Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well it's that time of year again, when the old year is on the way out and the new year is ushered in with all kinds of celebrations or hardly being noticed. Some people will go out to clubs or bars to party. Some people will go to parties at friends' houses and some will watch the New Year come in on TV. Others won't pay a bit of attention to the event and go to bed early.

As per custom nearly everyone makes a New Year's resolution, which is usually broken within days. At the gym on January 2nd, the place is packed with dieters who have resolved to lose weight. By February 2nd they're nowhere to be seen. People quit smoking, at least for a couple of days and people give up alcohol, until the hangover of New Year's Eve wears off.

People wish each other a Happy New Year and offer hopes of a better year ahead. People hope for a better economy, more jobs, less violence, less suffering and world peace. People offer well meaning and heartfelt intentions to make life easier for everyone. But unfortunately not everyone hopes and prays for the betterment of the lives of all. There will still be people who will work hard to deny some people of their rights and push to impose their beliefs on others. There will still be people who will try protect the wealthy, at the expense of the poor and middle class. There still will be bigots and racists who will spread their hate. There still will be terrorism in the world and their still will be gun violence in our country. The divide between the Republicans and Democrats will remain, as the GOP will keep trying to discredit Obama. Nothing will change until our politicians have the balls to stand up to the extremists in this country and bring about change.

I guess that as the New year approaches I remain a bit cynical and jaded, by the events of the past year, including the presidential election and the recent school shootings, with the pathetic behavior of the NRA and others. I see the fiscal cliff coming in just a couple of days and I see the House Republicans ready to let the country go over the cliff to protect the top 2% wealthiest Americans from paying a dime more taxes.They are willing to let the poor and middle class suffer and perhaps lose their jobs so the wealthy don't have to pay their fair share.

Well enough of the depression of the past. We all must hope for the best and work hard for the betterment of ourselves and others. We can't let the extremists in our society define what America is. So in that spirit I wish everyone reading this a very Happy, Prosperous, Healthy and Loving New Year.  We CAN make 2013 a better year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. At this festive time of year I hope all of my readers are able to spend time with their friends and loved ones. For our servicemen overseas, may you stay safe during the holidays and every day of the year and be reunited with your families very soon. For those families separated by the miles and by immigration laws, don't give up hope. For all those suffering from loss of a loved one or from ill health may our prayers be with you and may the new year give you solace, comfort and hope. May peace finally come to all people around the world.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
and
HAPPY NEW YEAR

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Not Just the Guns

Every time there is a tragedy, such as the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I can't help but think back to my childhood school years and compare now to then. For two days I thought a lot about my early years in school trying to make a comparison.

When I was in school I never experienced any frightening moments and I cannot remember ever hearing of any violence involving  schools or students. I can vividly remember when a classmate in the third grade died of leukemia. That was the first time I had to deal with the death of someone my own age. I can remember rarely that a teenager would be injured or killed in a hunting accident, but never anyone I knew. My father and brothers and their friends hunted with shotguns or 22 caliber rifles. I even hunted when I became 16, after having to take a hunter safety course offered by the local sportsman's club. I never viewed having a gun or hunting with a gun to be any big deal. I do not remember ever hearing about someone, young or old, being intentionally shot by a gun. But maybe I was sheltered.

When I was in school and there was a disagreement between or among students, for one reason or the other, they simply had a verbal shouting match. On some occasions the disagreement led to a fist fight, where nothing more serious than a bloody nose was the result. But not now. Today if one teenager merely gives a dirty look to another teenager or accidentally bumps into another, he could be shot and killed. I can remember seeing TV news programs about gangs in NYC or Los Angeles, where "turf wars" were fought with fists, chains and knives, but rarely guns. That scenario was so foreign to me.

When we went to the movies we saw movies like Gorgo, Godzilla and other so called monster movies. Frankenstein and Dracula were popular, as it was fun to be scared out of our wits.We didn't see any really violent movies where there was a great deal of blood and guts and other gore. I remember cowboy movies where the bad guys got shot by the sheriff, but without concentrating on the violence. It was different, however, when the cavalry fought the Indians. For some reason it was acceptable for Native Americans to be slaughtered.  There were numerous war movies around, when I was younger and naturally violence was depicted in the often times historical recounts of battles of World War II. I think we understood this to be history.

