Monday, February 28, 2005

Random funerary musings

...or "Oh, boy - I can't wait to read this post"

I'm sunk up to my neck in funeral arrangments for my sister-in-law, and can't seem to get my mind around anything else.

On top of it all, my stubborn, determined kid is braving a mountain snowstorm to get home in time for the "visitation" tonight and the funeral tomorrow. At nearly twenty years old, I can't put her over my knee and spank her (never did that anyway) - just pray for her safety.

In the meantime, we all ponder our own mortality and our "final arrangements".

As I've said before, my own idea for the disposal of my earthly remains is a Hefty bag on the curb on garbage collection day, and I've threatened Mr. Andante with every curse, haunting, etc. if he doesn't oblige.

Since that's not legal, he'd have to spend about $2000 on your basic, no-frills, economy cremation. That's today's price, and by the time I kick the bucket who knows how high it will go.

Two thousand bucks....and for all anyone knows, the crematorium isn't any better than the one in Georgia that didn't bother to dispose of the bodies.

Two thousand bucks....I'm certainly no expert in the field, but I know I can turn an expensive cut of beef into ashes for a whole lot less than that. I've done it often, and have become quite good at it.

I've told him to take my bit of insurance money and run with it. Make sure the kid has enough for her education, then spend the rest on wild women, booze, and fancy fishing rods if he wants. He's put up with me long enough to have earned it.

The newspapers now charge a pretty hefty fee for obituary notices. A brief "death notice" is free, but anything else is pretty pricy. My sister-in-law's husband paid three hundred dollars for a bare-minimum obit in three area papers.

The Andante solution, when the time comes - "Ding, dong - the witch is dead". That should come pretty cheap, and gets the idea across just as efficiently.

Since I'm guessing you haven't priced caskets lately, I can tell you the rock-bottom model I looked at yesterday was $995.00. If you're into that sort of thing....no bad puns intended....it looked okay to me; but then, I'm still a Hefty-bag girl. Prices go up dramatically from there, and apparently the sky itself isn't the limit.

Funeral homes make a very tidy profit on mourning relatives, who "want the best" for their dearly departed. My own guess is the dearly departed doesn't care.

Did you know you can buy caskets over the internet? It's perfectly legal - the funeral home is required by law to accept it, and it's much cheaper. The same casket my sister-in-law will spend eternity in is about a thousand bucks cheaper...do you really want a link?...from Direct Caskets.

However, I'm not sure what sort of time is required for shipping, and you'll pardon me if I didn't poke around looking for the information.

But, "WTF?" you say...where would I store my internet casket until it's needed?

If you don't have (or don't want) casket storage room in your home, you might want to purchase casket furniture. When the time comes, the casket coffee table or entertainment unit or curio cabinet or sofa or - yes - bed - converts into your final resting place.

No thanks.

I can't for the life of me understand why we still embalm our dearly departed. It doesn't matter how masterful the embalmer and make-up artist ply their trades, they can't put the roses back in the cheeks or the natural smile on the lips.

In my eyes, it's the most pitiful sight in the world, this clinging to the earthly body. And there's something ghoulish, rubber-necky, about an open casket. "She looks just like herself" doesn't do it for me. When I take my last breath, I'd be delighted if someone said "wow, she's never looked better".

In my very opinionated opinion, a closed casket is much more dignified. Place a nicely re-touched photo of the deceased next to it, and everyone will still know who it is. Besides, with a closed casket nobody sees the inside of the casket, and you can get by without all the satin and frills and junk and it will only be between you and the deceased - and they still don't care.

You can also save a bit of money if you don't take the funeral home up on their kind, expensive offer to do a printed funeral program. Poor church secretary slobs like me do it all the time - for free. Ditto the thank-you notes - you can buy a pack at the local discount store for at least half the price, or if you're extra-nice to the church secretary she may slip you some freebies.

At "no extra charge" - which translates as "you better believe it's factored in somewhere" - the funeral home is putting together a video using photographs we've provided them. Very nice. No word on how much they'll charge for any copies.

