Sunday, December 16, 2012

Do we really need to freely allow people to purchase assault weapons?

In memory of the 28 who died needlessly at the hands of a crazed assault-weapon toting "citizen" in New England this past week.  

I am a southerner. I get the whole gun thing (as it were). 

My grandparents going back centuries owned guns. I own several of those very guns handed down to me by some of those fine folks to whom I owe my very existence. Those who lived long before me surely needed guns to hunt and for personal pleasure (to shoot clay pigeons, skeet, cans and what not). Sure, an argument can even be rationally made that -- depending on where they lived -- they needed those weapons for their own defense especially those living in the wilds of colonial Virginia. 

As technology progressed (so to speak. Is this really "progress?") the weapons have become capable of killing many in the blink of a child's eye lash - alas. Our founding fathers -- the very ones who created the second amendment allowing us to keep and bear arms for our DEFENSE -- would not even allow the average non-land owning person to vote! Do you think -- had they lived in our time -- they would allow the average citizen to own an assault weapon? Would they have allowed average citizens the right to bear these insane weapons for OFFENSE versus defense? 

When you think about it, our country has tacitly approved the ridiculous interpretation that anyone who can fog a mirror (apparently) may be allowed access to weapons whose primary purpose is offensive. It's called an "assault" weapon for a reason. I do not own assault weapons. Why would I need a Sig? Or an AK-47? Or anything that is designed to obliterate a target - human or otherwise? There is only one reason someone might own such a weapon. For their own personal narcissistic pleasure or paranoia. 

Oh, and the nutty idea that the same crazed and twisted murderer who snuffed out 28 lives this past week -- if they were hell bent enough -- could pack a van full of explosives and cause the same kind of murderous mayhem -- is specious at best. Sure, murder is a human constant; mass murder is as well. But we have reached a point where we must be as willing to die for a right to live in a society free of these kinds of narcissistic weapons as we are to live in one with this self-fulfulling gun culture tyranny. 

We allow paranoiacs in the NRA and their lap dogs in Congress to convince us that the path to true freedom is accompanied an assault weapon Bull shit. Why not a rocket launcher? Or, my own personal tank? Flamethrower? I don't know that I want to live in a society that so easily allows every one to own a tool that is designed to annihilate everything in its sights. Sure, someone could come along and bludgeon me with a stick or an ax. But, he or she would have a helluva time using that same stick to kill and murder dozens in seconds. 

You want to own an assault weapon for your own protection? Fine. Go live on an island then. Have all of the assault weapons you like. Just get out of my country. I don't want you here. 

Ban these assault weapons. It won't stop murder. But, it will limit the devastation and the ability of someone like the crazed nut in Newtown from making a life-ending spectacle with the blood of small children. Enough. Please.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Birthday for Packy the Elephant?

I am 10+ year member of the Oregon Zoo. Sure, I like animals. But, I just received the most ridiculous birthday party invitation. It was from an elephant -- "Packy."

I continue to be surprised at the lengths human beings will go to leverage events to the nth degree to make a buck. When I get invited to celebrate someone's birthday, I am not given 500 opportunities (depending on my donation or gift level) to pay homage. Why can't we just have some cake (albeit a gigantic one) and ice cream, some candles and call it a day?

"Hey Kids! Come celebrate Packy's birthday! For a tax-deductible donation of just $25 you can get a complementary bag of 'Packy's Patty's' for your Mom's garden. If you want your garden basil to grow as tall as Packy, you'll want to get here early to avoid the lines!"

For a donation of just $50, you can get some of Packy's toe nail clippings (Hint:these make great gifts).

And, for a donation of $100 or more, Packy will use his trunk to splash some paint on a piece of paper for you. Yes, Packy is an artist.

Of course he's an artist. He's been in prison for a half-century.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Packy in the prison, err I mean Zoo, visitor center. Zoo officials sat close by in order to monitor our conversation, though this reporter politely refused to allow Zoo officials to edit or review the answers.

