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Monday, May 02, 2005

The verdict is in

I am:
2%
Republican.
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?


(Thanks to Wanda)
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Tension between devout Shiites, secular groups threaten Iraq's future
With Iraq's first Islamist-led government since the fall of the Ottoman Empire expected to formally take office this week, it's getting harder for the Bush administration to realize its dream of molding the nation into a secular, inclusive democracy. Instead, the January elections gave rise to a conservative Shiite brain trust with close ties to Iran and power enough to make its secular rivals nervous.

(snip)

"We respect all pious men and the marjaiya (Shiite clerical council), but we also believe there should be no direct intervention by them in daily issues," said Rasim al Awadi of the Iraqi National Accord, Allawi's party.

(snip)

In another example of the new government's ideology appearing on a public stage, Jaafari's Dawa Party held an anniversary gala last week at which Dawa leaders extolled Jaafari as a Shiite "evangelical" and praised the conservative movement sweeping across the country.

"Iraq has turned into a big mosque - schools and universities and streets have become mosques," Khudair al Khuzai, a Dawa spokesman, told the audience.
Parallels, parallels - everywhere a parallel.

Knight-Ridder should keep this item handy. It will be a simple matter to substitute "fundamentalist Christians" for "Islamists", "churches" for "mosques", and "United States" for "Iraq".

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Did you ever think....

....you'd hear a Republican president speaking approvingly of wealth redistribution??

Ah - it's redistributing it from the middle class to the poor

Never mind.
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Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Puppy Blogging



Bandit, Cujo, and Nicky at 12 weeks old.

(all together now....awwwwwwwwww)

You'll notice I needed two hands to keep them all in one spot long enough to get a picture. Paper-training three wiggly puppies at the same time is the ultimate in "multi-tasking".

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Out of the loop

Between a heavier-than-usual workload and computer problems, I've been out of the blogosphere loop for a couple of days. I feel like I've been on a desert island for a month.

What's new?

I did hear that our preznit will hold a news conference tonight. Mr. Andante's idea of an exciting evening is watching a Braves baseball game on the tube, but since they aren't playing tonight I've prepared a special menu of pre-recorded old "Gunsmoke" reruns.

George Bush and the Anarcho-Neocon gang aren't fit to lick the soles of Matt Dillon's boots.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Small town heroes

A baby step; nevertheless, a step in the right direction.

From the High Point Enterprise (free subscription required)
Marriage amendment nixed

LEXINGTON - Davidson County Commissioners voted against a resolution calling for a stronger definition of marriage Tuesday.

Commissioners voted 4-3 in opposition of the resolution for a statewide referendum on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

More than 200 people filled the Commissioners Meeting Room, which has a seating capacity of 130 to 150.

The majority were there in support of the resolution.

Truell, who said he didn't make a decision until hearing from the 18 people who spoke during public address, cast the tie-breaking vote against the matter.

"I agree that whatever we do here is not going to affect what they do in Raleigh," Truell said. He said he had received numerous phone calls, e-mails and letters from residents in support and opposition of the resolution.

Commissioner Sam Watford said the issue shouldn't be debated by local government. "I decline to debate morality and religion while in this room. This is not the proper time or place," Watford said.

McClure sponsored the issue that was brought to the board in March but tabled.

He said it wasn't about religion or morality.

Instead it was an indication to legislators of the need for a vote of the people.

"It's not something the Davidson County Board of Commissioners is doing out of context," McClure said. "We don't need to leave it up to the judiciary. We need to put it before the people to decide and that's all this resolution is doing."

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Disappointment To My Parents Meme

TCF has tagged me with “The Disapointment To My Parents” Meme, in which you select five professions (list here, though you can add to the list) and complete the sentence with “If I could be a ________, I would.….”

So, here goes….

If I could be a FARMER, I would raise acres and acres of soybeans.

If I could be an ENGINEER, I would design inexpensive, reliable automobiles that would use biodiesel fuel made from soybeans.

If I could be a TYCOON, I would sink my entire fortune into the previous two enterprises and market them to the world.

If I could be a SUPER-TYCOON, I would have enough political clout to bring the Saudis and other oil producers to their knees.

Hmmm…that’s only four. Ah…..

If I could be a MISSIONARY, I’d heal the sick, teach the illiterate, comfort the sorrowing, feed the starving, leave their souls alone, and depend on my super-tycoon fortune to protect me from the wrath of the church.

I’m not tagging anyone, but I invite you to check out the list (or make up your own), leave your fantasies in comments, or blog the meme and send me a link.

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Bush adds DeLay to Social Security tour
President Bush is adding a helper to his Social Security road tour: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing allegations of ethical improprieties but is seen by the White House as crucial to pushing Bush's plans through Congress.
Yeah, that'll help reassure Americans. While you're at it, Mr. Preznit, why don't you bring Kenny-Boy along, too?

I don't want either of those men anywhere near MY money.
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Monday, April 25, 2005

Business as usual

Cats do weird things.

If the link doesn't work, copy paste -

http://www.wimp.com/cats/
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Pull out all the law enforcement stops

Martha's night out probed
Probation officers confirm they're looking into whether Time dinner violated house arrest terms.
Wow, that's a whole lot worse than someone sneaking in and out of the White House without being processed by the Secret Service.

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Depression legacy

Picking up on Bryan’s excellent prophetic reading list, let’s talk about the Great Depression for a moment.

The Great Depression began in 1929 with the stock market crash, and ended in 1941 with America’s entry into World War II.

Dear God, I shouldn’t have typed that last sentence – some dim bulb in the Bush administration may get the idea of warding off another depression by starting another world war.

Nevertheless, I concur heartily with Bryan’s recommendation of The Grapes of Wrath.

Better yet, talk to someone who lived through the time period.

In order to hear depression stories from the first-hand witnesses, you have to talk to someone over the age of eighty. But just as our precious World War II veterans are dying at the rate of thousands a day, so are the survivors of the Great Depression.

Find someone and ask them about those times. Sit your kids down with them, so they can hear it, too. Write it down; pass it along.

My mother, born in 1914, was raised in a family too poor to even realize there was a depression. When the urge to leave the nest hit her, she roamed the east coast and Midwest searching for a job. Nothing was available.

She returned home to care for her ailing mother and eke out an existence on the family dirt farm, selling vegetables at a roadside stand and slaughtering a hog each year in exchange for kerosene and coffee. In 1941, she joined the Women's Auxilliary Army Corp and sent her paychecks home.

My father, born in 1915, was placed in an orphanage because neither of his (divorced) parents could afford to feed him or his brothers. When he “aged out” of the orphanage, he survived on a few odd jobs before joining the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1935, and a few years later enlisted in the Army.

My parent's stories are the norm for millions; some did a little better, some did worse. All of the stories deserve to be heard, even the few who rode out the depression in exclusive private schools like our president's father.

There's nothing wrong with being wealthy during poor economic times; it's what you do to prevent those times from recurring that counts.

We've had eight-going-on-nine years of Bush presidencies; it's time to start seriously listening to the stories of the less privileged.

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Getting to the root of the problem
In returning home, the leaders and Marine infantrymen have chosen to break an institutional code of silence and tell their story, one they say was punctuated not only by a lack of armor, but also by a shortage of men and planning that further hampered their efforts in battle, destroyed morale and ruined the careers of some of their fiercest warriors. (NYTimes)
I spent the entire weekend deep in the bowels of the kid’s desktop PC.

Is there anything on earth that can have more things go wrong with it (other than my fully-loaded 1995 Oldsmobile)?

The poor thing is badly overextended; the hard drive is crammed full and the memory resources are dangerously low. It hangs, stalls, crashes, emits painful groaning noises and is generally unreliable and almost unusable.

It's the master computer on our little home network, so I'd prefer it didn't crash, burn, and throw my computer into cyber hell.

My bright idea was to add a nice, big hard drive and more memory, but I wanted to make sure the thing was making good use of what it has already.

It's a good thing I didn't spend the money ahead of time. After much toil, cussing, and about an hour's-worth of long distance phone calls to my nephew who does this kind of thing for a living - it turns out the motherboard is dying a slow death.

No amount of gigabytes or SDRAM would have saved the situation, and I'm glad I didn't throw my money away without fixing the underlying cause first.

It took me a couple of days to pinpoint the underlying cause, and I've understood the importance of getting to the root of problems since grade school.

My teenager pushes her computer past it's limits, downloading byte-hungry audio and video files at will and doesn't bother with upgrades and maintenance. She's still a kid, with a teenager's impatience and willful ignorance.

What's the Bush administration's excuse?

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Friday, April 22, 2005

The way it's done
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has reiterated his country's "deep remorse" over its colonial aggression in Asia.

The speech at the Asia-Africa summit comes amid tensions over the approval by Tokyo of school textbooks which China says gloss over Japan's record.

(snip)

Addressing delegates, Mr Koizumi said: "In the past Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations.

"Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility."

The wording repeats previous Japanese apologies - but analysts say the international setting gives the statement added weight.
No blaming political opponents, the media, religion or lack of it, gays, other races, or passing it off to previous generations.

Following it up by revising Japanese textbooks is in order, but this is a good start and sets a good example for lesser world leaders and politicos.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging



Forget Big Brother - Big Randy is watching you.


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Health care insurance, again

Affordable health care has long been a concern of mine; especially after Mr. Andante changed jobs a year ago and lost access to group insurance.

When we got the quote for a private policy from Blue Cross/Blue Shield for $1,498.00 per month, we just laughed. What else can you do? It might as well have been a million bucks a month.

My mother - good, progressive Democrat that she is - said she always thought the uninsured were just too lazy to work. She had no clue private insurance was so expensive, and no idea that businesses were dumping employee health care benefits.

I haven't commented on Paul Krugman's excellent recent columns on the subject, because he sure doesn't need my help.

From the 4/22/05 NYT -
According to the (World Health Organization), the higher costs of private insurers are "mainly due to the extensive bureaucracy required to assess risk, rate premiums, design benefit packages and review, pay or refuse claims." Public insurance plans have far less bureaucracy because they don't try to screen out high-risk clients or charge them higher fees.
When we were clowning around with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, I received four calls from four different BC/BS employees asking the same bleeping question about my medical history. Mr. Andante was only asked the same question three times.

The questions were all answered fully on our initial application form; somehow, I managed to get through the phone calls without pointing that out.

Several times a day, we see bouncy, happy, warm-and-fuzzy television commercials for "Blue Advantage", BC/BS's premier product for individual insurance.

After a solid month of this nonsense, we received a big, shiny portfolio with all the information, contract, cover letter, yada-yada - and the $1498.00 per month quote. Due immediately.

Somebody is paying for all that; must be those wealthy enough or desperate enough to afford that $1498.00 per month. It sure isn't me.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Freedom of speech

I was born and raised in a small, very fundamentalist Baptist church.

I severed all ties with that church - and it's teachings - when I was a teenager. I can trace the beginnings of my disenchantment to one Sunday night when I was about thirteen years old and cried myself to sleep.

According to the express teachings of my church, my best friend (a Roman Catholic) was going to hell.
Pittsburgh talk-radio host Marty Minto says he spent most of his time on the air last week doing what he always does -- discussing current events from the perspective of an evangelical Christian.

Following a week's worth of conversation on his WORD-101.5 FM show that questioned whether Pope John Paul II's Roman Catholic beliefs could be an impediment to entering heaven, station management pulled the plug.
I'd say Minto has a bona fide freedom of speech gripe.

He only said out loud what most Protestant fundamentalists are thinking. And the new pope has made it clear he has the same warm and fuzzy feelings regarding non-Catholics.

Interesting, no?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No time for sergeants?

The Army fell almost one-third short of its recruiting goal in March, the second consecutive month of shortfall, reflecting not only discouragement with the Iraq war but also sparse pay and benefits.

No business can attract good employees by offering paltry wages and benefits in exchange for dangerous working conditions. Nor is it wise to ignore the background of those employees it does hire.
Several weeks ago, our president presented the first Medal of Honor since Somalia – posthumously – to the widow and orphans of Sgt. Paul R. Smith for heroic actions he took “above and beyond the call of duty” to save the men he was leading in Iraq.

But as this is being written, another sergeant, Hasan Akbar, faces court-martial, charged with the murder of fellow members of an American brigade on the eve of the Iraq invasion. His lawyers say he’s nuts, the same thing a shrink said when Akbar was 14. The rub is how this guy – whose Army evaluation reports also say he’s nuts – got in the Army in the first place and then went on to make sergeant in a peculiarly short period of time.

Then there’s convicted felon Sgt. Shawn Kenny – profiled late last year in a brilliant cover piece by investigative journalist Leslie Blade for the Cincinnati newpaper CityBeat (“Cincinnati’s Links to the Oklahoma City Bombing”) – who will be up for promotion to master sergeant next month.

(link)
Sgt. Kenny enlisted in 1995, Sgt. Akbar in 1998 - well before the demoralizing effects of the Iraq war and the shrinking recruitment numbers. Timothy McVeigh, convicted Oklahoma City bomber, was discharged in the fall of 1991 with the rank of sergeant.

Obviously, the Army has been less than selective, and the warning bells should be ringing loud and clear.

If the Army can't attract and retain better quality "employees" and finds it necessary to promote convicted felons and the mentally disturbed to leadership positions, isn't it high time the wages and benefits were substantially increased?

If it means a radical downsizing of the military, so be it. No country that claims moral leadership in the world can afford a military staffed by the criminal or unstable.

Certainly, the vast majority of military personnel are fine, decent individuals and should not be held accountable for the past behavior of the few bad apples. The exemplary service and sacrifices of the majority deserves more than empty words of praise and support.

You do get what you pay for.

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Declaring victory and going home

Minuteman founder leaving Mexico border area

'We're bored to death'
The chief organizer of the Minuteman Project, which attracted hundreds of volunteers to watch for illegal immigrants and smugglers along the Mexican border, said Monday he's leaving his post early.

Jim Gilchrist said the watch project has been a success and will continue through the end of the month as planned, but under a different name.

"The operation is continuing, but it's not under the Minuteman Project," Gilchrist said. "There's nothing for us to do here. We're bored to death. But people are staying here."

Gilchrist said he'll leave Arizona probably on Wednesday. He plans to appear before the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus next week in Washington, along with watch co-organizer Chris Simcox, then return only briefly to Arizona.

Volunteers now in Arizona or coming through April 30 will fall under the auspices of Civil Homeland Defense, another illegal immigrant monitoring group that Simcox has operated in Arizona for years, Gilchrist said.

(snip)

Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame expressed surprise at Monday's announcement. "Gilchrist said it (the project) was going to run for a month. He takes off halfway through and declares victory? Sounds kind of strange," Adame said.
Doesn't sound strange to me.

In fact, it sounds like a pretty good Iraq exit plan.

Without foreign troops irritating the locals and foreign business people scavenging for business, there just might be fewer "Yankee go home" bombings, kidnappings, and killings.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

"Sanitizing"

I watched a bit of the movie Independence Day on television this weekend, somewhat spoiled by the stupid language editing.

Anyone who has seen the original, unedited version can’'t help but notice that all words pertaining to bodily orifices and functions are changed in the suitable-for-family-viewing version; "shit" becomes "“shoot"”, "“assholes"” becomes “"animals”".

Yet the word "“bitch"” - derogatory to women - was left quite prominently and frequently intact.

"Bitch", while perfectly acceptable when describing a female dog, apparently isn't worthy of exclusion from the questionable vocabulary list.

Independence Day isn't the only example; I can't dig up titles from my memory on this groggy Monday morning, but it's something I've noticed elsewhere - both in movies and television shows broadcast during "family viewing hours".

Odd, that. Or is it?

The social conservative agenda of regulating marriage, birth control, abortion, and sex education, though it affects all, boils down to a concerted attack on women’s rights and a disrespect for women in general.

The Washington Post (Now on DVD: The Sanitizer's Cut) gives us a bit of insight into the world of the “sanitizers”; the legal machinations behind the scenes, and the so-called “moral” motivations that move editors to make hit movies "suitable" for viewing by all ages.

It's a marriage of conservative politics and the almighty dollar; creative vision doesn't stand a chance.

I don't recall anyone ever holding a gun to my head and making me watch a movie with objectionable content or questionable value. In fact, the closest anyone has ever come was back in 1995 when my then-10-yr-old kid nagged me into seeing Disney's Pocahontas.

Nor do I recall any tree-hugging liberal edict declaring I must force my kid to watch movies with "unsuitable" aspects.

Unsuitable, indeed. I can't wait for the day Mr. & Mrs. Red-State-of-Mind are enjoying a big bowl of popcorn and DVD movie viewing with their brood of kiddies, and the five-year-old looks at Mamma and says "Pass the popcorn, bitch".

As Independence Day's Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) tells the invaders who would destroy life as we know it - "Payback's a bitch, ain't it?"

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

What the...?

I'm hoping someone more internet-savvy than I (that's not hard) can help with this.

I recently swore off Internet Explorer, and use the Firefox browser. But every time I try to go to Eschaton with Firefox, it flips me over to the text ads. Going "back" works for about a second, and then the page flips to the text ads again.

I have the correct URL bookmarked. Any clues?

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Wall St. Suffers Worst Day in Two Years
Wall Street suffered its worst single day in nearly two years Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 191 points for its third straight triple-digit loss. Deepening concerns over economic growth and higher prices led to the worst week of trading since August.

An already uneasy market began the biggest one-day selloff since May 19, 2003, after the Federal Reserve reported drops in manufacturing and other industrial production, and a Labor Department report showed higher oil costs driving up import prices.
Of course, nothing like this could possibly happen after the GOP has their way with Social Security.

Retirement funds concentrated in the stock market? No sweat.

It will be up-up-and-away, every day!

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Bonus Friday Critter Blogging

Since I thought yesterday was Friday...


Cujo's preferred method of transportation. Posted by Hello


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If at first you don't succeed....

I'm going to big a big, brave girl and admit it.

It took me more than one try to get my driver's license.

But at least it only took ONE failure and a matter of 24 hours as opposed to 271 attempts and more than five years -
The motto for one would-be South Korean driver likely is "if at first you don't succeed, then try, try again another 271 times."

Seo Sang-moon passed the academic part of his driver's license examination on his 272nd attempt earlier this week.

The repairman, from a small town in the southeastern part of the county who will soon turn 70, said he was illiterate and used the test process to teach himself the rules of the road because he could not read them in a manual.

Since the oral exam was launched, Seo took the test as often as he could, paying about $1,000 in fees along the way. Each failure taught him a little more, and after 271 attempts, he was able to get the minimum score needed to pass the academic test.

Test officials were thrilled to see Seo pass.

"He has been coming here for more than five years and we regard him almost as being one of the family," an official from the exam office said by telephone.

Seo said he was preparing for his road test, and was discussing with his wife what kind of car to buy once he get his license. "Driving seems a bit hard. But after trying 271 times to pass the oral exam, what do I have to be afraid of?," Seo said.
I guess you've got to admire his stick-to-it-ness, but I don't think I want to share the road with him.

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Stupid poll question of the day

CNN wins once again -
Do you think bankruptcy laws are abused?
This is very similar to the old Catch-22 question - "Do you still beat your wife?"

Of COURSE there are people who abuse bankruptcy laws. Wherever there are laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, principles, legislation - call them whatever you want - someone somewhere will abuse them.

Every program that was the slightest benefit to society whatsoever has been abused since the beginning of time. That doesn't mean one should throw out the baby with the bathwater, as the House has tried to do with the stupid new bankruptcy "reforms".

Actually, it's more like they drank the bathwater, thought it was champagne, raised the price, and made it available only to the wealthiest tipplers in society.

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Friday Fuzzy Cat Blogging

What do you know, today is Friday. I'm losing my mind.

I therefore present Friday Fuzzy Cat Blogging, which was posted on Thursday but meant for Friday and I'll stop before I confuse myself any further.



Trouble and Randy blessing a dining room chair with about a pound of hair.
Posted by Hello
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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sympathy

Michael of Musing's Musings is having big, bad back problems. Go be nice to him.

I took a swan dive down a flight of steps years ago and broke my coccyx bone (the tailbone, for all ye blissfully ignorant). It's amazing how many parts of the human body are affected by even the slightest glitch in the spinal column.

Those mammals who have short spinal columns and walk on all fours will obviously rule the planet one of these days.

No doubt they'd do a better job than some who try to rule the roost in these times.

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I'm not sure if their souls are evil or their brains are empty or both.

Lawmakers defeat cut to their own health care
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - State House members, who just last week voted to cut government health care for the poor, narrowly rejected a budget amendment Wednesday aimed at cutting their own health care program.

(snip)

(Gov. Matt) Blunt's proposals would eliminate coverage for more than 100,000 of Missouri's 1 million Medicaid recipients, reduce benefits to numerous others and require many Medicaid enrollees to pay more from their own pockets.

(snip)

...Rep. Trent Skaggs, D-Kansas City, offered an amendment that would have cut $281,602 from the $317 million health care plan for state employees. Skaggs said his intent was to cut 20 percent from the state's contribution to the health plans of legislators and statewide elected officials, such as Blunt. The result would have been a roughly $115 monthly out-of-pocket increase for an individual elected official, he said.
And the money quote?
Among those opposing the amendment was Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, who said there was no comparison between Medicaid recipients "getting health care for free" and lawmakers receiving coverage as part of their job.

"To me it's the principle of the thing - representatives are down here for five months away from their families," Lembke said. "It's a just thing for us to be justly compensated."
Argggggh.....I hate these people.

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Among other things raising my blood pressure today

Thanks to this tidbit from Wanda
Two 16-year-old girls living in New York have been detained since last month on immigration violations amid concerns they were potential recruits for a suicide bomb plot that never materialized, officials said Thursday.

The girls — one from Bangladesh, one from Guinea — were picked up by authorities on March 24 and put in a detention center, the officials said.

(snip)

Investigators were concerned that girls might be recruited sometime in the future for a suicide mission by a suspect in an ongoing terrorism investigation, one of the officials said. They decided to detain the pair before they could become involved, the official added.
Well, my prophetic powers are pretty good - after all, I correctly predicted Al Gore would win the 2000 presidential election. The voices in my head tell me these officials should be rounded up and detained before they start shouting "Heil, Hitler!" and singing Deutschland uber alles.

(Aside: I am aware there should be an umlaut over the "u" in "uber". Too busy and too ignorant to do it at the moment - like the investigators that can't be bothered to put two sixteen-year-old girls under surveillance until they - you know, do something illegal)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Help is on the way

The House will vote tomorrow on full repeal of the estate tax, otherwise known as the “Relief of Endangered Heiresses Act”.

According to anonymous sources, the Republican House leadership is concerned about the effect the oppressive estate tax will have on flyweight socialite-heiresses, such as Paris Hilton, Jenna Bush, and Not-Jenna Bush.

"Many sectors of the economy would suffer if these ladies actually had to work for a living", they said.

"The papparazzi, the fashion industry, the tabloids, the entire television industry, manicurists and hair stylists - a real cross-section of American society depends on their largesse."

Previously, Republicans had cited concerns for small businesses and small family farms as the driving force behind the "death tax" repeal.

However, according the the IRS most small businesses and small family farms have either already dissolved, declared bankrupcy, or are headed down the road to financial ruin.

Citing his record of compassionate conservatism, President Bush expressed relief that the House is acting expeditiously.

"Like any parent, I'm always concerned for my daughters and their future", he said. "It's a big load off my mind to know they won't have to work for a living and will continue to provide employment for all the little people".

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Social security fasttrack

Via The Raw Story -
"Republicans in Congress and the White House say they have nearly finished the first stage of their push to overhaul the Social Security system and will soon begin crafting a bill that could pass both chambers by the end of July," the paid-restricted Roll Call reports Monday.

“It’s all going to be moving very fast,” one Senate Republican leadership aide told Roll Call.
So...the judiciary and all those "activist judges" are accountable to the people, but the administration and legislature aren't?


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The scariest terrorist of all - Mother Nature

(or - 'There's no reason for panic, but run for your lives')

I know I've posted something on this before, but the Indonesian seismic zone is beginning to make me very uneasy.

There was another earthquake yesterday near Sumatra, and it seemed to me like there's been more than a few recently.

I didn't realize how many until I started checking it out. The media doesn't pay much attention until the loss of life reaches the one-thousand mark.

The mother of all global catastrophes lurks under the earth in Sumatra.
Hidden deep beneath the Earth's surface lie one of the most destructive and yet least-understood natural phenomena in the world - supervolcanoes. Only a handful exist in the world but when one erupts it will be unlike any volcano we have ever witnessed. The explosion will be heard around the world. The sky will darken, black rain will fall, and the Earth will be plunged into the equivalent of a nuclear winter.

(snip)

The last supervolcano to erupt was Toba 74,000 years ago in Sumatra. Ten thousand times bigger than Mt St Helens, it created a global catastrophe dramatically affecting life on Earth. Scientists know that another one is due - they just don't know when... or where.
For brevity's sake, we'll confine the "strong" to "great" earthquake list to just the last four months. The pressure appears to be building -

April 11, 2005 - magnitude 6.1; Tokyo

April 10, 2005 magnitude 6.8; Indonesia's Kepulauan Mentawai region.

March 28, 2005 - magnitude 8.7; northern Sumatra, Indonesia

March 20, 2005 - e magnitude 6.6; Kyushu, Japan

March 2, 2005 - magnatude 7.1; Banda Sea

February 26, 2005 - magnitude 6.8; Simeuleu, Indonesia

February 19, 2005 - magnitude 6.5; Sulawesi, Indonesia

February 8, 2005 - magniture 6.8, Vanuatu

February 5, 2005 - magnitude 7.1; Celebes Sea

January 16, 2005 - magnitude 6.6; State of Yap, Fed. States of Micronesia

January 1, 2005 - magnitude 6.6; off the west coast of northern Sumatra

December 26, 2004 - 9.0 magnitude; off the coast of Sumatra

A supervolcano explosion would be way, way beyond the scope of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or Rummy's Department of Offense. You can't deter it, you can't hunt it down, you can't punish it. There are no vast armies or high tech weapons to match it.

On the other hand, it's a handy solution to the problems of Social Security, Medicare and health care all rolled into one package.

Sitting on the other side of the world from Sumatra, we might escape the worst.

The "worst" being total extinction of human, animal, and vegetable life.

But before you get too comfortable in this hemisphere, it might interest you to know there were ninety-seven small tremors recorded in the month of March 2005 in Yellowstone National Park - the site of another supervolcano.

As they say in the disaster unpreparedness business - "Have a nice day!"

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Changing definitions

Dubya wants John Bolton, enemy of the U.N., to be the U.S. ambassador to that body.

According to CNN's definition of the word "diplomat", I guess he's the perfect man for the job.
John Bolton, a blunt, outspoken diplomat whose nomination as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is being opposed by Democrats, pledged today to "work with all" to build a stronger, more effective world body.

(Emphasis mine)
I guess Mirriam-Webster missed the memo -
dip·lo·mat, n.

one employed or skilled in diplomacy

di·plo·ma·cy; n.

1 : the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations
2 : skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility : TACT

tact; n

1 : sensitive mental or aesthetic perception
2 : a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Risky business



Looks like a windy day in Scotland; a treacherous business for kilt wearing.

So, you know I can't resist reprising this photo -


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Book Meme

I read chiefly for pleasure and diversion these days, so this is a pretty lightweight list.

Bryan at Why Now? has entered the chain-meme fray and passed along the book meme to me.

You are stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?
[Note: In the novel to save the content of books people memorized one in order to pass the content on to others.]

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Not only is it a whacking-good story, but the messages regarding war, greed, love of nature, and compassion are well worth passing on to future generations.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Peter Darwin, the main character in Dick Francis’ Comeback; he’s a dead ringer for a real guy I chased back in my chasing days. A close second would be Rabbi David Small, hero of the Harry Kemelman mysteries.

What is the last book you bought?

I admit it - The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown.

What are you currently reading?

My Life, Bill Clinton

re-reading, depending on my mood -
The Age of Arthur, John Morris
A Matter of Honor, Jeffrey Archer
The Voice, Miriam Jaskierowicz Arman

Five books for your desert island cruise package.

If it's a cruise, you'll find me at the blackjack table and totally book-less. If I'm to be stranded on the desert island:

1. The Lord of the Rings (I may need to refresh my memory; see first question)

2.The collected works of Agatha Christie Sorry, I can’t pick just one, though Bertram’s Hotel is up there at the top. Great fun, and I can’t think of another writer who sets a mood or draws a character with such efficiency.

3. . Conversations with Rabbi Small, Harry Kemelman. Beautiful, sensible discussion of life and ethics.

4. Sunne in Splendor, Sharon Kay Penman. Sprawling retelling of the saga of King Edward IV and his brother, King Richard III of England. If this isn't the way it happened, it should be.

5. When Bad Things Happen To Good People, Harold S. Kushner. If I'm stranded on a desert island, I'll need all the help I can get.

Who are you going to pass this book meme baton to and why? (only three people)

Houston (Dancing With Myself), Tom Burka (Opinions You Should Have, and Michael (Musing's Musings) even though he's already posted his choices. God broke the mold when he made these three characters, and I'd love to know more about what makes them tick.
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Friday, April 08, 2005

Here comes the Bible Reading Marathon
The nationwide Bible Reading Marathons, scheduled for next month on dates leading up to the May 5 National Day of Prayer, will take place in cities across the U.S. at such venues as county courthouses, town squares, at State Capitol buildings.
Can I sign up to read the Song of Solomon?

Or better yet, give me Matthew 6:6 -
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
There seems to be an abundance of public, government places listed for this performance.

No mention of closets whatsoever.

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Bush booed at Pope's funeral

I've heard and seen a lot of strange things at funerals, but this was a new one on me. It would have almost been worth getting up early to see it.
But when Mr Bush’s face appeared on giant screens showing the ceremony – many in the crowds outside St Peter’s Square booed and whistled.

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Bloggered

It's a bloomin' miracle.

Blogger has resurrected itself.

What should I do first?

Oh, yeah - Friday Critter Blogging and the soon-maybe-to-be North Carolina state lottery.

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Collective sigh of relief

Yesterday, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted narrowly (61-59) in favor of a state lottery.

The lottery question has been around a long time; North Carolina is surrounded by states that have lotteries, and it’s estimated that $300 million North Carolina dollars flow yearly into those coffers.

Democratic Governor Mike Easley has made a state lottery a centerpiece of both his 1998 and 2004 election, and the Senate has been behind him. The House, however, has stalwartly refused to consider legislation or referendum

I had a bad feeling we were going to be saddled with calls for a referendum on the subject coupled with a referendum on gay marriage or abortion or some other rightwing assery.

But G’bless House Speaker Jim Black (D-Mecklenburg). He’s had a conversion of sorts, thanks to his questionable handling of discretionary funds and even more thanks to the Republicans threatening to look into the matter.

According to the Charlotte Observer (free subscription required)-
An alliance of church groups and state political leaders -- Billy Graham and Bill Friday and a host of others -- have opposed a lottery, but when Gov. Mike Easley began campaigning for it, the atmosphere slowly changed. The state Senate endorsed a lottery in 1989, '91 and '93, but the House remained resistant.

That's where Jim Black made all the difference. Black for years had his doubts about a lottery, though he was willing to let the public vote in a referendum. This year he changed his mind. He knew that a lottery discussion could drag on all year. He knew that if the state needed new revenue, it would be better to find out now rather than wait.

Something else happened. In March, Black found himself the object of unflattering publicity in news stories about discretionary grant funds he and other leaders controlled. One day after a group of Republicans demanded the speaker resign, Black appointed a committee loaded with lottery supporters and ordered it to move fast. Last week the committee began; Wednesday morning it finished, voting almost unanimously in favor of a lottery to provide money to build schools, fund scholarships and pay for other education programs. The House approved it 61-59.

It was a brilliant stroke. Black's newfound advocacy of a lottery diverted attention from the discretionary funds and focused it on raising new revenue for education, traditionally the most popular government program.

Another reason the lottery bill passed the House was its careful construction. Just as the 1978 liquor bill in 1978 had its safeguards, the lottery bill directs that the state cannot mount aggressive marketing campaigns to promote the lottery. Advertising can be used only where tickets are sold.
Did Speaker Black finesse a rightwing ploy? We may never know, but I like to think so.

I happen to be rather neutral on the subject of a state lottery, because 1) I’m usually broke, 2) I like to eat, and 3) I never win anything anyway.

Beyond that, I don’t appreciate the fundamentalists trying to tell me what I can or can’t do with my spare change. Nor do I appreciate their inherent unwillingness to pay taxes to support schools or provide scholarships for needy students.

I also suspect - nay, I know - that more than a few of our moral arbiters have been slipping over the state lines to purchase lottery tickets in other states….they just don’t want it in their back yard.

Brian asks the question at his place – “why not a lottery?” If you have a serious answer, drop by and join the discussion.

If not, come on down to North Carolina around the end of the year for your very own ticket. We need to recoup some of those dollars we’ve been dishing to other states.

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Friday cat blogging


Posted by Hello

Trouble (left) and Randy (right), back when they could both relax in the same side of a suitcase.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

From the Letters to the Editor page

Not all wingers are claiming the Pope as a great leader -

There's too much about the pope on television.

I have had just about enough of the pope. It seems every move is shoved down our throats. This may matter to the Catholics, but let's remember, he is just a man. I dare say Billy Graham has done more for people than the pope. Please, a little less of the pope every time the news is on television.

XXX XXXXXX

Trinity

Editor's note: This letter was received last week before John Paul II died.

Now, I happen to know the gentleman who wrote this letter.

It's true he's a man, but hardly gentle; he's one of the fiercest neo-con, rightwing fundamentalists you'd ever fear to meet and has never let a fact sway his opinions.

The editor's note gives me hope that he and his like-minded types have spontaneously combusted.

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Congress considers missile defense costs

At a time of budget deficit pressures, Congress is weighing how much to invest in a fledgling but expensive ballistic missile defense system that has suffered setbacks and whose ultimate cost right now is a big question mark.

The system is the most costly defense research and development program under way. President Bush wants lawmakers to approve $9 billion for the system in the 2006 budget year -- $1 billion less than the administration previously planned.

Tests of the "fledgling" system have been failing since the 1980's. Isn't it time to call two decades worth of flops a "mature failure"?

Wise stewards of our tax dollars would have questioned the cost-effectiveness of this boondoggle billions of dollars and numerous test failures ago.

If the Republicans are dead-set on a faith-based missile defense system, they would do much better to consider Pat Robertson's hurricane defense system.

Implementing the system is free, and the success rate is somewhat better, though the failures can be annoying.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Just what the Border Patrol always wanted

Armed, untrained, incompetent meddlers -

Border Patrol: Citizen Patrols Trip Sensors

Volunteers who have converged on the Mexican border to watch for illegal immigrants are disrupting U.S. Border Patrol operations by unwittingly tripping sensors that alert agents to possible intruders, an agency spokesman complained Monday.

Way to go, guys.

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The Collective Sigh nomination for the next pope

After giving the matter considerable thought, the editorial board of Collective Sigh is proud to make a recommendation for the next pope.

To recap, the pope should be a woman with the following qualifications:

1) She must have been sexually molested as a child or raped as an adult.
2) She must have suffered at least three years in a bad marriage.
3) She must have faced a life-threatening pregnancy at some time in her life.
4) She must have a child or close relative who is gay.
5) She must have nursing experience caring for those with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, advanced diabetes, or some other debilitating illness.

We're not sure about #1, but ample experience with #2 makes up for it.



It also helps to look good in the regalia of high office -



Have we picked a winner, or what?

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Ah, sweet victory!




The University of North Caroilna upholds the honor of the Atlantic Coast Conference!

I want to have Sean May's baby.
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Take me out to the ball game

It's Opening Day!


Posted by Hello

Crappy photo by Mr. Andante, who obviously cared more about getting a picture of the old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta than a photo of his lovely wife.

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