Last night I copy/pasted my sister-in-law's obituary from the on-line newspaper, put it in a Word document, inserted a recent studio shot and added a poem -

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

Mary Frye (1932)

I showed the family a rough draft and they loved it. I spent $15 on some nice, 32 lb. paper at Staples, printed it out, put it in transparent sheet protectors because we're having a Noah's Flood-type rainstorm, and - voila'. Suitable for framing and free to the family; a third-grader could probably do it.

While the idea of riding in a limousine may appeal to you, I assure you that you can ride from the funeral home to the church or cemetary in just as much style and just as comfortably in some rich relative's Cadillac. If you don't mind hearing about their prostate surgery (again), it's a whole lot cheaper.

A funeral is for the living, and we say our good-byes in a variety of ways. Some of us prefer to do it quietly, in our hearts. Others....well, let's just say this has been a strenuous couple of days. Witnessing the grief of others doesn't help me a bit, and I'll be glad when it's all over.

Do your loved ones a favor and make your wishes known and paid for. It will save them a good deal of harddhip and money at a time when they might not be able to make intelligent decisions.

You don't have to request custom tombstones, lavish funerals, or a pyramid to run up a huge bill....unless your loved ones are a major pain in the ass now, in which case you should start dropping those hints as often as possible.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Blind Faith
Warrior Tang points to a recent Harris poll conducted following the Iraqi elections:

-- 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November).

-- 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37% in November).

-- 36 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded (down slightly from 38% in November).

Even though Saint Bush admitted "I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction – like many here in the United States, many around the world. The United Nations thought he had weapons of mass destruction. So, therefore: One, we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering." - the true believers weren't listening.

Who do they listen to? FAUX News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and a host of other parasites.

Kicking Bush out of office isn't enough - the right wing media stranglehold will have to be broken before any sanity returns.

A new spin on the word "choice"

The wingnuts just get nuttier.
A Republican lawmaker in Maine has introduced a bill to prohibit abortions based on the sexual orientation of the unborn baby.

State Rep. Brian Duprey wants the Legislature to forbid a woman from ending a pregnancy because the fetus is homosexual.

He said the bill looks into the future in case scientists find what he described as a "homosexual gene."

"I have heard from women who told me that if they found out that they were carrying a child with the gay gene, then they would abort. I think this is wrong," said Duprey, who got the idea while listening to the Rush Limbaugh Show.
I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just leave it and thank AmericanBlog for a link that gave me a good laugh when I need it.


My sister-in-law lost her battle with cancer early this morning.

She beat that sucker a little over a year ago - pounded an inoperable tumor with chemo and radiation until it gave up and went away.

But the Big C snuck back; she got the news just a week ago.

The doctor gave her 2 months to a year, and told her if there was anything she wanted to do, she'd better do it now.

She said she'd always wanted to go to Disney World, and we were in the midst of making arrangements for a trip.

She was sweet and gullible and naive and trusting - and we loved her dearly.

Give Walt a hug for me, darlin'.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Man Cleared to Remove Wife's Feeding Tube

The ruling by Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer will allow the husband, Michael Schiavo, to order the tube removed at 1 p.m. on March 18. In the meantime, the woman's parents, who want her kept alive, are expected to ask another court to block the order from taking effect.

The judge wrote that he was no longer comfortable granting delays in the long-running family feud, which has been going on for nearly seven years and has been waged in every level of Florida's court system. He said the case must end.


The judge made his decision after pleadings from the parents that they need more time to pursue additional medical tests which might prove their daughter has more mental capabilities than previously thought.

If Ms. Shiavo has any mental capabilities at all, she is undoubtedly horribly distressed by all these years of bickering and the indignity of her situation.

A leading Vatican cardinal also has weighed in on behalf of keeping Terri Schiavo alive.

"If Mr. Schiavo legally succeeded in provoking the death of his wife, this would not only be tragic in itself, but it would be a serious step toward legally approving euthanasia in the United States," Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio on Thursday.

Note to Vatican - butt out.

