Monday, November 29, 2004

Wal-Mart shares fall on poor holiday sales

Shares in Wal-Mart fell more than three per cent in New York on Monday, after the giant discount retailer cut its forecast for November sales growth to just 0.7 per cent, citing poor performance over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The world's largest retailer had estimated November growth of 2 to 4 per cent just 10 days ago. But Wal-Mart revised its estimates down on Saturday evening after disappointing sales on “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving - so called because it is traditionally the time retailers move into profit for the year. It is an indicator of spending for the holiday season, when a quarter of annual retail sales are rung up.

On the other hand, Mr. Andante makes components for upholstered furniture - middle to high end stuff. They have orders coming out of their ears, and are working with the pedal to the metal to keep up.

What this tells me is that folks who don't have to worry about the basics - like gasoline, food, and the electric bill - are buying furniture for new homes or doing some redecorating.

The rest of us are browsing at Wal-Mart (notice the full parking lots) for bargains, but aren't able to afford the discounted stuff.

When Wal-Mart's holiday sales are off, it's time to push the economic panic button. Which probably means another tax cut for the wealthy coming down the road.

Two Americas, indeed.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Spare a kind thought for Chrismas Spirit Makers

This is the time of year I normally come close to a nervous breakdown.

Not just because there are so many gifts I want to give but can't afford; not just because the weather generally gets stinky, or just because the crowds and traffic increase dramatically.

It's because I'm a Christmas Spirit Maker.

So are all those who put up with crowds of impatient Christmas shoppers; trying to help find the right size or color, or informing the 3,729th frantic parent that no, the hot toy of the season is sold out. At least their Frantic Season doesn't begin until around Halloween.

If you've ever enjoyed or been moved or inspired by a Christmas carol service, it's people like poor, pitiful me that make it possible. I'm the music director at a church.

Every year on the Sunday before Christmas, we have a community carol service. The minister reads the Christmas story - King James version - the choir sings several anthems, and everyone joins in to sing the old, familiar carols. Instrumentalists from our church and the surrounding community chip in on trumpets, trombones, clarinets, flutes, handbells, violins, etc., and a fine time is had by all.

I start preparing in July. There are choral anthems to choose, instrumentalists to persuade, music to arrange, publicity releases to the newspapers, flowers and decorations, programs to print, refreshments afterwards, rehearsals, and so forth.

I'm pretty good at delegating as many of these chores as possible, but there's still a lot only I can do.

And while all this is going on, there's still the usual services and rehearsals to attend to.

Preceeding the carol service is a Living Nativity by the little children of the church. I'm always frantically busy elsewhere, but I try to sneak a peek at the spectacle.

Living in a rural area, we have ample access to livestock. There are always some sheep and goats involved, a donkey or two, and sometimes cattle. The only thing we're short on is young children who can keep their hands off the livestock.

There's nothing like a nativity scene when the 6-yr-old Virgin Mary - who is supposed to be staring lovingly at the baby (doll) Jesus - tries to pull the goat's tail. Or when one of the Wise Men in oversized robe and cardboard crown decides he wants to ride the donkey.

Last year, the pricelessly beautiful child playing the "Christmas angel" popped up behind the manger, flung out her arms, and hollered her own fanfare - "TA DAH!"

I'll have ample legions of young mothers to handle that part, so I dash back inside to do some major-league, under-the-breath swearing.

Where are the teenagers who are supposed to pass out the programs? Close the damn door - the candles are blowing out!!! Where are my altos?

Will my tenor soloist forget everything I've taught him and sing "Ave Maria" with his deep & thick Southern accent? Oh, hell - I forgot the 3rd clarinet's revised music.

Is it December 26th yet?

So, if posting is light or non-existent, you'll know the back story. I'm either busy with Christmas Spirit Making, or I'm curled up in a fetal position, screaming "I should have started in June!"


Saturday, November 27, 2004

This short-sheeting is no practical joke

From Soldiers For The Truth

When I first heard about the bedsheet cutbacks a couple of months ago, I thought it was some weird practical joke: To save money, a local Navy base planned to end a longstanding practice where staff housekeepers washed and replaced the sheets and pillowcases in the Bachelor Officers Quarters. Henceforth, a bunch of single ensigns and lieutenants were being banished to the local laundromat.

Now I know better. This was no joke – instead, it was a precursor of the oncoming train wreck.

The defense train wreck.

The military infrastructure is collapsing.

***barring a turnabout in new ship construction rates, the sea service is vanishing before our very eyes as the size of the fleet steadily declines from about 300 ships to a projected level of 120 in the next two decades

***multiple problems of deployment “overstretch” and unit manning woes that have occurred by shoving a 10-division ground force into a 20-division wartime operational requirement

***options for dealing with the shortage of Army officers available for staff duty in Iraq and Afghanistan include stretching the 12 month tour to 179 days and pulling officers from the 1-year Army War College degree program before the year is up

If Dubya wants to continue playing army, he's going to have to come up with a lot of money fast.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Ukrainian police join protests

Ukrainian police have sided in droves with opposition protests against the conduct of last weekend's presidential election and a feared crackdown on the demonstrators has not been carried out.

Good for them. Is the beacon of democracy shifting from the United States fo the Ukraine?

I only wish we'd had the courage, gumption, and leadership to do this back in 2000.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Chief of U.S. Prisons in Iraq Is Reassigned

The two-star Army general who ran the U.S. military prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and later took over the U.S. military prison system in Iraq has been reassigned to a senior staff job in the Pentagon.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller will be the Army's assistant chief of staff for installation management, with responsibility for housing, environmental and other support operations at Army bases. Miller ran the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay from the fall of 2002 to last spring.

