remember reading once about a web site which displays useless warning labels. I might have found one yesterday while on a business trip to the Gaylord Texan resort in Grapevine, Texas.

In the Gaylord's hotel rooms there is a safe, much like in other hotel rooms. It's not very big, but you can put a notebook computer in it along with other, smaller, items. The nicest feature of this safe is the electrical outlet you can use to charge your computer (or whatever) while it's safely locked up.

While I was packing my stuff to leave, I noticed the warning label on the inside of the safe's door:

It's a little hard to read, but among the other warnings printed on it was, "SUFFOCATION DANGER EXISTS." Here's why I think this might be a useless warning:
You can see from this picture, the safe is not all that big. It's about 24 inches wide by about 6 inches high and about 12 inches deep. There's no way to fit a person in this thing, no matter how small they are.

I suppose, though, there are some folks out there foolish enough to try to stuff a very small cat or a dog in the thing, perhaps allowing the pet to suffocate while their owner was out of the room.

I can imagine a little old lady, sneaking her cat into the hotel in her over sized purse. She is sneaky, alright, but what happens when she has to leave the room for a time? "I can't just put the 'Do Not Disturb' sign up, someone might come in anyway," she thinks to herself. "Aha!" she says to herself, "I'll put Muffy in the safe. That way if someone comes in they won't find her, and the walls are thick enough to muffle any noise she might make. I'll just let her out when I get back."

Tragedy strikes, though, when she returns and finds Muffy dead from lack of oxygen in the safe. Because there was no warning label on the door, the lady sues the hotel and the safe company. Despite the fact she wasn't supposed to have pets in the room and it should be obvious not to put a creature which requires oxygen to stay alive in a box with no air holes, the court awards her $1 million in damages for her pain and suffering.

Maybe it's not such a useless warning after all.

I didn't see a warning, though, to alert the user of an electric shock hazard from the outlet inside the safe. Using the scenario above, instead of suffocating perhaps the poor cat might electrocute itself trying to claw it's way out of the safe. The electrical short could trip the breakers in the hotel and set off alarms all over the place. Then who would get damages: The lady who shouldn't have had her cat in the room in the first place or the Hotel and all the other guests staying there that day?

Sometimes it's just hilarious to see what hoops companies must jump though in order to avoid being successfully sued by people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Modern Day Indulgences

In the 1500s, it was common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to sell indulgences. According to Catholic doctrine, indulgences are those acts performed by a penitent person to remit for any sins he/she committed. In modern times, this is done through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). In Luther's time, however, indulgences could be bought and sold for cash. In this way, the rich could, supposedly, purchase away their sins through monetary donations to the Church.

This led Martin Luther to write his "95 Theses" protesting the sale of indulgences. Forgiveness of sins was the purview of God alone and not something priests, bishops, nor even the Pope (Leo X at that time) could sell for a price. As Luther saw things, it was the responsibility of the individual to seek Christ and gain salvation by the Grace of God alone, which, as St. Paul wrote, "Is a gift from God so that no man could boast."

Sin Credits

In those days, one could purchase "sin credits" to keep themselves out of Hell or cut their time in Purgatory. Today, we have a similar system - the buying and selling of "Pollution Credits" or "Carbon Credits" or "Carbon Offsets."

Now, anyone who buys into the notion that global warming is human-caused and mostly the fault of those who live in the United States can buy their guilt away by paying someone else to plant a tree, go solar- or wind-power for electricity, or do some other task which will supposedly offset the amount of carbon dioxide their activities might put into the atmosphere.

Like the indulgences of 500 years ago, purchasing carbon offsets merely gives the illusion that a person is really doing something about how much carbon they might put into the atmosphere. Instead of actually doing something about climate change, they purchase their guilt away and do nothing of real substance. Folks like Al Gore don't have to actually do something about their houses, cars and plane trips. They can point to how much they offset their lifestyle ("sins against the environment) through the purchase of these modern indulgences.

If you believe that global climate change is human-caused then go out and do something real about it. Don't let your opinion be overshadowed by the hypocrisy of driving in limos or large SUVs , taking trips on private jets which put more carbon per passenger into the air than regular passenger jets, or using many times the amount of electricity of the average family in a home where only a few people live. Get a smaller car (or a motorcycle or hybrid car), fly with the scheduled airlines, insulate and modernize your home. Don't just put your money where your mouth is - do something real about it and lead by example.