Where's your faith? Remove the artificial life support, and leave it in God's hands.

Please, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler - let her go in peace.

King of the welfare queens

...or "Big Bidness Run Amok"

I left a comment about this somewhere, but it still bugs me.

Consider the case of poor Dell:

Dell has had a tough time of late. Its consistent, double-digit revenue gains put it only billions ahead of hardware rivals that have barely managed to break even.

What's a poor multinational corporation to do?

Building another factory on the east coast sounded like a good idea. But where should we put it? The area must have a bunch of folks panting for jobs, sufficient land available and located near major interstates and an airport, and a good higher educational system to train the workforce.

North Carolina has had horrific job losses in the last several years, mainly in tobacco, textiles and furniture. Bingo - there's your workforce. They're even accustomed to low-wage, non-union jobs.

This has been my stomping ground for the last thirty or so years, and I can promise you we have an ample supply of land for major construction in whatever direction you look.

Transportation for industry could hardly be better. Two interstate highways intersect the region – I-85 running north-south and I-40 east-west. Piedmont Triad International Airport is located at the northern end of the Triad between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and FedEx is planning to build a “hub” in the very near future.

Within the Piedmont Triad area and extending about an hour eastward we have Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, High Point College, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Bennett College, Greensboro College, Guilford College, North Carolina A& T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University and a handful of others I’ve left out.

Each county in the Triad has a community college system with satellite locations throughout the counties.

Land, location, transportation, an educated and trained employee pool desperate to be hired – any company in it's right mind would pay us for the privilege of opening a plant here.

Wouldn't it? What’s not for a company to love?

Mo' money

It took more than old-fashioned southern hospitality to convince Dell to build a new computer manufacturing plant in North Carolina. In fact, it took about $240m in tax incentives and loads of wrangling to put Dell in the Tar Heel State.

Dell, an obvious candidate for copious amounts of government aid, will put up its third US plant in the Triad area of North Carolina. The plant, set to open in the fall of 2005, will employ close to 700 workers in its first year and then make room for up to 1,500 employees within five years. The main role of the new facility will be to supply East Coast businesses and consumers with Dell desktops.


Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly cleared the way for a $242m incentive package for Dell. The deal gives Dell a tax credit for each computer or consumer device produced in the state. Dell will receive a $15 per unit credit in 2006 and just a $6.25 credit from 2007 to 2019.

Dell, however, is making serious sacrifices to earn this package. It must, for example, pay 50 per cent of the health care costs for its employees. Ouch! In addition, Dell can only lay off 40 per cent of the employees to still qualify for the tax incentives.

The average salary for a Dell worker at the new plant is expected to be about $28,000. That's about what Michael Dell makes while going to the bathroom in the morning.

It's awesome to see states bend over backwards to make sure they have low-paying jobs for years to come. Lord knows, a patriotic company like Dell needs the help. The North Carolina plant may leave Dell with more US workers than foreign staffers for the first time in a long while.

Dell didn't come begging, that's for certain.

How Dell made North Carolina beg for business

Any reporter who has covered Dell for a couple of years has heard the stories about the company's iron-fisted negotiating tactics. Dell's size lets it put enormous pressure on partners, suppliers and rivals. Now it seems Dell has extended these Wal-Mart like ways to hammering entire states.

Documents unsealed by the North Carolina Department of Commerce show that Dell beat on the state during negotiations around the construction of a new plant in the Triad region, according to a report from the News and Observer. Dell boldly asked government officials to absolve it of paying any taxes at all and demanded that it be considered for government computer purchases. Dell also tried to put patriotic pressure on North Carolina to do anything to keep jobs in the US - an almost comical ploy given that Dell isn't terribly patriotic itself. It employs more foreign workers than it does here in the US.

North Carolina just paid $242 million dollars to persuade Dell to build a factory in this state, and the county where it’s being constructed chipped in free land and benefits to the tune of an additional $30 million.