Reporter: Packy, you were born in prison. And from the looks of you, it does not seem to have bothered you much.

Packy: Three squares and two hours in the yard a day. Someone to hose you off and scrub you down and all the free hay, healthcare and drugs I need. I live better than most people. Got a roof over my head and a concrete floor to nap on. Life's pretty good. Besides, I am used to it by now.

Reporter: But, don't you think it would've been better to grow up in the wild?

Packy: Elephant's live in the wild? (Pauses). I am kidding! Of course they do. Naw. I ain't that kind of elephant. (Laughs). Besides, I am lazy as hell. Don't like to work.

Reporter: I see that you paint.

Packy: Sure, I enjoy flinging a paint brush around. The people at the Zoo (glancing over his enormous shoulder) spend weeks trying to find meaning in my art. It's hilarious. I am just flinging paint around like a drunk kindergartner and everyone thinks it's a sign of some higher intelligence. I mean...look at me. I am g'damn elephant! The only thing I can draw is flies.

Reporter: What else keeps you busy?

Packy: Showers. Especially when Zookeeper Tammy scrubs my privates. (Giggles).

Reporter: So you are allowed conjugal visits.

Packy: Yeah. You could call it that, I guess. There are other elephant's here, though. These damn keepers are always trying to get us to, uh, you know, get it going on. It makes me laugh. Just the other night after visitors hours were over, Tammy put Marvin Gaye's "Let's get it on" on the loudspeaker. She set the lights down low in the cage, fed me and what's her name some fresh hay and then began to push us close together with sticks. My boys need a lot of room to breath; all that effort ain't gonna cut it in a cage. Besides, I need some g'damn privacy.

Reporter: Have you ever thought of escaping?

Packy: From what?

Reporter: The Zoo?

Packy: Why?

Reporter: Because you are in a cage?

Packy: You serious, man? This is a great gig. I sleep when I want. Eat when I want. Step in my own droppings when I want. Pee on the zoo keepers when I want. I especially enjoy that; drenches them to the skin. They walk out of the cage sloshing in their boots; makes me crack up every time. Priceless.

Reporter: People say you like practical jokes.

Packy: Yeah, I like a good laugh. What I really like to do is break wind in the direction of people who talk on cell phones near my pen. What the hell. Here they come to the zoo with their kids and all they can do is yack on the damn phone? What is wrong with these people? Believe me, they get out of their quick when I send a little "poison air" their way.

Reporter: Do you have a cell phone.

Packy: (Long pause). Are you stupid?

Reporter: Sorry.

Packy: I would like to make a suggestion.

Reporter: What's that.

Packy: Maybe you could report that my feet are killing me. I need some rubber mats or something in here. The concrete floors are really not very ergonomic. Maybe Nike can grind up some shoes and make a soft floor for me. Can you let 'em know about that?

Reporter: Sure, Packy. Any last thoughts?

Packy: Yeah, got a cigarette? This g'damn patch is the size of a mouse diaper.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP, Please Fire Tony Hayward

It is simply outrageous how Tony Hayward responded to the questions from Members of Congress this week. In spite of the Member's predictable political grandstanding (Rep Joe Barton Fink anyone?), they appropriately reflected the nation's disgust at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, I think they were too soft on Mr. Hayward.

Memo to the board of directors of British Petroleum:

Get your (well) head out of your arses and fire Tony Hayward. Now, please. Lord help us, are you all really as stupid as you look on television? I can't imagine that you are. But, apparently you are.

The Conscious American

P.S. Was your media training session for Tony focused on getting him to a) not become rattled and b) give as few specifics as possible so he did not try to match wits with unarmed opponents? If so, be sure to fire your media training team on your way back to London you impotent tools. You received bad advice -- again.

P.P.S. And now I hear Tony Hayward is attending a yacht race. His balls must be made of titanium. Amazing. Is there any one at BP with an accountable bone in their body? Why are more Americans not outraged? BP must be kicked out of U.S. waters -- permanently.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dear Senator Patty Murray

As a business owner in Washington, employing hard-working Washingtonians, I am struggling to understand some things.

I am working with a number of banks in Washington and Oregon. They have told me that their intent is to continue to use government money (at .25 percent) to purchase the land assets of failing institutions. They will then "sit" on those assets in order to constrict the supply of building lots and drive prices up to serve the narrow interests of their shareholders only. Their customers and taxpayers will not benefit from this and are suffering now as a result. Job growth in the construction sector is being artificially stifled by the actions of these bankers and it must stop immediately.

Here are my questions. As a tax payer, an employer, an entrepreneur and an American, I would like a reply.

Why are banks getting near interest free money from the Federal Reserve in the current environment?

Why did the U.S. Federal Reserve transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to the nation's top 2% performing banks in early December and almost NONE of that money has gone into economic stimulation projects? (In one case, a bank in Washington sent several million dollars to a project in Mexico being developed by an American customer).

What is the purpose of not charging banks a fair rate of interest for the money they are using to buy the troubled assets of their failing peers?

Why are banks not being held accountable for their lax underwriting guidelines several years ago? When is Congress going to haul the leaders of the nation's banks to answer questions about their underwriting guidelines?

Why are the bank regulators not being held accountable for their lax oversight of bankers? When is it their turn to face Congress?

Why is that only tax payers and hard working Americans are being forced to pay higher taxes and to pay for the failures of a narrow few? And those narrow few are still getting free or near-free money from the same people -- the American taxpayer?

And, why are banks -- who have been given cash from tax payers and our government -- being allowed to buy distressed assets with that money and turn around and foreclose or threaten foreclosure for the full amount of the notes due when they have little to NO basis in those assets to begin with?

How is that they are being allowed to make money on something they paid nothing for?

Imagine for a minute that a few years ago, I gave you a $100,000 loan. Imagine that I asked you for almost no proof that you could pay it back and simply gave you the loan without checking to see if you could really afford it. Now, let's say you called me a year later and said you could not pay me back. Imagine if I could simply call the government and ask them to give me the $100,000 so I could be made whole and I would then pay the government back when I was able to collect from you.

In this scenario, I am back to even. You are still on the hook for the full amount owed. The good news? I am not punished for my poor credit-making decision. The bad news? YOU still owe 100 percent of the money. Oh, and you have to keep paying the government taxes so they can subsidize my stupidity and the stupidity of my peer lenders (or greedy brilliant thinkers depending on what side of the transaction you are on).

Imagine that I took the government's money, squandered it some more with poor decisions and now I need another government loan to bail me out. The government would give another bank 100% of the money they need to buy my note at say, 20 cents on the dollar, and so I am saved again. YOU, though, are still on the hook for 100% of the money you borrowed. Senator, that's called a scam.

Chief Credit Officers in several Pacific Northwest banks are buying assets from failing banks with money given to them by the FDIC and the Federal Reserve. That's fine, I guess. But they are only paying 20 cents on the dollar at the most for these assets AND they money the government is giving them is costing them almost zero. So now they control most of the permit-ready building lots in Oregon and Washington. They have NO incentive to sell those lots at market rates as they have almost no basis in the lots. So, their stated policy is to hold these lots to purposely constrict supply in order to drive prices higher in the false belief that the value of these assets will rise to the same unsustainable levels to which they rose three years ago.

They are in error in their thinking. I am a home builder. I need lots. But, I cannot get those lots from these bankers who bought them for 20 cents on the dollar because they greedily believe they will be worth even more three-to-five years from now. The Pacific Northwest is already one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation. It is being made more so -- at a critical moment in our history -- by bankers who care only about their shareholders.

It is wrong. It should be a crime. At the very least it is un-American, selfish and greed-driven.

Nathaniel Clevenger

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Green Motor Oil? Green Earth Technologies and Motor Oil Made From Animal Fats

Here's a press release from Green Earth Technologies that recently caught my attention (disclosure, I bought a few shares of their company about a month ago). If their G-OIL product really works, why has their been so little attention paid to this? Why, when we continue to send soldiers to the Middle East to protect our oil interests there, do we not hear more about innovative products likes this?

Is it because Green Earth is too small to have the ability to market aggressively? Don't we realize that each time we fill our gas tanks, we are part of the problem of keeping oil producing nations hostile to us in business? I understand a worry about using a product like G-OIL. I have a German-made car. I would worry about how this oil would affect my engine. But, if it passes all of the ASTM tests, why should I worry? I should just do it because it's apparently better for the planet AND it gets me one tiny step away from people who would seek to kill us for few other reasons than they don't like our culture or our religion. Should be a simple decision to make on my part. And yet, it's not.

I need to call my car dealer. I need to have them ask their mechanics if it's ok to use the oil. I have to then try it out. If I notice even the smallest amount of performance decrease, then I will probably blame it on the G-OIL. But, should I?

It's all so damn complicated. Green Earth could help me out by publicizing which cars and models could take their new oil. They could be a lot more aggressive than simply sponsoring the American LeMans Series. Besides, how does sponsoring a decadent car race help promote the use of earth-friendly oil?

STAMFORD, Conn., Oct 28, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ --
Green Earth Technologies (Pink Sheets: GETG), a leading manufacturer
and marketer of "green" environmentally safe consumer packaged goods
and products, announced today their third consecutive showcase at The
AAPEX Show at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, November 4-6. In the
previous two years, Green Earth Technologies has previewed G-OIL(R)
Ultimate Biodegradable green motor oils and other environmentally
friendly automotive products at AAPEX, the world's largest business-to-
business event for the Automotive Aftermarket industry. Third time is
a charm, as G-OIL SAE 5W-30 is now available nationally, passing all
the engine test criteria for The American Petroleum Institute (API) SM
Certification and being granted the API "Donut," becoming the first
and only bio-based motor oil to receive such distinguished honors.

G-OIL is the world's lowest petroleum, "eco-friendly," ultimate
biodegradable motor oil priced comparatively to synthetics and
similarly performing products. Unlike traditional petrochemical-based
motor oils from leading manufacturers, Green Earth Technologies' G-OIL
is made with American-grown renewable animal fats. These saturated
fats, whose molecular single-bond carbon chains are similar to common
petroleum oils, have no harsh effects on the environment, and
drastically cut our dependence on foreign oil. In the past year, G-OIL
also became the official motor oil of The American Le Mans series.

In addition to G-OIL Green Motor Oil, Green Earth Technologies will be
previewing two new products: G-OIL Marine Oil, which will begin
shipping in 2010 and the GREEN MACHINE(TM), a new product in the
appearance chemical category with TTI. The GREEN MACHINE is a portable
1400 PSI pressure washer designed for cars and trucks specially
equipped with the G-CLEAN High Pressure Detergent Injector to
accommodate environmentally friendly washing using GET's ultimate
biodegradable dissolvable detergent pouches, made with American-grown
plant base oils. The dissolvable detergents go through the pump and
clean at high pressure while conditioning and lubricating the pump, so
no reclamation necessary while cleaning on the road.

"The AAPEX community has truly supported environmentally conscious
brands with increased fervor over the years for 'green' alternatives,"
said Jeffrey Loch, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Green Earth
Technologies. "We are very excited to showcase for our third year in a
row, as we now have G-OIL available for shipment in bulk and bottles
nationally, a true achievement for our company."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is it even possible to win a war in Afghanistan? Not today.

And here's why...

Follow this link. It will take you to a full description of Forward Operating Base Keating , the same FOB that was attacked this past weekend by 400 Taliban-led troops resulting in the deaths of 8 American soldiers.

What's most amazing to me is how much information the link above provides to our enemies. Wow. Why don't we just put every soldier's Facebook account, street address and photo on these Websites and allow our enemies to just kill them that much more quickly?

Children, we cannot ever "win" in Afghanistan. We can only retreat and allow the Taliban to keep their scrubby piece of mountainous dirt. And why should we care anyway? We have so many things to clean up in our own country.

So, why are we bothering there?

To keep radical Islam from proliferating? Hmmm. That's not working too well. Just ask the British and the Europeans. They can't even contain radical Islam in their own cities.

To control Afghan heroin-producing poppy fields? Does anyone else see the irony in trying to stem supply when Americans have consistently proven that they want heroin and as much as they can shoot? Hey, this drug is now killing more people than auto accidents. Will stemming supply cut that statistic? Doubtful. Americans like to get high. So, they'll just switch to something else. When are we going to learn that the demand side of this equation is where the solution lies?

To win Afghan hearts and minds and make the country safe for democracy? If that's the goal, then maybe the effort is worth it. But, it will take hundreds of years before we see any real change in that direction. The people have to want it. And thus far they don't seem to be too interested in it. If the Taliban can scrape together 400 farmers to take on a fully armed Marine garrison, then I don't think democracy is really on their minds.

Oh, wait, I know what it is. We need a place to use all of the weapons we are producing in order to keep our massive munitions manufacturing industry firing on all pistons. Politicians call it "job creation."

No, I don't want to see us retreat. I want to see us kill every single murdering Taliban member we can find. But, we need to find a different word than retreat to describe the need to get our young soldiers the hell out of there. Time for the Afghans to take care of their own country. Let's use our young soldiers to protect us in more important places like, ahem, San Diego, where are recent shoot out between armed smugglers and U.S. Border Patrol made Quentin Tarantino blush.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Martin Scorsese. Harvey Weinstein. Debra Winger. Michael Mann. Woody Allen. Mike Nichols, Debra Winger, etc. Please move to France.

Dear Hollywood and the French Government (notably Mr. Mitterand):

Wake up! If you can.

Roman Polanski is a convicted child sexual predator. It's as simple as that. He needs help, not more enabling. Your defense of Mr. Polanski is not just anti-American, it's frustratingly ignorant. It's frustrating because some lunatic editor has given you space to share your morally and legally-bankrupt views. Do any of you have a real sense of what's just and correct in this world or are you so jaded by your own fame and reflections that you've simply lost your minds?

Mr. Polanski raped, sodomized and sexually assaulted a 13 year old girl. Who cares if he did it 30 years or 30 minutes ago? It's all the same. This is what someone with a mental illness does. He does not need your protection, he needs your demand that he be sent to a place where he can't do it again. Who cares how talented he is? There will always be plenty of talented people in the movie industry. Personally, I could have lived without seeing Rosemary's Baby.

Your defense that his talent and life tragedies outweigh his crimes is illogical. He should've been jailed and provided with a significant dose of psycho therapy. After all, he is and will remain, a child sexual predator. There are teens who rape other teens and they are given the mark of a sexual predator for the rest of their lives, having to register and be marked on the Internet in perpetuity. Why not Mr. Polanski? What's so special about him?

Further, your excuse-laden defense that he survived the Holocaust and lived through the horrible murder of his beloved wife and unborn child at the hands of the Manson Family, pays no honor to either the Holocaust or to Sharon Tate.

Shame on you. Mr. Polanski deserves better friends. And we, as Americans, deserve better actors. I'll be boycotting all of your next projects until you find the wisdom to understand how sad your defense of Mr. Polanski truly is.

If your 13 year old had been raped, you'd want to make sure -- at the very least -- that it did not happen to another child. You'd demand the perpetrator be locked up for a long time and we'd all agree. Revenge is not what's being sought here. It's simple community protection from a sexual predator and others like him who might think they too can get a free pass for their behavior.