When we played war or cowboys and Indians , we shot each other with our cap pistols or pop guns, but we all knew it was just a game and the victim would soon be up and ready to play another game. Speaking of games, when I was young we played Monopoly, Life or Scrabble. Video games came into play in my middle or late teens, with games such as Donkey Kong or Super Mario. In arcade games we shot ducks or airplanes. We didn't shoot people. When I was of college age the Vietnam war was in full swing. We knew this wasn't a game. We knew you could get killed for real and you wouldn't come back to play another game.

Today things are different. Popular high tech video games glorify brutalizing women and indiscriminately killing people and police officers. Teenagers are glued to their game consoles for hours at a time losing contact with the real world. They become the figures in their video games. Today's movies aimed at young people do not require any thought or intelligence to "understand" the plot. There is no plot. The more violent and the more blood and body parts and destructive weapons in the movie, the more popular it is.Years ago movies pitted the good guys against the bad guys. A very simple concept of good and evil. Today the movies portray drug runners, street gangs and fast cars in battles with each other. Often times law enforcement is belittled or portrayed as corrupt or evil and the victims of the bloodshed. If there are plots to these movies they are  very shallow. Their aim is to entertain by the actions of fast cars, extreme weapons and extreme violence.

What really irritated me in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings were the number of Hollywood actors and movie makers who came out against gun violence. What hypocrites! They earn their living making movies glorifying gun violence and murder.

American society and culture has changed since I was in school. Today I read that 47% of Americans have guns. This counts as 1 weapon for every man, woman and child in the country. We have more guns than any other country of the world and these guns are readily available. There have been mass shootings,involving young people in other parts of the world, including Britain and Norway, where guns are not as readily available. Recently in China a man entered a rural school and attacked several children, with a knife. No one was killed, but imagine what would have happened if the crazed man had a gun. In Switzerland, where there is no army, just about every male has a rifle at home. Yet in Switzerland gun violence involving intentional homicide was 0.52 per 100,000 population, while the US had a rate of 3.0 per 100,000. According to the 2012 Global Peace Index the safest country in the world was Iceland. What is interesting about this index is that our neighbor, Canada, was ranked number 4 safest country, while The USA ranks 88.

I agree something has to be done about the violence in this country. I don't advocate taking away guns from responsible citizens who enjoy hunting or target shooting. I do not, however, see the necessity for having military style assault weapons capable of killing as many people as possible. Beside revisiting the regulation of assault weapons something has to be done about the mental health system in this country. I think that in our endeavor to protect the civil rights of the mentally ill, we are neglecting the civil rights of the general population. In each and every one of the recent mass shootings it was later learned that the shooters were mentally unbalanced and either were not receiving treatment, refused treatment or worse yet, completely ignored. They simply became their favorite killer character of their favorite violent movie and took revenge on anonymous people as they have seen their heroes do many times. America may have more guns than any other developed country, but we may also have more mentally ill people than any other country of the world.


It is time that we all do a little soul searching in this country and decide what the real American values are. The founders of this country were talking about muskets and not assault weapons, when they enshrined the right to bear arms in the Constitution. Our children have the right to live without fear of violence and our citizens have the right to access to proper mental health care. We  must all act together in concert to protect the health and safety of us all.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another American Tragedy

Today the world awoke to the news of yet another mass shooting in the United States. This time, in the quiet suburban setting of Newtown, Connecticut, where the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School were attacked. Instead of a community of children and families anxiously awaiting the Christmas holidays, a lone deranged shooter, dressed for combat entered an elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 adults. Now instead of preparing for Christmas, families are preparing for funerals and struggling to explain the killings to their children who survived the massacre, but still witnessed the horrifying events.

