Letters From Exile

...Scott Bidstrup's Life And Living In Costa Rica

Mon, Jun 30 2003

Summer Comes To Phoenix

On a day that is 73 degrees where I'm moving to, it is expected to get to 115 here in Phoenix. I'm really looking forward to the weather down there! Today's agenda: cleaning the pool, a trip to the store, and getting a couple of classifieds placed for the vehicles I'm trying to sell, and putting together a web page for the ads to refer readers to.

Outrage of the day: The "Roadmap" to Peace is proving to be embarrassing to the Israelis. When they pulled out of Beit Hanoun, a small town in the Gaza Strip, it turns out that they left nothing behind - olive orchards, orange groves, houses, shops, all leveled to rubble heaps. The residents, allowed in for the first time in weeks, expressed shock at the degree of the devastation. No explanation from the Israeli Defense Forces why it was necessary to so completely devastate the place.

Meanwhile, in Liberia, a war has spun out of control, and massacre after massacre is taking place in that troubled nation. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are on the move. If we're going to claim the moral authority of being the policeman to the world (as we effectively did in Iraq), then we should do something about Liberia. Charles Taylor, the local sonofabitch, started out as "our" sonofabitch. Now he's the problem (sound familiar? Noriega, Somosa, Sukarno, Marcos and many others all come to mind). His behavior is so outrageous that even Dubya is sickened by it, if you can imagine such a thing. But send in troops? Out of the question. There's nothing there that American corporations want to exploit. Maybe the NGO's should look for oil. If they find it, in a flash our troops will be in there being shot at for Liberty, Justice and Cheap Gasoline.

I read this morning in the Tico Times that Costa Rica has had its first Gay Pride Festival over the weekend. It was organized by the Ticosos, a local gay group. It was well-surrounded by the police, who kept order successfully. The Ombudsman's office gave a presentation informing Costa Rica gays what their rights are under the law. Wow! The government going out of its way to educate people as to their rights under the law! Imagine that in George Bush's America! What's needed now in Costa Rica is an effort to promote social acceptance. That would, of course, bring the community there into direct conflict with the Catholic Church, which is still a potent (though thankfully waning) force in that country.

Well, the for-sale web page for the van is up. Finally. Now I can get the ad in the paper and hopefully get some action. I've had an ad for the pickup at cars.com for the weekend, and not a single call or email so far. Really disappointed with the results on that one. I'm going to try a traditional old-fashioned newspaper ad next.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:49:47 AM

Sun, Jun 29 2003

Phoenix Humanists Lecture

After an email exchange with an officer of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, I decided this morning to put in an appearance at their bi-weekly Sunday Brunch Lecture. It was controversial, as far as I was concerned, because the lecture was being given by the Arizona Region Director of the Anti-Discrimination League of B'nai B'rith. That's not a problem by itself, but the ADL has become quite controversial, not just for its absolutely unqualified support of Israel, regardless of its egregious behavior in the Occupied Territories, but the fact that it has settled out of court, lawsuits against it, on terms not favorable to itself. The suits have alleged gross invasion of privacy, slander, and harassment. I had suggested to the HSGP that offering a forum to an organization with such a record, is, at best, not helpful to HSGP's reputation. I was met with considerable opposition, in spite of the fact that the chapter's vice president was on my side in the issue. Anyway, after my confrontation, I had been advised by a trusted friend that I had more or less morally committed myself to show up, and so I did. Here's how it went:

He started off his lecture by asking us to raise our hands whenever we had a question. I was glad for this, as I knew it would allow me to challenge him on propaganda points that I knew he would be presenting. After some time discussing the local issues, he mentioned that the ADL is passionate about the defense of Israel, and started spouting the usual propaganda - Palestinians left their homes in 1948 voluntarily, Israel was the victim of wars of aggression started by its neighbors, the surrounding nations don't really care about the Palestinians, and won't let refugees settle there, etc. At this point, I raised my hand, and he acknowledged me. I pointed out that several of the points he was making were simply not true, as I had documented from Israeli sources on my web site. Specifically, I pointed out to him that in contradiction to what he had asserted, that of all the wars Israel has fought, only the Yom Kippur War was begun by its neighbors. He acknowledged that was "technically true" but claimed that attacks were imminent (again, not true), but would not allow me to challenge that point. He then changed the subject by going off on a tangent about the fact that Israel's neighbors had not done the neighborly thing and taken in the refugees. I was about to tell him that the real reason that Israel's neighbors don't allow in more refugees is that would simply invite more ethnic cleansing than is already taking place in the Occupied Territories, but he cut me off.

That was about all I was allowed to get in. He returned to strictly local issues, and went back to answering questions that were easy softball pitches - no more hardball from me - he was careful to avoid anything that could be steered towards a divisive issue. He was, of course, careful to appear, as best he could, to be tolerant of my point of view.

At the end of the lecture, I met briefly with him and he gave me his card and invited me to call him at any time. It has his email address, and so I think I'll conduct an email exchange instead. I'm going to ask for his criticism of my essay on the origins of the conflict, and it will be interesting to see what he says. And I know it'll get me on the ADL's list, but I don't care anymore. I won't be around to be a victim.

Other members of the HSGP came up to me and told me how they agreed with me, and wished that they had enough of the facts with them to dispute his claims as I had done. Many were aware that I was about to go into exile, and wished me well.

The president of the Phoenix Mensa chapter came up to me and asked me to speak next Monday at the Borders Books Mensa Lecture Series. He wants me to discuss what has led up to my forthcoming exile and answer questions about the FBI harassment to which I've been subjected. I've agreed to do that. At this point, I've decided not to be bashful about what is happening - I feel it is important that the word get out (while that is still possible) so that the American people are aware of what is happening in their country.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 12:11:59 AM

Fri, Jun 27 2003

Warm Day In Phoenix

Today's supposed to be the warmest day of the season so far here in Phoenix. It's supposed to get up to at least 110 degrees. As I write this at 11:30 in the morning, it's already 101. Just checked the temperature in San Jose, Costa Rica, and it's 84 - the hottest I've ever seen it there - and of course, there will be some rain this afternoon to cool things off. Can't wait to get moved down there!

I knew it was going to be hot today, so I got up early and went right to work on finishing the cleaning in the van. It's done, finally! Got the bed made up and shot the pictures. I was sweating so badly I was afraid I'd get the sweat in the camera, but so far as I know it escaped. This summer heat in Phoenix is rough! I don't care whether it's a dry heat or not, 101 is just plain hot to try to work in!

Today is the 34th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, the event in New York City that gave birth to the gay civil rights movement. It began when the police raided, and tried to shake down the patrons of a gay bar. But the patrons decided they weren't going to be shaken down yet again, so they started a riot that went on and off for several days. The headline in the New York Post the next day was a classic. It read: "Police Raid Homo Nest - Queen Bees Stinging Mad." Well, 34 years on, we're still mad as hell and we're not taking it anymore. I hear that there was a big celebration at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village last night celebrating the supreme court decision overturning sodomy laws in the United States, that was announced yesterday. The forces of reaction and fascism in this country are being driven back in at least a few ways. Of course all the blue-nosed puritanical Christians were whining about the decision on 19th Century Fox last night. They know as well as anyone that the laws were very rarely enforced anyway, so as a law enforcement tool, the laws were essentially meaningless, but they're really pissed about it because they realize they've lost a major tool that they've traditionally used as a basis for discrimination and bigotry - which was precisely the reason the Supreme Court gave for overturning the laws. So much for Christian love and tolerance - and religion is supposed to be a good thing? You could have fooled me. Andrew Sullivan observed in his blog today that Strom Thurmond, that old dyed-in-the-wool segregationist hardcore paleo-reactionary, died yesterday, and sodomy became legal in South Carolina on the very same day. Funny how the world works, isn't it? If I were a believer in a god, I'd say that the Ol' Boy In The Sky was making a statement.

Speaking of religion, I'm going to put up a new front-page editorial tomorrow. It concerns another aspect of the damaging effects of religion. It's going to take to task the correspondent I have discussed previously in this space, who is advocating for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which has a documented history of spying on, bullying and smearing opponents of Israel and Zionism. I sent her a copy of the editorial I am intending to put up, and will be interested in seeing if she responds. Basically, without identifying her, what I'm going to say is that secular Zionism is really a form of tribalism, and as such is incompatible with the Humanist values that she claims to embrace. I'm contending that if she is going to call herself a Humanist, she should walk the walk, not just talk the talk - and that means that she must recognize that Palestinians have both human rights and property rights to the land they own, and that she should not support organizations that engage in coercive tactics just because they support her tribalist views. We'll see if she responds.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 11:26:01 AM

Thu, Jun 26 2003

Oh, Happy Day!

Just got word that the Supreme Court of the United States has, by a 6 to 3 vote, just struck down the Texas sodomy law and similar homosexuals-only sodomy laws, and in a concurrent 5 to 4 decision, struck down all sodomy laws in the U.S. whether they apply only to same-sex couples or to heterosexuals as well.

It is somewhat ironic - tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. It was that event that triggered the formation of the gay civil rights movement. By today's decision, the first dream of the gay civil rights movement in the U.S. is nearly fulfilled - our basic right to privacy is affirmed to be equal to that of heterosexuals. The two remaining dreams are full civil rights protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and of course, gay marriage. The latter, should it ever be enacted, would effectively force the former. And now that gay marriage is legal in Canada and is likely to stay so, the end is in sight for now. Of course, vigilance is in order - a single vote on the Supreme Court could change that.

I spoke with the buyer of the house yesterday, regarding the results of the inspections of the house that were done on Monday. He says there is a large number of minor, piddling little things that were in the reports, some of which lead to exclusions from the house warrantee, but there are otherwise no significant problems. The biggest issue was that the east-zone heat pump was excluded because it needs "service," but what is actually needed was not specified. I've offered to pay for the "service" if that would make the warrantee company happy, but he said he didn't really feel it was necessary!

Yesterday was clean-up-the-van day. I got the inside of the van all cleaned out and just need to clean the windows. The outside needs a good wash job, and it will then be ready for photos.

Not much new on Democracy Now this morning.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 07:33:56 AM

Wed, Jun 25 2003

Happy Birthday, George!

Today's the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orwell. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now has celebrated this anniversary by interspersing his words with those of Dubya and cronies. It's amazing how prescient the words were! War is peace, and is meant to last continuously. Hatred is love. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Propaganda is truth. Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past. In the America of George W. Bush, the words of that other George have begun to come alive. Oceania lives! And I'm getting out of it, and none too soon.

My tasks for today - finish cleaning out the van, take pics of it and get the ads placed. The buyer of the house is going to give me a list today of things that need to be fixed. I'm not anticipating anything significant.

I'm engaged in a bit of an email battle with the president of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix. It seems that their featured speaker this weekend is going to be none other than the regional president of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. She is either unaware of or choosing to ignore that organization's history of spying, smear tactics and defamation against people who oppose Zionism and the policies of Israel. I've warned her that she is discrediting the HSGP by allowing such a speaker. But being the ardent secular Zionist that she is, I doubt that she'll see things differently after reading the links I sent her.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:37:32 AM

Tue, Jun 24 2003

Inspection Results

Yesterday's big inspection results: The house inspectors came by for the buyer and the home warrantee company. The home warrantee company accepted everything except the washing machine, which has some rust in the drum. The buyer's house inspector was reasonably thorough, though he did not find a couple of minor issues that the buyer and I were both aware of. Anyway, no big deal, lots of little things that need to be taken care of (GFI outlets in the garage and outside, an outside light fixture that is loose and needs to be secured, etc.). Anyway, nothing significant that would be a deal-breaker.

Today's big project will be to get the van cleaned up inside and take some pictures of it, so I can get the classified ad for the van done. I'll finally be ready to have all the pictures for all the vehicles on the web and ready to sell. The photos for the car and the pickup have both been shot and corrected, so all that remains is the van.

The list of daily outrages by the Bush administration for today is a blessedly short one. Only one item today of any real significance - it seems that a Qatari national, who was detained last December as I recall, has had the criminal charges against him dropped, so his status could be changed to "enemy combatant" and held in a military brig, and as usual, without benefit of counsel, assurance of habeas corpus, or any other civil rights or hope he'll get out anytime soon. They can keep him there as long as it suits them, and that's the end of that. No civil rights at all. This isn't the first time this has happened, either. Dubya has signed lots of executive orders for this to happen, and against at least one American citizen that I know of - a direct, obvious violation of the constitution. That man's attitude of self-entitlement is just astounding!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:56:35 AM

Mon, Jun 23 2003

Moving Estimate Is In

Just had an email from the mover in Costa Rica. He's got his information from the local estimator who came by last Thursday. Turns out that it's not going to be as bad as I had expected. Costs will run from $1.40 to $1.12 per pound, depending on how much I ship, with customs and inspection fees running about half that.

The house inspector, termite inspector and one other inspector (can't recall which - I think it is the home warrantee inspector) are all due here around 1 PM to look over the house.

Listening to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. She's going down the list of daily outrages.

1) The Bush campaign is starting it's fund-raising campaign in New York with an anti-abortion rally. $2000 per ticket, and for that you get hot dogs, nachos, and the least appetizing part of it, Resident Bush.

2) For the second day in a row, the oil pipeline in Iraq has been sabotaged. The Occupiers' Amateur Hour is at a loss to figure out how to protect it.

3) A retired general has openly criticized the Occupiers' Amateur Hour for being, well, amateurish. He said they made no preparations for occupying a country that doesn't like us. General Nash, that's because these guys think everyone likes America, and any problems are due to strictly to Saddam's hangers-on. Remember, these people are motivated by world-record levels of hubris.

4) The Washington Post is reporting that a pre-war intelligence summary, from all the U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that there was no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, terrorism in general, nor did he have any WMD's to speak of. Dubya had been given a copy, but he lied anyway. Way to go, Dubya. Lie to Congress, the American people and the world, and start a war based on your lie. When LBJ did that, the Republicans were baying for his impeachment. Well, maybe those Republicans should be consistent, and impeach the fine, honest Christian gentleman who is currently holed up in the White House.

5) Ariel Sharon has apparently told his cabinet quietly to continue to build settlements, despite the Roadmap to Peace. Note that I predicted on my web site that this would happen, and I doubt seriously it would have happened without Dubya being aware and signing off on the policy. The Bushies have said nothing, of course.

6) Belgium has been strong-armed by the U.S. into modifying its war crimes law into requiring that there must be a Belgian defendant, victim, or the crime has to have taken place on Belgian soil. Guess some of the people in charge in Washington are a bit nervous about being held accountable for what they're doing.

7) A bill has been introduced into Congress by the Republican anti-freedom-of-religion brigade that would basically outlaw abortions through the back door - abortions would be theoretically legal, but the language is so vague and has so many restrictions, they'd be impossible to obtain. It's unconstitutional. It's virtually identical to a Nebraska law that the Supremes have already struck down. But of course, constitutionality is nothing this crowd worries about.

8) Using an executive order, Dubya has extended prenatal care to fetuses under the child health insurance program, but has specifically denied it to the woman who is carrying the fetus! Now there's some good, solid evidence of Compassionate Conservatism at work.

Just one day's news. And people wonder why I'm leaving.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:53:52 AM

Sun, Jun 22 2003

Empty Ham Bands

Spent the morning getting the pickup running so I could get it out of the garage, get it cleaned up and take some pictures for the ads. Starting it proved to be a problem - the needle valve keeps sticking because it doesn't get driven much, and of course it was stuck, so I had to take the valve out, clean it, put it back in and start it up. It did - and promptly flooded. Dangit! So after waiting a while for it to dry out, I started it up and it ran fine - at least long enough to get the truck out of the garage, get it washed and photographed, and put back in. Anyway, that's done!

Been playing around with my ham radio stuff, at least while I have a temporary antenna laying on the roof, just to see what the band conditions are like, and how things are on the bands since my absence of the last 8 years. What strikes me is how quiet the bands are - when I started my ham radio career, the bands were jam-packed with signals. It was hard to find an open frequency to call CQ (looking for a conversation with anyone), or carry on a conversation. You could easily tell where the bands began and ended - the frequencies were crowded and loud right to the very edge of the band allocations. Now, there are whole segments of the bands that are empty. There's plenty of room now. I've also noticed that the large ham radio antennas that were a common sight in suburban neighborhoods are a relatively rare sight to me these days. This is disturbing to me - it signals that the hobby is in deep trouble. I suspect there are two reasons why ham radio is declining as a hobby. First, the advent of no-code licensing in the U.S. has taken the prestige out of having a license. No code required, other than a very perfunctory test which only requires a few days of study. There's really no incentive to work and study to get a license, as one can do that now by simply taking a written test, and that means that there's no real satisfaction and sense of achievement in getting a license, and no sense of honor or prestige in having one. The second reason is probably computers and the internet. Why struggle and strain to hear someone from across the world, when you can set up a virtual channel and have a quiet, high quality conversation with someone for free on the internet anyway? When I first got into the hobby, one of the enchantments was that you could conduct a conversation with someone on the far side of the planet, for hours at a time if you wished, and it cost you nothing. Well, now, the internet has made that possible for anyone, no license required, not even any skill. No prestige, no magic. No surprise that the hobby is declining. It's sad, but I guess it was inevitable.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 03:52:57 PM

Sat, Jun 21 2003

War of Liberation

The word is that the War of Liberation in Iraq is now going badly. Jonathan Schell, a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, is reporting that about one soldier per day is now dying in Iraq, as the result of hostile actions. This war is not over. It's clear to me that there will be American soldiers dying in Iraq for as long as we are there.

What George Bush doesn't understand is that you can't force people to be free. That was the mistake that Robespierre made during the French Revolution, and George Bush is making that mistake now - its a shortcut to either anarchy or tyranny. Unless the culture is compatible, you'll have either anarchy or repressive tyranny. But you can't simply overthrow a dictatorship and expect good results in the absence of a commitment by the people to democratic values, including the social contract.

Of course, democracy is not why the war was fought, as Paul Wolfowitz made clear a couple of weeks ago, when he confessed that oil and Israel were the real reasons. Of course the readers of my web page knew that long before the war even started.

Well, now we're watching Occupiers' Amateur Hour. No plans were made for after the war, at least so we could see, and now we're watching an occupation just killing time while little is being done to solve the problems the occupation has caused.

Today was a rest day, except for some serious pool cleaning that needed to be done. Algae was building up, and I had to do all the usual, plus brush the worst of it off, and shock the water. No swimming today.

I threw up a wire antenna that I had made some years ago while I was living in the van, so I could check out my ham rig. I can now hear how well my ham radio is working, and it seems to be fine. I'll have a ham rig down there, and the means of getting on the air fairly easily and conveniently. No problem. So I'll enjoy that.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:25:32 PM

Fri, Jun 20 2003

Ham Radio Issues

After receiving the power supply yesterday, I checked out my ham radio rigs. Neither one of them is in working order, unfortunately. I am going to open up my VHF/UHF ham rig and see if there's a dead keep-alive battery in it. If so, I'll get a replacement battery and see if that will bring that radio to life. If so, I'll be able to have 2-meters and 70 centimeter radios with me. That would be worthwhile. I'll also open the HF rig and see if it has one, too. It's a faint hope, but it could save me $400 if that's the problem.

I've also got to replace the battery in my pickup. Just over a year old, but it won't take a charge, so I've got to replace it before I can sell the truck - or even get it out of the garage for pictures.

Amy's going down the list of daily outrages on Democracy Now. Not much to report today, just the usual conflicts of interest, questions about influence peddling and the like. Everything that Republicans seem to think makes for better governance. The one bright spot is that the Senate has voted to rebuke the FCC for its recent media ownership rules changes, and restore them to the current rules. The FCC had received 9,000 emails on this issue prior to its decision, and had received only 11 in favor of the changes, but as a measure of the New Bush Democracy, it went ahead with the rules changes anyhow. Now it goes to the House, where the battle to overturn the rules will be an uphill battle all the way.

The mover's estimator came yesterday, and I'll be calling them today to find out how much it's going to cost to get my stuff shipped to Costa Rica.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:35:54 AM

Thu, Jun 19 2003

Fiftieth Anniversary

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in American history - the electric-chair execution of Ethyl and Julius Rosenberg. If you don't know who they were, it was believed by the press and reported by government intelligence at the time that they leaked the secrets to the Soviet Union that made it possible for Stalin to build the bomb. The reality is that there is scant evidence that they were involved in any kind of espionage or conspiracy to commit it - they were guilty mostly of doing what I do - dissent - and of course, Julius had worked as a security guard at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Most of the evidence on which they were convicted was fabricated. The fact that they were Jewish didn't help their case. Of course, anti-Semitism in the U.S. government, at least, is a thing of the past. Nowadays, if they'd been Zionists and had been caught red-handed giving Israel a ready-to-use nuke, they'd be given a medal rather than being executed. Our national xenophobia hasn't changed, just its targets have.

Yesterday, the realtor came by and he put up the For Sale sign and put a lockbox on the front door. Even though the house is under contract, we did this so I could get any possible contingent offers on the place. Not that the deal is likely to fall through, but there's always that possibility.

The mover is coming today at noon to survey my goods, and there are a bunch of inspections, scheduled by the buyer, at 1PM on Monday. Lots of folks traipsing through the house. But that's OK. The place is clean and ready. Today, I'm getting some photos shot of the vehicles I'm selling for the ads I'm going to place on cars.com.

Some reaction to that anti-Costa Rica article that I linked to in my last blog entry. Turns out that several people, including a native Costa Rican, have felt as I do that it was grossly exaggerated in places and untrue in others. In any event, I'm not giving it much credence. If you look at what he says about the rest of Latin America, he doesn't have anything decent to say about any country where he's been. I think the guy is suffering mostly from unresolved culture shock.

Fed-Ex Green just showed up at my door. At first I couldn't imagine what it was, and then I remembered that a friend had promised me an accessory for my ham rigs to use in Costa Rica. It was shipped day before yesterday from Las Vegas. The driver spent a good deal of time sitting at the steering wheel of his truck doing stuff before he drove away - it occurs to me that the UPS drivers never have to do that - they're here and they're gone. I'm wondering if there's an inefficiency in their delivery process that Fed-Ex ought to look at. Twenty or thirty seconds per millions of parcels adds up to a lot of labor expense.

The Catholic Bishop of Phoenix resigned yesterday, after having been charged with felony hit-and-run. This, after a controversy just two weeks ago, where he signed a plea bargain with the District Attorney on charges of having been complicit in the coverup of - you guessed it - sexual misconduct by priests in his diocese. When asked why he refused to resign, he indicated that he served at the pleasure of the Pope, not the District Attorney. Well, seems he could have resigned in spite of what the Pope thinks, because he just did! So why didn't he resign before?

Geezuz, these conservatives and their sense of entitlement - it just seems to know no limits! We hear this morning that the Bush enviro-fascists had pressured scientists in the Environmental Protection Agency to change the conclusions in some of their reports. So they responded by leaking, to the New York Times, copies of both the original and the altered reports - to prove that this administration thinks it knows better than reality! This, just days after an official in the Justice Department leaked a report that indicated that the administration knowingly arrested and held, without trial or even benefit of counsel, people it knew were innocent of connections to terrorism! And they want us to go along with Patriot II? Sorry, Dubya, you've proven your administration's disingenuousness, and we just don't believe you or your Fascist In Chief, John Ashcroft, anymore. If you want any more powers of repression, it'll be over my exiled body.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:01:46 AM

Tue, Jun 17 2003

Really Down On Costa Rica

Well, last night, just before going to bed, I made a big mistake. Found a web site that is really down on living in Costa Rica. The author had nothing much good to say about the place and a lot of bad stuff. Well, I know from personal experience that while some of it is true, most is not, and what is true, is exaggerated. He made it out to be an absolutely miserable place. Well, I think he simply had some unrealistic expectations and some unresolved culture shock. Anyway, it gave me bad dreams all night. The light of morning brings some rationality to it, but it was still disturbing to read, nonetheless, until I read some of what else he had written - and it turns out he's trashed everywhere except where he is living. I was looking into Paraguay, because Paraguay is the cheapest place in the world for an American to live right now, but there's no scenery, nothing to do there and the weather isn't as good, so I'll stick with Costa Rica.

A ton of email when I got up this morning. Spent most of the morning going through it, and looking at the most recent forums in the Associated Residents of Costa Rica web site. A few interesting posts, one glorifying American militarism. So naturally I posted a pacifist reply. We'll see what happens, but I'll bet I'll get some heat for it.

Amy is going down the list of daily outrages on Democracy Now. Of course, there's a long list. One of the most egregious is that the head of the Republican Party has been replaced by none other than the former lobbyist for Enron. No surprise. Just another example of the merger of the Republican Party with the worst elements of corporate America. And as part of the War On Terrorism, the administration is actually floating trial balloons about sending troops to the Occupied Territories to control Hamas. Well, if they do that, they'll have a war on terrorism to fight, no doubt about that. Osama won't be able to sign 'em up fast enough. I don't understand what is wrong with this administration - they seem to think that force and repression is the solution to every problem. The reality of course, is that it is the cause of many of the problems they're trying to solve.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 01:32:42 PM

Mon, Jun 16 2003

Shopping Day

Well, today I've gotta go shopping. Out of groceries, and I've got to be careful what I buy, so I won't have to walk away from some of it a month from now. The food level in the pantry is going down, but not fast enough that it will be gone by the time I leave, and I may have to leave some behind. I've got to get some things - I'm completely out of eggs, milk and bread, but mostly I'm out of food for Sweetpea, my little kitty. Still don't have a home arranged for her, can't take her with me, and it breaks my heart to have to leave her behind. She's such a sweet, affectionate cat and so good in the house.

Listening to the new 'condensed' one-hour version of Democracy Now. She just reported that Iraqi resistance has blown up an oil pipeline in two places. It was going to be used to export oil under new contracts signed by the Occupation, which is a violation of international law. But of course, that makes them "terrorists."

Now, she's going down the list of daily outrages:

1) It seems that the end of combat activities in Iraq has seen an actual increase in the rate at which civilians are dying. Yeah, we're a humane occupying force, all right.

2) Word is out that we're in talks with the Taliban to have them resume a "role" in the governing of Afghanistan. I guess we haven't managed to stabilize that country by setting up a former Unocal Oil executive as a prime minister who can't go anywhere without U.S. troops as bodyguards. So I guess we're going to give up and hand it back. The list of "conditions" didn't even include keeping Al Qaeda out of the country! So much for the War on Terrorism.

3) Zionist squatters in the West Bank have set up five new squatter camps there. The squatters say they're going to continue, and Sharon's not stopping them. It seems that Dubya's not saying anything about it, and then we wonder why the Palestinians resort to terrorism.

4) Just after Dubya got bellicose about Iran, student demonstrations suddenly broke out. Can't imagine why. Dubya is publicly encouraging the student demonstrations in Iran. This is beginning to look to me like a deliberate destabilization campaign - a re-run of 1953. We'll install a puppet "democratic" leader who will really be a brutal fascist dictator, and who will make matters worse, and eventually we'll have another Islamic revolution. Just watch.

5) Dubya raised money to the tune of $100 million for his last presidential campaign; the word is that he'll raise $170 million for the upcoming campaign - roughly $1.61 per vote - a 70% increase in just one election cycle. The overwhelming amount of money, plus the vote-fixing that's already being and has been arranged, will mean that he'll be re-elected for sure. There's no way the Democrats or anyone else can raise anywhere near that amount of money, certainly not enough to overcome the vote fixing. So much for democracy and free elections in America. But then, the neo-Conservative opinion leaders have publicly said we have "too much democracy" in this country anyway. Yeah, check out the link. One of America's most respected neo-con commentators actually said that!

Sure glad I'm getting out!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:11:18 AM

Sun, Jun 15 2003

Big Brother Is Watching You - And Charging Your Credit Card $13

Well, the realtor came by this morning, and we've signed and accepted the sales contract. The house is now under contract and will be in the listings tomorrow, and should be in escrow by the end of the day. I'm awfully glad to see that happen!

Now, for the bad news. Among the things I'm required to do as the seller, is to provide to the buyer, a copy of the "C.L.U.E. Report."

What is that, you ask? [...yawn...] Why should you care?

