Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Table for one

Being Poor is Expensive

I would just add that it's always been expensive to be poor - these days, it's getting more and more expensive to be anything but wealthy.

Cheney: Iraq war will end before 2009

Translation: The war will conveniently end just in time for the next Republican presidential candidate to proclaim only a Republican president can stop the war.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

I've struggled all day with the idea of Memorial Day, and cringe whenever I hear someone talking about "those who died for our freedoms".

Certainly many have died for that purpose; those who serve or have served deserve (and have) my respect and gratitude for their willingness and devotion to duty.

Somewhere around 1,660 troops have died in Iraq; thousands are maimed physically and/or mentally. More than 58,000 died in Vietnam and over 300,000 were wounded.

For what?

Alongside my gratitude, I can only feel rage at those who send men and women into danger for less than worthy causes.

The best memorial - the only real memorial - for those who have sacrificed everything, regardless of the cause, would be to take the power to wage war from those who pervert it.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lessons learned and shared

I’ve been immersed in a project of refurbishing six older computers and spreading them around amongst my family and friends. A pretty ambitious thing to do, especially for someone with no “book larnin’” on the subject.

I’m not quite through, but I’ve learned a lot and thought it would be extremely nice of me to share my experiences with those in the Bush administration who think they can wave a wand and make wonderful things happen.

***The best intentions in the world often have to be adjusted for reality.

***Having all the necessary parts available before you begin will save a lot of time and trouble down the road.

***It will cost more than you think.

***Components that work fine in one environment have a way of getting corrupted or not working at all when placed in another.

***You can’t expect something to work efficiently – or at all – if it doesn’t have the correct resources to draw upon.

***Going back to the drawing board and rethinking aspects of a project is not a weakness but a necessary virtue..

***Cheerleading from bystanders is fine, but offers of assistance are even better.

***Sh*t happens.

***If smoke is billowing, elements are screaming, and flames are visible – it is NOT progress.

Back into the fray....


Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Dog Blog

Bandit the Brave
Posted by Hello

Guardian of the Back Yard, Defender of the Deck, Bane of Mail Carriers and Meter Readers everywhere, Bravest of the Brave....

...except when it's bath time. It's amazing how many small places chihuahuas can find to hide.

Friday Ark

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Onward, Christian soldiers!

As Karrie reminds me in earlier comments, North Carolinians are doing their part to keep up with the Republican "onward, Christian soldiers" scorched-earth march to theocracy.

A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads "The Koran needs to be flushed," and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the church, is not apologizing for the display.

As the Rev. Lovelace explains -
"About Friday or Saturday we will have a new sign," he said. "It should state to some effect 'Where are your treasures? Are they at the flea market or are they in heaven?'"

Lovelace said that he does not have anything against the flea market that recently opened up down the street from the church.

"I enjoy a good flea market, but if people can be down there at eight o'clock why can't they be at church at 11," he said.
So, is it okay to flush a Bible as long as you attend a Christian church? Or okay to burn an American flag if you pay U.S. taxes?

Update - I'll see your flushed Koran and raise you three burning crosses.

Yet another update The Rev. Lovelace has indeed removed the sign and issued a written apology -
Lovelace issued a written statement May 25, according to The Daily Courier and Baptist Press, saying he "did not realize how people of the Muslim faith view the Koran - that devoted Muslims view it more highly than many in the U.S. view the Bible."

"Now I realize how offensive this is to them, and after praying about it, I have chosen to remove the sign," he said. "I apologize for posting that message and deeply regret that it has offended so many in the Muslim community."
Maybe he finally heard the voice of God, and not just the voices in his head.

Nice apology. What ticks me off about most winger apologies is that "IF what I said/did offended anyone" business, like it's the fault of the offended person that they felt that way.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

That invitation must have gotten lost in the mail

Helen Thomas quizzes Scottie on current events:

Q The other day -- in fact, this week, you said that we, the United States, is in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we are -- that's where we currently --

Q -- in view of your credibility is already mired? How can you say that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically-elected governments in Iraq and --

Q We're we invited into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are two democratically-elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, and we are there today --

Q You mean if they had asked us out, that we would have left?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments --

Q I'm talking about today, too.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide for their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.

Q Did we invade those countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve

The American nightmare

Number of millionaires hits record
The ranks of Americans worth $1 million grew 21% in 2004; the $5 million club grew even faster.
Poverty spreads
The number of Americans living in poverty jumped to 35.9 million last year, up by 1.3 million, while the number of those without health care insurance rose to 45 million from 43.6 million in 2002
Middle class barely treads water
Millions of middle-class families can no longer afford to live on two incomes.

A generation ago, a typical American middle-class family lived on the income of a single breadwinner. In recent years it has taken two working spouses to live the modern middle-class dream. Now, it seems even that is not enough to survive the skyrocketing cost of housing, health care and college while saving for retirement and shouldering growing debt loads.

Got the kid's college financial aid package today, and guess what's missing this time around? Federal grant money. And I assure you we aren't one of those new millionaires.

So, what else is new in The Wonderful World of Bush?


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Howard Morris, who played rock-throwing, poetry-spouting, Barney Fife-infuriating Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show is dead at the age of 85.

For North Carolinians, this qualifies as the death of a near relative. Take the day off.

You can play the Ernest T. Bass "Rock Throwin' At Spaceships" game* here

Homeland insecurity

Maybe I'm just a selfish, America-hating liberal but I find it hard to get worked up about "homeland security" when my bank account may have been illegally accessed and my cholesterol medication causes more kidney problems than the FDA wants to admit.

The hits just keep coming, don't they?

Looking back

I've been immersed in old-computer-refurbishing projects lately, but resurfaced long enough yesterday to go see Revenge of the Sith.

If you're a huge Star Wars fan, you've probably already seen it; most likely at the first midnight showing. If you're a mild fan, you already know what's going to happen, but seeing it laid out before your eyes should be at least a mild satisfaction. If you're not a fan, don't waste your money. Lots of strange critters, lots of strange gadgets.

I kept looking around the theater during the 1:30 p.m. Monday showing, looking at the people; most were my own age, some slightly younger. So, why do middle-aged folks take the day off to see another Star Wars movie?

As we left the theater, I told my almost-twenty-year-old kid I felt sorry for her and anyone who hadn't experienced the pure joy, thrills, excitement and wonder when the "first" Star Wars appeared in 1977. There hasn't been anything like it since, and probably never will be.

My guess is most of those middle-aged folks in the theater were just like me - they recalled their own love affair with that 1977 original, and wanted to recapture the feeling.

Revenge of the Sith doesn't come anywhere near recapturing that feeling, though it's a better movie by several degrees than The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. There's no victory, no happy ending, no sense of "wow!", no swashbuckling smuggler-types, no spunky princesses, no wide-eyed heroes.

But it DOES make one recall a time long ago and far, far away when the term "Star Wars" meant something wonderful - not a deadly and wasteful ideological tool.

And it makes you want to see the original again; the way it should be seen, on a big screen with a big box of popcorn and a child by your side.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lost children? Send in the dogs

Bryan points to a rather interesing Australian dilemma - drug-sniffing dogs trained to hone in on talcum powder rather than cocaine.

The dogs will be retrained, but there's an alternate solution that won't confuse the poor, mistrained dogs.

Send them to the DCF -
Florida's child welfare system has been unable to locate more than 500 children under its care, some of them missing for a decade or more. Where are the children?


Friday, May 20, 2005

Saving agressive investigators a lot of trouble

We now know Saddam is a "briefs" man.
The U.S. military has denied giving photos of Saddam Hussein in captivity to the popular British tabloid that published them -- contradicting the newspaper's version of events.


In Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the Combined Press Information Center, said, "This was not an official release and we are aggressively investigating to find out what happened and why it happened."
Surely can predict who will get the blame for releasing these pictures -

a) Someone below the rank of Private, First Class
b) Someone most likely in the National Guard or Reserves
c) Someone most likely of the female persuasion
d) Someone who secretly subscribes to Newsweek.

Weather for fun and profit

My junky old computer refurbishing project has been interrupted lately by big thunderstorms in the evenings, and it doesn't improve my mood to see that Rick Santorum has introduced legislation that would limit the information that the National Weather Service can provide to the public.

The bill would protect the commercial weathercasters, such as Accuweather and the folks at the Weather Channel.

You know the Weather Channel - that's the channel that runs documentaries about some numbskull thrillseeker that gets caught in a flood or avalanche or other manifestation of Mother Nature's wrath and has to be rescued at taxpayer expense...and at the same time, big thunderstorms, hail, and high winds are battering my house and I would really like to have my local forecast so I'd know if it's time to duck and cover.

On the other hand, the local cable access station is putting out boring old NOAA forecasts that my taxes pay for and actually tell me what's going on in my neck of the woods.

But we can't have that sort of thing, not in the free-for-all market economy, can we?

Update - Early this morning, a Delta 2 rocket was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The payload? a NOAA-N satellite, which will "strengthen our understanding about what the environment around the world is doing, not just here in the U.S., NOAA-N will bring us one step closer to truly global coverage of Earth's complex processes" with "improved imaging and atmospheric sounding capabilities that will operate to the end of this decade."

Furthermore, "After entering service later this summer, the Lockheed Martin-made satellite will replace an aging sister-craft, NOAA-16, launched in September 2000, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of data such as imagery, temperature measurements and atmospheric profiles that are the building blocks of weather forecasts."

Your tax dollars at work; Santorum working to make sure his campaign contributors get the benefit.

Friday dog blog

On the outside, looking in. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tinkering around with computers, marriage, and federal judges

I'm still tinkering with computers and trying to resolve various "issues" - such as why did I have to reformat my hard drive and lose all my stuff and why do these annoying boxes pop up telling me files are missing, and disappearing drivers and let's just move on to something else.

I even had a nice little post going regarding the struggle over the appointment of federal judges and the whole relationship between the legislative, executive, judicial branches and the people and how it's much like a good marriage.

So I tip-toed over to the self-proclaimed, know-it-all, Expert For Life on marriage - James Dobson and Focus on the Family. No link; google it yourself.

Yes, indeed - Dobson believes marriage should be for life. Divorce is a dirty word that should be deleted from our vocabulary. Marriage should not be entered into lightly, and only with the support and advice of friends and family. Casual dating before marriage is discouraged; only "courtship" with a mind to the permanent bond.

However, when it comes to federal judges appointed to a life term, it seems we can take a more casual approach.

Divorce is no longer a dirty word; if Dobson and his crowd disagree with a judge's rulings - out he/she goes. A judge can be appointed to a lifetime term by those in power, and the heck with the rest of the friends and family of the democracy. "Casual dating" is just fine - so what if they've got something questionable in the closet?

But then, my computer froze up solid and only pulling the plug could get it restarted and I lost the entire post.

And that's a lot like a marriage, too. Even if you delete "divorce" from your vocabulary, there are situations when only "pulling the plug" will keep you alive.

And if it takes pulling the plug - i.e., bringing the Senate to a total standstill - to prevent unsuitable men and women fom life terms in the courts - I'm down with that, too.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I shall return

If I ever crawl out of computer hell, that is. Tried to do some fancy-schmancy stuff, and crashed.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

When a hunk of junk met junk science

When I was a kid, barely started in elementary school, those sneaky Soviets did the unthinkable.

They shook up the United States in a way 9/11 never did.


Yep, Sputnik, which is Russian for "hunk of kerosene-powered junk flung into earth's orbit that makes Americans quiver in their boots as they realize they aren't the best at everything".

How dare those devious Russkies! When the Soviets successfully launched the first satellite, America underwent a huge crisis of confidence.

How could America, with the highest standard of living in the world, freshly victorious in World War II, possibly be eclipsed by Soviet technology?

The schools got the blame, and a new emphasis was placed on math and science.

Charles Darwin and his 1859 theory of evolution had been successfully kept out of many classrooms until late 1957. Only when Sputnik panicked the scientific establishment did the theory of evolution find a place in high school biology textbooks.

Schools now placed new emphasis on the process of inquiry, independent thinking and the challenging of long-held assumptions. Laboratory science was stressed, urging a hands-on learning approach.

The emphasis moved from teaching facts to fundamental principles. America's children could no longer be educated traditionally. Language labs and fluency in modern languages became the order of the day.


It seems we've come full circle; we're back to creationism, junk science, curtailment of civil rights, jingoism, and conspicuous consumption.

And if some school boards have their way, some high school graduates will be graduating without a single math or science course after the sophomore year.

Which is perhaps just as well, as the "science" these school boards are fighting so hard for is the same stuff they learned in Sunday School when they were kids.

But life goes on...it even goes on in other countries around the world. Scientific exploration and experimentation will not be stopped in other countries by a band of Bible-thumpers in the United States. Something will appear again to shake us out of our new Dark Ages.

So, what will the next innovation be to knock some sense back into America?

Chinese alternate fuel?

British stem cell research?

Whatever it is, let's hope the United States is not too benighted to take advantage.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Dear Pat Buchanan,

Was World War II worth it?

If just one person was spared one day in one concentration camp - well, yes; you can bet your bigoted, ignorant ass on it.

My dear Pat, there have been a couple of times I'm glad my WWII vet father isn't alive to hear the trash that passes for 'commentary' these days.

This is one of them.

Yours with deepest contempt,



Reverend Don Fado, retired Methodist minister from Sacramento, CA says it best -
In most cases, the pro-Republican line was not made explicit but came across loud and clear. Flyers asked congregants to consider, as part of their voting deliberations, which candidate had voted in favour of abortion rights and which candidate was in favour of a "gay agenda". "It was so obviously weighted against Kerry and for Bush," said Don Fado, a retired Methodist minister from Sacramento, California, who said his own church had been riven by a burst of organising zeal by political conservatives.


Mr Fado and others said that, in many other churches, Democrats are made to feel unwelcome even without such rhetoric. At a Presbyterian church in the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks, a new pastor recently overturned what one local resident described as a "an ordinary Presbyterian peace, love and happiness sort of place" and instituted a much more conservative and political line.

Many congregants were appalled and moved away. "It's not up to us to decide who's in and who's out politically," Mr Fado said. "As soon as you say that, you're not a true Christian. That's self-righteousness."

(from the UK Independent)
If you don't toe the administration line, you're not a true American. If you don't vote the Religious Reich agenda, you're not a true Christian.

What's next?


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Otis vindicated

As every dedicated fan of The Andy Griffith Show knows, Otis Campbell was the amiable town drunk who would let himself into the jail after one of his regular moonshine-tasting tours.

To be sure, there are still moonshiners in North Carolina, but these days you can go on a legal tasting tour.

The Yadkin Valley of North Carolina - the area containing the mythical town of Mayberry - is home to a booming winery industry.

You could summarize what I know about fine wines with two statements:-

1) Don't buy the stuff next to the Colt 45 six-pack at the local convenience store


2) If it has a cork, it has a fair chance of being better than the stuff next to the Colt 45 six-pack at the local convenience store.

What I DO know is that the Yadkin Valley - and much of North Carolina - used to be covered with tobacco fields. Tobacco put food on a lot of tables, clothed and educated a lot of children, paid for research into cures for a lot of diseases, and provided steady employment for thousands of people.

Now that the health hazards of smoking are well known, a way of life has come to an end for many.

Love it or hate it, one of the benefits of the tobacco buyout programs is that it enables many tobacco farmers to convert to a different crop. In the western part of North Carolina, the hills are dotted with Christmas tree farms; vast soybean fields fill the sandy soil of the east.

The Yadkin Valley area of west-central Carolina alone boasts fourteen wineries and vineyards, most open to the public for tours, tastings, and sales - with more under construction.

One of these days, I'll join one of the tasting tours (bringing along a designated driver, of course). I'd like to know a bit more about the process, and gain some appreciation of wine beyond "red" and "white".

And, of course, I'll drink a toast to Otis Campbell. I believe he'd be proud; in fact, I think Sheriff Taylor would be, too.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Turn on the lights....

...and the cockroaches scuttle to the shadows.
Pastor accused of running out Dems quits
WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - A Baptist preacher accused of running out nine congregants who refused to support President Bush resigned Tuesday.

"I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you," the Rev. Chan Chandler said as he left a closed-door meeting at East Waynesville Baptist Church.

Congregants of the 100-member church in western North Carolina have said that Chandler endorsed Bush from the pulpit during last year's presidential campaign and said that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry needed to "repent or resign."

The church members said he continued to preach about politics after Bush won re-election, culminating with a church gathering last week in which the nine members said they were ousted.


Monday, May 09, 2005


I've been "out of the loop" for the past several days, and didn't know Col. David Hackworth has passed away.

I'm sorry to hear it; he was a strong advocate for soldiers and their families.

Col. David. H. Hackworth, 1930-2005
Washington, D.C., May 5, 2005 – Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, ground-pounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.
War....the gift that keeps on giving.

US Marines recall body armor amid safety questions

Via Raw Story-
The U.S. Marine Corps has recalled body armor given to thousands of troops fighting in Iraq because of questions about whether it offers adequate protection, officials said on Monday.

The Marines bought 19,000 torso-protecting "outer tactical vests" from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida, but the vests failed tests by military ballistics experts involving 9mm pistol rounds.

However, the Marines said the body armor subsequently passed tests by a private firm.
Yeah, I bet they did.

As I recall, tests by private firms gave Bextra, Vioxx, and Celebrex glowing reviews, too.

It's bad enough we sent our military into battle without the proper equipment. Now the equipment we're sending them is defective?


Have you ever felt like every piece of machinery you touched went haywire?

In the past few days, I've screwed up three computers, one desktop printer, one mass volume printer, a copier, and a folding machine. And the hood on my car wouldn't open.

Software? Let's don't go there.

I'm dangerous, I tell ya. Go away before you catch something from me.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Rejoining the battle for stupidity supremacy

Ever since Jesse Helms retired from the U.S. Senate, North Carolina has been falling behind somewhat in the Dumbest State in the Union competition.

The Reverend Chan Chandler is trying to rectify the situation, and lost forty-nine members of his church for his efforts.
Minister ex-communicates members for not backing Bush

The minister of a Haywood County Baptist church is telling members of his congregation that if they're Democrats, they either need to find another place of worship or support President Bush.

Already, the Reverend Chan Chandler has ex-communicated nine members of East Waynesville Baptist Church. Another 40 members have left in protest.

During last Sunday's sermon, he acknowledged that church members were upset because he named people, and he says he'll do it again because he has to according to the word of God.

Chandler could not be reached for comment today, but says his actions weren't politically motivated.

One former church member says Chandler told some of the members that if they didn't support George Bush, they needed to resign their positions and get out of the church, or go to the altar, repent and agree to vote for Bush.

A former church treasurer says she's at church to worship God and not the preacher.
Silly lady; Reverend Chandler hasn't asked you to worship him.

You should be kneeling at the altar of Our Lord of Underachievers, George Bush.

The wingers are really pressing their luck. Losing forty-nine members from a moderate-sized church is going to put a hole in the church pocketbook.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mom always liked you best

Between fetching the kid back home for the summer from college, necessary work-for-a-living stuff, and some computer issues, I may not be around much for a few days.

Unless something earth-shaking and world-changing happens – like maybe a surprise witness for the defense in the Michael Jackson trial, or proof that Paula Abdul and Corey Clark had an affair - I probably won’t even get a chance to post something syrupy and sentimental regarding Mother’s Day.

So, I refer you to this interesting study - Ugly Children May Get Parental Short Shrift.

I’m not sure how much time or how much money it took for Canadian researchers from the University of Alberta to figure this out, but they could have just asked me.

Here's snaggle-toothed, frizzy-haired, freckle-faced, smart-ass me:

Here's rosy-cheeked, sweet-tempered, cutie-patootie baby sister:

Which one do you think got the TV in her bedroom when she was a teenager? Which one got the extension telephone next to her bed? Well??!!

And which one confiscated all the stuff I left behind when I went to college, including the inspiration behind this post title?

(Rumor has it their Mom liked the good-looking one on the right best)

I bet cutie-patootie has sold all my old Smothers Brothers and Bill Cosby albums on EBay by now.

My Mother's Day gift to my kid (since I doubt she'll get one for me) - congratulations, sweetie - you're an only child.

And just in case my baby sister is reading this - you know I'm just pickin' at you.

Keep that EBay money. You'll need it when I come live with you in my old age.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Holy cow, stop the presses

CNN continues to keep the "runaway bride" story on their front page, and the silly wench has so far not issued an apology for wasting taxpayer money on the nationwide hunt.

The wedding has not been cancelled, but "postponed" (note to fiance - are you crazy?), and presumably the $100K extravaganze will take place at another time.

Except for that bit about "wasting taxpayer money" - an estimated $75,000 for the massive manhunt - it's mind-boggling that CNN or any other organization devotes a single word to it.

There's plenty of other stories rife with tax money waste. I'd suggest starting with the faith-based missile defense system, or even Dubya's cozy little Republican-only Social Security piratization "townhall" rallies.

If billions and billions of wasted money aren't sexy enough to merit coverage, maybe we should organize a "group streak" at the next scheduled event?


Monday, May 02, 2005

The verdict is in

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

Are You A Republican?

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


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


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

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

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


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Did you ever think....

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

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

Never mind.

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