Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another Earthquake Tragedy

Less than two months after the tragic earthquake in Haiti, a larger, more powerful earthquake has struck in Chile. The epicenter, about halfway between Santiago, Chile's largest city, and Conception, on the coast and Chile's second-largest city, has already claimed at least 120 people. The death toll will inevitably climb, as dozens of buildings have collapsed. The earthquake struck just after midnight local time, and many people were outdoors when it struck. For more information, check out these links:

The USGS Earthquake map centered on 75 degrees west.

The Daily Crawler, a web aggregator, with a very inclusive report.

Lucianne, another news aggregator.

The London Times

South America Daily, another news site I bookmarked.

People in Hawaii and American Samoa are being asked to evacuate low-lying areas due to the threat of a Tsunami.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Marines have Landed!

I revisited Haiti today, and found that the area around Port au Prince, Carrefour, Leogane, and Jacmel has been updated with imagery from January 25, 2010. One of the first things I noted was that the Marines had landed! There are also quite a few other changes, mostly for the better.

This image is an overview of the harbor and downtown area of Port au Prince. You can't tell much from this image, but as we zoom in, things begin to come into focus. As with all the other images I've captured of Haiti, click on the image to see the full-size version. All these images have come from Google Earth.

There are many changes to this area. At the bottom of the image, you can see that one of the damaged buildings has been fenced off, and clean-up work has begun. At the far left, about halfway down the left-hand side, there's a compound and a building that is an arc with two posts, one at each end. You can see a number of tents in what is probably an embassy compound. Immediately above that area, there's what was once a parking lot that's been turned into a tent city. At least one part of the area is being used as a tent hospital, with several military ambulance vehicles parked nearby. The clean-up work on the buildings to the top of the image has begun, but the rubble of only one building seems to have been removed. Don't be fooled by the limited amount of traffic - other areas show heavy traffic coming into the city, and moderate traffic leaving it. The building in the lower right corner of the image shows that the clean-up of some buildings and areas has just begun.

The Marines have come to Port au Prince. Here is one of the encampments where they stay when they're not working 16-18 hours a day.

With much of the harbor area still damaged, the only sure way to get supplies to shore is by using landing craft (inset). There aren't many places where these craft can land inside the city of Port au Prince. This image shows one such area, just above the main pier.

Compare the following images with the ones from the 21st, posted here.

The warehouse area in this photo, and the streets surrounding them, are jammed with people. Most of these people are those that have lost their homes entirely, or whose homes are so damaged it's not safe for them to return.

This soccer field has been turned into a squatter's camp, filled with refugees from destroyed or damaged homes.

The soccer field in the center-left portion of this image hosts a modular, deployable, inflatable European field hospital. You can see several tent cities in other parts of the image. This scene, mostly without the hospital, can be seen in many parts of the city.

This is the US Embassy in Port au Prince (not in the overview photo). Note the number of tents inside the compound. I don't know if these are living quarters for Embassy staff that lost their homes, staff being recalled and housed in tents to be available whenever they're needed, or tents for visitors. The area to the left of the image shows a crowd of people, and the street in front of the embassy is crowded with vehicles.

The National Palace (Haitian National Government) area is still surrounded by tent camps of earthquake victims, and little has been done in the four days since the previous imagery to clean up the debris in the area. Estimates of five to ten years for Port au Prince to fully recover are probably conservative.

Port au Prince isn't the only area where the Marines are landing. This minor port facility provides room for another landing craft to bring desperately needed supplies to people in Carrefour.

This image shows a tanker offloading petroleum products (gas, oil, diesel, etc.) to an area that also serves one of Haiti's oil-powered electric generating plants. Restoring electricity to Port au Prince will help restore a sense of recovery to the city.

Those of us in the United States have every right to be proud of our nation's military and their response to the Haiti earthquake disaster. Here is the USNS Comfort, one of two hospital ships in the US Navy.

The USNS Comfort isn't the only ship providing assistance to Port au Prince. This photo, centered on the USNS Comfort, also shows two US Navy LSDs (Landing Ship, Dock - where those landing craft come from), and a US Frigate. There are several ships from other navies, as well that are helping out. The sole ship providing assistance (as of Jan 25) to Jacmel, to the south, is a Canadian Destroyer.

As always, I'm not the only person reporting on this. There are dozens of others. One of them, my good friend Chuck Simmins has several posts on Haiti at his North Shore Journal weblog. If you want to know what our military leadership is saying about Haiti, visit the US Southern Command weblog. The US Southern Command has responsibility for all US military forces and operations in Central and South America.

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A bit of Explanation

Anyone visiting my blog, even for the first time, will see that my posting schedule is very erratic. I think it's time for an explanation, and a forecast.

First the explanation. I spent 26 years in the Air Force. During that time, I was injured about 30 times, mostly not very seriously. Sometimes it was bad enough that I would go to the doctor, sometimes I didn't. I had surgery - a two-level disk lamanectomy and fusion - in 1990. That was the first indication of how those previous injuries, often so innocuous that I didn't even think about them, would affect my future.

Now, almost 20 years after I retired in 1991, I've been diagnosed as having osteoarthritis in virtually every joint in my body. I don't hurt ALL the time, but the amount of time when I DON'T hurt has been constantly decreasing over the last ten years, to where today it can be measured in hours per month. Significant barometric pressure changes can aggravate my arthritis to where the pain medication, which normally reduces my pain to a very manageable level, just can't hack it. That's when I slip into hibernation mode, and virtually shut down all unnecessary activity, including blogging.

I started having some other problems about three months ago - almost-constant headaches, thirst, hunger, dry, cottony mouth, always exhausted, and very, very irritable. My wife made me see a doctor a week before our anniversary. It took less than 10 minutes to confirm what I'd suspected - that I had become a diabetic. We're still trying to get my sugar levels under control. Until I do, I'll still have many of the symptoms listed above. Things ARE getting better, which is one reason I'm posting this. I also urge anyone who have the symptoms I listed to see a doctor and have a blood test. It' takes about 10 minutes, and is very accurate. Undiagnosed diabetes can kill.

I'm not "cured", or even "controlled" yet, but I am beginning to feel better. The medication I'm taking takes time to build up in my system. I also need to go on a diet for diabetics, and attend a course in how to manage my illness. One of those classes is scheduled this Thursday, the other is scheduled for next Monday. I hope that once I get my blood sugar under control, I'll want to post more often.

I've also decided that I'll begin posting articles about stamp collecting to this weblog. I had a separate one, but it's pretty well dead from lack of posting (the last was almost two years ago, I believe). I'll also post more about Haiti, including an article today.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Posting Holiday

This is my last post until I can get a few things done and caught up. Here's the list:

-- I've decided that I'll wait until Google Earth can come up with more up-to-date imagery before I do any more reporting on Haiti. A lot can happen in a week, and the "latest" imagery is from January 21st.

-- I've got about 500,000 loose postage stamps in my office, and I need to get rid of about 90% of them. I can't do that and be here, on facebook, still have enough time to keep current on some 50 weblogs, AND take care of my family, especially a typical 4-year-old.

-- I've had a headache for over a month now, and working on my computer doesn't do anything to relieve the pain or pressure.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

No Third Party, Please

There's a lot of talk going on about forming a third party - the Tea Party. That could possibly be the most devastating thing that could happen to the United States. The Tea Party should be bigger than that - it should be the force that holds both Republicans and Democrats to the principles of smaller government, lower taxes, and less regulation. An outside group that can harness public activities for or against politicians may be able to do far more for this nation than a third party.

Establishing the ideals that are endorsed and supported by the Tea Party, requiring candidates to commit themselves to those ideals before receiving any support from the Tea Party, and by holding those same candidates to their promises when they are elected would do far more than electing a handful of people to the House and Senate. The Tea Party can have far more influence by NOT being a part of the Beltway Insider club than they can by joining it.

The Tea Party convention in Tennessee had a great opportunity to establish its basic ideals, in writing, after strong negotiation among the various "delegates". They failed to do so. They cannot afford to miss any other such opportunities. The "Tea Party" is best associated with Internet networking and support. Let the people from last week's convention gather together online (Facebook, anyone?), put forth a list of principles, have those principles debated (add some, delete some, make significant or even cosmetic changes to them), and then vote on what ones are to be included in the Tea Party agenda, and which any candidate for public office must support at least a fair percentage of them in order to get support (financial, physical,and electronic) from the Party.

Here's my list of principles I would like to see as part of the Tea Party agenda:

  1. Conduct a campaign to reduce the size and scope of the Federal government and the concurrent bureaucracy.

  2. Support the creation of an impartial committee to examine the full scope of the Federal government, its regulations, restrictions, rules, and support, as well as its cost, and recommend a series of closures, realignments, reductions, and de-fundings, similar to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) committee. Unlike BRAC, require the House and Senate debate the issues, and require a straight up/down vote on each recommendation. The Tea Party can decide, based on the discussions, how to respond to the actions.

  3. Require all legislation in the future to reference the specific Constitutional requirement (article and paragraph) under which the legislation falls. If this cannot be done, then the Congress has no authority to establish the legislation.

  4. Establish control of both the northern (US/Canada) and southern (US/Mexico) borders of the United States, for political, economic, and national security reasons.

  5. That means reining in illegal immigration, closer scrutiny of people entering the United States by air or sea, and greater control over both the issuance of visas to foreign nationals, and ensuring that those over-staying their visas are hunted down and deported.
  6. Simplify the tax code, reduce taxes, and eliminate loopholes for special interests. This goes in conjunction with #1.

  7. Reduce the complexity of government.

  8. Reduce or eliminate duplicate functions or jurisdictions, duplicated forms or records, and duplicated activities. Revise and simplify all government regulations, restrictions, or other rulings.
  9. Restructure the entire civil service hiring process.

  10. Civil Service job applications forms are some of the grossest violations of the "KISS" principle on record. There is no reason to continue with a huge, cumbersome bureaucracy in human resources management when we have computers that can do most correlation jobs better than most humans. Also, the complexity of civil service form (SF)171 drives many people to seek jobs elsewhere. It's a waste of government resources.
  11. Eliminate all "public sector" union affiliation.

  12. There is no "right" to a government job, nor of keeping a government job. The entire civil service function is to get and maintain a government job. Civil servants serve "at the convenience of the government". Political agitation, political actions not commensurate with a person's job description, and certainly any use of political differences to provide preference or to restrict hiring and promotion of individuals should be cause for immediate dismissal.
  13. The government has no "right" to demand that certain employees belong to a union. Government interference in private-sector employment must be ended immediately.

  14. Government operations should be subject to outside auditing at specific intervals. This includes audits not only of the financial operations of an agency, but an audit of employment records, regulations affecting the agency, or issued by the agency to regulate, restrict, or limit the actions of private citizens or other outside groups.

This is enough for you to get the idea. None of these items would be implemented by either political party, for obvious reasons. The government isn't going to simplify itself, or stop compounding the burden it inflicts upon citizens and businesses. The only way to achieve these goals is by having an outside party pressure both government and its members to make the changes necessary to accomplish these tasks. The Tea Party can (and has) have a positive or negative impact on any election. By only supporting those who not only endorse the goals of the Tea Party, but also work inside the system to make the necessary changes, the Tea Party can exert fantastic influence on both elections and laws. By opposing bad legislation both vocally and by electronic print, the Tea Party can force those currently in legislative positions to work more closely for the nation's good, rather than the politician's good.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break today. We must have a weather front moving through - the arthritis in my neck is VERY painful, and my lower back and legs hurt. I'm trying to relax - working on my stamp collection, doing some light reading on the Internet, and just "chillin'". I hope to get back to writing about Haiti tomorrow, looking at some of the small towns along the coast and to the south of Port au Prince. I strongly recommend checking out Chuck Simmens' blog, "America's North Shore Journal".

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

God and Science

Professor John Horner, a psychologist at Colorado College wrote a letter to the Editors that was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette (Flat-earthers, and other crank theorists, always deny science) On January 27, 2010. Somehow I missed it in last week's paper, but that's not unusual. Whether I take the time to read the various letters depends on how well I feel, and whether there's anything that appears to be interesting to read. Wednesday, unfortunately, was a VERY bad day.

Thankfully, the Gazette archives letters, and one can read them well after they've been published. I read several responses from others addressed to Professor Horner, and became interested. I just finished Professor Horner's letter. Obviously Professor Horner is unhappy with "flat-earthers" - people that don't believe the Earth is round, and who deny science that says it's a sphere (and others like them). Agreed, it's annoying when someone who has absolutely no interest - or foundation - in science takes up valuable time (and occasionally, resources) to deny the latest scientific "breakthrough". Other than that, however, exactly what was Prof. Horner's point?

There are several possibilities, and I'll address each in turn. Let's begin with the "cause de jour", "climate change". Before we get into the steamy, smelly mess of CRUtapes, "Climategate", the unraveling of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's AR4 "scientific" assessment, and all that goes with it, let me state my personal credentials.

I began my post-secondary education at the Air Force Academy, Class of 1968. I left at Christmas break my Doolie year due to a boxing accident. I rejoined the Air Force in 1965 as an enlisted person. I spent most of the time between 1965 and April, 1991, in either the Active forces or Active Reserve forces of the Air Force. My specialty was imagery analysis - looking at all manners of reconnaissance imagery, both of a tactical and a strategic nature. That's not an easy career field to succeed in, but I left as a Master Sergeant. You also learn an incredible amount of history, geography, economics, math, and virtually every known science related to the earth and what appears on its surface. At the same time, I earned more than 200 college-level credits through classroom work, correspondence courses, and hands-on experience. I have three Associate's Degrees, but never satisfied residency requirements at any college, and therefore don't have a higher degree. I am currently disabled, and have no time or energy to commit to furthering my education. The education I have is quite sufficient for me to read and understand most technical papers.

I agree with the statement "Flat-earthers and other crank theorists always deny science". As a psychologist, Prof. Horner should understand that people are usually afraid of what they don't understand. One significant way they respond is to deny what they don't understand. That doesn't mean, however, that everyone who denies current scientific theories is necessarily a "flat-earther".

One of the most idiotic statements in circulation today is that "climate change" is real because there's a "scientific consensus". Science is NEVER decided by consensus. The scientific method is quite strict, and has no place for majority rule:

  1. Postulate a theory

  2. Gather and interpret data

  3. Judge the theory by the data

  4. If the data agrees with the theory, try to disprove it. If it doesn't agree with the theory, either gather more data or refine the theory to match the data. (NOTE: Real science NEVER changes the data (facts) to match the theory. It's always the THEORY that must be changed to conform to the data - something the Climategate "Hockey Team" did repeatedly.)

  5. Once the theory and the data are in agreement, publish your findings and the data (facts) the theory is based upon for others to study.

Unfortunately for "climate change", it's a "solution" looking for a problem. Our planet has gone through HUGE temperature variances, from near-global tropical conditions to 100,000-year long Ice Ages. Climate is ALWAYS in a state of change. It changes from day to night, through annual seasons, through various natural cycles that last from a year or two (El Nino) to 22-year solar cycles, to various cycles lasting 30, 60, 90, 110, 1500, 24,000 and 125,000 years (I probably missed some - there are a LOT of them that have begun to be discovered). It doesn't help so-called "climate scientists" that the world has discovered their chicanery, unscientific behavior, and just plain criminal conduct. Nor does it help that the latest IPCC report has been found to have used "tainted data". Some of the references in the last IPCC report (AR4) included "studies" from the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, and in one instance, a magazine dedicated to mountain climbing. The statement that the Himalayan glaciers would "disappear by 2035" was discovered to have been idle speculation during a telephone interview with a scientist in India, published in a non-scientific magazine. Not very scientific. We won't even get into the mess about "peer review" and the exclusion from publication of any contradictory evidence to "manmade global warming".

Unfortunately, too, this is Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family, New Life Church, and dozens of other religious organizations. Prof. Horner's attack COULD have been launched against those that adhere to a staunchly fundamentalist belief that claim the earth is only 6000 years old. Perhaps Professor Horner's attack was against those that don't accept some scientific discoveries, such as the earth being round geological principles, biology, or chemistry. Prof. Horner may be one of those that believes it's impossible to believe in God and in Science. In any case, there is nothing clear and concise in Prof. Horner's letter.

In my personal opinion, those that deny scientific evidence OR the existence of God are extremely narrow-minded. The Bible doesn't say when the Earth was formed, only that God created the "heavens and the earth". The hapless "6000 years" is the product of Bishop Unger, one poor clergyman that has caused more confusion than can be imagined. Bishop Unger tried to convert WHO, WHAT, WHY and HOW into WHEN. That, too, wasn't very scientific. Bishop Unger also forgot one other thing, something countless other clergy have forgotten (or ignored) for centuries: God time is not necessarily the same as Man time. An immortal being has no use for hours, days, weeks, or years.

A major failure of "science" is its lack of common sense. Scientific evidence supposedly "proves" that there can be no God. The Bible tells us, however, that God created the heavens and the earth. Let's take a look at it through the "Scientific Method":

1. Postulate a theory
-- That there is no discernible difference between a universe that exists "by random selection" and one created by an Omnipotent God who not only created the substance of the universe, but the rules under which it operates.

2. Gather and interpret data
-- The Bible
-- All scientific evidence about the universe and everything within it (I've sampled quite a bit, but obviously haven't studied ALL the scientific [or religious] evidence that exists. I believe I've studied a sufficient amount to write this article).

3. Judge the theory by the data.
-- Interpreted correctly, the Bible states WHO (God) WHAT (the universe), and WHY (the sustainability of life). It doesn't delve into the WHEN (except, IMHO, metaphorically), or HOW.
-- The timeline is subject to speculation. Common sense suggests that God created both the physical substance of the universe, and also the "scientific" or "natural" rules that bring order to it. Accepting that God Time is highly flexible ("A day is as ten thousand years, and ten thousand years as but a day"), and also accepting that the universe is orderly, rather than chaotic, there is no scientific basis that God CANNOT exist.
-- If it is accepted that the physical laws of the universe are created by God, then scientists are merely searching for God's presence in a different manner than "preachers"or "prophets" - or psychologists.

4. If the data agrees with the theory, try to disprove it. If it doesn't agree with the theory, either gather more data or refine the theory to match the data.
-- Scientifically, the theory that there is no discernible difference between an ordered, "natural" universe and that created by an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Eternal God cannot be DISPROVED. This is not the same as being PROVEN.
-- There is a growing preponderance of evidence that the universe as it currently exists shouldn't exist as it does, if it were not "created", but just "suddenly appeared". Chaos theory would require a wildly chaotic universe, yet the observed universe responds to rules that human beings are just beginning to observe, and attempt to understand.
-- The sole bit of empirical evidence that can "prove" the existence of God is a personal relationship with Him. There is a large compendium of observations and anecdotal evidence (Lourdes, Fatima, etc.) such as "miracles" and the response to prayer that others observe from without. While skeptics may try to deride such evidence as mere coincidence, results beyond a certain point render "coincidence" unsustainable.
-- Anti-semitism is a "proof" of the existence of God. The Jews are supposed to be the "Chosen" of God. For far longer than 6000 years, Jews have been the most prosperous people in the world (and the most persecuted), no matter what hands are raised against them or circumstances they're forced to endure. They prosper no matter where they are, or the circumstances. Others, not necessarily groups but individuals who believe in the same God, and follow the same rules of living, also prosper. These prosperous people are hated and despised by others BECAUSE others perceive that God indeed does "play favorites", especially with the Jews. There IS a disparity between the lives of non-believers and believers.

5. Once the theory and the data are in agreement, publish your findings and the data (facts) the theory is based upon for others to study.
-- Have at it.

One final observation - perhaps Prof. Horner is angry because psychologists aren't considered "real scientists". It's a thought.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A City of Dead People

The entire city of Port au Prince suffered to one extent or another. The death toll is horrendous, the cost to recover from the damage is staggering, and the long-term effects of the earthquake on survivors may haunt them for the rest of their lives.

I've backed out even farther in the image below, but I wanted to be sure the names of the various neighborhoods in Port au Prince were still shown. I'll highlight the worst damage in these neighborhoods.

Most Americans have heard about Hotel Montana, where many Americans stayed when visiting Haiti. Hotel Montana is in the Petionville neighborhood, in the hills to the southeast of the city center. From the air, there doesn't appear to be much damage. The walls appear to be standing, the roof doesn't look damaged, and there isn't much debris around the building. Reports from people on the ground indicate the inner walls collapsed, and rubble is stacked dozens of feet high within the outer walls. This is one of the drawbacks to using imagery alone for damage assessment - the camera usually can't look inside the walls or through the roof.

This is the Berthe neighborhood, less than a mile from the Hotel Montana. At least half of the buildings have suffered extensive damage, and a large number of them were destroyed.

These six ridges, facing the southwest, suffered extensive damage. These are areas where many of Haiti's middle class owned homes, and where the damage has destroyed whole neighborhoods.

This image is typical of the areas found on each of the ridges.

Here is another photo, taken of one of the other ridges.

This is a neighborhood near Bois Patate. To the right in the image is another of the many tent encampments - people who have lost their homes, or are afraid to go inside.

This area, in the Saint Gerard neighborhood, is filled with buildings that have been totally destroyed.

This last image is of a village on the southern boundary of the city. The damage is very visible.

All of the neighborhoods in today's post are along the southern boundary of the city. Tomorrow (or later), I'll try to provide some shots of the eastern portions of the city.