Monthly Archives: February 2005

Charity Solutions and the Rapture

So once again — they seem to do it constantly — one of my favorite sites, antiwar.com, is running a fundraiser. I think they do it four times a year but it might actually be more often. Their goal this time, and for the past few times is $50,000 (thus claiming a dubious annual operating cost of $200,000). Now, it's a great cause and a valuable resource, but it really pisses me off when sites lie about what their needs are. Do I think the people involved deserve a high salary? You bet I do, and I have no problem chipping in for that. But I don't want to be lied to about it.

They keep making statements like “if we don't get $10k more by Monday, we're going to have to go offline” and so on. For over ten years I have run one of the highest traffic sites on the Internet. In 1995, BME was ranked the 24th most popular site on the Internet of all subjects (these days the Net is bigger and we're sitting at around #900 as of last time I checked). Over that time period I've paid (and had donated) a small fortune in bandwidth and hosting costs. I've been slashdotted and farked a few times and it has virtually no effect on BME's usage. So I know a little about the costs of running a site with heavy usage and what the peripheral issues are..

Antiwar.com claims to have an average daily readership of just over 60,000. Let's pretend that each of those users downloads 100k of data a day (and that's highly unlikely). That's a total of six gig of transfer daily (for comparison, I anticipate that by mid-summer, BME's servers will be transferring that much every ten seconds) — and less than two hundred gig a month, which including all peripheral expenses should put them into roughly the $10k a year cost for hosting. Like I said, I'm a big fan of the site, but I feel like they're screwing people a little bit when they're constantly pulling stunts like that.


Have a beer with me, it'll help dull the pain

Seeing people help out with the women's clinic that Rachel is working with here in La Paz is really heart warming (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here). In a period of two days, readers have covered several months of operating expenses already, and it's got me thinking about how to make charitable giving more effective, and less swamped by parasites.

For those of you who have donated, know that the only money that doesn't go directly to the women's clinic is the money that PayPal takes for itself, which is unavoidable. In general if you donate money to a centralized charity, 2%-10% percent is lost in processing fees and bank services right off the top. After that, 20%-75% is lost in bureaucracy and operating expenses, with some charity executives collecting multi-million dollar salaries. A percentage of what's left over goes to the people the charity is supporting and the remainder goes into investments and other holdings. That is, little of the money makes it to the people who need it, and who you're trying to give it to.

Anyway, I was thinking that someone needs to create a blog that catalogs and links to all these little clinics and services around the world that accept direct donations, thereby avoiding paying for bureaucracy… Even better would be an automated service that lets you search for charities of different types around the world, and perhaps even evenly distribute small donations among multiple groups. If this were set up I believe it would increase the effectiveness of charity by a margin of 200%, and if everyone in the world dedicated perhaps two percent of their income — just two percent (to put that into context, that would be $180,000,000,000 from America alone) — we could literally transform the world into a paradise where everyone lives a rich, fulfilling, and happy life. For two percent of our incomes.

But I'm a damn dirty ape hippy, don't listen to me.

War, inequality, and gross poverty is much better.

* * *

It's both funny and scary that while right now I'm asking people in the US to help out other parts of the world, but I fear that in fifty years — if we get that far — it could really easily be the other way around… and because the US is not really engendering “goodwill” toward it around the world, it may well be a lot harder sell. From a purely selfish point of view, think about the implications — the people you help today may help you tomorrow.

I'm not talking about “help” with strings attached. I'm talking about making the world a better place because it's the right thing to do for all of us, independent of ideologies, and certainly independent of what some highly paid corporate “representative of God” demands.

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.

- Joel 2:1-5, KJV

I growing increasingly worried about how the US is becoming a repressive theocracy — the photo above is from a military rally held at a Baptist church in America (you can click it for the whole story). Churches in America being filled with automatic weaponry and being used by the military to recruit new soldiers in God's Army is deeply disturbing. I'll again quote President Bush (click the picture for a short WMV clip I made in 2003 of one of his military rallies, or click here for other formats and old videos):

"I want to thank Chaplain Stone; I appreciate your words of prayer for our men and women in uniform. People across this country are praying. We pray that God will bless and receive each of the fallen, and we thank God that Liberty found such brave defenders. The Liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. May God Bless America."

I realize that there's in theory “separation” of church and state, but with churches doing the recruiting and the President declaring them God's Army and announcing at rallies that as they die God will take them straight into the arms of fifty virgins in their heavenly harem (or am I getting jihadists mixed up? — they all seem the same after a while), it's getting a little uncomfortable. Add to that the fact that evolution is now required in only 8% of US schools, and the “intelligent design” malarkey is being forced into US schools as science, I genuine worry about the future of America (and with hundreds of American nukes currently in place across Europe, the future of the world).

Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

- Joel 2:6-11, KJV

Add to that more and more evidence that the current ruling cabal was well informed on the “al Qaeda” attacks before they happened, and that the US military are actively hunting and killing journalists, including Western journalists (according to CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan), we're moving into a very scary phase of world history. Not that I don't have a dozen other groups that may well have me killed for a variety of reasons, but saying these things publicly puts me at risk, and you for having read it. Don't assume your Internet use isn't being recorded.

Why oh why did the US have to pick an apocalyptic death-cult faith like evangelical Christianity. I far prefer the bleak but accepting view the Norse have. I am fairly certain that this current freak weather we are experiencing may be the transition into fimbulwinter. Every night I look up into the sky, wondering if it will be the eve the stars disappear.

Or maybe I just enjoy writing about it because I played too much Dungeons and Dragons during the formative period of my life?

Ed Cushman (Losing a Hand)

I just got mail from my old friend Ed Cushman, a genuinely inspiring (and very funny) man who many of you have met in person. He's also the author of the wonderful Losing a Hand which I hope to publish a second edition of later this year. Anyway, he's running a blog of his travels (warning: it's got a sound effect) that some of you may enjoy. Click the picture below to jump to it now:

Kart pulling shirt idea…

After supper today I drew a rough for a silly little shirt idea based on a photo that Spineshank sent in a while back… I was thinking about it for either a contributor shirt or a shirt for BMEshop (I've also got a cool new one in the queue from Jason). What do you think?

I am Rob McKenna, home owner

In La Paz, Mexico, on average it rains about one and a half days in February. Usually it doesn't rain at all in in March, April, May, June, or July, and even the “rainy season” in September tends to max out at a whopping 1.4″ inches of rain for the entire month. However, thanks to the freak weather we're having — rain, rain rain — I'm starting to feel a little like Rob McKenna*, with 231 types of rain written down in my little book. Jon hopes it will rain a little more so he can go fishing in the street.

Downtown the water is actually knee deep!

That said, I've been meaning to write about the medical system here in Mexico. As you probably know, the US is one of the few modern countries in the world that doesn't have medical care as a basic right, and as a result, half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical treatment bills — to say nothing of the millions who suffer and die needlessly because they can't afford treatment.

We've been to the hospital here once because our daughter got very sick. We got attention almost immediately, the doctors and nurses were very friendly and helpful, and the whole thing, including the emergency room fees, the doctor's fees, and the medication cost I think $33 — in Canada it would have run closer to three hundred dollars, and probably in the six hundred dollar range in the states.

One of the many people we met here moved from the US in 1998. She runs a Spanish school down here these days, but when she lived in the States she was a hospital administrator. Not long after arriving here she got a serious liver infection, and, after putting it off for too long had to be rushed to the hospital. She ended up having to stay in the hospital for half a week and was seen dozens of times by her own doctor and others before they released her.

As a hospital administrator, the whole time she was there, she kept adding up the things that were happening to estimate what this was going to set her back. She'd guessed in the realm of four or five thousand dollars, so when they handed her a bill for two thousand dollars she was quite pleased.

“Two thousand dollars — that's a lot less than this would have cost me back home.”

“No, no, senora, you misunderstand — that is in pesos; about two hundred dollars.”

Emphasizing that there must be horror stories as well as these good ones I'm telling now, another person we met had broken their leg after a night of drinking and ended up in a private clinic here. She stayed for about a week. She got constant personal attention from the doctors, had food brought from local restaurants, and got care that one can only dream of in Canada — and only multi-millionaires can afford in America… all for a total cost of $250.

Other than, Rachel and I put in an offer on a house a few days ago and as you may have seen on her page, it was just accepted. If you'd have told me five years ago that my first house would be in Mexico, I'd never have believed it, but here we are.

It's definitely a fixer-upper, but it's in a nice part of downtown La Paz, two blocks from the beach (kind of like the Mexican equivalent of where I lived at my daughter's age I suppose). It's a big walled lot thick with fruit-producing orange and banana trees, with big yards, lots of room, and a nice big airy house with 18' ceilings. It'll give me space to work, paint, build things, and occasionally relax I hope.


* Sorry about the obscure So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish reference.

Prostitutes and Secret Operatives

So there's a new PR broadcast out from the folks at al Qaeda.

"[Liberty as construed by America is based on] usurious banks, giant companies, misleading media outlets and the destruction of others for material gain."

OK, I'll buy that. However, after that it spins off into a bunch of anti-gay and anti-woman statements that might as well have been said by Bush himself. It's funny — the more a politician talks about “freedom”, the less inclined they are to accept someone else's notion of freedom.

There's a new 9/11 report that the Bush administration is trying to bury, and it's one of the most damning ones so far. In short, before September 11th, numerous agencies were aware of al Qaeda's plans, and not only ignored but actively blocked the information from being released.

Now, you may remember that prior to 9/11 a computer hacker named “Mike” Vreeland in Canadian prison who claims both to have worked for the Pentagon and to have hacked the Pentagon warned his Canadian jailers of the attacks, saying he'd discovered documents describing them in detail, along with the note “let one happen, stop the rest… we could use this.

It's important to note that Vreeland is no angel. He's quite likely a con artist and appears to have an extensive record. However, the Canadian court system — and this is a matter of public record — has determined that the US government is actively altering his records and running a disinformation campaign. To me it's another piece of the puzzle that suggests that while the neo-con cult may not have actually caused the September 11th attacks, they did everything they did to ensure they would happen by taking out all the roadblocks and silencing anyone who warned they were imminent.

I suspect that they had no idea they'd be so successful or that they'd take down the towers.

You may remember Kitty Kelly's “tell all” book on the Bush family that came out late last year. This book alleges, among other things, that Bush Sr. is a pedophile, they're a bunch of Satanists and murders, and that the White House is used regularly by male prostitutes. Outlandish?

We've seen a number of high-end Republicans recently outed as gay and lose their careers over it (with strange Mossad tie-ins reminding me of the Vanunu seduction), but the “Jeff Gannon” story really pushes it over the top. For those of you who don't know it, “Jeff Gannon” (actually James Guckert) was granted White House press credentials under a fake name, and kept asking fluff questions of Bush like “how do you deal with Democrats who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

It gets more disturbing though. “Gannon” was also given copies of the Valerie Plame memo in which a CIA agent's identity was leaked to the press in order to punish her husband for speaking out against the administration, tying him to the top of the administration. And then it gets wackier — before being employed by GOPUSA (friends of Karl Rove) as a “journalist” to ask fake questions of the President, he was a gay prostitute working for sites like HotMilitaryStud, MilitaryEscorts, and Militaryescortsm4m).

Even without any conspiracy added, you've got a gay prostitute with top Republican neo-con ties, operating under an assumed identity accessing classified documents and having free reign of the White House, the whole time working with the sponsorship of the GOP.

Weird world.

I hope one day he flips like Vreeland did.

Not that anyone believed Vreeland.