The  investigations continue, but we do know, however, that the 20 year old gunman also shot and killed his mother before going to the school, and then killed himself. According to some, the shooter may have been autistic and may have had a disturbed past. His mother was a teacher in the school and the arsenal of weapons he used actually belonged to his mother. Why a school teacher needs a cache of assault weapons is beyond me!

My prayers go out to the victims and their families and all of those children who have to live with the horror they have seen. But at the same time I am angry at the same old rhetoric about how something must be done. With each shooting people say the shooting is the worst shooting in American history and then there is another shooting, which becomes the "worst" in American history. Politicians are so disgustingly afraid of the NRA and the gun lobby that they do not dare go against them. They have let these groups define American culture and place more of a value on assault weapons than on the lives of our children

Gun lobbies argue that taking the guns away will destroy the safety and security of the country. But as history reminds us the wild, wild west was only tamed when guns were taken aways from the average citizen and law enforcement was put into the hands of professional law enforcement agencies. There are many avid sportsmen, such as hunters and those who enjoy shooting skeet etc. and they should have the right to enjoy their sport. What I don't understand is why people need to have assault weapons, machine guns and other weapons designed for the military. How many deer hunters use an AK47 or duck hunters a machine gun?

I wrote an article on guns a short time ago which was published on another site and I received some very nasty comments. It seems that if you attack the rights of some people to own and use assault weapons it is paramount to attacking their masculinity. You can read my previous article by clicking here. I believe that no other topic of interest to Americans draws so much controversy and rage than the topic of gun control. It wasn't mentioned in the past Presidential elections because of fear of the gun lobbies, but it's time to stand up for the safety and security of our citizens and our children and face the gun lobbies. Mass murders are a reality and are becoming almost common, but the paranoia and conspiracy theories of the pro gun lobby are not reality and exist only in their minds. It is time to do more than talk.

The rest of the world, even third world countries, are increasingly viewing the US as a very dangerous country to live in and even visit. It is sad that along with being known more opportunities for education and upward mobility, more technological advances and health care, that we are now becoming known as the home of mass murders. To our politicians I have one thing to say. Stop the bullcrap, grow some testicles and stand up to the NRA, for the sake of our future, our children.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Royal Phone Prank

I am sure everyone has now heard of the Royal telephone prank played on Prince William and his pregnant wife, Kate, by a couple of Australian disc jockeys. To summarize the tragic incident for those who somehow missed the news, a couple of disc jockeys in Sydney, Australia, called King Edward VII hospital in London where Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness, and pretended to be the Queen and Prince Philip. The victim of the hoax, nurse Jacinta Saldanha, believing the callers to be the Queen and her husband revealed private information regarding Kate's condition. Shortly after this prank the nurse committed suicide, turning the supposedly harmless prank into a fatal tragedy.

Radio DJ's play pranks on or for their listeners every day all over the world, with no harmful effects. Since this incident the two Australian DJ's have been attacked and ridiculed and blamed for this poor nurse's death. The blame on this hoax cannot be placed on any one person. As I said, these pranks take place all over the world. Japan probably conducts the most bizarre and vicious of any of these pranks, with little or no repercussions, as far as we know. When these calls are made, the pranksters know nothing of the state of both the mental and physical health of the victims. It is like playing Russian roulette and hoping the victim is not suicidal or has a severe heart condition, but the radio public demands such stunts. It was only a matter of time before a tragedy happened.

There  is one thing different about this sad situation and I have have a burning question to ask. Would this hoax have gone unnoticed if the subjects of the prank were not members of the Royal Family? Would the same thing have happened if the subjects were lesser celebrities or even normal everyday people? First of all because royalty is the privileged class, attention is naturally directed to them and special treatment is not only expected but required, therefore they are not immune to such jokes, satire and pranks. The nurse in this case, if the patient was an ordinary person, would not have divulged any information to a caller. But because members of the monarchy have to be treated differently, the nurse basically had no choice. She had no idea she was not talking to the Queen and Prince Philip. I do not think for a minute that the administrators of King Edward VII hospital went easy on this nurse. If the patient had been a commoner she would have gotten a reprimand, but because the patient was royalty, I am sure they were extremely harsh on her. Being a nurse she was exposed to all sorts of stressful situations and was, before this incident, able to handle her job in a professional manner. We will never know what was going on in this woman's life and will never know why she took her own life.

Instead of trying to place blame of the DJ's or anyone else, we should all reflect on why this happened. Has our society become too cruel and insensitive? Are our lives so dull, boring and meaningless that we have are entertained by the misfortunes of others? And why, at this time in history, do we need to have a class of privileged people, royalty or otherwise, to hold in the highest esteem and treat as our betters.



Friday, December 7, 2012

Alexa Page Rank and My Blog

When I first started this blog I had hoped to have a blog where I could express and share my ideas, thoughts and feelings with anyone who cared to read it. I also wanted to make some spare change at the same time as I increase my readership. Well things are going okay, but not as good as I wanted them to go, so I have made a few changes.

One thing that blog or website owners look for is a high page rank in Alexa. With millions upon millions of websites out there this is very important. Alexa is a ranking system that rates the popularity of websites and can help increase readership. I know you don't want to hear all of the technical stuff, which I really don't know, so you can click on the previous Alexa link to learn more. So in order to improve Steveso Thinks and my other blog, Retired in Malaysia, I have made some changes you may or may not notice. First of all I have added the Alexa widget to both sites. This will allow Alexa to monitor my statistics and it will also allow my readers to review my sites. So please, if you like my site or have something to say about it, please take the time to click on this widget to review my site.

As I have stated previously I would like to earn some spare change while I am writing these blogs, so I have placed some advertising on the blogs. I have AdSense from Google and I also have some affiliate advertising from a few companies. I have made nothing from the affiliate advertising and enough money from AdSense to buy a cup of Starbuck's coffee once a month. I have decided to remove the affiliate advertising from my blogs, but keep AdSense in hopes that I can increase revenue if my readership and page rank increases.  I have also tried to eliminate some of the annoying widgets on the sidebar of both blogs. I hope to make a few more changes in appearance in the near future.

Promoting a blog is important to increase traffic to the blog. With my blog Retired in Malaysia it is quite easy to categorize it as a travel blog or a blog about living in Malaysia and thus promoting it is a little easier. With Steveso Thinks I find it more difficult to promote as it is more difficult to categorize. Some of the articles in the blog pertain to politics, some to social issues and some are just random thoughts or ideas I have. Therefore, the blog doesn't comfortably fit into any one niche. I designed the blog so as I can make and share my comments and thoughts on a variety of subjects and I will just have to keep struggling to find the right way to promote it.

I hope you weren't too bored with this post, but this is what has been on my mind. If you have any comments or suggestions about this blog please don't hesitate to make them. Thanks to all for you support.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

GOP - Genuinely Obnoxious People

The recent presidential election showed just how much Republicans loathe minorities, such as Blacks, women, Hispanics, gays and immigrants. Because of this contempt the GOP lost the votes of these minorities and thus lost the election. Now the GOP has included another group to this list of people they hold in contempt. This group includes the disabled - children and adults. Republicans showed how despicable they are recently, by voting down, in the House of Representatives, the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Leading the attack against the disabled was none other than the holier than though ultra conservative Republican Rick Santorum. Santorum, whose daughter is disabled, espoused that if the US ratified this document the United Nations would kill her. Once again the Republicans are trying to  spread fear throughout the country that the United Nation's actions will have precedence over the US Constitution and the laws of the country. Republican conservative groups, with a long history of fear and hatred of the UN, have insisted that the UN has an anti-American bias and that this treaty would take away the sovereignty of the United States. According to the website Right Wing Watch, a home schooling activist, in an interview with Focus on the Family, " claimed that the treaty will prompt the United Nations to ‘get control’ of children with glasses or ADHD and remove them from their families". The mere fact that this extremist and bigoted group, Focus on the Family, is implicated in this issue shows just how much control right wing extremists have in the Republican party.

