So can someone explain to me the “real reason” why the Feds shot down California’s proposal for a waiver to implement stricter rules on carbon emission? Is this one of those “about face” rulings? Or does it have real merit in it? I mean, if the politicians are too bought off by the motor companies to get it done, why can’t individual states implement something better? And let’s not forget, it takes a while for those cars to populate the roads en mass that can even make a positive impact on the environment… hence, the sooner, the better… The Fed’s plan looks pathetic compared to rules already in place in other industrialized nations. So if the car companies can make cleaner cars for THOSE countries, I don’t understand what the big deal is to implement the same thing in the U.S.?
We finally got around to watch SiCKO last night. It’s pretty scary to know that it could happen to any one of us at any given time. I was especially sick of the part where a little girl died because she was denied treatment from Kaiser, a hospital/insurance company that relentlessly markets how the company is all about the “heart” in its ads in California. But on the contrary, among almost all of the stories circulated among friends here who are insured by Kaiser, it’s probably one of the worst hospital system and insurance company around.
And yet nobody is going to do anything about it because most U.S. politicians are in the pockets of the insurance and drug companies anyway. Having seen SiCKO and listened to this NPR interview I last blogged about, it’s pretty clear that whenever big corporations have too much influence in the policy making process for the well fare of the general public, it’s probably never a good idea. I mean, why would a big company have any kind of genuine interest in the well being of the general public when all it cares about (and mandated by law to do) is to return max profit to the shareholders!?
But I digress. I am not even a citizen here… Caring this much about something I have no influence over and can get no benefits from is probably unhealthy…
One last thing I want to point out is how well spoken and points well addressed by a former Member of British Parliament Tony Benn about this issue.
Contrasting the way he speaks with most of how American politicians speak (except maybe Obama), it’s almost like night and day… British politicians have this graceful and charming way of putting issues in a language that is pleasant to listen to and reflects their intelligence and sophistication on the matters. I especially find Geroge W. Bush’s speeches distasteful and blunt (and in unpolished) to listen to because they always seem to be dumbed down and make no sense at all!
But again, I digress.
Just for the record, I am not ranting on the U.S. Government and U.S. companies because I am anti-U.S. But rather, I hold the U.S. to a much higher moral ground than almost any other country because of their strong influence and, well, the U.S. government’s self-confessed high moral, “God-given right” to influence issues they impose on other countries.
And that’s why I get pretty sick of the people running the show today, both in the government agencies and in private corporations, that they are just such hypocrites when they preach one thing and do exactly the opposite (much like many, sorry, self-proclaimed religious people, I know) and still feel good about it. Stuff like “SiCKO” and this latest interview of Mark Schapiro on NPR just makes me sit in my chair at awe wondering just how in the name of this wonderful Christian God of theirs are they doing the world any kind of justice by making those decisions affecting the lives of millions.
The interview is informative, insightful and very educational. But at the same time, it’s scary and sickening to see what the actual “gut” of what’s going on between Europe and the good old U.S. of A.
Anyway… just another day’s rant. Sorry. But DO listen to the interview. It’s fascinating.
The Cupertino Whole Foods store moved to a spanking new location that’s about one billion times its former self across the street of its old location. So we paid a visit on Wednesday to check out the new location (after a failed attempt on Sunday due to overwhelming support of the new store by fellow Whole Foods shoppers). The parking was insane because there were just so many people there. Now Whole Foods is the new Safeway, Krogers and Publix. Except they carry more organic stuff.
One thing that surprised me (and made me doubt the whole “Whole Foods” philosophy) is the fact that they carry that Fiji bottled water that traveled a gazillion miles all the way across the ocean. I mean, if they were so into this “environment” and “local” thing, wouldn’t they have left out Fiji brand water altogether? WTF? Talk about being hypocritical…
Speaking of hypocritical, we picked up a bottle of Wholezyme and some groceries at Whole Foods anyway. But the sheer size of the new store made me feel a little dizzy — or maybe it was the sheer number of people in the store at the time. On the upside, the store does offer FREE Wifi!
Still no luck in Steve Jobs sighting though*. I can’t really leave California until I’ve seen him at least once, even if it’s from a distance… But then again, at least I’ve already seen the other Steve in person.
* He’s been seen frequenting Whole Foods store in Cupertino.
I listened to part of this radio program in the car today with Grace. I was so fascinated by it that I came home and found the entire program and listened to the rest of it. And since I’ve sent enough emails and IMs to some friends to urge them to listen to it, I might as well post it for all to see. The first two stories were what really fascinated me. The third story reminded me of David’s passing and how this family coped with death in a more creative manner.
Great show. It will be worth your time.
It’s been a while since I last blogged about social and political stuff… So here’s the latest scoop on that front…
Jason semi-made me watch Zeitgeist the Movie a few days ago. And everything that I suspected was wrong but couldn’t link them together now all made sense… Thanks, Jason… Now I am officially a coo coo head.
Basically the movie covers three major, separate but interlinked, sections:
1. Religion (specifically Christianity) and what it really IS
2. Tracing the cause of major wars and American involvements in the past 60 years, including the latest 911-related ones
3. The “real” beginning of the Federal Reserve Bank and why the Founding Fathers actually opposed such institution
I did some fact checking on some of the points made in the film (specifically on #3) since I know something about the history of Federal Reserve from my economics classes. And just prior to watching the film, I also got a chance to listen to a fascinating radio program on Alexander Hamilton and how he was a champion of having an institution like the Federal Reserve/Central Bank (which was one reason why Thomas Jefferson hated his guts; the movie did also mention Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed to such institution). And it turns out that many of the points made in the movie are quite accurate… Or maybe they seem accurate because my mind was slanted towards that way anyway.
In any case, I agree with Jason that you should arrive at your own conclusion and do your own fact checking after seeing the movie. But it does present some compelling arguments for the points it presented.
A few weeks ago the local KQED station broadcasted a series of very interesting PBS special called China from the Inside. As China rises in power and fortune, it’s environmental problems are also starting to reveal the ugly side of this unprecedented growth of the “sleeping dragon”. PBS says it best, “wealth touches some, but pollution touches all.”
Seeing the documentary made depressed about just how in the hell is the world going to be able to sustain this kind of craziness for another 5,000 years (how old we think “civilization is). And the fact that powerful and biggest pollution contributors like the U.S. resists changes and denies facing such problems only makes it that much harder for the human race to move forward. Sometimes I feel embarrassed thinking about just what a terrible condition we are leaving this world to our children…
I have been looking forward to seeing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” ever since the documentary was announced. Finally I got a chance to see it, albeit it took three days to watch the entire film section by section because of my schedule.
Powerful and jolting facts. A MUST SEE.
If you plan on seeing only one movie till the end of the year, this should be on the top of your list.
It seems like recent protests in Taiwan have garnered some international attention. Taiwan woke up one day to a corrupted president whose presidential campaign, ironically, promised to eradicate corruption from an corrupted era*.
It’s been estimated that as many as 750,000 people showed up in a demonstration, forming a human wall circling, and enclosing, the Presidential Palace and his residence. The images from the news were quite impressive as the demonstrators each wore red clothing and red flashlights that represent anger. Surprisingly (to me anyway), the entire demonstration was peaceful.
* KMT ruled Taiwan was often cited as a corrupted government; but then again, KMT took Taiwan from being one of the poorest nations, having been a colony of Japan for quite a while, to among the most prosperous in the world; KMT has also been “credited” as a reason China turned communist due to excessive corruption at the top levels of the party and government branches.
I came home from Yosemite with some mixed feelings about the trip — mostly good feelings but also some strange ones. I guess if I go in depth with each point I have, this post is going to be a pretty long one, so I will just give it a quick dry run and revisit some of them sometime in the future… I posted some images from the trip.
Pros: Relatively clean tents; relatively rule-respecting crowd; heating provided in some tents when it gets cold; relatively comfy mattresses; electricity outlets; 24×7 shower.
Cons: Extremely poor facility for cooking; expect to dine at on-site commercial dinning facilities or cook on top of bear-proof lockers which is extremely inconvenient; extremely LONG lines for almost everything — parking, front desk check-in, dinning… etc. Small and expensive rooms, but then every lodging facility there is expensive; tiny bear-proof lockers; can be very difficult to find parking; EXTREMELY CROWDED — feels more like a cheap, 3rd class tourist area.
Pros: Great on-site cooking facility (provided if you bring your own portable stove; Grace has even seen people bring microwaves!!); literally walking access to mountain and river views; lots of open space; lots of returning families here every year; easy parking (drive almost right up to your tent!); short lines for everything. Feels more like “camping” and closer to nature (except for the “cons” below). Cheap.
Cons: Relatively dirty facilities; loud and annoying crowd (LOTS of kids and “red necks” blasting loud MUSIC! Yes, music in the middle of nature! Idiots!); limited shower and bathroom hours; lousy bunk beds; VERY hard to fall asleep at night because some people stay up with loud voices (including kids at 12AM).
The traffic both to and from the park are pretty nice. The only traffic jam we experienced was at the entrance of the park where everyone paid for entrance fees. Also, there’s no easily accessible gas station within the park itself; so gas up before you enter the park!
Overall traffic in the so-called Yosemite Village is excellent. Almost everybody takes the free shuttle to get around (which are supposedly made just for national parks to keep emissions low). The shuttles are very frequent and drivers friendly (and some of them humorous). But parking is probably as bad as New York City…
It seems like there are lots of people who visit the park quite often. We talked to a few families who go back to Yosemite every year as a family tradition. And contrary to what Chee-hoi says about the “Asian crowd”, I heard a lot more French and British-English speaking people than any other ethnic groups. Unfortunately smoking is not banned in the park. It was very annoying and frustrating to see smokers almost everywhere (and lots of cigarette butts!). But mostly people are considerate and nice to each other.
There’s only one word for the sceneries: Majestic. There are lots of breathtaking scenes no matter what angle you look at them from. It’s no wonder that John Muir lobbied hard to keep Yosemite a protected American treasure. The only regret I had was that we simply didn’t have time to see everything; there’s simply too much to see just within car-accessible parts of the park! It’s probably wise to plan for a longer trip (like one week) if you plan on spending more time at each spot and truly really appreciate everything.
Unless you are camping and bringing your own meals, food can be a serious issue. There are only a few spots where you can have a nice meal. The good news is, food served by the commercial vendors are comparable to your neighborhood service providers both in quality and price.
Bryan did pretty well considering how long the trip was (both the drives and the duration away from home). He cried about 20% of the time in the car having never been in a car for so damn long. So it wasn’t too bad. He also slept fairly well except at Housekeeping Camp where there were lots of loud people staying up way into the night despite of “quiet hours” imposed by the camp. But nobody cares (even though we did).
Before going on the trip, I taught Bryan how to growl back to bear if we ever ran into one at the park (not sure if he understood all that, but he got the growling down). During the trip, he learned that the growling sound goes with the Mandarin word “bear”. So now if we asked where “the bear” was, he’d immediately show off by growling like a bear (which is extremely funny).
The past few days in the Silicon Valley have been unbearable. Record high temperatures appear to be everywhere on the map. But of course, that’s no global warming, just the nature… The White House says so.
Bryan has been having trouble sleeping at night because it’s so hot and humid at night. So we have had to mobilize fans in the apartment — one to move cooler air into the apartment when the sun sets and another to cool Bryan off. The strategy is to give him a nice and cool bath before bed time and try to keep him cool with the two fans going… But last night was so exceptionally hot that we had to use THREE fans!
So now Bryan takes 3 cool baths a day to stay cool… Or else nobody gets any rest in the apartment…
Brian got me hooked on Ray Kurzweil a couple of months ago. Now I see his name everywhere.
He sounded very enthusiastic and optimistic of what the future holds for mankind and what technology will ultimately do for us — cures of the worst diseases we experience today, super-smart “beings” that are part organic and part machine… etc. In light of how fast human genes are being patented for corporate profit today, I am not so sure just how quickly his vision can materialize even if technology progresses as quickly as he predicts. As long as there’s profit to be made out of anything from major corporations, these changes will be slow in manifestation. Why would a pharmaceutical company release a cure to cancer when it can milk billions more out of dying patients by slowly “upgrading” cancer therapies and treatments? Then again, maybe it’s just the drug companies that are evil. And he’s right about technologies being increasingly more affordable and accessible over time. Maybe in the future, we won’t be so caught up with the things we are so worried about today… Maybe it will be genetic terrorism, knowledge-based diseases and some other ingenious ideas future ultra-humans will come up with to kill off each other. But then again, according to Kurzweil, everyone’s supposed to know everything about everything… So it will be a battle of Spy v.s. Spy.
Anyway, Kurzweil’s interview is wicked cool.