In August 2003, Miller was sent to Iraq to advise on the screening of detainees, their interrogations and the collection of intelligence. Among his recommendations was that military police be actively involved in "setting the conditions" for successful interrogations.

The inmate abuse at Abu Ghraib prison took place mainly in October and November 2003, shortly after Miller's visit. He has not been blamed for the abuse. In March, he was sent back to Iraq as a deputy commander in charge of prison operations.

Replacing Miller in Iraq will be Maj. Gen. William H. Brandenburg.

Reading an officer's biography isn't my forte'; however, I don't see anything in Brandenburg's bio indicating any sort of experience with military police, criminal justice, or intelligence.

Thankful on Thanksgiving

It's been a tough year for us, what with Mr. Andante losing his job, getting another quickly, but having to take a big cut in salary. But we haven't filed for bankruptcy...yet...so I'm thankful for that.

Things may change if the federal government doesn't rein in the rampaging, extortionate interest rates charged by lenders, but we'll worry about that another day.

Most of all, I am always thankful on Thanksgiving that I don't have to host the family Thanksgiving dinner.

Between Mr. Andante's five brothers and sisters and their spouses plus his mother, uncles, aunts, nephews, cousins, and so forth - it gets past the "dinner" stage into something resembling all-you-can-eat-for-free at an African refugee camp.

My sister-in-law and her husband host the banquet. They are childless, have good jobs, and a big house. Her claim to fame is vacuuming her entire house twice a day.

I am sure she would have a nervous breakdown if anyone spilled anything on their floor, so they clear the garage (also spotless) and set up long tables and folding chairs.

Everybody brings something edible, with many duplications and leftovers enough to feed the local homeless shelter.

Last year, someone at one end of my table called out "Pass me a roll!", and someone at the other end obliged. I was in the middle, and got hit in the head with a flying roll.

We are not very formal, and I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for football games, which will keep me from getting into politics with my two ignorant Republican nephews and the sister-in-law and her husband who got scared into voting for Bush by their sorry excuse for a preacher.

Small blessings, but I'm thankful for them.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Wrong Reverend Falwell needs to get out more often

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals ... These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it, and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem."

Obviously, the Wrong Reverend either isn't listening or he's just hearing the voices in his head.

As a card-carrying member of N.O.W. - which Jerry refers to as the "National Order of Witches", I know many members of the organization.

First of all, if we were witches, he would have been turned into a toad long ago.

Secondly, most of us like men; we like men quite a lot. We mainly get mad at them when they say stupid stuff, like the above quote.

Thirdly, many of us already have a man in the house. Men that are confident enough in their own skins to respect us. And most of the time, we are the one's who have to tell our men the time of day and lead them home.

If there IS a National Order of Witches - besides the one Ann Coulter heads up - I'm going to join.

I want a part in doing some very unpleasant things to this sorry excuse for a man.

(Link via Atrios)


Monday, November 22, 2004

This bill brought to you by your friendly Republican Congress

Bill Clears Way for Government to Cut Back College Loans

The federal government will be able to require millions of college students to shoulder more of the cost of their education under the new spending bill approved yesterday by the House and Senate.

The government moved to change its formula for college aid last year, but was blocked by Congress. Now, however, no such language appears in the appropriations bill lawmakers are considering, clearing the way for the government to scale back college grants for hundreds of thousands of low-income students.

Nearly 100,000 more students may lose their federal grants entirely, as Congress considers legislation that could place more of the financial burden for college on students and their families.

But, by golly - we'll spend $2 million to buy Dubya a yacht.

The moral values folks are really on a roll.


Emboldened and inspired by YDD's picture of himself from 30 years ago, here is the 19-yr-old Andante, lounging on the sofa during my freshmen year at college.

This picture actually has some historical significance; see that textbook, notebook, and pen? It's probably the closest I ever got to those implements that year.

I am considering a contest for "World's Worst Elementary School Picture", because my 3rd grade picture would win hands down.

Posted by Hello

Who woulda thunk it?

Officers See Need For Bigger Iraq Force; U.S. Assessments Cite Tenacious Resistance

(Of course, some "U.S. assessments" were saying that over a year ago.)

Senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is increasingly likely they will need a further increase in combat forces to put down remaining areas of resistance in the country.


The officers said the exact number of extra troops needed is still being reviewed but estimated it at the equivalent of several battalions, or about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq fell to nearly 100,000 last spring before rising to 138,000, where it has stayed since the summer.

To boost the current level, military commanders have considered extending the stay of more troops due to rotate out shortly, or accelerating the deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is scheduled to start in January. But a third option -- drawing all or part of a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on emergency standby in the United States -- has emerged as increasingly likely.

The world's greatest military power - putting all it's eggs in one bottomless basket.

Brightening the Blogosphere

Lookee here.......Why Now?

If ever anyone needed to share his thoughts with the world, it's Bryan - frequent commenter and friend to many.

Go welcome him, right now!


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Blood from a turnip

Yesterday, we received one of those finer-than-fine print notices that a credit card company will be upping the interest charged from 8.49% to 23.99%.

We've never missed a payment, nor can I recall making a late payment. Apparently, having a good credit rating is worthless these days.

The NY Times takes note -

Soaring Interest Compounds Credit Card Pain for Millions

The practice, called universal default, started after a rash of bankruptcy filings in the mid-to-late 1990's and has increasingly become standard in the industry. While MBNA declined to comment on any specific customer's account, its general counsel, Louis J. Freeh, the former F.B.I. director, said in a statement that it was being prudent by raising rates when it had reason to think the risk of not being repaid had increased.

(Nice to see that Louis Freeh has gone from investigating blow jobs in the Oval Office to helping screw consumers)

Consumer complaints prompted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees the nationally chartered banks that constitute most of the major card issuers, to warn banks about giving fair notice of term changes and about sending out tempting offers to people who are unlikely to qualify for them.

Julie Williams, the acting comptroller, said in an interview that as long as the lenders were not intentionally deceiving their customers, they were free to set whatever rates and fees their home states allow. If customers do not want to pay a particular rate, "they have choice," she said. "They can find another card."


Ms. Williams described her agency as a "tough regulator," but critics contend that the comptroller's office has taken strong action against only one major issuer of credit cards in the last five years.

The comptroller's office has since angered state attorneys general by trying to limit their ability to regulate how national banks behave in their states.

Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, said his office gets "thousands of complaints every year about credit card issues relating to the major banks, the major card issuers." But more often, he said, the banks' response has been that " 'we don't need to deal with you because the O.C.C. has told us - indeed, directed us - not to deal with state enforcement entities.' "

Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School who has been a vocal critic of consumer lenders, said the comptroller's office should do more than express discomfort with the practices of credit card companies, as it did in September.

The regulators did not say that "those are unfair practices, they are unsafe and unsound and don't do them," Ms. Warren said. "Instead, they said it's a problem. Look, if they think it's a problem, then tell the credit card companies to stop doing it."

I know we borrowed the money on our own free will. It's irrelevant that the charges were for things like bald tires and medical emergencies.

I also know the finer-than-fine print specified the rates could rise. Still, these monstrous increases hardly seem ethical or even good business practice.

What's going to happen to folks whose interest rates are jacked up sky-high? Either they file for bankruptcy, or they will do what I've done - cut up the credit cards, negotiate lower rates, pay them off, and swear never again to do business with that company. Ever.

So, here's the Collective Sigh Suggestion Of The Day to all those hot-shot, greedy, lending institution CEO's who I am sure check in hourly for updated posts -

Lower the rates.

Sure, some folks will still pay off their debt and not run up any more, but even more people will continue to keep charging away and fill your coffers with gold for a long, long time to come.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Ship Of Fools

....or Ship For Fools, take your pick.

Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through the House on Saturday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.


A potential boon for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to try buying back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, though its current owners say the yacht is not for sale.


Comment by The Bug Man?

"I'm very proud of the fact that we held the line and made Congress make choices and set priorities, because it follows our philosophy," Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said in House debate.

It certainly does.

The Anti-Sex Party

Obviously, the "social conservatives" are the anti-sex party; in their crusade to outlaw abortion, birth control, and sex education, it's clear the only acceptable sex is that between heterosexual, married couples for the purpose of procreation.

I propose adding another element to their crusade....

Federal, state and local agencies will be barred from providing erectile disfuction information, drugs or procedures to any unmarried, heterosexual male under the age of forty.

Any medical professional, educator, or pharmacist dispensing erectile disfunction information, drugs, or procedures to unmarried, heterosexual males under the age of forty will be immediately shot on sight.

Let the old geezers on Capitol Hill think about THAT.


Friday, November 19, 2004

U.S. President George W. Bush checks his watch during the benediction at the end of the dedication ceremony for the William J. Clinton Presidential Library November 18, 2004 in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

What's so bad about it?

So, the Bush administration is floating the idea of dropping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

Look, we all know that big-hearted, ethical corporations will continue to offer high-quality, low-cost health insurance to their employees even if they can't get a tax break for it.

Don't we?

And just think of all the negotiating power we individuals will have when it comes time for premium increases...that is, if we can afford the policies in the first place.

Knocking off the corporate deduction for employee health insurance would be balanced out by shielding "interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation", among other goodies.

Wow, I can't wait to get that extra ten bucks or so of interest on my pitiful savings account! Why, I'll just gladly buy an individual policy for that kind of windfall!

Our employer-based health insurance stinks to high heaven. But yanking it away from American workers and replacing it with nothing is cruel, immoral, and sadly very, very Republican.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Count me in

Wow - thanks to Atrios for the link to Nick Confessore's great idea - Democratic Party Health Insurance.

I especially like this part -

Note: The Republicans could do it too, creating health care organizations that work the way they think health care should work. Then people could comparison shop the ideas in practice!

While we enjoy the benefits of less paperwork, preventative care, lower costs, and the fruits of stem-cell research, the Republicans can reap the "benefits" of their medical savings accounts (for those who can afford them), faith-healing, and lining the pockets of Big Pharma.

I'm semi-joshing, as usual, and I have no clue how this would work. But the fact remains - we have better ideas. If there's a way to put them in effect, let's go for it.

America's "face to the world"

Dubya has nominated Condi to be our "face to the world", something certain to scare away anyone wishing to do business here or cooperate with us in any way.

Are there more scary faces coming?

According to the LA Times -

Another sign of Bush's views is expected to come soon when he chooses a replacement for Burns as head of the State Department's Bureau of Near East Affairs.

One possible replacement is Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington public policy center. She has been an outspoken advocate of the Iraq war and Israel's interests.

Helena Cobban gives us some instructive low-down on this scary character and what kind of havoc she could wreak in the Middle East -

Pletka is an unbelievable, Ann Coulter-like ideologue of a figure. Or, as the LAT folks put it, more diplomaticlly: "She has been an outspoken advocate of the Iraq war and Israel's interests."

She used to be Jesse Helms's chief foreign-policy aide. At a time in his career, of course, when he was virulently pro-Likud, as opposed to the earlier ophase when he was virulently anti-Semitic.

Here in the Middle East, jaws have dropped on hearing of the possibility of her appointment. In Lebanon she's known as "Mrs. Legs", because of her habit of wearing extremely short mini-skirts to official meetings.

Not at all an appropriate thing to do in Arab or Muslim countries.

Lebanon is one thing. But one person here recalled seeing her wear similarly revealing clothing while walking around Gaza, a place marked by much more social conservatism in matters of dress. Then, when some Gaza men started staring at her, apparently unable to believe their eyes, she harangued them loudly.

This is not trivial, but it's just one sign of the determinedly "in yer face" attitude she takes to Muslims and Arabs on the whole range of issues. Especially, of course, Israeli-Palestinian issues and questions about war and peace in Iraq. Let's hope someone comes up with a better alternative for this job than Pletka.

I can think of about a thousand people without trying hard.

What it all boils down to is that the Bush administration already has shown their face to the world. Dubya needs to look no further than his own household.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004


At least he kissed her first. With Powell.....(supply your own end to that sentence, I'm a lady, dammit, and I don't use that language)


Let this picture be a warning to all Christmas shoppers.

From left to right - five-yr-old Andante, little sister, grandmother, and mother looking at just-opened electric frying pan with something less than pleasure.

She's now 90 years old, and we still haven't heard the end of it.

Posted by Hello


Monday, November 15, 2004

Tiny transmitters to fight counterfeiting

On the one hand, perhaps this will cut down on all the spam I get for Super-Duper Viagra in my e-mail inbox.

On the other hand, it raises some privacy concerns.

On the third hand, it won't exactly decrease the cost of prescription drugs.

On the fourth hand, perhaps the emitted signals from his oxycontin bottle will interfere with all the equipment in Limbaugh's studio and knock him off the air.

A mixed bag, that's for sure.


"What in this world have I ever done to cause ye to treat me this a-way?"

I've been trying to rebuild my long-neglected genealogy database; a hobby that I've enjoyed for nearly twenty-five years. Both my ancestry and Mr. Andante's lines are included - in fact, we're 20th cousins. The database covers about 45,000 individuals, which comes to just about 45,000 stories.

One of the most poignant stories relates to Mr. Andante's 5th cousin - Randolph "Ranel" McCoy. Yep, the real real McCoys.

I've been re-reading "The McCoys: Their Story as Told to the Author by Eye Witnesses and Descendants" by Truda Williams McCoy (Preservation Council Press, Pikeville KY, 1976).

There were wrongs on both sides of the Hatfield-McCoy feud; both were incredibly pig-headed, stubborn, and proud. It's never been determined what exactly started "The Feud"; mainly a combination of several small grievances, aggravated by being on different sides of the Civil War.

But the worst atrocity in my mind was the night of December 31, 1877. The Hatfields were determined to get Randolph McCoy, the McCoy patriarch, once and for all. Fifteen Hatfield men surrounded the McCoy home and opened fire.

By this time, the McCoys had fortified their home fairly well, and the Hatfield's barrage had no effect.

Determined to smoke out old "Ranel", one of the Hatfield boys snuck up to the house and set fire to it.

The McCoys used up all their available supply of water trying to put out the fire, even throwing milk on the flames. There was plenty of water at the well - surely, the Hatfields wouldn't shoot a woman fetching water?

Twenty-nine year old Alifair went to the well to fetch water...Cap Hatfield shot her dead.

Sally McCoy heard her daughter's screams, and went running toward her. Sick and weak from a recent illness, she was determined to confront Cap.

Jim Vance, a Hatfield relation, stepped in her way.

Jim Vance interceded. "Get outen the way, old woman," he ordered.

"I'm a-going to Cap," she said through tight lips. "He has killed my girl." Sally's ashen face wore a look of determination that few had ever seen in the gentle old woman who had always been against fighting.

Jim Vance was in no mood to be fooled with. He did not intend to argue or to be balked by a woman. Swinging his gun barrel, he crashed it down on her hip, and she fell to the ground, breaking her arm.

From her position on the ground, Sally McCoy looked up into the face of her attacker and between moans asked, "What in this world have I ever done to cause ye to treat me this a-way?...In times past, you have stayed all night at my house...and I have cooked your meals. Is this the way ye pay me?"

But this was no time to be reminded of past favors. Seeing the fallen woman so enraged Vance that he cursed roundly and raised blow after blow upon her defenseless body. Then, with a final blow, he crashed her skull with the barrel of his rifle."

As the McCoys escaped their burning home, shots rang out and another son was killed. Sally lived, barely, to suffer the loss of more of her children in the senseless violence between the families.

So...someone please tell me how the above story is any different from this from an AP photographer, trying to escape Fallujah?

"I decided to swim ... but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

When the story of Fallujah gets out - and it will get out - it will enrage people the world over just as the story of the Hatfields and McCoys enraged the country nearly 130 years ago.

And don't try to tell me about the "fog of war". When one human being is planning to take another human being's life, he'd better be damned certain what he's aiming at, orders or no.

Four more cabinet members resign

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has submitted his resignation to President Bush, the White House said today. In addition to Powell, sources said the White House today also will announce the resignations of Education Secretary Rod Paige, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Good riddance. But their replacements could be worse; after all, that fine judge of the human character and soul will be appointing the replacements.

Just guessin', but I assume the following -

Replacing Powell as Secretary of State - anyone who has particularly offended the Arab countries and the rest of the world in general.

Replacing Paige as Education Secretary - someone with strong ties to the home schooling movement.

Replacing Energy Secretary - any oil company CEO.

Replacing Agriculture Secretary - a pesticide company CEO.

But could they can be lured away from the big bucks of private industry? If not, here's a hint for Dubya. You could always recruit from here.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Capital confusion

While I'm glad to hear Bush addressing THE ROOT OF THE TERRORISM PROBLEM (cough, cough, HELLO administration?)- the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I've got to wonder where his head is.

Dubya -

"I think it is fair to say that I believe we've got a great chance to establish a Palestinian state, and I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state."

What a weird thing to say.

Does he mean capital-as-in-dollars? If so, there's a few little things we might need those dollars for here in the good ol' USA.

Or does he mean capital-as-in-credibility? Could he seriously think anyone in the Middle East thinks Bush is a good-faith negotiator?

Or is it just the usual Bush-speak that he imagines sounds "presidential"?

I have no clue; nor do I have much hope Dubya can succeed even without Arafat in the picture.


Friday, November 12, 2004

Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini
24 August 1929 - 11 Nov. 2004

If I were Palestinian, I'd be asking myself two questions now.

Number one - what did this "great leader" ever do for me or my people?

Where are the schools, the hospitals, the roads, the sewage plants? Where are the jobs? Where are the honest judges and police? Where is all that money the world has given to benefit the Palestinian people in the last umpteen years?

Number two - what, exactly, did Bush mean by promising to "spend the capital of the United States" to establish a Palestinian state and secure a lasting peace in the Middle East?

Because if it's the kind of capital he's spending to bring democracy to Iraq, we don't need it.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Grunts through the ages

I urge you to read Michael's excellent post commemorating Veteran's Day and reflecting on his relatives and ancestors who have worn their country's uniform.

It reminded me of Stephen Graves, my great-great-great-great-grandfather.

I've been known to do some incredibly idiotic things in my lifetime without realizing how dangerous or stupid they could be - and I get it from Stephen.

He occasionally fudged his age, just like this descendant. He was born and raised in Massachusetts, and at the age of either 13 or 17 he enlisted with Captain Lillie and Captain Harris' Company, Colonial Knox Regiment of Artillery during the American Revolution.

He was a drummer boy.

I've done some foolhardy things in my life, but I've never marched straight into a line of fire with nothing but a drum and pair of drumsticks to protect myself. Stephen did it, and did it a lot

He was in the battles of Skinesborough, Stillwater, and Saratoga, and present at the surrender of Burgoyne after Gen. Wayne took Stone Point in 1779.

But then he was taken prisoner by the British; not exactly a mark of honor on the British army...I mean, how hard could it be to capture a drummer boy?

He was placed on a prisoner ship, which sailed to Charleston SC. He spent the rest of the war on board ship.

He never returned to Massachusetts, but wandered around the future red states of South Carolina and Tennessee, finally settling down and marrying in eastern Tennessee.

Around 1790, my great-great-great-grandfather Adam was born. At the tender age of 12 (probably fudging his age), Adam accompanied his father to enlist in the 1st Regiment (Wear's), East Tennessee Volunteers. Armed with only their drums and drumsticks, father and son marched off to do their part during the War of 1812.

Both returned safe and sound; Stephen was discharged as a drum major, his son Adam as a private.

Adam's son, Riley Graves (my great-great-grandfather) was another private and another prisoner of war. He fought for the Union - 3rd Tenn. Cavalry., Co. B. He was a "wagoner", and was captured at Athens, Alabama on Sept. 24, 1864. He was imprisoned in Camp Chase, Ohio, and released at the end of the war. According to his service record, he perished in the sinking of the Sultana (a steamship explosion that makes the Titanic look minor).

So ends the saga of my Graves grandfathers and their military exploits. Not very grand or glorious, but typical examples of men who pay the price of our freedom.

A day, er...a week...late and a dollar short

Right in keeping with the way things run around this household, I missed my own one-year "blogiversary" by one week.

As a tribute to that inauspicious beginning and also as a salute to Dubya's Man Date, I'll reprise something from that day (Nov. 5, 2003). It's as timely now as it was then. Maybe more so -


Right hand, holding a gun: "Left hand, I'm going to shoot us in the foot."

Left hand: "What? Don't do that! It'll bleed! It'll hurt!"

Right hand shoots foot.

Right hand: "Holy s**t. Our foot's bleeding."

Left hand: "What the f**k! You just shot us in our foot! Are you f**king out of your mind?"

Right hand: "Why do you bitch all the time? Okay, fine. You're in charge now. What's your great idea?"

Left hand: "What the f**k do you mean? My idea was not shooting us in the foot."

Right hand: "So you don't have a Plan B?"

Left hand: "A plan B? A plan other than not shooting ourselves in the foot? How about this: don't shoot us in the f**king foot?"

Right hand: "So you have no plan B. So really, you just hate our foot, which you demonstrate by taking joy from the fact that your prediction that the foot would be bleeding happened to be correct, though the evidence is still ambiguous. Do you really enjoy being right more than you regret the fact that our foot is bleeding?"

Left hand bangs head against wall.

(Slightly edited. Tip of the hat to Amitava Mazumdar, posting on Calpundit)

Happy Veteran's Day!

Thanks to all those who serve and have served. I am celebrating by watching "The Longest Day" for the umpteenth time, which reminds me how courageous humans can be when confronted with adversity.

And a word to all those who might be considering serving or may be worrying about a draft from Col. David Hackworth -

Now that the election’s over, President Bush needs to deep-six his candidate hat and get serious as commander-in-chief. His first priority should be to hold accountable those defense and intelligence chiefs and their high-level underlings responsible for the many grievous, even criminal, mistakes that have occurred in Iraq on their watch.

Without a constructive critique of what’s gone down in that beleaguered country – a no-holds-barred appraisal that actually changes America’s ill-conceived counterinsurgency direction – we'll be stuck in a protracted struggle that will only get uglier as the terrible weeks, months and years bleed by.


You might want to put off those military career plans for another four years at least.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Note to self

I'm hoping I'll remember to read this a year from now. Or maybe some kind soul will remind me.

One of my favorite things about spring is daffodils. After the cold, wet winter they remind me the world is still turning.

Daffodils are my kind of flower - you shove them in the ground, scrape some dirt over them, and that's it. No pinching, trimming - you don't even have to talk to them if you don't want to.

The only negative thing about daffodils is they have to be planted in the fall. You can't wait until you see them blooming to plop the bulbs in the ground.

So, next year about this time, remember these few things, and it may make the planting experience less stressful:

1) Do not wear your best pair of blue jeans to plant daffodils.

2) You bought too many.

3) Wear a very long shirt that covers your behind when you squat down.

4) It's a good idea to mark the burial sites of long-ago pets.

These things better bloom next spring.

What do you want, blood? Our firstborn children?

I've been reading a lot of posts and comments venting frustration, anger, and even hatred toward the red states.

I'd just like to remind some of those folks that there are a sizable number of progressives in those red states, and many of us worked our butts off trying to get something positive accomplished.

And it so happens we DID score some positive gains on the state and local level. In North Carolina, the Democrats took back the house and retained the governor's seat.

In the 12th District, our superb Representative Mel Watt is positioned to lead the Congressional Black Caucus. A red-stater, baby.

And lest we forget - many red state folks took a realistic look at the country and traveled to blue states - giving up their time and money - to keep YOUR butts blue.

Next time, perhaps some of you in true-blue states might consider coming down here to help out or donate a few coins? It will take a massive truth-squad effort to get through the rightwing BS down here, and that doesn't come cheap.

As a progressive living in a red state, might I suggest this doesn't exactly move the narrative along in a positive manner?

Furthermore....turning back the pages of yesteryear -
Shortly after he signed the Civil Rights Act, Lyndon Johnson told his aide Joseph Califano, “I think we’ve delivered the South to the Republican party for your lifetime and mine.”
LBJ put the future of the Democratic Party on the line by doing the right thing. Do I wish he hadn't done it? Hell, no! We're paying the price, but it's worth it and then some.

LBJ is long gone, but Secretary Califano is still alive and kicking. Maybe it will take his bones in the ground before the Republican Party loosens it's stranglehold on the south.

And he's from New York.

High court asked to weigh right-to-die law

Bush administration wants Oregon statute struck down

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to block the nation’s only law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients die more quickly.

The appeal from Attorney General John Ashcroft had been expected since May, when a lower court ruled the federal government could not punish Oregon doctors who prescribed lethal doses of federally controlled drugs.

Oregon voters approved the law, and since 1998 more than 170 people have used it to end their lives. Most had cancer.

The Bush administration has argued that assisted suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose” and that doctors take an oath to heal patients, not help them die.

I've always hoped someone would love me and value me enough to hasten my death if I'm in excruciating pain that will only end in death.

Like this - Bush dog Spot put to sleep

It's fitting that one of Asscroft's last official acts is one that 1) interferes with the express wishes of the voters and 2) intrudes on privacy.

Note to the Bush administration - in the reality-based community, doctors can't heal everything, and people DO die.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

That old, familiar feeling

Remember the run-up to the Iraq fiasco?

The Bushies were popping up all over the media, agitating for war-war-war. Colin Powell waved satellite photos at the United Nations - we knew exactly where all those weapons were!

All that "evidence" was pretty convincing, and I very very reluctantly figured it all might lead to something. But I had a feeling in my gut we were being snookered.

We were.

And I have that feeling again. Maybe my tinfoil hat is pinching my brain, but I think Bush has stolen another election.

Go ahead, call me whatever you want.

Keith Olbermann seems to be the only media-person with enough grit to talk about it. More stuff at BradBlog and Black Box Voting.

Even if it comes to nothing, we deserve to know if the election was fair and honest.

Dear Planet Earth,

Sorry everybody...


Monday, November 08, 2004

An Old, Sad Story

If you're a southern progressive who wonders why things are the way they are - or if you're not from the south and wonder why things are the way they are....read Digby. I heartily second every word.

But I'll be damned if I know what to do about it.

Operation Phantom Fury

According to CNN, the battle for Fallujah is underway.


I've sure lost track of the number of times we've attacked, pulled back, negotiated, attacked again, etc., etc., and I really don't have the will to figure it out.

Its population was estimated to be 250,000 to 300,000 before warfare escalated in the city earlier this year. Now, it is thought that 50,000 civilians remain.

Military officials say 3,000 to 5,000 insurgents may be inside the city, but they acknowledge many may have slipped away amid widespread reports that an offensive was coming.

Unless my math skills are really bad, that means between 45,000-47,000 civilian, non-insurgents remain in Fallujah.

When all is said and done, I suppose we'll pick through the rubble looking for the remains of Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, the Bush-preferred terrorist of the moment.

As Riverbend says, I'm beginning to wonder if he is like the WMD; another bogey-man to scare the voters.

Everyone here knows Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi isn’t in Falloojeh. He isn’t anywhere, as far as anyone can tell. He’s like the WMD: surrender your weapons or else we’ll attack. Now that the damage is done, it is discovered that there were no weapons. It will be the same with Zarqawi. We laugh here when we hear one of our new politicians discuss him. He’s even better than the WMD- he has legs. As soon as the debacle in Falloojeh is over, Zarqawi will just move conveniently to Iran, Syria or even North Korea.

All we'll be left with is the hatred of millions, our own dead to bury, and the bills to pay.

"Operation Phantom Fury"....perhaps a very appropriate name for the latest offensive?


Friday, November 05, 2004

Analysts Call Outlook For Bush Plan Bleak

Too Much Deficit, Not Enough Revenue

President Bush signaled yesterday that he would add personal investment accounts to the Social Security system, simplify the tax code without raising taxes and cut the budget deficit in half, all before he leaves office in 2009.

Ambitious as those promises are, they may be mathematically impossible, budget and policy analysts say.


But in an independent analysis of that budget, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded it would not fulfill that promise. The deficit in fiscal 2004, which ended Sept. 30, was $413 billion. Under Bush's plan for spending and taxes, the deficit would be $258 billion in 2009. If anything, that may understate the size of the deficit in coming years because it does not include any additional costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon is expected to seek an additional $70 billion early next year.

Moreover, the president's budget does not include the cost of a Social Security reform plan that includes the personal investment accounts Bush is demanding. Under such a plan, workers would be allowed to divert one-third or more of their share of Social Security taxes into stocks, bonds or other investments.

I think we'll retire next year.

I've drawn up a budget, and things look quite rosy as long as we don't figure in our mortgage payments that will go on for another ten years.

And since neither of us will qualify for Medicare in the near future, we'll have to purchase private policies. But we won't count that in the budget either.

We eat too much anyway. Budgeting for "food" is for girlie-men.

Yes, indeed; things look quite rosy.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

We've got 'em where we want 'em

Back when Mr. Andante was 20 years younger and at least that many pounds lighter, he was a pretty good softball player on his company team. You could count on him for a solid base hit or double to left field, and he could play any position.

One fateful game, he gave a mighty Casey-type swing of the bat, and his cleats got stuck on something. His knee shattered with a sound like a gunshot, and I actually saw another big, strapping fellow throw up at the sound.

Always a team player, Mr. Andante sat on the bench at all the subsequent games, with his leg in a big (useless) brace, cheering on the team.

One memorable game, our team was behind by 10-0. And I heard my Dearly Beloved holler "Let's go, boys - we've got 'em where we want 'em!".

I've never been sure exactly what he meant, and neither has he. Our team actually came back from the ashes to make it 10-9. But we're optimists by nature, and when a disappointment crushes us it's not long before we think and say "we've got 'em where we want ''em".

So - need some good post-election news?

Check out Outlandish Josh and his under-thirty map. I may be a cranky old lady, but I've always had faith in the next generation.

Chris Bowers looks at our new base, and Jerome sees some good news at the state level across the nation, including North Carolina, where the Democrats won back the North Carolina House. Yeah, this is a very schizophrenic state.

And - as everyone and his brother has noted - Bush can't hide behind 9/11 for four years, and the next four years can't be blamed on Clinton.

And finally, as Melanie puts it - "the last kick of a dying horse is the strongest".

Maybe we don't want to be where we are, but the Republicans are in an even more precarious position - and that's where we want 'em.

The Bush health plan

Merck's Vioxx Should Have Been Recalled Years Ago

Earlier this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Vioxx may have contributed to 27,785 heart attacks and deaths from 1999 through 2003. The study was based on an analysis of 1.4 million patient records.

Oh - and under the Bush plan, nobody could sue Merck.

Feds out of the marriage business?

I've been thinking all day about how to let the air out of the Republican's anti-gay-civil-union balloon.

Juan Cole has the first intelligent thoughts on the matter.

Basically, get the gummint out of the marriage business altogether.

I'm not sure I agree a Democratic candidate has to be a Southern Baptist from a southern state - Bubba-hood is definitely not confined to a certain part of the country or religion.

Great progress in Iraq!

We've chased out that horrible terrorist organization - Médecins Sans Frontières.

Amman/New York, November 4, 2004 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is closing its programs in Iraq. The international humanitarian organization took the decision in view of the extreme risks currently run by aid workers in the country. Given the still considerable humanitarian and medical needs of the Iraqi people, the decision was reached with a great degree of regret and sadness.

Due to the escalating violence in the country, MSF considers it no longer acceptable to expose its staff to the serious risks that apparently come with being associated with an international humanitarian organization.

“It has become impossible for MSF as an organization to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi,” says Gorik Ooms, General Director of MSF in Belgium. “We deeply regret the fact that we will no longer be able to provide much needed medical help to the Iraqi people.”

These guys don't run when the going gets tough. So, I guess that's good news - things can't get much worse when Doctors Without Borders leaves.

Elizabeth Edwards for president

Elizabeth Edwards diagnosed with breast cancer

Over a dozen years ago, I found a lump. Naturally, it happened late on a Friday afternoon, and my frantic call to the doctor's office only yielded a Monday appointment.

That was the worst weekend of my life. I alternated between crying, raging, worrying, and putting my affairs in order. Fortunately, the lump turned out to be nothing to worry about.

Along comes Elizabeth Edwards with a lump her doctor describes as something that "appeared to be cancerous".....and she goes from Friday until Tuesday smiling, laughing, criss-crossing the country, shaking hands, giving optimistic and hopeful speeches...

This is one tough broad.

Elizabeth Edwards makes Margaret "Iron Lady" Thatcher look like a wimp, and Commander Codpiece like the sniveling worm he is.

Damn....we need her.

I knew I shoulda stayed in bed

It's cold and raining. Well - 53 degrees is cold to me, especially when it's raining.

Had to reformat the hard drive on the office computer, and the jerk who installed the DSL line didn't leave me a driver for it. Sensing that they were angling for a pricey office call, I came home, scoured the net, downloaded to a floppy, and installed it myself. Take that, North State Communications.

Now my sister-in-law, who assured me on Saturday (along with her husband) that they agreed with everything Kerry said and would be voting for him - voted for Bush.

The reason?

On Sunday, the bigoted ignoramus that calls himself "Reverend" at their Klan-rally excuse for a church gave a pulpit-thumpin', barn-burning sermon on the evil gay agenda and how Bush would protect Amurika from people who had "chosen the gay lifestyle".


If I were more charitable, I would have just slugged her. Instead, I asked her this -

Just for one day, wear a tee-shirt that says "I'm Gay". Go about your daily business; work, grocery shopping, visiting friends. Wear it to prayer meeting. Then - and only then - can you tell me it's a choice, and anyone who chooses it should be denied any sort of human rights.

For the time being, she's not speaking to me - so I suppose the day ends on a high note.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Common ground

John Kerry -

"We talked about the division in our country and the need, desperate need, for unity. ...Today, I hope we can begin the healing."

It takes two.

Here's your common ground -

I won't force them to have an abortion or take birth control pills if they won't deny the right to anyone else.

I won't force them to marry or enter into a civil union with a member of the same sex if they won't deny it to others.

I won't force them to abide by my religion if they won't force theirs down my throat.

I won't force them to fight or finance my wars if they won't force me to fight theirs.

I would certainly prefer to see the people of the United States truly united and healed of this vicious divisiveness, but I see no such willingness from the other side.

Until then - no quarter, no surrender.

We will soldier on

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

Fear drove the election, pure and simple. Fear of gays, fear of atheism, fear of terrorists - fear, fear, fear.

Obviously, this is a household in varying degrees of mourning and anger.

I don't buy a lot of things about this election....not yet. I don't put much faith in provisional ballots, but I do want to see the final absentee ballot count - particularly in Florida.

I also don't buy the idea that the "youth vote" let us down, certainly not in this area. University of North Carolina at Greensboro students stood in line for hours, by the thousands, to cast their votes. One of the most beautiful sights of yesterday - hundreds of young women from Bennett College (Greensboro) marching and singing en masse to their polling place.

And frankly, I'm not too disappointed to see Tom Daschle lose his Senate seat. Now more than ever before, we need a Democratic leader in the Senate with an iron backbone and a safer political seat.

This fight is far from over, and I'm not talking about the presidential election. We must - MUST - continue to support those with the courage to fight right-wing judicial appointees and use every ounce of our persuasive efforts on the fence-sitters.

We must continue to shame the administration into providing for the health and welfare of our elderly, veterans, and precious children.

And if the White House is lost, perhaps it's a good year to lose. The Bush administration has buried itself in a huge pile of manure and it's up to us to push their noses in it and force them to take responsibility for it.

I read somewhere - I can't recall where - that a Bush win would set back the conservative movement for generations; the more I think about it, the more I agree.

But it's tragic the world will have to suffer for it.

In the meantime, let's continue to hold their feet to the fire. I draw comfort from the words of FDR, quoted above. Fear will not be triumphant forever.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Monday night jitters

I know, I know - I need to get some rest before The Big Day. But my nerves won't let me sleep.

Spending a goodly part of the day on the phone banks, I noticed something interesting.

Many moons ago, I worked the phones during the Dukakis campaign. I was given a list of registered Democrats, and began dialing.

I soon prayed for a "not at home" or answering machine. So many I spoke to were so-called "Reagan Democrats"; registered Dems who had fallen under the Reagan-spell. They wouldn't vote for a "Massachusetts liberal" if their lives depended on it, and let me know about it in often-abusive terms.

I got no such response today. Every person I reached....repeat, EVERY person I reached had either already voted for Kerry, planned to vote for Kerry, or wished they could vote for Kerry again. The enthusiasm was staggering.

On a related note; this past weekend, Mr. Andante & I contacted most members of our extended familiy - parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and out-laws.

Mr. Andante has five brothers & sisters; their father was one of fifteen children, most still living. My aunt had eight offspring. Basically - we're planning on taking over the universe.

Make that seventy-two votes for Kerry/Edwards, two for Bush/Cheney.

One of those for Kerry is a former Republican county commissioner in Tennessee.

The two for Bush? Two silly nephews (on Mr. Andante's side, I'm proud to say) who are 20 and 18 years old respectively - prime cannon fodder.

Mr. Andante took that very personally. These are boys he half-raised; took them fishing, went to all their ball games, etc. He drove to their home - a good hour away - and gave them "what fer".

Result - one conversion to Kerry, one wobbly "I'll think about it".

We're going to win this.

Yoo hoo - military families

Plan on voting for Bush on Tuesday?

Iraq tours for 6,500 soldiers extended

The Army has extended by two months the Iraq tours of about 6,500 soldiers, citing a need for experienced troops through the Iraqi elections scheduled for late January.

No official statement was released, but the Pentagon’s public affairs office posted an article on its Web site Saturday that said 3,500 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and 3,000 from the 1st Infantry Division headquarters will remain in Iraq at least two months longer than planned.

Do you really want four more years of the same old same old?

Busy, busy, busy

Working on GOTV.

As Kos says -

We need to deny the Right the chance to delegitimize a Kerry presidency because of the popular vote. Let's make this a clean victory all around.

That means voting for Kerry if you're either in the Bluest of states, or the Reddest of states. Every vote will count. None of this "swapping with Nader voters" stuff. So while my vote in California won't help elect Kerry, it can help legitimize his presidency.

So, even though I'll have a complete fit of the vapors if Kerry wins my state, I'm pushing as hard as possible to GET OUT THE VOTE.

And there are good Dems running in the state & local races that need all the votes they can get.

Cross your fingers, say a prayer, light a candle, do a little dance - IMHO, it looks good for Kerry. Dubya is going down.

Suit up and GO!
See you Tuesday evening....


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