All of the arguments of these intolerant right wingers are absolutely baseless. The mechanizations of theUnited Nations can in no way effect the sovereignty of any nation. After all the UN is an organization comprised of nations who wish to improve the world and settle international disputes in a peaceful way. Only if a country wanted to surrender it's independence and sovereignty would the United Nations step in, at the request of other member nations, to govern that country, temporarily. So unless the US wanted to give up is independence and sovereignty and actually changed the Constitution, the UN could never supersede the laws of the country.
But the far right, which draws strength from their ludicrous conspiracy theories, either from extreme paranoia or outright stupidity and ignorance attempts to instill fear into the hearts of anyone in order to attack the UN.

Why do they do this? What are they afraid of?  I believe that one reason is that they are xenophobic and fear and trust people of other nations, religions and races. This could also be the reason why Republicans hate immigration, especially from non-white countries. Many of these right wingers have insisted that the US go it alone in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. They seem to be against any type of global cooperation and would rather have the US act unilaterally in any worldwide conflict. I can remember a number of years ago when some of these same people accused Bill Clinton of acting in concert with the UN to form one large country  governed by the UN. They have totally lost touch with reality.

At a time when the economy is in crisis, global warming is becoming more serious and there is an increase of terrorist activity, it is extremely imperative that all nations act together to protect the world.  Instead the GOP is seeking isolation in foreign affairs, if the US cannot be the dominant country. In foreign affairs and domestic policies, such as civil and human rights the Republicans want to return to 18th century. They are behaving in ways similar to their Taliban counterparts who are fighting to return to the middle ages. They are also reminiscent of Nazi Germany's quest for the dominance of the Arien race, when they oppose rights of minorities, whether they be Black, gay, Hispanics, women, the poor, immigrants and the disabled. They are willing to destroy these minorities in an attempt to force their controlling, bigoted, reactionary ideology upon the US and the rest of the world.

When the GOP stoops so low as to attack and denigrate people with disabilities just to further their own outrageous and hateful agenda, it is time for moderate and sane Republicans to oust these extremists and put them where they belong. And that is under a rock on the fringe.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Are We Going Over the Cliff?

Day by day we are getting closer to that feared economical feature known as the fiscal cliff. In the past few weeks the Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating to come to an agreement that would avoid going over the cliff, which would cause an economic catastrophe for the American people and the government, with such programs as Medicare and the defense budget being severely cut.

Before the election the Republicans, refused to negotiate in good faith and refused any kind of compromise, as they firmly believed that Obama would be defeated and Romney would be President. During the election Romney and the Republicans vowed to never increase taxes on the wealthy millionaires who support the GOP. Romney's "47%" speech showed just how much contempt he and his fellow Republicans had for the poor and middle class in America. Romney's candidacy was heavily bankrolled by the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other billionaire friends. They wanted to make sure that they would remain rich and become even richer, at the expense of the American middle class.

On election day the Republicans were stunned when Obama won re-election quickly and easily. The poor, minorities, women and the middle class repudiated Romney's policies of coddling the super rich. Republicans blamed those who receive so called gifts from Obama for the defeat. Those people are retirees, military personnel and their families, the unemployed, the handicapped and oh yes those large corporations that receive government subsidies. To this day Romney is still in seclusion refusing to believe he lost and that those 47% of the American population he called freeloaders didn't vote for him.

So now that the Republicans have to deal with another 4 years of an Obama administration they are still refusing to compromise. House leader John Boehner has just introduced a plan to reduce the deficit. It includes cutting $300 billion in defense and reducing Medicare by $600 billion and cutting benefits for the unemployed. His plan also includes $800 billion in tax revenues, which are not as yet outlined, but would include eliminating exemptions for mortgage interest and other such exemptions, which mainly hit the middle class homeowners. Guess what? Boehner's plan does not raise the tax rate on the wealthy by even one penny.  He's playing a reverse Robin Hood - steal from the poor to give to the rich. The GOP continues to show their contempt for the middle class, while protecting their wealthy supporters.

It's about time middle class Americans let Congress know how they feel. It's time for Boehner and his fellow Republican elitists to stop putting the Tea Party and GOP  and their own interests above the interests of the country. If we go over the fiscal cliff, it will be the fault of the Republicans and we will have to wait another 2  years until the voters can make them pay for what they have done to middle class Americans.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Is Israel Really Serious About Peace?

The country of Israel is about as old as I am and so, for as long as I have been alive, Israel has been fighting wars of some sort or other with her neighbors just to survive as a country. Over the past 60 odd years Israel has signed peace treaties with only Egypt and Jordan. Tensions remain always high with Israel's other neighbors, however. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to Middle East peace is the issue of Palestine. The search for Palestine to become a state has been an elusive one. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority on the granting of Palestine statehood have gone no where.

Hamas, which Israel and the United States have declared to be a terrorist organization, has gained a great deal of respect and authority in Palestine. The recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, where Hamas fired missiles into Israel and Israel responded with bombings, where many civilians were killed, only strengthened the position of Hamas.  Israel has the right to protect itself from indiscriminate missile attacks and Palestine has the right for it's citizens to live free of fear of retaliatory attacks on their homes and schools. Egypt has helped broker a cease fire to end the killings in Gaza and so far it is holding.

Shortly after this, the Palestinian Authority had won it's battle to have Palestine upgraded from an observer  to a "non-member" state by the United Nations. This change in status is only a symbolic gesture and carries no diplomatic weight. The US and Israel of course voted against this measure. Personally I don't see a big difference for Palestine, but it does offer them some hope of attaining statehood. Since Israel has stated publicly that she is in favor of Palestinian statehood I do not understand why Israel vigorously opposed the recent UN actions.

Shortly after the actions of the United Nations Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the construction of 3,000 more homes in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. These are the very areas which the Palestinians hope one day will be a part of the new state of Palestine and have been the home to Palestinians for thousands of years. Israel's actions are illegal under international law and have been condemned by all countries of the world. This act was definitely in retaliation for the UN granting non-member status to Palestine. It also put another nail in the coffin for a peace agreement and show Israel has no interest in a peace agreement or granting statehood to Palestine.

What really irks me about these illegal settlements is that when the residents of these Jewish settlements are interviewed on television news programs they all say "this is our land" "this land belongs to Jews" and "this is our home". They speak with a clear Brooklyn, New York City or Australian accents! They were not born there. It is no more their home than it is mine! Palestinians were born there, farmed the land there, made their living there and die there. Why does Israel think they belong there? 

Ever since Israel's existence the US has fully supported her right to peaceful coexistence with her neighbors. The US has in many instances supported Israel over our own interests in the world, especially the Middle East. We have given billions of dollars in aid and military assistance to Israel over the years and now Netanyahu thumbs his nose at the US and the rest of the world. I know he really hoped Romney would be elected so he could have free reign over the US's Israeli policies. Netanyahu has no intention of compromise and negotiating a peace treaty or granting statehood to Palestine. It's about time the US, Britain and Israel's other allies say "enough is enough" and tell Israel to negotiate in good faith or the money supply will be cut off.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Parent of the Year





This photo is one a several photos that have been circulating in email jokes with the satirical title of "parent of the year". When I first looked at this photo I chuckled for a minute, but then soon realized that I see this every day, living in Malaysia.

Each and every day as I walk along the streets of Penang, I see thousands upon thousands of motorbikes. Often I will see parents and one, two or more children riding on the bikes. Occassionally you might see the driver wearing a cheap helmet, but the kids usually never have one.

When I first saw these motorcycles with the entire family aboard, I was appalled, thinking that this would never happen back home. The difference is that very poor people back home often have cars or at least can afford public transportation, whereas here the motorbike substitutes for the family car. The people driving these motorbikes have a salary of less than $300 a month for the entire family.  There are helmet laws here in Malaysia, but they are enforced selectively. Many people just thumb their noses at the police. The police feel that most of these people can't afford to buy proper helmets and if they were given a summons, they couldn't afford that either. So the helmetless drivers are ignored. I often wonder if someone can afford a motorbike, they should be able to afford a helmet to save the lives of their children.

Even though I see this everyday I can't get used to it and wonder how many children are needlessly killed or injured. But that is one of the many ways a developing country is different.

Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues