Friday, June 30, 2006

Senate in imminent danger of passing meaningful legislation

If it takes the former Queen of America to do it, more power to her.

Nancy Reagan helps revive embryonic stem cell bill
Urged anew by former first lady Nancy Reagan, Senate majority leader Bill Frist yesterday revived a bill to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research after conservatives who had blocked it withdrew their objections.

`It's my intention now that we've gotten over this first hurdle that we will (vote on the bill) in the not too distant future," Frist said as he brought the three-bill package to the floor.

``We'll do this before we get out of here for the October break?" asked Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

``We will," replied Frist, Republican of Tennessee.

The announcement marked a major advance for a bill -- one supported by about 70 percent of Americans -- that had been stalled in the Senate since the House passed it in May 2005. Frist was still untangling objections from at least two senators who blocked the bill up to a few moments before he brought the package to the floor, according to officials close to the talks .

The bill is expected to pass. But for all the progress, President Bush's veto threat remained, said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.
A measure supported by seventy-percent of Americans is opposed by two senators and one ignorant Oval Office squatter?

I wish them a long and prosperous life, which they are unable to enjoy due to encroaching Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Friday Cat Blogging

Sorry ladies - he's neutered.

(Clicking for larger view should be avoided by small children and those with heart problems)


More okay for me, but not for thee....

From Newsweek:
No one would have mentioned his name at all if President George W. Bush hadn't singled him out in public. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, West Point '76, is not someone the Army likes to talk about. He isn't even listed in the directory at Fort Bragg, N.C., his home base. That's not because McChrystal has done anything wrong—quite the contrary, he's one of the Army's rising stars—but because he runs the most secretive force in the U.S. military. That is the Joint Special Operations Command, the snake-eating, slit-their-throats "black ops" guys who captured Saddam Hussein and targeted Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.


After the Zarqawi strike, multinational forces spokesman Gen. Bill Caldwell refused to comment on JSOC's role, saying, "We don't talk about when special operating forces are involved." But when Bush revealed to reporters that it was McChrystal's Special Ops teams that had found Zarqawi, Caldwell had to gulp and say (to laughter), "If the president of the United States said it was, then I'm sure it was."


Thursday, June 29, 2006

RIP Goldie

Four days after I referred to them as "cat food", the goldfish smiling at the camera here was found floating belly up in the aquarium.

Let this be a lesson to the arrogant pundits and clueless media...don't mess with the power of the blogs.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gentlemen, start your engines

The rain finally stopped last night, the sun is out, it's pushing 90 degrees, and the hills are alive with the sound of lawnmowers.

Good luck to those further up the east coast; get out your water wings and start praying your National Guard isn't busy elsewhere.

Compare and contrast

WarShooter is a web 'portal for photojournalists covering conflict, crisis & disaster'.

Zoriah presents an amazing series of before and after pictures from Thailand:
Just as I expected I soon began to hear stories of how western money coupled with the tourism industry was rebuilding Thailand in record speed while Sri Lanka was still struggling and Banda Aceh was left only with resources for making baby steps. Slightly ahead of the one year anniversary of the Tsunami I decided to return to Thailand and shoot every image taken the year before from the exact same angle.
Western money and tourism is doing a miraculous job in Thailand, but as Dave & Barb Jenkins discover, the Gulf Coast has more in common with Sri Lanka and Banda Aceh.




Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just in time for the Fourth of July

Flag-burning amendment fails by a vote

Thank goodness we still have that liberty left to us.

I plan to celebrate the Fourth by performing an abortion on an illegal immigrant, burning guns, and sending a homosexual to Mexico.



Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday Cat Food* Blogging

An exciting day in the Collective Sigh aquarium.

*The aquarium is well out of cat attack range, and in any case my cats are far too fat to haul themselves up there.

Terrorists generally are not stupid

The dreaded Miami Seven aside, most of our adversaries in the GWOT are neither as lacking in intelligence as BushCo seems to think nor are they mired in the technological Stone Ages.
Wives and family members of soldiers fighting in Iraq have received telephone calls, believed to include death threats, from insurgents, according to military documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph.


The document warns soldiers preparing to take part in operations that insurgents in southern Iraq have managed to obtain the home telephone numbers of soldiers by using electronic intercept devices to hack into mobile phone systems.
These hackers have probably figured out their own communications can be intercepted and their own financial transactions can be traced.

Instead of throwing a hissy-fit every time a standard operating procedure is revealed, perhaps Dubya & Company should just ask Jack Bauer and the cast of 24 how to handle things.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Now for some good news....

Congratulations and best wishes for continued good health to a terrific lady.

Edwards Says Wife is Cancer-Free
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards has good news to report about his wife -- she's cancer-free.


Edwards said she underwent a series of tests three weeks ago that showed she was free of cancer.

Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, the day after her husband and presidential candidate John Kerry were defeated in the general election.

John Edwards has said publicly he would NOT seek the presidency in 2008 if his wife's health worsened.

Edwards now heads the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hurry up and wait

Stop the presses - the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics says patients are waiting longer to see a doctor.

One argument from the anti-universal health insurance crowd is always - "Under a single-payer system we would have long waiting lines to see our physicians or get treated at emergency rooms".

I'm not sure where these folks get their medical treatment, but the day I don't have to wait to see a physician is so rare it's the day I'm well on the way to being mostly dead.

The experience varies so widely it's hard to see how any study so wide-ranging can reflect true waiting times.

I've seen three different physicians in the last several weeks. I got an automated 'reminder' call from each office, advising me to arrive fifteen minutes early (!), and experienced different wait times at each office.

Physician #1 - his office always overbooks and is incredibly unorganized. Average wait time past scheduled appointment - at least forty-five minutes in the waiting room, then another half-hour being shuffled from room to room before His Majesty The Specialist makes his thirty-second appearance.

Physician #2 - He spends a lot of time with each patient, making sure they understand any problems and all options. I know he'll spend as much time with me as needed, too, so I don't mind the usual half-hour wait.

Physician #3 - I arrived fifteen minutes early for an appointment (bad planning on my part), but lo-and-behold he saw me immediately. Must have had a cancellation. The office is routinely well-run and I rarely wait more then ten minutes past the scheduled appointment time.

Conclusion: Waiting times to see a physician in private practice are directly related to the office management's intelligence and/or greed.

Emergency rooms waits are a whole other animal - in my experience, the critical or potentially life-threatening cases get seen immediately, but if you're not sure your life is threatened you should bring along a picnic lunch and probably something for dinner, too.

If you want to be seen immediately in the ER, you have to carefully choose your time of day (never on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evening - Thursday evening is borderline) and be equally picky with your symptoms.

Alarming symptoms help. Your chest pains will get your foot in the door pretty quickly, but excruciating stomach pains should be saved for a weekday morning visit to the ER.

Gushing arterial blood is a winner; regular old steady bleeding from a compound fracture isn't as sure a bet. They did give me a paper towel so I wouldn't spill blood on their floor, but anything like pain medication or x-rays has to wait while an orthopedic surgeon is rounded up.

Vomiting on the waiting room floor only gets you a mop and bucket, but at least it gives you something else to do while you're waiting.

I don't recommend fainting in the waiting room; been there, done that. All it got me was waking up on a cold, hard examination table and lying there for an hour and a half. To be fair, that was in a private practice waiting room, but I wouldn't expect preferential treatment for fainting in the ER.

Conclusion: Those who complain of long waits in the ER are often those who are clogging them up in the first place.

That's harsh, and I know your poison ivy itches.

I looked over the National Center for Health Statistics' own website for any statistics indicating people with horrific injuries or life-threatening symptoms might be waiting too long as their life passed before their eyes - but zilch.

I know it does occasionally happen, and never should. But out of those statistics, we see -

Percent of visits with patient seen in less than 15 minutes: 21

Minus -

Percent of visits resulting in hospital admission: 14

Minus -

Percent of visits resulting in intensive care unit or coronary care unit admission: 1.3

Equals -

Percent of visits with patient seen in less than 15 minutes who don't require hospitalization - 5.7

That 5.7% sounds pretty respectable to me, but it isn't hard to imagine we could increase that "percent of visits with patient seen in less than 15 minutes" figure if we didn't have to go through all the for-profit health insurance red tape.

Just doing my part in the DWOT*

(*Domestic War On Terror)

Dear Justice Department:

I know brown people who talk tough often scare the pants off Dick Cheney; however, there are any number of groups who not only talk tough but actually have the means and will to follow through.

And believe it or not, they actually come in all different colors - even white.

Go to your computer. Do you need help turning it on? I'll wait.



Now - click here.


HERE....put the mouse cursor-thingy on the word HERE and click the mouse button by pushing it down with your index finger. Try the left button.


Aren't the internets grand? Before your very eyes appears a map of the United States with all the states labelled (we know how hard it is to mix them up, especially the squarish-one in the middle).

If you click on any one of those little red numbers, PRESTO! A new web page comes up, telling you exactly where to find the tough talkers and - in some cases - the real domestic terrorists. All spew hatred and promote violence; and a few (here's the juicy part) - hope to overthrow the government.

As you can see, it's a real devil's-brew of black separatists, Christian Identity, Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and others.

Granted, they may not fit the required al-Queda wannabe mold. In fact, arresting and convicting some of them would probably mean fewer votes for Republicans.

But I hope you'll take this information as it is intended - from a friend who detects a change in the political wind.

No need to thank me.



P.S. - Good luck convicting those jokers in Miami. I hear one may be in the country illegally.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Just wonderin'

....what would those al Qaeda uniforms look like?

From TPM:
In addition to conducting surveillance, the defendants allegedly provided the individual, whom they believed was an al Qaeda member, with a list of materials and equipment needed to wage jihad, including boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles.

Equal time for the non-wealthy

Here we are at electioneering time again, which means once again we are being bombarded with constitutional amendments designed to make The Base start slobbering and legislation that puts dollar signs in wealthy folk's eyes.

I like Stuever's suggestion:

Amendment: Congress shall recognize no votes or opinions about the sanctity and preservation of marriage from its members who have been divorced and/or remarried while their first spouses are still alive. (To say nothing of those who are married while not-so-secretly f*cking someone on their staff.

...er, edited slightly by me. And I'd like to add - no secret ballots allowed on the voting.

I'd also like to propose the following -

Amendment: Congress shall not pass legislation benefitting the wealthy without corresponding relief for the rest of the country.

If the heirs of the wealthiest get millions tax-free, I don't see why the Collective Sigh heiress should be shouldered with our debts when we're gone.

Maybe debt-forgiveness for the first $10,000?

I realize that $10K would deprive Paris Hilton of one session with her hairdresser, but she can chalk it up to doing her duty for God and country.

Friday Grandpuppy blogging

Pippin takes a break from attacking my fingers and tries to look all grown-up and elegant.

But you're never too grown-up or too elegant to love on your grandma...


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hanging in there

Please go wish little Jackson and his family all your best. Lots of prayers, too, if you have them in you.

We can all breathe easier now

The good news: Cheney says N.Korea missile capability rudimentary

The bad news: That probably means the North Korean missile isn't equipped with a homing device our interceptors could zoom in on.

More bad news: Cheney lies like a dog, and as far as anyone can tell has never gotten anything right.

WMD Found!

From the Daou Report:
Huge WMD Discovery in Iraq? Not So Fast... Rightwing bloggers are in a frenzy over a report that "500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent" were found in Iraq. But here's the operative portion of the story: "Offering the official administration response to FOX News, a senior Defense Department official pointed out that the chemical weapons were not in useable conditions. "This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."
The root of this nonsense? None other than Rick Santorum, who can't find his own home in Pennsylvania.

Pre-Friday cat blogging

(Because cats wait for no man or weekday.)

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to perform a kitty ear scratch...

Can't anyone get some service around here?

For at least the third time, I ordered 'remanufactured' printer ink cartridges and half of those ordered failed to work.

It's irritating, but the companies have (so far) been true to their word. Return for a full refund or a replacement, and usually a credit toward another purchase to compensate for the trouble.

So, here's what I want to know....while the world worries about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the North Koreans are a few steps ahead:
The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said Tuesday. (CNN)
Bryan provides a detailed technical analysis - Attack Hamster Unleashed, as does the LA Times:
Eleven ground-based interceptors in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California, the cornerstone of the administration's new system, have not undergone a successful test in nearly four years and have been beset by glitches that investigators blame, at least in part, on President Bush's order in 2002 to make the program operational even before it had been fully tested.


A little-noticed study by the Government Accountability Office issued in March found that program officials were so concerned with potential flaws in the first nine interceptors now in operation that they considered taking them out of their silos and returning them to the manufacturer for "disassembly and remanufacture."

"Quality control procedures may not have been rigorous enough to ensure that unreliable parts, or parts that were inappropriate for space applications, would be removed from the manufacturing process," the report says.
Can we return these interceptors for a refund? A new model? Do we get a gift certificate? A toaster? Anything?

It always amazes me that our 'pro-business', 'MBA' administration is so ignorant of business principles - especially the principle concerning "customer service".


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

AP: Iraqi troops killed 2 U.S. soldiers
Two California soldiers shot to death in
Iraq were murdered by Iraqi civil-defense officers patrolling with them, military investigators have found.

The deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr. and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq, on June 22, 2004.

But the Army's Criminal Investigation Command found that one or more of the Iraqis attached to the American soldiers on patrol fired at them, a military official said Tuesday.
Something tells me we've overstayed our welcome, which we never had in the first place.

George Bush and (my opponent)

Josh Marshall is right - every Democrat running for any office whatsoever in 2006 should tie George Bush around the Republican opponent's neck.

"George Bush and (my opponent) think we should stay in Iraq indefinitely...."

""George Bush and (my opponent) use 'national security' as an excuse to shred the Constitution ..."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think we should eliminate the estate tax on the richest families in America...."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think we should give the richest families in America a big tax break - but not the rest of us ...."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think it's okay to spy on innocent, hardworking Americans...."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think they should make the decisions when it comes to your health instead of physicians ..."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think big pharmaceutical companies and the big health insurance companies can continue to rip off Americans with no consequences...."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think outsourcing jobs is good for American workers...."

"George Bush and (my opponent) think the $5.15/hour minimum wage is just fine for American workers..."

"George Bush and (my opponent) want to abolish Social Security..."

...and the list goes on and on.

The point is, make every election about George Bush. Unfortunately, Bush isn't on the ballot this year - but he should be.

Whenever a Democratic candidate is asked a question on any issue, turn the question around to Bush.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cut out the middle men

From Jim Hightower on AlterNet:
There's no legitimate excuse for this mess. A program to provide medicines for every single senior could and should be simpler and far less expensive than Bush's $1.2 trillion scam. Medicare, with its extremely low overhead and an efficient payment system already in place, is the logical conduit for such a program. It could negotiate with drug makers on behalf of every senior to get low prices on all medicines, then pay pharmacists directly for the total cost of prescriptions they fill.

Instead, Bush and Congress put the new drug benefit in the hands of the corporate bureaucracies that separate us patients from our medical professionals. All seniors are on their own to purchase one of the confusing myriad of drug cards from HMOs and insurance companies. These middlemen then bill Medicare for whatever medications the seniors get and put no lid on the prices of the drugs.

Thus, rather than being a straightforward benefit for people in need, Bush's program has become a boondoggle benefit for America's bureaucratic, wasteful, fraud-ridden health-industrial complex. Such giants as UnitedHealth, Humana, and WellPoint (which have already scarfed up more than half of the new drug program's market) are given both a new source of monthly premiums and a generous federal subsidy to provide prescription coverage.

Not to be left out of the financial fun, the drug barons have obtained a green light to bloat their profits (already the highest of any industry) with overpriced pills that ultimately are paid for by Medicare dollars taken out of all of our paychecks. WARNING: The following fact could make your eyeballs explode: Bush demanded and got a provision in his new program that specifically prohibits Medicare officials from negotiating with drug corporations to lower the prices they charge. If only this were a bad horror movie! Alas, it's the core reality of America's sick health care system. Wait, you say. We've got the top technology and medical know-how in the whole freakin' world. America is No. 1! We have the healthiest people, and we get the best quality health care there is, bar none. USA! USA! USA!
Anyone who thinks the big insurers don't get a sizeable cut of the profit needs a vacation in beautiful downtown Fallujah.

And anyone who thinks we have the healthiest people, the top technology and best health care available to all gets sent to New Orleans with a big "FEMA Management" sign around their neck.

Any businessman with sense understands the bottom-line benefit of cutting out the middle man. The insurance companies not only stand between patients and doctors, but between health care providers and their due wages.

Hightower puts the universal cure succinctly - "Instead of you and me paying inflated premiums to profit-seeking insurance giants which then pay our medical bills, SPS (single payer system) eliminates the rip-off overhead of the middleman and pays all of our bills directly to the providers.

Patients - health insurers are NOT your friends. Nor are they friends to nurses, CNAs, EMTs, physicians, hospitals, clinics, pharmacists, or a host of others.

There are a lot more votes to be harvested from those burdened by health insurers than there are from the insurers themselves.

If the 'pro-business' Republicans would put some effort into explaining the facts to voters rather than protecting their own campaign coffers the United States would have the top technology and medical know-how available to all, the healthiest people, and the best quality health care there is, bar none.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Dark Ages

From Roman Britain to Rome, 5th century A.D. -
" 'To Aetius, thrice consul: the groans of the British. The barbarians push us back to the sea, the sea pushes us back to the barbarians; between these two kinds of death, we are either drowned or slaughtered’.

But they got no help in return."

(adapted from Gildas ‘The ruin of Britain’ translated by M. Winterbottom)
Fast forward about 1,600 years -

From the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the Secretary of State, June 6, 2006 -


But they got a Dubya photo-op in return.

(bonus link to webpage detailing the fall of Roman Britain with pictures and no big words - Uh-Oh...here come the barbarians!. Suitable for children and Yale legacy history majors.)


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Baby

Andantette is twenty-one years old today.

As the saying goes, you're not getting older .....you're getting better.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Tax and spend Republicans

From WaPo - In Their Own Words
Sgt. Lisa Dunphy
96 Bravo Intelligence Analyst, 326 Area Support Group, Army Reserve

An earlier tour in Bosnia left a bad taste in Dunphy's mouth about the role contractors played in war zones. Her Iraq experience didn't change that opinion.

"The whole idea of it is to free up the military to deal with military stuff. What they do is employ a lot of locals -- in Iraq, a lot more seemed like Filipino, maybe Indian. There would be a generator broken. We'd have soldiers that could fix it, but they couldn't touch it because they would void the contract. So we couldn't fix our own stuff, would have to call and put in a work order with [Kellogg Brown & Root]. It just seemed like a big bottleneck for almost everything you needed or wanted to do. You wanted to fix a road or building, you couldn't do it. Had to jump through a lot of hoops. I think it's become more of a hindrance than it's a help. I know the food was better than if Army cooks were doing it, but we had no jobs for them [the Army cooks]. They can't cook because that would void contracts, yet we sent them over anyway. It seemed like there were an awful lot of civilians that were not working very hard. It was like an overabundance of people, your stereotypical one person digging, 16 people watching."
I wish someone would explain to me why this is either fiscally responsible or strategically necessary.


Friday, June 16, 2006


I am SO relieved Congress gave themselves a pay raise...how else could they have found the courage to vote on the non-binding "Hurray For GWOT!" resolution.

If they pass themselves another raise, maybe we'll get a non-binding resolution on the "Cancer Is Bad!" debate, or maybe the "Don't Run With Sharp Instruments!" question or some other such useful resolution.
Several days of pointed congressional debate on the war in Iraq coming this week began to take shape Monday when Republican House leaders unveiled a draft resolution praising American troops and saying the United States will show "continued resolve" in Iraq.
How can any congressman vote to NOT praise the troops?

It's the old 'gotcha' pre-election ploy. If Democrats (and conscientious conservatives) have any sense whatsoever, they should just walk out.
The new House resolution on the war, which is scheduled to be debated Thursday and possibly Friday, pays tribute to U.S. forces in Iraq, calls upon all nations to support the new Iraqi government and condemns terrorist strikes in Iraq. It cites "impressive victories" by the U.S. military, including last week's killing of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

It concludes that the House "declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary."

The draft of the resolution never mentions Bush or his administration.
I guess they thought lauding Dubya and the gang smacked just a bit too much of "Sieg Heil". The way things are going, I can only say I admire the resolution-drafters restraint.

From the "It Can't Happen To Me" files

By now, everybody and his/her brother should realize health insurance companies stand between health care providers and their justly-earned wages and between patients and their health care.

My surgery should be over and done with, and my vision should be well on the way to stabilization.

My health insurance company, in it's 'infinite wisdom', decreed otherwise.

Second opinions don't matter, and neither do over eleven thousand dollars of paid-up monthly premiums - not when you're on the eighteenth month of an eighteen-month COBRA health plan. This is NOT an elective procedure; if I had a choice, I'd elect to never have the condition that it will alleviate.

There's not enough time to go through the appeal process, and the company knows it.

I've often heaped scorn on a so-called health care insurance system that relegates patients in need to raising money through bake sales, yard sales, hamburger steak dinners, auctions, and so on.

But I never thought I'd be the beneficiary of a fundraiser myself. It feels very weird and somewhat guilty - as if I hadn't played by the rules or was somehow too lazy or stupid to afford a surgery that is, in the scheme of things, very inexpensive.

But when you don't have it, even a dollar is too expensive. G'bless my church for pitching in to help. My experience has hopefully made them realize that 'there, but for the grace of God, go I". I'm still ashamed that anyone in the 'richest country on earth' has to resort to such things, but I'm grateful.

Tentative date for the surgery is July 19th.

Announcing the First Annual "Inspire George Bush Film Festival"

Remember how he was finally moved to action on Katrina only after Dan Bartlett put together a DVD compilation of the horrors in New Orleans?

Now comes word that Bush was inspired to create the world's largest marine protected area after watching a private White House screening of Voyage to Kure, a PBS documentary on the dangers facing the area's endangered marine life made by Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau's son. The presidential order is the single biggest act of conservation in U.S. history, creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, a marine preserve larger than all of America's national parks combined.

That must have been some documentary.
I may be just a little sceptical here, but I wonder what the Bush Base think of their Decider watching a PBS documentary?

Far more likely it was Finding Nemo.

Arianna compiles an admirable list of films for George's viewing pleasure that could presumably inspire George to relieve our global nightmares:

An Inconvenient Truth
HBO's Too Hot Not to Handle
Born on the Fourth of July
Coming Home
Casualties of War
The War Tapes
Gunner Palace
Uncovered: the War on Iraq
Dr. Strangelove
Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room
The Corporation
Erin Brockovich
The Insider
The Rainmaker
Hotel Rwanda
God Sleeps in Rwanda
The Killing Fields
All the President's Men

Add your suggestions here.


Friday critter blogging

The way is shut....you cannot pass.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


We can add this to the list of reasons the Bush administration should back off from war with Iran:
A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
Unless you think the Bush administration hasn't played into al-Quaida's hands enough already.

Beyond our control

Via Juan Cole and the NY Observer - At U.S. Naval War College, Scholar Likens Iraq to Plague
The last one to speak was the one who had used the word "folly" in the program: John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. Mearsheimer is 58. He told the audience that when he was a teenager, he had enlisted in the Army. Then he'd spent 1966-1970 at West Point. Then he said this:
I remember once in English class we read Albert Camus's book The Plague. I didn't know what The Plague was about or why we were reading it. But afterwards the instructor explained to us that The Plague was being read because of the Vietnam War. What Camus was saying in The Plague was that the plague came and went of its own accord. All sorts of minions ran around trying to deal with the plague, and they operated under the illusion that they could affect the plague one way or another. But the plague operated on its own schedule. That is what we were told was going on in Vietnam. Every time I look at the situation in Iraq today, I think of Vietnam, and I think of The Plague, and I just don't think there's very much we can do at this point. It is just out of our hands. There are forces that we don't have control over that are at play, and will determine the outcome of this one. I understand that's very hard for Americans to understand, because Americans believe that they can shape the world in their interests.

But I learned during the Vietnam years when I was a kid at West Point, that there are some things in the world that you just don't control, and I think that's where we're at in Iraq.
The panel was over. For a moment or two there was stunned silence, and then applause—at once polite, sustained and thunderous.
Now the only question is - how much more blood and taxpayer money are we going to throw at a situation beyond our control?


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rove urges U.S. Republicans to campaign on economy
Republicans should campaign on U.S. economic strength and the war in Iraq as they gear up for the November election, President George W. Bush's political adviser Karl Rove urged on Monday.
Speaking as a Democrat, I think that's an excellent idea.

Maybe Karl has spent too much time closeted with his lawyers and testifying before grand juries - out here in the real world, there's not a whole lot of dancing and singing about the great economy or turning corners in Iraq.
Consumer inflation registered another sizable increase in May, pushed higher by soaring gasoline prices. And most worrisome, there was further evidence that the jump in energy costs is beginning to cause more widespread inflation troubles.
Fifty-four percent said they still believe the war is going either very badly or moderately badly, down from 60 percent in March.

And 55 percent said they believe the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an error -- a figure unchanged from an April survey.
I still think 'we wouldn't have invaded Iraq in the first place' is a pretty fair campaign point, but Democrats really need to come together on continuing the thought.

Pledging not to build permanent bases would be a good start. Permanent U.S. military bases would only be a bur under the Middle East saddle for generations to come.

How life works

Let's do some simple addition:

Local weather guy says we won't get anything from tropical-whatever Alberto's remnants


The grass is knee-high and I should have mowed yesterday


I have an appointment for a cut-and-style at the beauty salon today


We're under a flood warning from Alberto's drenching rains today.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On the outside, looking in

The media has rolled over for Bush in what, to me, is the most bewildering fashion. Why?

Jerome at Bad Attitudes articulates exactly the analogy for which I've been searching.

The thing to remember is that most reporters weren't the cool kids in school. And they weren't the back-slapping, blow-snorting, beer-swilling, ass-grabbing Animal House president that Bush was, either. They had to be happy with the year book and the school paper.

So years later here's this guy that never used to give you the time of day, and now he likes you, he really likes you. He even gives you a nickname to show that you're one of the guys, too, and since you're inexperienced at being one of the guys, you don't see that it's a sign of contempt. He takes away your name and gives you a new one, because now you're his dog.

True, he isn't too swift and he doesn't know much about anything. But at least he isn't like that stuffed shirt Al Gore, sounding like a professor all the time. Besides, the truth is that, like most journalists, you don't know much about anything, either. The word for this, and you wear it proudly, is generalist.
And taking it just a bit further, if you are one of the un-cool and insecure kids, when the cool guy makes a fool out of you and it becomes evident he's using you - you don't rage and scream and expose his perfidy.

Because he might like you again; he might include you in his circle again, and won't that be nice for you?

Nor do you want anyone to know what a fool you've been to hang on the jerk's coattails. You keep your mouth shut and continue to come running when he beckons.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Scotland needs your help

Scottish orchestra seeks new national anthem
Scotland's national orchestra launched a competition on Sunday to find the country's most popular song that might eventually become its national anthem.

The current UK-wide national anthem is "God Save the Queen", but this is not universally popular in Scotland.

Its third verse, now rarely if ever sung, calls on an English general to crush "rebellious Scots" at the time of the 1745 Jacobite uprising to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stuarts to the British throne.
Yes, well - I think we can see their point.

We can also save them from the gawd-awful Star Spangled Banner 'la-and of the FREEEEEEEEEEEEE!' curse.

The five most popular contenders are:
"Flower of Scotland", written by a member of The Corries folk bank more than 30 years ago and sung primarily at rugby and football matches;

- "Highland Cathedral", written in 1982 by two German musicians and chosen by pop singer Madonna as her wedding march at her marriage in Scotland to director Guy Ritchie;

- "Scots Wha Ha'e", a song by Robert Burns written in the form of a speech by Robert the Bruce before he defeated an English army at Bannockburn in 1314;

- "A Man's a Man for a' That", another Burns poem extolling the common man;

- "Scotland the Brave", a traditional bagpipe tune with stirring words written in the 1950s.
You can listen to the songs here, "Royal Scottish National Orchestra and RSNO Chorus, mezzo-soprano Jane Irwin and an enthusiastic Edinburgh audience".

It's a great program, and when you're through listening you can vote for your favorite. I've already cast my vote for 'Scotland the Brave' - it may not be the most singable, but I get chills up and down my spine when I hear it played by (good) bagpipes.

However, I have to admit "Scots Wha Ha'e", celebrating ass-kicking the English at Bannockburn, would be nice payback for years of "God Save the King/Queen".

Results will be announced on July 1, 2006.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tomato fetus

My upside-down tomato plant, week four, and still living.

In fact, if you look carefully and maybe click the picture for a bigger view, you'll see a little yellow tomato fetus!

I shouldn't get my hopes up, but a BL-and homegrown T sandwich would really taste good about now.

All you need to know

George Bush compares himself to Harry Truman - favorably, of course - but all you need to know about the comparison can be summed up in two points:

Point One - (The sign on Truman's desk, from the Truman Presidential Museum and Library)

Point Two - E-mail to Michael Brown during the Katrina aftermath:
The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.' "
Responding to CNN on the release of the e-mail, A White House spokesperson said:
"This is an old rumor that surfaced months ago and we're not commenting on it. This story has already been reported and I have heard nothing at all that would substantiate it."
It's true that I have to take occasional leave from the internets, due to health reasons, but I think I would have seen "reporting" on this "rumor".

Of course, if Bill Clinton or any other Democrat would have said such a thing it would have been plastered 24/7 across the cable news stations and a Special Prosecutor would already be up to his elbows in the case.

Character does count. Bush doesn't have it, and neither do his minions.


Friday, June 09, 2006

The Mayberry Grinch

Boo! Hiss! Shame on Don Knotts' estate!

Nip it! Mixup halts plans for Barney Fife statue
Two fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" who planned to erect a statue of Don Knotts have new orders from CBS: "Nip it!"

Network attorneys and representatives of the actor's estate said this week that proper permission had not been granted for the project.

Tom Hellebrand and Neal Shelton were trying to raise $35,000 to put a statue in Mount Airy — model for the town of Mayberry — as a tribute to Knotts, who portrayed the bumbling Barney Fife on the popular show.

Knotts died on Feb. 24 at the age of 81 from pulmonary and respiratory complications.

The two worked out arrangements with the city for placing the statue, and thought they'd gotten a green light from CBS Corp., which owns the rights to the show's characters.

But Hellebrand said he received a letter this week from a second CBS attorney demanding that the project be halted.

Mallory Levitt explained to Hellebrand and The Mount Airy News that, while Paramount/CBS owned the rights to the character of Barney Fife, the group didn't have the authority to give permission for a likeness of Don Knotts.

"That right belongs to the Knotts estate," she said.

Levitt told Hellebrand she contacted the actor's estate and business associates of Andy Griffith, who is still living, and none wanted to go through with the project.

"We believed we had all the approvals and OKs we needed and that's the only reason we went ahead," Hellebrand said. "We never meant to hurt or offend or take advantage of anyone. We just wanted to honor the memory of one of the great Mayberry characters, Barney Fife."

Hellebrand said he has already made a nonrefundable deposit of more than $8,000 for the statue. He and Shelton plan to sell a restored squad car and a golf cart to raise money to refund more than $10,000 donated by fans for the project.
It wouldn't cost them a dime, and what harm could a stature possibly do to the memory of a man who brought - and still brings - pleasure and laughter to so many people?

So...take THIS, you selfish, mean-spirited jerks...

(deliberate, unauthorized use of photo)

Friday cat blogging

Trouble, in all his fuzzy glory.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Whose idea was this?

Does your cat have the night-crazies? Are those antics driving YOU crazy?

For a push right over the edge, give your cat the gift of …..

Harts® AT PLAY™ NITE PLAY™ Cat Toy!

“Hartz® AT PLAY™ NITE PLAY™ Cat Toy includes two rubber balls that glow in the dark and keep cats interested day and night.”
If Hartz wanted to be truly evil they would have included a jingle-bell inside each ball. Nevertheless, inquiring minds want to know – why does Hartz hate cat owners?


Wednesday, June 07, 2006


No, not cat blogging….just being catty, which is a prerogative of all women and a God-given right of Southern women.

I see my senior senator, Liddy Dole voted “YEA” on the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment’.

Frankly, I see this as a bit tacky from a woman whose husband has shilled for Viagra.

But we’ll leave that and wonder when Liddy will propose the following bills to ‘protect’ marriages:

**A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting horny old farts from breaking off long-time marriages to have a fling or even, God forbid, marry bubbleheads younger than their own youngest child.

**Joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting greedy, ambitious gold-diggers from marrying powerful politicians.

I don’t expect to see either of those from Liddy any time soon, especially that last one.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thank goodness that's over

It is with great pride and relief I announce that Mr. Andante and I survived Assault On Marriage Day with our marriage still intact.

Without a constitutional amendment, I don't know how we'll survive another twenty-seven years of marriage.


Monday, June 05, 2006

I admit it

I am a baseball fan. So sue me.

And I am very sorry to hear Eric Gregg, former major league umpire, is fighting for his life after a major stroke.

I'll be thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Most fairy tales begin "Once upon a time"

I had planned on producing an annotated version of Sen. Jeff Sessions' (Nutjob-AL) little op-ed in the WaPo but thought - why bother?

But if you want to read the bedtime fairy tale Paris Hilton was raised on - be my guest.

I'm just assuming he wrote it with a straight face.

Army Manual to Skip Geneva Detainee Rule
The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

The decision could culminate a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department fiercely opposes the military's decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the Defense Department officials acknowledged.
Sweet Jesus.

I never signed on to be a citizen of a rogue nation.

Rumsfeld needs to be behind bars, now. before he causes any more trouble.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Eyeballs and a job

As soon as I get my eye problems straightened out, I'll be pounding the pavement looking for a full-time job. I go back to the doctor next Friday, and get to tell him the procedure required by the insurance company (hoping to avoid paying for surgery) - didn't work.

I think I can keep one of my two part-time jobs, but it remains to be seen if I can keep both.

One thing I AM sure of - I will be keeping my job as housekeeper, cook, chief bottle washer, Chihuahua herder, errand-runner, sporadic blogger, and all the other stuff involved with "wife and mother".

But it's not very heartening to read this:
Adding to the weakness in the payroll picture: job gains for both March and April were lowered. Employers actually added 126,000 new jobs in April, instead of the 138,000 previously reported. For March, employment grew by 175,000, rather than 200,000.
Not too encouraging to someone who requires a job with a high salary, excellent health insurance, a dollar-for-dollar matching 401K, no responsibility, flexible hours, and several months of vacation time (with pay).

Know where I can get one of those jobs?

Oh, yeah.

Through a Glass Darkly

I don't know anything about Ken Mayland, president of Clear View Economics, but I'm wondering which planet he lives on.

From the Christian Science Monitor -
"Wages are accelerating. I think that's a good thing," says Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics in Pepper Pike, Ohio. "But what the [Federal Reserve] will worry about is that these wage increases will just get caught up in more price increases."

That hasn't happened yet. But once a spiral starts, it can be hard to stop.
If you've had a substantial, meaningful wage acceleration, it can only mean you're a top corporate executive or member of Congress.

A 'spiral'? Would that include exploding fuel prices, ballooning health care costs, more and more employers dumping health care insurance and pension costs on employees?

Have you looked at the price of a loaf of bread and gallon of milk lately? How about the higher cost of borrowing money and the bargain-basement interest on savings accounts?

As Joshua Holland of AlterNet said in January, 2006 - "Why are folks so pessimistic about our boom-boom American economy? Because for most of us, it's painful to live in."

If there are any economists or Bush administration flunkeys out there who make less than a hundred grand a year, pay for their own gasoline, and do the household grocery shipping, I'd sure like to hear about them.

Friday critter blogging

On photo safari through the wilds of the Collective Sigh household, our intrepid photographer hacks her way through dense piles of clutter and stumbles upon this brace of Chihuahua desidiosus goofus, lounging in their favored environment.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

You knew it all along, didn't you?

Grand Theft Election 2004

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