Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, my boss brought in some home grown tomatoes to give away. I didn't take any, because we still had plenty of store-bought in the fridge, but the generous act did remind me that the fall tomato growing season was here.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, but I have held off for 6 years since my last major tomato growing operation. During that spring (2001) I had put in a dozen or so tomato plants of various types, sizes and colors. My company then saw fit to ship me off to Europe on a 3 month assignment, leaving my sweetheart wife to care for the tomato plants, which she didn't really want to do, but she did it anyway, for me.

The tomato plants did very well, and my poor darling wife was picking tomatos dozens by the day. She finally had enough. She emailed me and said "I have posted a picture of your tomato crop on our website, and I am not going to take care of the plants anymore". The photo was taken in the kitchen, where every available inch of space was covered by tomatoes, hundreds of them, everywhere. After taking the photo, the tomatoes were put in freezer bags and stored, awaiting my return. Upon that return, the freezer was full and the tomato plants were long since dead and dried out.

Anyhow, so I said, "Well Dear, lets go out on Sunday to the nursery up the highway and see what they've got. We can pick out some of those small yellow pear type tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, maybe one or two larger varieties". Well, I had not consulted the tomato growing almanac, because apparently the "peak purchase and then plant in the earth day" was two weeks previous, and what the nursery had left was not a generous selection, but rather two flats of six two-inch pots with scraggly tomato plants already rootbound, more than a foot tall, and who knew if the little plastic name tag stuck in each flat was actually the original. The upside was that these two flats cost me only one dollar each. The nursery lady who rang us up urgently recommended we plant the tomatoes in the ground immediately, without delay.

To me, "without delay" means there would be no careful ground preparation, just dig out one shovel of dirt right out of the lawn to make the hole, toss in the tomato plant, backfill with some potting soil with Rocket Fuel mixed in, then generously water and fertilize with Hasta Grow and hope for the best. We got lucky, those plants had just barely enough life in them to take hold. Eleven out of twelve survived.

Not only did they survive, but they survived while my sweetheart wife generously agreed to water them while I was out of the state for 8 days on some family business. And we sort of got lucky there too, because the night time temps were still well over 70 degrees, and the flowers would not set fruit. Cooler temps prevailed after my return, and we probably have "at least" 30 or 40 tomatoes out there now. A week from now, we will probably have several hundred.

Hopefully, I will not have to travel during that time!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Simply Consumers

One Sunday morning while back, I heard an interview with Secretary of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. I was disappointed by this smiling, fast talking lady who would reply to every inquiry with answers like "No, thats not true, income as a function of total compensation has gone up", or "No thats not true, peoples real take home income is actually higher", or "No thats not true, we have created more jobs in the last two years than we have lost", or "No, that not true, we are actually retaining and creating more high tech jobs.", or "No, that not true, the new jobs being created are actually higher income jobs".

Secretary Chao was being asked rather simple questions, such as "What do you tell someone whose income has not kept up with the rise in prices?", or "How do you reply to those who say that good paying jobs are being lost to foreign manufacturers?"

Now, I understand the problem with providing a real answer to questions like those. Secretary Chao is a not a psychological counselor and she is not there to dish out personal sympathy when her job deals with huge numbers, long term trends, or economic/demographic shifts or whatever the Big Picture is. But the simplistic nature of her replies ended with a final statement that the future for the United States job market was high tech jobs filled by a more educated workforce.

This has been said many times, mostly to answer those who say we are losing our manufacturing base in machinery, automobiles, clothes manufacturing, appliances or whatever. I sort of look at like this....

1. The relative economic development and different living standard of China, southeast Asia, or India means that they will be manufacturing the same quality of goods for less cost, compared to what we produce ourselves in the US.

2. Market forces will cause the flow of manufacturing jobs into countries with lower labor costs.

3. The US loses those jobs.

4. In order to replace these lost jobs, the US economy needs to develop jobs that the lesser economic countries cannot yet do, and the US labor force needs to get more educated in order to perform those jobs.

Here are some other observations, not too sure about their premises:

A. A person I know says the future of the US is not in manufacturing, but in providing management expertise to the rest of the world. "We need to educate people to be business managers, venture capitalists, lawyers, investment bankers".

B. It is said the the flood of very inexpensive goods from various places is a good thing, because it leaves more money in the pockets of US consumers.

C. The only way for American companies to remain competitive is to lower labor costs in step with foreign manufacturers, which means relocating to a foreign labor market, or by importing exploitable foreign labor to the US.

At this point, I could rant about the destruction of the American downtown, or the unfair competition between workers from countries with vastly different standards of living, or illegal immigration and its effect on wages. Maybe later.

High Tech and Higher Education

The high tech jobs talked about are generally unspecified. What is high tech anyway, programming a computer? Designing a new airplane? Maintaining the automated assembly line that replaced 20 factory workers? Being a medical assistant? Nanotechnology? In what way does being an investment banker help create wealth except thru speculation? And besides, what is it that makes being a cabinet maker so much less glorious or viable in this modern high tech economy?

Maybe I am missing the point. Maybe, despite using the words "high tech" jobs and "better educated workforce", Secretary Chao meant something different. Maybe she meant "salesperson" or "medical assistant" who use computers and electronic cash registers instead of a hammer or a plow. Maybe she meant "retraining" instead of "higher education". Maybe it was all crap, easy talk to get thru a 10 minute interview, you know, toss a few terms out there like "high tech" and "better education".

Or, maybe I am really, really missing the point. Maybe its all about smoothing out the United States economy so that it can be a more reliable, predictable source of income for corporations operating on the mega international level.

Bottom line is that there are not enough really good paying high tech jobs to replace the basic manufacturing jobs being lost. And nobody is going to start a vast retraining of the public in order to fill jobs like that anyhow, because we don't have a shortage of jobs for folks with high school education. Walmart and Home Depot are huge employers, but now all those people are selling stuff instead of fabricating it, or they are working for a huge store instead a a buncha small ones, the smaller ones being owned by individual people instead of faceless shareholders who are actually more important to upper management than the folks spending money at the cash register.

Lets start out again with a different premise, which is this. Most folks in the US would probably be happy to spend 12 years in school, then get out and start working, as long as there was someting to do that would pay decent.

Lets add premise #2, which is this. If we keep on losing manufacturing jobs, we will forget, as a nation, how those jobs are done.

The amount of training to become partially skilled in a trade, or several trades, can be absorbed by kids by the time they leave high school. Further education in college should be directed towards learning basic management and financial skills to open and run a business based on those trades. Higher education has always had a place when providing a ready supply of engineers, medical professionals, and lawyers. The idea that even more universal higher education is the solution to our problems doesn't make any sense to me. It might make sense to those who run the schools, since education is a business in itself, and for the most part, not subject to competition.

Most of us have a doctor or a dentist. Many of us have an accountant, a favorite car mechanic, maybe even a lawyer. We know these people personally, and we have a business relationship that provides a mutual benefit. Its a system that is easy to understand. But how many of us have a business relationship with a woodworker, or a machinist, or a farmer? If you had a problem around the house, and you didn't have the yellow pages, who would you call?

The system described by the folks who talk about higher education/high tech is a system too big to understand. One cannot individually grasp how it works. It is too far removed. One cannot participate in this big system except as a consumer. Why am I buying forks and spoons made in China? Why are these new flourescent lightbulbs all made in China? Who actually grows the spinach that is in this resealable bag that I just purchased at the mega grocery store? And why is everything suddenly available in resealable bags? Why do I know NOTHING about where ANY of this stuff comes from? Why am I being asked to TRUST those who say its okay for me to buy it, to use it, to eat it?

I think we need to have young people who learn trades, and the trades should be evenly dispersed throughout the educational process. Everyone should know people who know how to work with metal, or know how to fix basic machinery, or do woodworking, or normal household repairs. Everybody themselves should have some skill to do something, whether its weaving, or growing food in a garden, or knowing how to make paper from fibers. Every neighborhood should have someone who knows how take old scrap iron or bronze, smelt it and pour castings.

These are things that are completely gone in most areas of the United States. Don't tell me its better for us to simply be a country of wage earners who supply a ready steady supply of money as consumers to a system where we know nothing about where stuff comes from. It is absolutely the future of the United States that we be able to supply our own needs locally through the efforts of skilled people. The higher tech the job is, the more likely it won't be needed when the economy in China crashes anyhow, and we will have to take care of our own. Hell, look what happens to cell phones during a widespread power outage. All the higher education in the world isn't going to get them going until some electrical power worker goes out and fixes the grid.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Update to Koran - Approved for Infidels

The Koran that CAIR sent me is titled "The Message of the Qur'an", by Muhammad Asad. Born Leopold Weiss, in Austria, 1920, grandson of a rabbi, Leopold begain traveling at a young age. In the military, and as a news reporter and writer, he visited the middle east and became interested in Islam. He was anti-Zionist, but not anti-Jewish. He became a Muslim at age 26. He died in 1992 and is buried in Spain. There is a fair amount of interresting information about Muhammad Asad on the internet, so I don't have to repeat it here.

From reading Amazon reviews, this version would seem the best translation for non-Muslims. It does not appear to be a translation intended for Muslims. From reading some other, non-Amazon reviews, it also is either published in censored version in Saudi Arabia, or banned completely. This may result from "The Message" being an "overly free interpretation". It was first published in 1980, and republished in 2003.

In any case, "The Message" is a 50 dollar book, available for 35 dollars, if the cost is of any interest. Also interesting is that some folks have many versions of the Koran, and compare them with enthusiasm. The two major comparisons involve the translation of the arabic text itself, and comparisons of the footnotes interpreting the verses. Muhammad Asad is given credit for having the most well written footnotes, also given good credit for his actual interpretations.

This book could be a virtual bomb, planted unawares by CAIR, if CAIR is sending out this version exclusively. The reason is that Muhammad Asad wrote books about Islam that tried to resolve the role of Islam in a world being overtaken and influenced by the West. He considered that reason and thought could be used by every Muslim to interpret Islam as applicable to daily life, rather than simply submit to the judgements of Islamic scholars. I read, in one review of his life, that he used to say "The door of ijtihad will always remain open, because no one has the authority to close it."

Now, that is an interesting concept.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Little Muslim Generals

This morning, after hearing about the bomb plot uncovered in the UK, my wife emailed me... "I remembered, when out walking (the dogs), about one of the top muslims saying - not long ago - that something was up that was going to be the worst so far. I guess he was talking about this."

He might have been. Part of the informal self-education process about Islam is to try and learn what the clerics are saying. They say quite a lot. Islam hasn't got anything like the heirarchy of the Catholic Church, for example, with the Pope in Rome and all the Cardinals, and 2000 years of doctrine and teachings, the inward look and the Ecumenical Councils, reform here and there. When I was in about 4rth grade (early 1960's), the Mass started being said in english instead of latin. We always had a Bible in english. No one ever said "It is axiomatic that the Bible cannot be accurately translated from latin". Everybody has a Bible in their native language.

Anyhow, the clerics have a lot of influence. The entire Islamic Clerical System is set up to provide major job security. And the thing is, you don't have to have a special calling from Allah to become a cleric. All you have to be is easily influenced, maybe poor, maybe no family (or maybe a rich family), maybe with nothing worthwhile going on in your life. A promise of brotherhood, and education in the madrassa, better food, and all you gotta do is learn the Koran by heart, word for word. Oh, and it matters not that its in Arabic, just learn it, we'll explain what it means later. Work your way up through the system, and maybe some day you will be a junior cleric, work hard at perfecting your hatred, be lucky enough to live in one of the worlds hot spots, and maybe you will end up with your own militia!!! Like Nasrallah and Hezballah, or Muqtada al-Sadr (whose father was a famous cleric) who has his very own Madhi militia, with ten thousand angry dudes just burning to slit some Infidel throat.

In short, if you ain't got a life, become a cleric, whereupon you preach that having a life is no big deal anyhow.

Back in the Infidel world, access to clerical speech is limited, but not so limited you can't find out what they are saying. The international media is full of this stuff. Bombings in Bali? A cleric says they were justified, and he even helped with the plans. Bus bombings in London? A cleric says England belongs to Allah and the sooner Islam is established, the sooner peace will prevail. Cartoons from Denmark? A Danish cleric wants apologies, and when denied, goes to the Middle East, and raises enough concern that we see violent protests, death threats and buildings burning. The clerics tell us over and over again, that unless we stop whatever it is that we are doing to cause grievances to Muslims, that they, the clerics, will be unable to keep the unhappy and insulted Muslims from becoming disaffected and possibly, violent. But they do give clues. Clerics cannot keep their mouths shut. They are ALWAYS talking about some sort of violence, or retaliation that might occur. The worst ever. Making the last episode look small. Or if we thought it was bad last time, we ain't seen nuthin yet.

There are no controls on these guys. None. And they are the "little generals", who run the mosques, who give the Friday prayers, and follow up with the fiery political speeches. There is always a mosque involved with anything having to do with terrorism, and there is always a hardcore cleric at that mosque preaching hate, and the goal of Islam spread all over the world.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Koran - Approved for Infidels

A very heavy package FINALLY arrived from CAIR a couple weeks ago. It was a free Koran, ordered thru one of their websites. It took many months to arrive. A Koran is not something I am going to pay for with my own money, so the offer of a free one sounded good to me.

The letter from CAIR inside the package informed me that Muslims regard the Koran as sacred, and this new Koran should also be treated with respect....wash hands first, hold it with both hands when carrying, don't put food or dirty socks on it, etc.

Its hard to accept that CAIR would send me, an Infidel, a copy of a "sacred" Koran, so I am assuming my copy is not sacred. The letter filled me with resentment, with its attempt to indoctrinate me into a special behavior. As a matter of fact, the letter makes me furious, and leaves me in a volcanic state of insulted anger, full of muderous white hot rage....

The reason for having this thing is for reference. I have a quite a collection of material from the internet, and books too, all related to Islam and its goal of worldwide dominion under Allah. I have been collecting all this material since early 2002 and now when I see a reference taken from the Koran, I want to look it up myself.

The very first sentence on the very first page of this new Koran says it is axiomatic that the Koran cannot be accurately translated from Arabic. One immediately realizes that a Koran translated by Muslims for Muslims will have different terminology than a Koran translated by Muslims for Infidels. Actually, I believe the issue of translations is bullshit.

So, its like, a reference from a book I read says "slay the idolators wherever you find them", and my Infidel Koran says "slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them".

Oh well.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Muslim Cartoons

When I first put "Insulting Muslims" on the blog last October, it was with a vague hope that others would do it as well, eventually. It seemed rather a race to me, whether the "word would spread" before Denmark caved in to pressure.

The reactions from around the world to the events of the last few days, from the republishing the cartoons in various international media have confirmed my thoughts as to what the reaction would be on the part of Muslims...continued hurt feelings. The amount of reaction, and the character of the reaction, demonstrate the differences between Western and Islamic cultures. The reaction? Murderous hatred and threats of violent physical harm from Muslims who cover their faces, brandish guns and swords and carry signs calling for revenge.

Well, I cover my identity as well, and I give credit to those website authors who do not conceal their identities. I don't do trackbacks, I won't list other blogs, and I won't call attention to other websites, but the number of personal blogs republishing the 'toons must easily be in the hundreds.

Muslims, by their reaction, have shown us clearly that their thought process is so different, and their priorities, spiritual guidance, and personal motives so alien to the Western culture of free expression, personal introspection, challenge to accepted thought, and individual decision that its obvious we ain't gonna exist in the same place at the same time.

By elevating the cartoons to the level of world attention, Denmark has done the Western world a priceless service. I pay attention to the news from Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scandinavia, and nowhere are the Islamic peoples creating anything better for the populations. They are killing, destroying, subjecting, threatening, and ruining any hope that those countries will be better off with Islam than they were before.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Insulting Muslims

I first became aware of all this on October 9, 2005, thru JihadWatch.
The list of insults over which Muslims become outraged is endless, but this example illustrates that they take this a bit too seriously.


Imam demands apology for Mohammed cartoons
By The Copenhagen Post

Prophet Muhammed. By: Rasmus Sand Høyer
Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten is facing accusations that it deliberately provoked and insulted Muslims by publishing twelve cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed.

The newspaper urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet, after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. The author claimed that illustrators feared that extremist Muslims would find it sacrilegious to break the Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed.

Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper's call, and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper one week ago.

Daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad said one Muslim, at least, had taken offence.

'This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims,' Imam Raed Hlayhel wrote in a statement. 'Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world. We demand an apology!'

Jyllands-Posten described the cartoons as a defence for 'secular democracy and right to expression'.

Hlayhel, however, said the newspaper had abused democracy with the single intention of humiliating Muslims.
Lars Refn, one of the cartoonists who participated in the newspaper's call to arms, said he actually agreed with Hlayhel. Therefore, his cartoon did not feature the prophet Mohammed, but a normal Danish schoolboy Mohammed, who had written a Persian text on his schoolroom's blackboard.

'On the blackboard it says in Persian with Arabic letters that 'Jyllands-Posten's journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs',' Refn said. 'Of course we shouldn't let ourselves be censored by a few extremist Muslims, but Jyllands-Posten's only goal is to vent the fires as soon as they get the opportunity. There's nothing constructive in that.'

Flemming Rose, cultural editor at the newspaper, denied that the purpose had been to provoke Muslim. It was simply a reaction to the rising number of situations where artists and writers censured themselves out of fear of radical Islamists, he said.

'Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment in a secular society,' he added. 'In a democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a laughingstock.'

It is not the first time Hlayhel has created headlines in Denmark. One year ago, he became the target of criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, when he said in a sermon during Friday prayer, that Danish women's behaviour and dress invited rape.


Jihad Against Danish Newspaper
From the desk of Paul Belien on Sat, 2005-10-22 21:25

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is being protected by security guards and several cartoonists have gone into hiding after the newspaper published a series of twelve cartoons (view them here) about the prophet Muhammad. According to the Islam it is blasphemous to make images of the prophet. Muslim fundamentalists have threatened to bomb the paper’s offices and kill the cartoonists.

The newspaper published the cartoons when a Danish author complained that he could find no-one to illustrate his book about Muhammad. Jyllands-Posten wondered whether there were more cases of self-censorship regarding Islam in Denmark and asked twelve illustrators to draw the prophet for them. Carsten Juste, the paper’s editor, said the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark.

The publication led to outrage among the Muslim immigrants living in Denmark. 5,000 of them took to the streets to protest. Muslim organisations have demanded an apology, but Juste rejects this idea: “We live in a democracy. That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures,” he said. The Danish imam Raed Hlayhel reacted with the statement: “This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims. Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world.”

Flemming Rose, the cultural editor at the newspaper, denied that the purpose had been to provoke Muslims. It was simply a reaction to the rising number of situations where artists and writers censored themselves out of fear of radical Islamists, he said. “Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment in a secular society,” he added. “In a democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a laughingstock.”

The affair, however, has also led to a diplomatic incident. On Thursday the ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries, including Indonesia, a number of Arab states, Pakistan, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, complained about the cartoons in a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. They say the publication of the cartoons is a “provocation” and demand apologies from the newspaper.

Jyllands-Posten was also included on an al-Qaeda website listing possible terrorist targets. An organisation which calls itself “The Glorious Brigades in Northern Europe” is circulating pictures on the internet which show bombs exploding over pictures of the newspaper and blood flowing over the national flag of Denmark. “The Mujahedeen have numerous targets in Denmark – very soon you all will regret this,” the website says.

Meanwhile in Brussels a young Muslim immigrant published a poster depicting the Virgin Mary with naked breasts. Though the picture has drawn some protest from Catholics (though not from Western embassies, nor from the bishops), this artist need not fear being murdered in the street. On the contrary, he is being subsidised by the Ministry for Culture.


PM ditches Muslims for freedom of speech


Muslim ambassadors will not be granted a meeting with the prime minister on the freedom of speech

Eleven Muslim ambassadors in Denmark looking to meet with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to discuss what they call a 'smear campaign' in the media against Islam and Muslims have had their request denied.

The prime minister had otherwise been encouraged by the opposition to meet with the group as a way to increase understanding in an increasingly controversial public debate.

In recent weeks, both the minister of culture and a Copenhagen mayoral candidate have retracted statements they made about Muslims and Islamic culture.

Most recently, national daily Jyllands-Posten has invoked international ire by publishing twelve caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, some of which characterised him as a terrorist.

Pictorial depictions of Mohammed are frowned upon by Islam.

'This is a matter of principle. I won't meet with them because it is so crystal clear what principles Danish democracy is built upon that there is no reason to do so,' said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen reiterated his message that individuals who felt offended by the tone of the public debate should bring their grievances to the courts.

'As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press - nor do I want such a power,' he said. 'It is a basic principle of our democracy that a prime minister cannot control the press.'

Rasmussen said that though he preferred a positive debate in the press, as long as people kept their comments with in the boundaries of the law, the motives behind the comments were not an issue.

'Some people say that the press needs to be constructive, and sometimes I also think that'd be nice. But who's to say what's constructive? That's an unfair demand to make. The press needs to be critical - I need to bear that as prime minister and religions must do so as well,' he said.