What makes this interesting is that there is one place you can go to get this report. That place is www.choicetrust.com, a web site operated by none other than ChoicePoint Assets, of Atlanta, Georgia.

Don't know who ChoicePoint is? Remember Kathleen Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State/Dubya's 2000-Florida campaign manager, and the private contractor she hired, recommended by Dubya, who produced two phony lists totalling 94,000 "ex-felons" who were mostly guilty only of being nearly all Democrats? That company was Database Technologies, which promptly renamed itself ChoicePoint Assets Corporation and moved to Atlanta in order to save itself after that storm of controversy. Other states have begun hiring ChoicePoint to provide felon scrub lists as was done in Florida. Georgia, I'm told, was the first to do so. Sort of a thank you, I guess, for locating there.

ChoicePoint was also hired by Big Brother Ashcroft to obtain voter and driver's license information on all voters and licensed drivers in most of the Latin American countries. The data was obtained and delivered, and was being used (for what?) by the administration until the Latin American nations protested. That sparked several investigations in Latin American nations regarding how ChoicePoint was able to obtain the data without going through official channels in the countries involved. It led to the firing of one cabinet official that I am aware of, and several more that resigned. Ashcroft has never satisfactorily explained what the information was to be used for. My theory is that it was to enhance the CIA's ability to engage in subversion.

It would appear that ChoicePoint is being well rewarded for their participation in electoral fraud, and is now making a business out of it.

So now I can't sell a property in Arizona without paying my $13 Fraudulent Elections and Big Brother Tax to the Republicans' pals. Wonderful, huh? Am I pissed? You bet.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 02:13:34 PM

Sat, Jun 14 2003

Grunt! Clink!

Well, my buddy from Las Vegas came down to get my old Soloflex muscle machine. Glad to be rid of it. Yes, I actually used it for about six months, but finally had to quit when I developed tendonitis, which lingered on for a year before it finally healed. After that experience, I decided that weight machines were not for me, thank you very much. I've since found out that my bad liver is probably the reason for the tendonitis lingering so long, and there's nothing much I can do about that. Since I only paid $75 for it anyway, I was quite happy to give it to him. The butterfly attachment is worn out anyway, but it can be repaired with some welding and machining, which he's quite capable of doing. He can use it more than I can. He's going to give me a power supply for my ham radio gear, though, so I think that's a fair trade. It's just what I need to power my radios in Costa Rica, and so I'll be quite glad to get it.

Tried to interest him in buying the truck, but he's only modestly interested in it. I guess I'll have to dump it along with the van in a classified ad. My main problem at this point is getting rid of my vehicles. The Soloflex machine was weighing on my mind, but it's gone now, so I can turn my attention to getting a mover arranged and selling my vehicles.

The realtor is coming by today to replace the sales contract he has tendered with an identical one with his wife's signature on it. That way, he can take it to the bank and they'll have a better attitude about playing ball.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 04:38:51 PM

Fri, Jun 13 2003

Friday the Thirteenth

Today is the day I'm to put my signature on the bottom line for the sale of the house. The agent called last night and indicated that he's coming by today to present the formal offer and get my signature on it and on the listing. Apparently, under Arizona law, he has to have the house in the listings for the entire period it is in escrow. I'm sure that's for reasons of transparency.

I've got to get my pickup and van cleaned up today, and get pictures taken of them so I can upload them to the classified ads site that I'm going to use (cars.com). It's going to be a lot of work, and I'm not looking forward to it, particularly cleaning up the van. It's a terrible mess, inside and out. I also need to finish moving out of that van, which I've never really done - getting all my books and kitchenware out of it.

As usual, I'm listening to Democracy Now as I write this. And, as usual, I'm hearing a list of the outrages of the day: plans to privatize Medicare, which is the first step towards gutting the program. The Israelis have launched another gunship attack on the Occupied Territories. Six innocent people killed in this one. The senselessness of this is underscored by the fact that the people they were assassinating were living quite openly and freely among the population of Gaza - they could have simply arrested them at any time they wished. Launching an unnecessary rocket attack at a car in a crowded intersection full of innocent people is an act of state-sponsored terrorism by anyone's definition, but somehow that seems to have escaped the attention of this supposedly anti-terror administration.

Realtor came by to get the listing signed. I'm now officially signed into the listing, and have his signed sales contract in my possession. So I figure I'm as good as sold. I have to list the house anyway, since it is a realtor who is buying it, and I've got a contingency listing arranged, so if the sale doesn't go through, I might get lucky and have a contingent offer in the drawer.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:54:22 AM

Thu, Jun 12 2003

Adventures in Used Cars

Well, the paperwork in getting my Costa Rica residence permit is as far as I can take it at the moment, so I'm turning my attention to other matters, such as getting rid of my excess, getting a mover arranged, etc.

I've contacted a mover in Costa Rica recommended by the Associated Residents of Costa Rica. He emailed me right back, but I haven't heard from his agent yet. As soon as the guy comes out and surveys, I'll have an idea of how much I can take with me.

The real estate agent called and wants to come by in the morning to sign the listing, sales contract and all that stuff, so I can be officially in escrow. Glad it's finally happened!

Been looking through the web sites seeing which, if any, I want to use for selling the car. Looks at the moment like cars.com is probably going to get the business. They charge $55 for a photo ad, with free renewals until it is sold, and they're claiming 3 million searches per month. Oughtta be OK for getting rid of the pickup, but probably not the van. I'll probably have to go elsewhere for that. In the meantime, I've got to clean up both the van and the pickup, and get them ready to sell. Not going to be a small project, that van. It's a terrible mess at the moment.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 02:09:39 PM

Wed, Jun 11 2003

Criminal Record

Well, today, as part of my application for Costa Rican residency, I have to go to the Phoenix police department, and get an official copy of my Phoenix arrest record, which, of course, won't have any entries in it. I then have to go get that document "apostilled" at the Secretary of State's office. Fortunately, both offices are just about ten blocks apart. I also need my birth certificate, and I have applied to the Idaho Department of Vital Statistics to get a certified copy of it. Copy of your passport, driver's license and forty four dollars, please.

That one will also have to be legalized, through the Idaho Dept. of State. They promise a 1-day turnaround by mail on that one. I hope so. I will need fast service to get everything ready by the time I leave for Costa Rica next month.

I got my membership card back for the Associated Residents of Costa Rica. I've written them, asking for advice on which type of residency I should apply for, and got a reply on my first inquiry, but have not received a response on my second inquiry. We'll see if I have to call them. Fortunately, a call to them on Vonage is only 10 cents per minute, so calling them isn't a big deal if that's what I have to do.

Listening to Democracy Now as I write this, Amy's going through the outrages du Jour: 1) The Iraqi Occupation Authority is now demanding that journalists in occupied Iraq comply with a new "code of conduct." The problem is that no one knows what's in that code. They won't publish it - it's being officially denied in Iraq, though acknowledged in Washington. 2) Robert Fisk, the U.K. reporter reports that there's an organized revolt developing in Iraq against the occupation. Ten people were killed just yesterday. Just as I had predicted. Dubya is laying the groundwork to blame it on Ba'athist party and Al Qaeda elements, when the reality is that it's a broad spectrum of Iraqis who are growing increasingly hopeless and desperate about their circumstances and feel they have little choice but try to push the Americans out. When the body bags start coming home, the media be forced acknowledge it. Reminds one of the Afghan occupation in the Soviet Union, doesn't it? 3) Hans Blix, the leading U.N. weapons inspector, is publicly accusing the Bush administration of leaning hard on him to make the language in his reports more damning than the facts justified. 4) The Bush Administration has said that the U.S. will not ratify the war crimes treaty unless the United Nations votes to exempt "U.S. Persons" from prosecution under it. Well, well, well. I wonder why. Can't imagine that the commanders of the occupation forces in Afghanistan might be worried about the massacre of 3,000 Taliban prisoners in their custody last year, huh?

Just got back from downtown, getting a notarized and certified copy of my criminal record. I had to go first to the Phoenix Police Dept. public records counter. The nearest parking space was two blocks away, and it's summer in Phoenix. So I walked to the PD from my parking space. No hat. Silly me. There was a fairly long line at the records counter, which I wasn't surprised at - this is a bureaucracy, remember - and when I finally got to the counter, they gave me the document I asked for (fingerprinted my right index finger), no hassles. That kinda surprised me, since I'm on the Traveler's Watch List. Two blocks back to my car, and I drove over to the Department of State service office. The nearest parking space was three blocks away. Walked to the D of S service office. No drinking fountain. Waited in a fairly long line and told them I needed an apostille for the criminal record document. They politely informed me that they couldn't provide it because it was on the wrong form, and had no notary stamp or signature on it. Walked three blocks back to the car and drove back to the Phoenix PD. My space was taken so I had to find another. This time, the nearest was three blocks away. Walked back to the PD, in the Phoenix heat, no hat. Very silly me. Got there, no drinking fountain. Told them of my problem with the wrong form, and they gave me a new form, this time notarized. Walked back to my car and drove back to the Department of State service office parking lot. Again, nearest parking space was three blocks away. Walked to the office, no drinking fountain. Everyone was at lunch, and so I had to wait in a short but slow line while one person was working the crowd. My documents were in finally in order, so I got my apostille. Hooray! Walked back to the car and drove the twenty six miles home to a wonderful, tall, cold glass of iced tea.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:49:13 AM

Mon, Jun 09 2003

Fantastic News - House is SOLD!

The realtor was just here, and he had some fantastic news for me - his wife wants to buy the house! It's SOLD! Hooray! I can start to finalize my plans for getting out of here. He says he'll be back on Thursday with a sales contract, and he is quite certain we can close in 35 days. This would get me out of here on about the 17th of July - right on target.

The terms he is offering are quite good - everything I had hoped to settle for, and he's not asking for any concessions of significance - he's even agreed to take the pool as-is (it has some plaster issues). He'll cash me out, which is what I was hoping for. It means my cash will be immediately available to do what I need to do in Costa Rica.

Here's my plan: While waiting for the sale of the house to close, I'll be getting my documents in order for the immigration application. I intend to get leave on or about the 17th of July and the realtor says he'll drive me to the airport. I'll fly to San Jose, get an apartment and move in. I'll get a driver's license, vehicle, and insurance - that should take about three or four days. I'll then head over to Tucurrique, to check out the house and farm I'm looking at. If it looks good and I decide to buy it, I'll get the lawyer started on the process - that will take a couple of months to complete. Meanwhile, I'll get my bank accounts and corporation set up, and get some furniture and appliances ordered.

Costa Rica, here I come!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 04:18:08 PM

Thought Police

I'm up fairly late this morning, after working like a slave yesterday to get the place ready to list. The real estate agent is going to come by and write up the listing this morning.

I turned on Democracy Now, and am listening to this morning's show as I write this. Of course, I'm hearing a long list of outrages committed against democracy by the Bush administration. Some of the outrages of the day: Occupation troops in Iraq have announced that they'll enforce a "code of conduct" (read: censorship) against Iraqi journalists. Now mind you - they don't have enough troops to protect Iraqi national treasures, but they do seem to have enough to read newspapers and run around to slap fines on journalists. And now John Ashcroft had the unmitigated arrogance to sit in front of a congressional committee, and admit to having held more than 700 innocent foreign nationals without any evidence of wrongdoing, and then had the balls to ask congress for Patriot II, giving him even more powers to commit such acts of sheer arrogance and hubris - he wants to extend this repression to American citizens. This is an almost exact re-run of the Palmer Raids of nearly a century ago.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:29:03 AM

Sun, Jun 08 2003

Done At Last!

Well, I've finally completed all the chores I needed to do before the real estate agent comes by to list the house. All the little caulking/spackle and paint/cleanup work has been done. I'm sitting writing this in the cleanest, most elegant-looking house I've ever lived in. It was a lot of work getting to this point, but at least it's ready to be photographed and the images uploaded to the realtor.com website.

Today was a really busy day. I didn't think I'd get it all done. I started at 7 AM with some dry wall repair in the bathroom, and got it caulked so I could paint later in the day. I then got the bulk trash set out for the bulk trash collection, which will probably come tomorrow. Then for some really serious house-cleaning - dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping (twice - to get all the spackle dust cleaned up off of the hardwood), followed by dusting again. I then had to do some last minute painting, both in the bathroom and a wall that badly needed it. Cleaned up after that, and I'm all done! Whew! Now I can relax today, as I really feel like I've earned it. It's hard work for someone in my health.

Doing all that work, I spent the day listening to Radio Dos again, it still keeps ending up the best '60's and '70's station I know of. I've tried others, but I just like their rotation mix the best. Makes all that work go a bit better.

Not much in the email today, and I've been much too busy to surf the web, so if any urgent outrages committed by the Bushies has happened, I wouldn't know. Fortunately, tomorrow, I've only got a few minor things on the agenda and I can catch up a bit. Tonight, I figure I'll read the La Nacion and Tico Times web sites and see what's new in Costa Rica and check the classifieds for likely looking real estate.

Well, in reading the Tico Times, there's an interesting article about the Dundee Ranch that I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago. If you didn't see it, the Dundee Ranch is one of those "tough love" boot camp places that parents who don't know how to deal with wayward teens sometimes sends them to. It was closed down some weeks back, after the PANI, the child welfare bureacracy in Costa Rica went to inspect the place, and found evidence of child abuse and false imprisonment. Well, after the kids were told they couldn't be kept there against their will, some of them just up and left, and one, it appears, ended up in a PANI group home in San Jose. Fearing that he'd end up a Tico orphan, he split from the place in the middle of the night, and didn't get far before finding himself robbed - wallet and passport stolen. So he showed up on the streets of San Pedro, a not-so-nice suburb of San Jose, at 2 AM, flagging down passing motorists, asking them for help. He finally found one who spoke English, who ended up taking him in. The Tico took him home, gave him a bed for the night, and called his mother in Oregon. She gave him permission to care for her son until she could get down there, but the kid took off because he got bored, sitting around the house with people he couldn't communicate with. He ended up sleeping in the jungle just outside of town and when he was finally found, he was shirtless, filthy and very hungry. He was found in Cipreses, a village quite some distance east of town. I have been to that village, and there's not much there, and it's fairly remote. It would be interesting to know how he got that far. The idiot kid is lucky to be alive.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 05:14:39 PM

Sat, Jun 07 2003

Playing Bob Vila

It's late Saturday afternoon, and I have the cosmetic issues in the second bath dealt with and out of the way. Both inoperative light fixtures are repaired, and the grout around the bathtub has been removed and replaced with the special caulk recommended by the tile dude at Home Depot. It was a lot of work getting the old grout out - some of it was still firmly stuck to the mortar behind it. I had to chip it out, a sixteenth of an inch at a time, using a jeweler's screwdriver and a balpene. But get it out I finally did, cleaned out the debris and caulked it.

This new caulk stuff, made by the same outfit that makes the grout, is great to work with - squeeze it into the hole, work it in with a wet finger and then clean up the mess with a wet sponge. Came out looking really sharp. It's designed to look like grout, and it does, except of course, the color doesn't match. The closest color they had was "Snow White." I wish they'd offered "Discolored Snow White." Wouldda been perfect.

Well, after all the effort at chipping and prying at the old grout for most of the day, I'm really beat. I'm going to have a very late lunch/early supper, and go sack out on the couch. I think I've earned the rest.

Tomorrow I've got to recaulk a short stretch where the tile in the master bath meets the wall, to fill in a settlement crack, and then paint over it. Then I've got to spend the day cleaning up this place. It's going to take most of the day just to do that. There's spackle dust everywhere.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 03:56:50 PM

Fri, Jun 06 2003

Perfect Match

Well, finally, the spackle and paint job from hell is finally done. I didn't need the gallon of paint I bought for the project because the paint is a perfect match, so I only needed to paint the patch itself rather than the whole wall. It was such a good match that I went around and hit all the nail holes in the walls left behind by the previous owner. They're completely invisible now. The texture is close enough and the paint matched so well you can't tell where the patch is, even looking up close. Sure glad the real estate agent was willing to do this for me - I'm delighted with the results.

My job list for the weekend: caulk around the tub in the second bath, bleach and grout the tile (again) in the master bath, fix the window (won't open) in the master bedroom, and re-screen on the utility room door window. Then this house is as done as I can be, and walk-throughs won't see anything that should disturb them.

Listened to Democracy Now as I was getting ready to paint. Amy's second hour was on the journalists being shot by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Occupied Territories. A state based on religion - and this is what that religion is leading to; journalists being shot and killed for the sin of exposing what the religionists are doing. So typical of the hypocrisy of religion. And people wonder why I fight against it.

Last night, PBS as part of its "Frontline/World" series, ran a 20-minute piece on the same subject - journalists being routinely shot by IDF soldiers in the Occupied Territories. They showed actual film shot by journalist cameramen of an IDF soldier getting out of their jeep, setting up for a shot, taking careful aim, and in cold blood shooting a French correspondent as he was delivering a "standup" piece for French television. His injuries were minor; he was saved by his body armor. They showed the bullet hole in it, along with the dent in the steel plate that is part of the armor. Of course, the IDF denied responsibility, so the French media broadcast the tape - and caused an uproar around the world. Everywhere except the U.S., where our "liberal" media censored the story.

Got the master bath tile bleached and re-grouted. Place smells like bleach, but the tile looks better and now I can seal it tomorrow so I won't have to go through this again. The real estate agent and his wife came back to look over the personal stuff I'm selling and they ended up buying about half of it. So I am looking better and better for getting out of here in a reasonable time.

My friend Tom informs me that the FCC has authorized a new "60 meter" band to ham radio operators. That's way cool! Its an allocation in a badly needed portion of the spectrum. This prompted me to investigate what allocations are currently in place in Costa Rica, and find out what bands will be available to me down there. I was astonished to learn that the allocations in place were originally established in 1956, and haven't been changed since! Guess my ham radio down there is going to be a bit more restricted than I had originally figured. Glad I'll have plenty of room for antennas to make up for the reduced allocations!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:11:55 AM

Thu, Jun 05 2003

Adventures In Spackling

Well, today the real estate agent is coming back to finish the spackling. I'll sure be glad to have this project done and all these dropcloths and debris out of here! I've still got a couple of small grout jobs to do, but they're no big deal, and I can handle them myself.

Looking at the email, I had one legit email and 47 spam messages overnight. Sure would like to see something done about that, but I know that nothing will be done until the politicians themselves get so frustrated that they begin to realize that they've simply got to outlaw it and give the Justice department the money to enforce the new laws. Am I optimistic this will happen anytime soon? Not with this administration!

Nothing much on Democracy Now this morning. Just the usual summary of yesterday's outrages by the Bush administration, and a playback of a documentary on the Weather Underground. Yawn. I'm not particularly interested in the history of yesterday's unrealistic and fantasy-ridden lefties. The second hour had an interview with Isabel Allende, and it was much more interesting. She offered some interesting background on the CIA involvement in the Pinochet coup in Chile.

The real estate agent came back late in the afternoon, and we have finished the spackling. I can paint in the morning and then spend the weekend cleaning up this place! It's a horrible mess - drywall joint compound dust everywhere. I'm going to have to sweep, mop and dust absolutely everything, but once it's done, it will look great.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:31:08 AM

Wed, Jun 04 2003

Fascism In The Military

Up early this morning. I got a call from one of my consulting clients who wanted to try my Miami number. Says he may want to ship me off to Africa for a couple of days at a time. No problem, I just don't want to stay in Nigeria for reasons that would be obvious to the readers of my Africa page.

I'm listening to Democracy Now, and Amy's running the soundtrack from "Direct Order" which is a documentary about the effects of the experimental anthrax vaccine being administered to the U.S. military. It turns out that there is a federal law that specifically prohibits the military from administering experimental vaccines to the troops without their informed, voluntary consent. But the law is something to be dispensed with if it is inconvenient to this military organization, and the military has dispensed with it. Seems that the manufacturer has been shut down by the Food and Drug Administration for gross sanitary violations in their processing of the vaccine, they're using an illegal adjutant in it, and the military is requiring the troops to take it, regardless of the law and the safety concerns. They know there's a problem with it, because they are not noting the administration of this vaccine on the servicemen's shot records. And it turns out that they're giving dishonorable discharges to service-members who refuse to take it. In essence, they're using the troops as guinea pigs in an uncontrolled, badly designed experiment, and they're not offering care for those damaged by it. Even the Nazis never experimented on their own troops! It shows the level of contempt that these fascists (and yes, I'm using the "F" word these days) have for us ordinary folk. Compassionate conservatism? Hah!

I'm hearing that the Iraqis are getting thoroughly fed up with the American presence in their country. One mullah has apparently told the Occupation Governor that they'd better get out soon, or they'd face a war. That's the first time I've heard that word used by the Iraqis about the occupation. If that has to happen, I hope it will happen sooner rather than later. It might help undermine support for the occupation in this country, and call Junior Bush to account for what he has done before the election next year. Can't wait to see what happens to his poll numbers when an undeniably popular war of resistance breaks out in Iraq.

The real estate agent was back this morning to finish our joint taping and spackling. It didn't get finished, as he had to go to a closing before we were done. He ended up all afternoon in a closing meeting with an "underwriter from hell" as he describes her, and by 6 PM, was still in the meeting. He called to say he'd be back tomorrow to finish up. All that remains is spackling and paint, and I'm threatening to just do the spackling myself so we can paint tomorrow and be done with it.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:40:49 AM

Tue, Jun 03 2003

Protests In Switzerland

Well, listening to Democracy Now, I've been appalled at the behavior of the Swiss police in dealing with demonstrators at the G8 Summit in Evian, just over the border in France. It's clear that they were intending, from the outset, to use Gestapo tactics to disrupt the demonstrators, and to evade responsibility for their actions. They attempted, at one point, to disguise themselves as protestors and yet in doing so, were shown on a live webcast as being exposed as police.

I have a problem with that. If the police cannot own up to what they do, it is clear that they're acting not as public servants, but as public masters. And the Swiss police, I'm afraid, are falling under fascist control just as surely as the police in the United States or Italy or Canada, or anywhere else that similar tactics have been used against demonstrators without accountability or responsibility. It is becoming clear to me that the trend to fascism is worldwide, and is inescapable. All I can do is go somewhere, where the trend is not as far advanced. I'm hoping that Costa Rica is such a place.

Meanwhile, what is being presented at the G8 Summit is equally appalling. Apparently, the big item being promoted is the privatization of water supplies in Third World countries, on the theory that business always does things better than governments. Well, I'm at a loss to figure out how you will improve water services to local people by removing local control and accountability, and handing it to a foreign corporation who has monopoly power, no accountability, perverse incentives, operates in a totally opaque fashion, is run from the other side of the planet and whose management doesn't even speak the local language. Everywhere it's been tried, it's been an unmitigated disaster, so the only reason I can see why this turkey of an idea is being promoted is because someone (Bechtel? Thames Water? Vivendi Utilities?) stands to benefit, and people accept it because they don't think about it or look into the results where it's already been done. It's ironic that it's happening in Evian, France. Try spelling Evian backwards and see what you get. I'm beginning to conclude that what is really being pushed here is nothing less than a re-imposition of medieval feudalism. So much for the Enlightenment.

Realtor is back, and we're going to try to get the crumpled sheetrock joint finished today. The worst of it was done yesterday, and it should be ready to paint by the end of the day. We'll see if the paint I have really matches. Hope so. I sure don't want to have to paint the entire wall, which is what would be necessary.

My neighbor's washing his pickup again. Guess he must not be working, or has nothing better to do. It's only the first time this week - he's disappointed me, after washing it four times last week.

I hear that Martha Stuart has been warned that she's about to be indicted for insider trading. So that must be what she means by Better Living.

UPS came today, and delivered my Vonage ATA. What they said in the ad is true - I plugged it into the router and waited for the red light to quit flashing (about two minutes), and it works like a champ! I now have a Miami telephone number in addition to my Phoenix number. I'm going to discontinue my Phoenix line at the end of the current billing cycle, and stay on Vonage until I move. Why not? It works great!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:18:43 AM

Mon, Jun 02 2003

Off To A Good Start

I'm waiting for the real estate agent to show up today. He's going to help get the crumpled spackling tape replaced and painted, and do some grout work in the kitchen, for which he has a grout cutter. Well, when I showered this morning, I discovered that I couldn't shut off the hot water completely, and that's an emergency, so I had to deal with it quickly. I found the packing nut on the valve was loose, and wouldn't allow the valve to seat properly. Ten minute job, but didn't need that this morning.

Just got a call from the real estate agent. He's had an emergency come up and has to go to the title company, so won't be here till 9:30 or so. But he promises he'll come and work until it's done. Fine by me, I can't complain, since I'm not paying him to do this.

Got some more information on the properties in Las Vueltas and Roldan. Both farms are making money, not a lot, but are in the black. The owner is selling them because he's got another, larger farm that needs his attention. The trees that appeared dead in one of the pictures are actually deciduous and are dormant. They're laurel, which is a very expensive hardwood. The price of laurel here in Arizona is $20 per board foot - not bad. There are just a few trees, but they appear to be doing well in the pictures, and they're about half-way to harvest. So no income there yet, but I think that the farms would be more productive as tree plantations than in sugar cane, coffee and pejibaye (a tropical fruit that is widely used locally) which is what is on them now. The Roldan property includes a hilltop that would be a beautiful homesite for a ham. It's tempting to buy that farm and build a house on the hilltop. It would be a terrific DX location and, given the fact that it has more land, would be more productive economically. I think that an overcrop of pejibaye or perhaps an overcrop of laurel or another valuable hardwood, with a forage undercrop of amarillo peanut, might make a more economically productive farm. Neither one is producing enough to make it worth my while in the present cropping scheme. Or perhaps converting to ornamental flowers or some other high-value crop. Well, we'll see when I get down there.

The real estate agent came by, and we went to work on getting some crumpled sheet-rock joints repaired and re-grouted some tile in the kitchen. The latter project went well - it's as good as done once the grout is cured and sealed - but the joint repair really became quite a task. Turns out that it had crumbled because the original sheet-rocker had not bothered to repair a misfit joint, but had just dumped a ton of joint compound in it to hide the misfit - and hadn't even bothered to tape it! We cleaned all that out and fixed the misfit, using some fiberglass cloth underlayment. Should be much better once it's done. It'll certainly look better. We had to do so much filling, however, that the fill will have to cure overnight, even though it's 20-minute compound.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 06:46:20 AM

Sun, Jun 01 2003

Not A Very Lazy Sunday

Today was a busy day, working on the house, getting it ready to sell. I finished cleaning the cool deck around the pool, and had it looking pretty spiffy until the doves and phenopeplas showed up again and started pooping all over it. Well, it won't be hard to clean up. I also spent most of the afternoon in the pool, cleaning all the hard water scale off of the tile at the high water line. Oofda! What a job! Glad I don't do that every day! I spent about 5 hours, working my way around the edge of the pool, scrubbing the scale off of each tile, one at a time, with a pumice block. And in the diving bowl, I couldn't stand on the bottom, of course, so I had to hold myself up with one arm and scrub with the other. By the time I was done, I was really exhausted. And the arthritis in my right arm is killing me!

Not much else going on today. I haven't had much time to browse all my haunts on the web. But I did decide that since the hurricane season is starting, and I'll be moving to the hurricane belt, I'd try to find some sites where I could watch the progress of Caribbean hurricanes and tropical storms. Found one at NOAA that has some really neat real-time satellite image loops. You can see just what's happening as it is happening.

Watching business news on CNN International, I think Dubya's finally concerned about the dollar tanking on the forex markets. He's trying to talk it up, saying that it's not policy that is driving it down, but market conditions. Well, hello howdy, Mister President! Glad you could at least figure that one out. Now let's hope you don't squander the gold reserves trying to prop it up. With $56 billion in gold reserves, and the U.S. racking up foreign debt at the rate of $500 billion per year, you could prop up the dollar for somewhere around a month and a half, and then the credibility of the dollar (and your administration) would be toast. What this means is that the U.S. is now just as vulnerable to foreign exchange speculators as were the "Asian Tiger" currencies were during the '90's when they were hit, and we all saw pictures of food riots when that happened. Hope I'm gone from here when the riots break out. Well, America, welcome to third-world status. Now you get to find out first hand how the rest of the world lives.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:32:07 PM
Copyright © 2003 Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved.