Monday, July 31, 2006

You know the health care system is broken when...

More companies outsourcing health care
After going overseas to outsource everything from manufacturing to customer services, American businesses — pressed by rising health-care costs — are looking offshore for medical benefits, as well.

More employers who fund their own health insurance plans are looking into sending their ailing employees overseas for surgeries that in the United States would cost tens of thousands of dollars more.

In September Carl Garrett of Leicester, N.C., will fly to a state-of-the-art hospital in New Delhi, India, for surgeries to remove gallstones and to fix a worn rotator cuff. His employer, Canton, N.C.-based Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc., will pay for it all, including airfare for Garrett and his fiancee. When he returns, the company will give Garrett a share of the expected savings, up to $10,000.

“I think it is a great thing,” said Garrett, a 60-year-old technician. “Maybe it will drive down prices (of surgeries) here in the U.S.”
Don't bet on it, Carl.

More likely, the Bush administration will make it illegal to take health care dollars out of the country. Hurts the American health insurance industry, doncha see?


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Short takes

As my vision improves, one of the joys is rubbing it in to Mr. Andante that I can read fine print without resorting to reading glasses.

After the surgery, I was sent home with a little 'surgical kit' which contained various drops to be placed in my eyes four times daily...little tiny sample-sized bottles of an antibiotic, a steroid, an anesthetic, and a supply of artifical tears.

One of them quite clearly says "Made in Canada" - something the Bush administration tells me is dangerous to my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

I wonder what they would say about the bottle that reads "Made in Ireland".


Speaking of fine print...a conservative group founded by Dick Armey and the flat-tax, anti-global warming crowd is in trouble for selling health insurance policies.

Looking for a tax-free medical savings account at a low group rate? Citizens for a Sound Economy has a deal for you - if you don't mind paying the conservative organization's membership dues, appearing on their mailing list, and inflating their membership rolls.

The group has collected more than $638,040 over 5 1/2 years in monthly checks for "association fees" from unwitting applicants.

There's just one problem even the fine print doesn't disclose - the group isn't mentioned in the fine print -
"The certificates of insurance issued to class members, despite the clear language contained therein, did not disclose the identity of the Group Policyholder of the group policy, despite the fact that each putative insured must 'join' and pay money to such group as a condition of obtaining the insurance," the suit's motion for class certification states."

Fresh from voting against the Paris Hilton Emergency Aid Bill, U.S. Congressman Mel Watt (D-NC12) returns to his district for a "Trading Places" week, something that should be a required activity for all representatives.

On Monday, July 31st, Mel will be assisting at a community hearing clinic with hearing screenings in the morning, and will spend the afternoon at the High Point library as the "Weekly Reader" for children aged 4 through 8 in the Children's Room.

On Tuesday morning, it's over to Greensboro, NC to work as a student in the Welfare Reform Liaison Project's training program, then hop over to the YWCA to erve as a Mentor in the P.R.I.D.E Program, a series of youth self-awareness and conflict resolution classes.

A Tuesday afternoon dash over to Winston-Salem will find Mel 'trading places' with an information specialist at the Transportation Center (bus station).

And so it goes for the week. Rep. Watt will be 'trading places' at a community college, a homeless shelter, and an Hispanaic resource center plus holding town meetings all over his constituency.

I'd give a full day's pay to see some of the more Neanderthalically-inclined representatives work that schedule.


Happy Medicare Day! On this day in 1965 Medicare was first passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Former President Harry S. Truman was the first person to enroll in Medicare and receive a Medicare card.

On this day in 2006, many seniors find Bills Soar As Many Hit Gap in Drug Plan, the infamous "doughnut hole" created by the Republican-sponsored Part D fiasco.

As Harry Truman said -"I remember when I first came to Washington. For the first six months you wonder how the hell you ever got here. For the next six months you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got here".

Harry must be spinning in his grave.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Drug Makers Pay for Lunch as They Pitch
Anyone who thinks there is no such thing as a free lunch has never visited 3003 New Hyde Park Road, a four-story medical building on Long Island, where they are delivered almost every day.

On a recent Tuesday, they began arriving around noon. Steaming containers of Chinese food were destined for the 20 or so doctors and employees of Nassau Queens Pulmonary Associates. The drug maker Merck paid the $258 bill.
Boy, am I naive - but I bet a lot of other patients are, too.

I've been in a doctor's office around lunchtime when the caterer rolled in - and I thought "How nice; the doctors are treating their hard-working staff to lunch".

Sealing the deal for me - the brand name presciption rip-off.

Mr. Andante and I take seven types of prescription drugs every day. Full price - about $600 per month.

Some months ago, I asked the family doctor if we could switch to generic brands. I happen to know there are generic substitutes out there manufactured by established, reputable companies. We could decrease our cost to less than $100 per month (full price) and less than $60 per month under our health insurance plan.

The doctor reluctantly agreed we could make the switch - BUT - (you knew there was a 'but', didn't you?) - we would have to be tested monthly for liver and kidney function, yada-yada.

The cost of monthly labs would make generics prohibitively expensive.

Damn them; damn them all. They get a free lunch; we get the bill and then some.

Friday critter blogging

Pippin, all dressed up in his leash and harness, displaying a moment of obedience.

Randy demonstrates the Omniscient Sphinx Pose

Trouble prefers the popular Roast Turkey Position.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not cutting and running

I believe it's called "circling the wagons" -
President Bush broadly outlined a plan to increase U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad during Tuesday's visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But little detail was provided.

Officials said it would involve shifting some U.S. forces to the capital from other locations in the country. There were about 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on Thursday, and about 30,000 were in Baghdad prior to the new plan.

Assembling more troops and armor in Baghdad is aimed at calming violence that has only increased in the capital since mid-June, when al-Maliki launched the city's biggest security crackdown since the U.S.-led invasion.
Hey, it always worked for John Wayne, didn't it?

The pause that refreshes

I'm with Pissed Off Patricia - there's so much death, destruction, ignorance, and ugliness going on in this world lately that I need to wrench my mind away.

Nature always helps -

Autumn woods in Spearfish, South Dakota; photo by my favorite travelogue photographer, Judy Giberson, taken on Oct. 1, 2004. Judy is recuperating from emergency open-heart surgery; best wishes to her for a full recovery. We need more beauty in our lives, and people like Judy are to be treasured for bringing it to us.

Spell check hell

I'm certainly no queen of the spelling bee, but misspelling does irk me. I've made my share of goofs for all the world to see, though I like to think most of them have been more the result of fumble-fingers rather than ignorance.

However, I can find sympathy for TextTrust, a company that sells spell check software for websites.

TextTrust found themselves in the awkward position of correcting their latest news release -
(TextTrust) re-released a Tuesday news release to correct a mistake that listed the most common spelling errors on "the 16 million we (sic) pages it has spell checked over the past year."
Take heart, guys - I doubt there's an organization anywhere that hasn't done something similar.

My two personally witnessed favorites?

Number two - the local high school sign that read "Congradulatins Class of 2000".

A 'clever' play on 'graduate' with a shortage of "o's"? You be the judge.

Number one - the Christmas carol service bulletin with the printed lyrics of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (and no, I didn't do it, thank goodness) -
"Sing, choirs of angels,
Sin in exultation..."
A spell check program wouldn't have caught that one, either.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Do a lady a favor

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes; surgery is over and done with, and I'm climbing back to what passes for normal.

Are you considering a quick and easy surgery for vision correction? Don't choose PRK - go with LASIK, if you qualify.

I didn't undergo PRK with vision correction as the prime directive, and it will probably be weeks (if not months) before my vision stabilizes. At the moment, six days after surgery, my vision is still blurry but improving. My doctor estimates three weeks before things start showing real improvement.

But I spent about two-and-a-half days unable to open my eyes due to severe light sensitivity and irritation...and that was the norm for this surgery.

I've always considered myself a tough old bird when it comes to pain - after all, I toughed out an unplanned natural childbirth. Like guilt-producing mothers the world over, I remind my kid of it frequently. I also remained conscious through a spinal tap and lived to tell about it. What could be worse?

Looking straight at the sun for about 60 hours would be worse, and that's about what it has felt like after this surgery. It was an incredible relief to wake up Saturday morning and finally open my eyes without pain.

But I feel totally out of it! I've been away from the internets for what feels like an eternity.

What have I missed?

Are there any great posts or on-line essays that you especially enjoyed in the last several days? Please leave me a link in comments and help me catch up.

You know what I like - everything. Humor, pictures of cute kitties, news on the latest GOP felonies, history, vacation pictures, analysis of current events, stupid preacher tricks, etc.

Please help me catch up on life by blogwhoring at will or leave a link to something you've especially enjoyed. It may take a while for me to check it out, but you'll get a big 'thank you', a big, sloppy cyber-smooch, and the satisfaction of helping a lady in distress.


Saturday, July 22, 2006


Made it through surgery fine, but am too light-sensitive to post more than this.

Post-op checkups have been good.

More soon.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Surgery tomorrow


Most likely, light or no blogging for a few days while my eyeballs heal.

Part of my pre-and-post op instructions read:
"Thoroughly vacuum and dust your environment before surgery"

"Avoid dusty environments for 10 days after surgery"
(Please give me a moment to stop laughing)

Song lyrics often jump into my brain, and this one seemed appropriate -

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

So I spend the rest of the day waltzing around with dustcloth, vacuum cleaner, and the cat brush - fighting an unbeatable foe.

Which reminds me; here's the main culprit for most of the eyeball-irritating junk floating around this joint:

Please consider that your early Friday cat blogging.

I hope to be back by the beginning of next week.

The National Embarrassment on the loose again

You might expect participants in a G-8 summit to act with a little dignity.

You might be wrong.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ambushed by Back-Massager-In-Chief.

Update: C&L has video here


Monday, July 17, 2006

Everyone in the pool

Hot as blazes here....

Two polar bears cool off in their pool at the North Carolina Zoo.
For the record

I've long been an ardent supporter of Israel. But also for the record, I think the current military mission (or what passes for it) is incredibly stupid. Olmert has never impressed me as particularly astute, and now it looks like he's let the uber-hawks in the IDF out of their cage.

For some reason, that situation sounds so familiar.....

Everything is under control

Paintballers Plotted World Takeover
How did the group show up on the FBI's radar? It's unclear, but from the Miami Herald's reporting of the hearing, it sounds like the group's leader, Narseal Batiste, went down to his local 7-11 to "obtain financial and military support." I'm not kidding.

He eventually got a lot of promises from another FBI informant for guns, boots and $50,000 in cash. But the lawyer for one of Batiste's followers says Batiste, who used to "roam the streets" in a bathrobe, was just scamming the informant because he was hard up for money.
Next up?

Perhaps a war on pie-throwers and please, PLEASE let's sic Homeland Security and the FCC on streakers.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Hopeful Middle East move
Lebanese critics as well as allies of Hezbollah insist that the Israeli response was disproportionate. But at the same time, in meetings Thursday, Lebanese officials began to lay the groundwork for an extension of government control to southern Lebanon. Hezbollah largely controls southern Lebanon, where it has built up a network of schools, hospitals and charities.
For once, I have to agree with the Preznit; Israel has a right to defend herself.

But she has to walk a very, very fine line and allow the elected government some breathing room.

Reining in the militias, factions, tribes, etc. - that's the key; not only in Lebanon, but in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the entire Middle East.

Well-meaning advice

Republicans often offer 'advice' to Democrats; in the same spirit, I'd like to suggest something in return.

The GOP should really consider running Katherine Harris as a presidential candidate.

She's truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Report: Harris tried to implicate Scarborough in intern's death
..It was Joe Scarborough, host of the prime-time MSNBC show Scarborough Country and a former Pensacola Republican congressman who was courted last summer by national Republicans to run against Harris. But before he could announce he wouldn't, Harris called major donors and suggested Scarborough would have to answer questions about the strange death of a former staff member in 2001, according to two former high-level Harris staff members, a GOP donor and Scarborough.
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' third Senate campaign manager has resigned, citing the candidate's "increasingly erratic behavior and counterproductive, damaging statements."

"It became unmanageable, unhealthy, uncontrollable," said Glenn Hodas, who became campaign manager in April.

He said four other key staffers were also leaving.
She really IS a treasure.

Friday Grandpuppy Blogging

Pippin - about 4 months old

The best things in life are free.

Like indulgent grandparents everywhere, I get to babysit my grandpuppy for several days and I don't even have to pay for the privilege.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Death of democracy

If "the president is always right", why the hell do we have a Justice Department?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Real education reform

YDD has a good post detailing one of the many useless 'efforts' by yet another political hack/Bush cabinet appointee (Education Secretary Margaret Spellings) to track students through the higher educational system.

You want to see that students go through high school and beyond successfully?

Here's how you do it.

Let's face it - not all teenagers are 'college material', whatever that means. Every parent would like to think their child is a genius and will set the academic world on fire - but higher education just isn't for everyone, nor is success in life necessarily determined by a string of degrees.
Chad Lewis is a burly 18-year-old with a passion for engines. In an ordinary high school, that passion might have distracted him from required courses in history, English and math. But Lewis has spent the past two years on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., where he's been studying hydraulics, suspension and electrical systems as well as more-traditional high-school subjects. Along with receiving his high-school diploma, he's in line to get an associate's degree—the equivalent of two years of college—in heavy equipment and transport technology. What that means, says Lewis, is that he is qualified to fix "anything with a diesel." What it also means, says math teacher Marsha Jensen, is that "he'll be making more money than I will."
There are many, many careers that pay well and provide personal satisfaction yet don't require four or more very expensive years at a university. As an added bonus, many of those career choices are non-outsource jobs - occupations that can't be palmed off to a lower-paid worker on the other side of the world.
(North Carolina Governor Mike) Easley's plan calls for a network of "early college" high schools, like the one in Jamestown, that will eventually give every student in the state the chance to get two years of college by the time they graduate. He calls them Learn and Earn schools, to emphasize that more education means a bigger paycheck. He's also pushing to create new small, career-themed schools—emphasizing subjects like engineering, science or business—within larger high schools. The goal of both efforts is to make sure all students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in college or the workplace.
The program is still in it's infancy, but this is easily the most promising restructuring of secondary education I've seen in my lifetime. As Chad Lewis, the aspiring diesel mechanic says - "Lewis just wants a job that allows him to "be hands-on, get dirty, go home, take a shower and feel good about what I do each day."

Whether you get dirty or not, what more can anyone wish for out of their career?


Monday, July 10, 2006

All hail Captain Jack Sparrow, stealth evangelist

In Peril of Our Souls: Theological Considerations from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
"Funny what a man will do to forestall final judgment." G.K. Chesterton? Soren Kierkegaard? Nope, Captain Jack Sparrow, bon vivant of the Black Pearl, desperate lover of his own hide, and armchair seminary professor in one of this summer's most explicitly theological action comedies. Okay, so there may not be too many theologically explicit action comedies this summer, but that does not undercut the surprising opportunity posed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to discuss the state of your soul.


The second of a three-part story, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest doesn't provide all the answers (it must be saving them for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End due out next May), but it does ask some intriguing questions. Following in the footsteps of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which focused on the disintegrating sin of greed, and the need for a blood sacrifice to atone for it, this installment examines the value of the soul. It does so by making sure that all of its main characters imperil theirs. But it also suggests that saving those souls requires sacrifice -- and that is important, for there will someday be a reckoning.

Why waste your time and money on Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or Benny Hinn or other sanctimonious windbags when you can look at Johnny Depp and call it a religious experience?

Hooray for North Carolina

It's called doing the right thing and accentuates the importance of local politics.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The General Assembly has tentatively agreed to raise the minimum wage by a dollar an hour starting in January.

The wage would climb to $6.15 an hour -- the first increase since 1997.

Final approval from the Senate on Monday would send the measure to Gov. Mike Easley, who has said he supports an increase.

The bill took a slight detour earlier Friday when a Senate committee agreed -- then removed -- a lower starting rate for younger workers.

The exception would have let businesses give new workers under 20 years old no less than $4.25 an hour during their first three months of work. That proposal angered legislators and advocates for the poor who have been pushing hard for a broad increase.

The wage hasn't changed from $5.15 an hour since 1997. An increase would help an estimated 139,000 workers.

Looking the other way

I sure hope there's no connection between this - Army reports recruitment numbers way up

...and this - Pentagon Reduced to Recruiting Neo-Nazis
Ten years after Pentagon leaders toughened policies on extremist activities by active duty personnel -- a move that came in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by decorated Gulf War combat veteran Timothy McVeigh and the murder of a black couple by members of a skinhead gang in the elite 82nd Airborne Division -- large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate the ranks of the world's best-trained, best-equipped fighting force. Military recruiters and base commanders, under intense pressure from the war in Iraq to fill the ranks, often look the other way.
Note to military recruiters and base commanders - looking the other way is NOT serving your country.


Friday, July 07, 2006

More! More! More!

Iowa Democrat: Don't trust GOP on Social Security
"If the Republican plan is allowed to pass, future generations both here and across the country will be saddled with decades of debt and no guaranteed retirement security," Bruce Braley said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.


Braley said Social Security is under attack, with President Bush and congressional Republicans making privatization a top priority in 2007. He also accused the Bush administration of "plundering the Social Security trust fund while giving billions away to special interests, like big oil."

"They are spending the money seniors rely on while making no effort to balance the budget or protect the limited funds we have for retirement security," he said.
Remember all those masses demanding Social Security privatization?

Neither do I.

Let the Rubber Stamp GOPers prattle on demonizing sex, taking away women's rights, kowtowing to Big Oil and Big Pharma, deifying the flag, and staying the course.

Those are positions that will go down in flames.

Keeping Social Security just, fair, and available to all is just one of many winning issues for Democrats.

Friday Cat Blogging

The Collective Sigh home security system.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I wish I could say I grew it, but my tomatoes are still small, green, and hard as a rock. A kind friend bestowed this lovely specimen upon me.

A little salt, a little pepper.....
The Return of Cat Food Blogging

After killing off my kid's fish, it behooved me to thoroughly clean the aquarium and start over.

Yes, I used plain water - no detergent. Just because my uncle used Clorox on his aquarium doesn't mean it runs in the family.

After a 48-hour tank cycle, the new residents explore their new home -

T-plus-one hour; so far they're all still living.

There's also a small plecostomus behind the rock. They tend to hide, and I don't blame them. If I were that butt-ugly, I'd hide, too.

Planning for the worst
President Bush said Thursday it is hard to read North Korea's motives in firing a missile with the potential to hit the United States or Canada, but said the U.S. cannot afford to misjudge the situation.

"I think we've got to plan for the worst and hope for the best," Bush said.
Thankfully, it looks like George Bush is only the second most incompetent Dear Leader on the planet.

Hoping for the best is always good, but if Katrina and Iraq are an example of the Bush administration's planning for the worst - we're so screwed.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Compare and contrast

(Click 'Compare and contrast' for larger view)
Dot connecting

Juan Cole -
For most Iraqis, honor is bound up in the chastity of their women, at least in public, and a foreigner raping an Iraqi girl is a profound humiliation for the entire country. This matter is not going to go away quietly and if the Bush administration thinks it is just a matter of disciplining unruly troops, it has another think coming. Entire colonial empires have been shaken by such incidents in the past.
LA Times - U.S. Sees Possible Links Between Incidents in Iraq
The U.S. military is investigating whether the kidnapping, killing and mutilation of two American soldiers was carried out in retaliation for an alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by another member of the same unit three months earlier, a military official said Tuesday.

The incidents occurred in nearby towns and the soldiers involved were in the same unit. The bodies of the two American soldiers and at least one Iraqi were mutilated. A third U.S. soldier was killed during the kidnapping of his comrades.
Bryan called it on Sunday, and this will NOT go away nor will BushCo be able to spin it away as they tried to do when blaming the kidnapping and mutilations on al-Queda.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How magnanimous!

House GOP leaders say vote on minimum wage now likely
With Democrats plotting to make the minimum wage a major issue in this fall's congressional races, House Republican leaders are conceding that they may have to yield to pressure for an increase to the federal standard, which has been frozen for nearly a decade.

Faced with elections that could cost them control of Congress, John A. Boehner, the House majority leader, acknowledged Thursday that Republican leaders are likely to reverse course and hold a vote on a proposed minimum wage increase. Though Boehner said it was a ``cynical ploy" for Democrats to make it a campaign centerpiece, polls indicate that voters clearly favor an increase in the wage, and Boehner acknowledged that GOP leaders are ``probably going to have to find some way to deal with it."

A week earlier, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, all but ruled out allowing a vote on the matter, saying an increase is ``very bad economic policy."
Let's see - flip-flopping on conservative economic principles for political gain is good?

And urging the decent, moral thing for American workers is a 'cynical ploy'?

Independence Day 2006

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

No question of 'the brave'.

The free?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It worked so well the first time
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his aides "really think they can do this on the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the adversary," the official told the magazine.
The problem with this quote is that it's not from several years ago and it's not about Iraq.

It's from July 2006, and it's about Iran.

Happy July Second

Many folks might consider July 2nd as a 'run-up" to July Fourth, but July 2nd is no less momentous in history.

Consider -

1776 - The Continental Congress passed a resolution saying that "these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States."

1777 - Vermont became the first American colony to abolish slavery.

1788 - The Constitution of the United States of America went into effect after nine states ratified it.

1839 - Africans on the Cuban schooner Amistad rose up against their captors, killing two crewmembers and seizing control of the ship, which had been transporting them to a life of slavery on a sugar plantation at Puerto Príncipe, Cuba.

1881 - Only four months into his administration, President James A. Garfield was shot at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot in Washington, D.C.; he died in September from his wounds.

1890 - Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act.

1900 - The second modern Olympic Games opened in Paris.

1937 - Aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first round-the-world flight at the equator.

1947 - A purported Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. This report has been the subject of controversy ever since.

1955 - "The Lawrence Welk Show" premiered on television.

1964 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964; it was sweeping legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and education, and outlawing racial segregation in public facilities.

1908 - Birth of Thurgood Marshall, first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

1566 - Death of Nostradamus, French physician and astrologer.

1961 - Death of Ernest Hemingway, American novelist and short-story writer.

1997 - Death of Jimmy Stewart, American actor.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

....and the winner is....

The winner of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's National Anthem Poll is....

(drum roll)

Flower of Scotland

(you can click here to listen to all the contenders, including my choice, "Scotland the Brave).
The announcement of the winner was made at the RSNO Last Night of the Scottish Power Proms at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 1 July. Votes were cast from every continent apart from Antarctica. The majority of votes were from the UK, but a significant number responded from the USA, Canada and from remote locations such as Mongolia, New Caledonia and Christmas Island.RSNO Chief Executive, Simon Woods said: “I am thrilled that the RSNO has been able to use its position as Scotland’s national orchestra to propel forward the debate on a new national anthem for Scotland.”
I must say, the lyrics do a fair job of sticking it to the English - those 'flowers' being the Scottish army that gave King Edward the First's army a shellacking at Bannockburn.

But I still like "Scotland the Brave".


WaPo May, 2006 - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a cardiac surgeon, examines Kuja, a gorilla at the National Zoo, for signs of heart disease. (By Graham Wells)

R.I.P. Kuja
July 1, 2006 -A 23-year-old western lowland gorilla at the National Zoo died Saturday as a team of veterinary specialists tried to implant a cardiac device, officials said.

"He went into heart failure and we do not yet know the cause of that," said Dr. Suzan Murray, chief veterinarian of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo.

Non-American Americans

Flooded and Forgotten (Salon) asks a loaded question - when was the last time you heard of large-scale homeowner's insurance denials plus ten-month (and counting) delays in cleanpup in California or Tornado Alley or other areas suffering from natural disasters?
I am from a state where fault lines run everywhere -- where earthquakes have destroyed cities that were then rebuilt, where wildfires obliterate communities nearly every year, where mudslides take out houses in upscale beach towns again and again. In California, people are reimbursed by insurance companies, and then they rebuild in the same places, over and over. La Conchita, buried by mud in a horrific slide in 2004, will see new homes on the same slope. Scripps Ranch and other San Diego neighborhoods erased by wildfires in 2004 have already risen from ash. The Oakland hills, devastated in 1991 by one of America's most costly and destructive fires, are covered with houses again.

All over America, people rebuild homes that lie in tornado paths, on fault lines, near levees and rivers and dams, in forested areas prone to periodic wildfires. How can it be, these Louisianians asked me, with fury or fervent prayer or sighs of resignation, that our state and people are worth less to the country? "We don't feel like Americans," I heard again and again, and I was reminded of the plaintive cries to television reporters during Katrina's floods -- "I'm a citizen of America! Not a refugee!"

I tried to visualize my own modest neighborhood in Southern California still filled with debris 10 months after an earthquake, still without power or water or markets or schools or libraries. And me, with my three daughters, in a small trailer. Nearly a year? And no one to even tow away the cars, or cut up the fallen trees?
Nobody could realistically expect New Orleans and the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast to be rebuilt to it's former glory in ten months, but how long should it take to tow away damaged cars or cut and haul off damaged trees?

Anyone still looking for weapons of mass destruction should look no further than the Gulf Coast. Another hurricane - heck, even a good stiff breeze - could turn all that debris into deadly ammunition.


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