According the the Raleigh News & Observer -
In the end, (Governor) Easley told Dell he couldn't sell a no-tax pact to the General Assembly. Still, the final package was unprecedented in its scope. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County later dished up $30 million more in benefits, including free land. And, according to another (Commerce Secretary) Fain note, Forsyth County also planned to offer Dell executives meal discounts, dry cleaning, cars and gas, golf and concierge services during preparation of the Dell facility.
About the only thing they didn't ask for - or get - is the right to rename the state.

'North Dellina', maybe?

I don't think we have to worry about Dell's future prosperity any more. North Carolina, on the other hand, might have a big problem brought to us by another bully from Texas.

Gripe of the day

I am stuck at home waiting for a repair & maintenance service that was supposed to be here an hour ago.

I have a handful of errands I need to run, plus a couple of other projects that require some uninterrupted attention time.

In these days of instant communication and cell phones, would someone please explain to me why they still do this?

What's so hard about dialing a number I have provided and saying "we will be xxx minutes/hours late?"

I wish I could blame George Bush for this, but I'm sure the same sort of thing has been happening since George Washington.

Congratulations, rocket scientists

US conducts successful missile defense flight

The US military conducted a missile defense flight on Thursday, with an interceptor missile successfully intercepting and destroying a short-range target missile, the Pentagon announced.

The target missile was launched from US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, and the interceptor missile, a Standard Missile 3, was launched one minute later from the USS Lake Erie at its patrol area located more than 160 km from Kauai.

Two minutes after the interceptor was launched, it hit the target, Henry "Trey" Obering, director of the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement.

If any rogue nations or terrorists out there want to lob missiles at the United States, please be advised of the following:

1) You are required to give advance notice to the proper U.S. authorities, preferably several weeks ahead of launch

2) You are required to launch over an ocean

3) Your missile must be fired within an approximate 100 miles of one of our ships with the proper equipment.

Anything else would be cheating, unsportsmanlike, anti-family values, not what Jesus would do, and a complete waste of our taxpayer's money.

Friday Cat Blogging


 Posted by Hello

Name: Randy
Age: Five years
Weight: Approximately twenty pounds
Sex: No. He's neutered. Explains the expression.
Likes: Food, sleeping
Dislikes: Cameras
Favorite Game: The Four Yard Litter Toss
Favorite Website: My Cat Hates You


Thursday, February 24, 2005


Who thought a winger had such a sense of humor?

Jeff/Jim/Gannon/Guckert has a blog. I won't link to it; go to AmericaBlog and go from there.

Shorter Jeff/Jim/Gannon/Guckert?

"The world revolves around ME!!"


Posted by Hello

Yep, there it is - right on the White House "Kid's Page".

Barney ogling Miss Beazley's tempting little Scottish Terrier butt.

Have they no shame?


The road to the Axis of Evil

Like many manifestations of evil, it began in the 1960’s. The country in question refused to send troops to assist in the War on Communism in Vietnam.

As late as 1973, they harbored fugitives from American justice.

In 1984, the laws were changed to transfer a large segment of private enterprise into government hands.

This country has once again refused to send troops to assist the United States in the War on Iraqi Terrorism.

Today, this country refuses to enter into a defense agreement with it’s neighbor, and is also considering legalizing gay marriage.

How does Canada get away with all this crap? They’ve been flaunting American values for so long we’ve become used to it?

Here we are, sending troops halfway around the world , when the real threat to everything American society holds dear is right across our northern border.

Isn’t it time for a little Shock & Awe closer to home?

Is stealing one of their baseball teams really the best we can do?

Naturally, our invasion forces will be greeted with champagne, flowers, and open arms. It will be a cinch to round up the (few) dead-enders, as we speak the same language, mostly, and won’t need translators (gay or otherwise).

It’s rumored that some Canadians speak French, which is “Old Europe” and can safely be ignored. Instructions in “talking loud” and “broad hand gestures” will be given to all our invading troops.

It's a little silly to be invading non-English-speaking Muslim countries thousands of miles away when the answer to many of our problems lies within easy grasp.

Besides providing a fresh batch of manpower for our military, we can finally round up all those Vietnam draft-dodgers and bring them to justice.

Our pharmaceutical companies will no longer be hindered by government mandated price controls, and can extend their grasp prosperity further afield.

Our HMO's will have a larger pool of customers, ripe for the gouging. The evil advance of same-sex marriage can be stopped in it's tracks.

And, praise the Lord, the missile defense shield will stretch to the North Pole, providing protection from any passenger jets, weather balloons, or alien space invaders threatening our hemishere. A few more glitches to be worked out, a few billion more dollars, and we'll be ready for anything.

Curling will be banned, but as a gesture of friendship the National Hockey League will be ordered back to work.

Come on, folks...this is so obvious and simple! Write to your congressperson today and ask - no, DEMAND - a little more sensible approach to world domination.

(psst....to my Canadian friends.....you know I'm just joking, don't you? Can I come live with you?)


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ministerial position

President-for-Life Sheelzebub, I hereby apply for a position in your Cabinet as Minister of Ministers.

And I want the power to say who can call themselves a "minister" and who has to call themselves a slimy scumbag.

(Link via Elayne)


I was at a meeting Monday night, and eavesdropped on two (very Republican) ladies discussing Iraq and the WMD question.

Someone invited a friend, a soldier just returned from Iraq, to speak to their adult Sunday School class. Highly inappropriate, in my opinion, however I know the inviter is a rabid neocon so it doesn’t surprise me.

The fellow spoke about all the good things he’d seen and done, how the “media” isn’t showing that side, and presented a little slide show.

Apparently, some of the slides purported to show some sort of “WMD” – with “U.S.A.” prominently printed on the casing.

The upshot of the overheard conversation? Saddam had made exact copies of the weapons we gave him so many years ago, including the “U.S.A.” label.

Go figure.

I didn't butt in, but I'm sure they would have told me about Saddam's deviously clever scheme to plant such items just where our troops could find them when we invaded the country....just to make St. George Bush look bad.

The Germans refuse to be part of the P.R. campaign

These hand-picked "town hall" meetings drive me crazy.

Is it just me, or don't we try to teach our kids that getting the questions ahead of time is cheating?

With a Hush and a Whisper, Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans

During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?

Condi got away with it in Paris -

To avoid that messy scenario, the White House requested that rules similar to those applied during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit two weeks ago also be used in Mainz. Before meeting with students at Paris's Institute of Political Sciences, which preens the country's elite youth for future roles in government, Rice's staff insisted on screening and approving any questions to be asked by students. One question rejected was that of Benjamin Barnier, the 24-year-old son of France's foreign minister, who wanted to ask: "George Bush is not particularly well perceived in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Can you do something to change that?" Instead, the only question of Barnier's that got approval was the question of whether Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority might create a theocratic government based on the Iranian model?

The Germans, though, insisted that a free forum should be exactly that. Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's Ambassador to the United States, explained to the New York Times last week: "We told them, don't get upset with us if they ask angry questions."

I guess when they won't allow you to cheat, the best thing to do is take your ball and go home. Or at least go to a sympathetic group that doesn't mind the cheating -

As an ersatz for the town hall meeting on Wednesday, Bush will now meet with a well-heeled group of so-called "young leaders." Close to 20 participants will participate in the exclusive round to be held in the opulent Mozart Hall of a former royal palace in Mainz, giving them the opportunity for a close encounter with the president. The chat is being held under the slogan: "A new chapter for trans-Atlantic relations." The aim of the meeting is to give these "young leaders" a totally different impression of George W. Bush. In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group.

Friday Cat Blogging

I know it's not Friday yet, but I thought I'd post a warning.

I finally have a picture of one of my cats, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Stay tuned....
Setting a fine example

Holy moley, stop the presses - Bush admits marijuana use.

That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been at least semi-conscious for the last five years or so.

According to CNN:

Bush says he "wouldn't answer the marijuana question ... 'cause I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."

"But you gotta understand, I want to be president, I want to lead. I want to set -- Do you want your little kid to say, 'Hey daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will?' " he said.

Yes, indeed - my kid told me just the other day she plans to emulate Dear Leader by smoking pot, drinking like a fish, partying like there's no tomorrow, throwing money down the drain, exploding frogs, and then plans to go mano-e-mano with anyone who tries to stop her.

At age forty, she will shape up and righteously demand everyone do as she says, not as she did.

Snark aside, what's wrong with telling a child "yes, I've done (whatever) but it's wrong and here's why...."?

Kids aren't stupid just because they're short and can't vote; they can handle concepts like "truth" and "facts" pretty well.

When my kid went through the DARE program in elementary school, I told her that yes, I had tried marijuana back in my wild college days - perhaps a half-dozen times.

But I also told her I stopped after weighing the physical, financial, and legal costs against the short-term high.

Because she was short and couldn't vote, I explained those costs in detail. She got the message.

Jenna and Not-Jenna would be strange kids indeed if they never said, "Daddy, did you ever smoke pot?". If they didn't say it out loud, it surely passed through their minds.

And, presumably, they've always heard the answer from him - "No", or at least "No comment".

One wonders what they think after hearing the admission on tape.

I'd rather set an example for my kid by telling the truth in the beginning.


Internist Peter Basch said he was in Costa Rica recently when he checked his e-mail -- yes, while on vacation -- and learned that one of his patients was seeking more blood pressure pills. In less than a minute, Basch said, he sent a refill order to a pharmacy on Capitol Hill.

"For things that people actually leave their home or leave their office to come and see me for . . . many of these could be managed with a type of e-mail interaction," Basch said.

In fact, he said, "perhaps as many as 50 percent of the people I see each day could be dealt with appropriately using virtual techniques," including at-home devices to track blood pressure, weight and blood glucose.

So why don't more doctors use this approach, and why does Basch swap e-mails with only about 5 percent of his patients while charging nothing for the service? Money is part of the answer.

"If I used virtual communication techniques as often as I felt was appropriate, my practice would close its doors because it would go broke within a week," Basch said. That's because he participates in managed care networks, and the insurers who run them pay doctors only for face-to-face contacts with patients. (more)

When I need my cholesterol medication prescription renewed, I e-mail my doctor's office about a week ahead of time. They fax the prescription to the pharmacy, there is no extra charge, and all is right with the world.

It saves my time and money. It saves the doctor and his practice time and paperwork.

When I buy a piece of computer hardware or software, tech support generally comes along for free, at least for a period of time. It's factored into the cost of the product, and considered good customer relations which hopefully will result in repeat business and more customers.

Why should I pay the doctor to renew a prescription he put me on to begin with? That's the managed care network's job - include "tech support" in every physician's paycheck. And do it without jacking up the price and driving away customers.

After all, this is a "for profit" system, and you can't rake in the profit if you don't have customers.

The health care insurance industry disagrees.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield issued a similarly cautious statement: "We are aware of a number of pilot programs around the country that involve e-mail consultations between physicians and patients. . . . We have discussed the concept, and expect to explore opportunities to become involved in the future."

Translation: We love the smell of money in the e-mail

Geezer blog

Yes, the AARP has a blog - the AARP Social Security Blog.

From the latest post:

AARP urges you to judge critically the motivations behind statements made against AARP. For example, whenever you see attempts to discredit AARP presented on Fox News Channel or other media outlets like talk radio shows that regularly carry the neoconservative lobbying group messages, AARP urges you to consider these important background facts:

• USA Next is a lobbying group that "has poured poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles" as reported in the New York Times.

• As reported by UPI, USA Next has hired a public relations firm with "plans to spend as much as $10 million to counterattack Democrats opposed to changing Social Security, has hired Chris LaCivita, a former Marine who advised Swift Vets on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials attacking Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass."

• Creative Response Concepts of Alexandria, Virginia is the public relations firm hired by USA Next. As reported by PR Watch, in 2004 "this firm used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt about President George W. Bush's National Guard services into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats."

I'd like to see them charge aggressively to the front of the battle, but for a non-partisan organization, this is pretty good.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tabloid tidbit -

GEORGE Bush has banned Camilla Parker Bowles from the White House - because she is a divorcee.

The unprecedented snub has effectively sabotaged Charles's plan to take his bride on a Royal tour of America later this year.

The trip would have been the pair's first official tour as a married couple.

But the US President - a notoriously right-wing Christian and reformed alcoholic - told aides it was "inappropriate" for him to be playing host to the newly-weds, who are both divorcees.

The decision was made even though the late President Ronald Reagan was divorced.

A Government insider said: "It was relayed to us from Washington that Mrs Parker Bowles would not be welcome at the White House.

"The Americans are aware that the visit will be subject to a lot of media attention and did not want the President drawn into what they view to be a public relations exercise.


At least we can be reasonably certain they wouldn't trash the White House garden.


Monday, February 21, 2005

The Bush tapes


As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future president as a politician and a personality.

In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former aide to Mr. Bush's father, disclosed the tapes' existence to a reporter and played about a dozen of them.

With friends like this….

As much as I dislike Dubya and would like to see him totally disgraced and run out of office, I dislike this taping just as much.

Yes, I know it was perfectly legal - the "friend" took pains to make sure he was taping in a locale where it wasn't against the law.

Did I read the transcripts? Of course I did - I'm no saint; just a typical human being who rubbernecks at car accidents and can't resist anything scandalous.

I can't imagine what benefit any of my friends would get from taping conversations with me, but I do know one thing...that friend would be quickly moved from my friend list to my sh$t list.

I asked myself - "under what circumstances would I tape conversations with a friend, without that friend's knowledge?"

I can think of only one circumstance - if I believed the "friend" was preparing to stab me or mine in the back, and I wanted evidence to prevent it.

Wead does refer to something similar -

Mr. Wead said he recorded his conversations with the president in part because he thought he might be asked to write a book for the campaign. He also wanted a clear account of any requests Mr. Bush made of him. But he said his main motivation in making the tapes, which he originally intended to be released only after his own death, was to leave the nation a unique record of Mr. Bush.

It would be interesting to know what "requests" Wead expected.

As a former aide to Bush The Smarter, Wead would surely have realized how highly the Bush family prizes loyalty. If he hoped to get anything at all from them, it would have been better to wait for his own death to release the tapes.

However, Dubya should cheer up - it could be worse.

Paris Hilton, whose T-Mobile Sidekick account was hacked, saw her private information spread around the internet.

In a masterful piece of logic, a source close to Hilton said - "She was pretty upset about it. It's one thing to have people looking at your sex tapes, but having people reading your personal e-mails is a real invasion of privacy."

Let's all hope private conversations were the only thing Wead taped.

The faces of Social Security

Over at dailyKos, k9 disc gives us a very moving photographic tribute to the faces of Social Security.

The Social Security debate may be about dollars and cents, but it is, at it’s very core, about people - their lives, their accomplishments, and their dreams.

This is my mother. Posted by Hello

She's 90 years old, and has been widowed for the last five years.

She worked until she was married in 1949, and then became a full-time mother and wife.

At the time her husband (my father) passed away, she personally was receiving only about $200 per month from Social Security. Obviously, she couldn't live on that amount; it wouldn't cover her basic utility bills.

One of the complaints about Social Security is that it can't be passed on. But guess what? - it can. It happens every day, and has been passed on to beneficiaries for seventy years.

Based on my father's Social Security benefits, she currently receives $949.00 per month. As his widow, part of his benefits automatically passed on to her.

And if she wishes to save or invest any part of that monthly $949.00 and pass it on to her descendants, that's perfectly legal, too.

Posted by Hello
This is my mother's sister. She's about 86 years old, and has never voted for a Democrat in her life.

She rails against Democrats because they take her money and give it to "welfare queens".

She raised eight children and her husband was a farmer; she worked side-by-side with him in the tobacco, milking cows, collecting eggs, and then feeding everyone.

She never received a dime's wage for her lifelong labor, but when her husband died about fifteen years ago, she also began to receive a goodly portion of his Social Security benefits.

I asked her once if she had considered returning it, since she "didn't believe" in paying Social Security taxes. I escaped with my life.

For many years, Social Security has been there for those who have gone before us - whether they wanted it or not. It has been there for those who appreciated it, and for those who despise it.

And it's been passed on to those who need it.

If anything is worth saving and strenthening, as an invaluable insurance, not as an "investment", it's Social Security.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

W: I'm off to spread freedom all over the world!

Laura: Thank God for Prozac


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Lawmakers propose health coverage plan

There will be a test later; a hint at the end of the post. Don't worry, it should be easy.

Question: While there are a couple of good ideas here, which one sentence capsulizes everything that is wrong with this plan and most others on the table?

Spot the sentence, and win a big "attaboy" from me.

Bill would require all Californians to have insurance

If you drive a car, the law requires you to have auto insurance. By the same token, shouldn't the state also force you to have health insurance?

That's the thinking behind legislation expected to be introduced this week that would require Californians to carry basic health insurance. Those who failed to comply would have their wages garnisheed or lose their tax refunds.

The bill's authors, Assemblymen Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, and Keith Richman, R-Northridge (Los Angeles County), hope a mandate will reduce cost burdens both on those who are already insured and on the doctors and hospitals that care for the uninsured.

"We believe a basic level of health care is a right, but we also believe it's a responsibility of individuals to take care of themselves and not be in a position where they require society to pay for the cost of their emergency room visit," Nation said.

Instead of making employers pick up the health insurance tab, the bill by Nation and Richman would put the responsibility on individuals.

While Nation acknowledged that affordability is a key problem, he also said that many young people don't have insurance because they think they can get away without it.

Unlike single-payer plans, such as one proposed by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, Nation and Richman's approach relies greatly on the insurance industry. Their plan addresses the affordability issue by streamlining the enrollment process for government health programs for the poor, including Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

In addition, it would provide subsidies to help low-income people who do not qualify for Medi-Cal buy insurance.

The hint: Profit-oriented insurance company thinking is what got our health care system into this huge mess in the first place. Does anyone really want to rely on the kindness of insurance companies to get us out of it?

End times

Count me among those who believe the end times are a-comin’.

No, I don’t believe in Dubya the Messiah; I don’t even think he’s the Anti-Christ, though it’s tempting.

The efforts of the fundies and neocons to drum up Armageddon are in vain; as the Gospel of Matthew tells us - ”Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

How do I know the end approacheth?

For the first time in about eight years, my morning email inbox contained no offers of prescription drugs without prescription, no offers of knock-off Rolex watches, no cheap software, no winning international lottery notifications, no letters from African barristers in need of assistance, no once-in-a-lifetime offers from hot chicks, nor promises of super-Viagra.

Has my Mailwasher finally deleted and bounced so many of those messages that they’ve finally gotten the hint?

I don’t think so.

Obviously, I am one of the Chosen who will be swept off to heaven while the rest of you poor slobs are consumed in the fires of hell.

Update - I spoke too soon. Dr. Paul Emeka of Nigeria, personal financial advisor to the late head of state, humbly requests my assistance investing funds in the United States, as he is unable to leave his country.

Back to the drawing board, but it was nice while it lasted.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Sen. Clinton pushes for voting holiday

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible White House candidate in 2008, joined 2004 nominee John Kerry and other Democrats Thursday in urging that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting.

I've always been in favor of any measure that will make people take a greater interest in voting, and a voting holiday makes as much sense as any other.

But I'd like to see a couple of measure put into place first:

Let's agree that any voting holiday will take place on ONE day in the MIDDLE of the work week. No fair switching it to a Monday or Friday when part of the electorate will give up their right to vote for a three-day holiday getaway.

Can we also get some legislation forbidding the sale of Happy Voting Day cards or Voting Day Sales?

If some people want to put up Voting Day trees in their homes or create quaint Voting Day holiday traditions, it's their own business. The line must be drawn, however, at any tradition involving hiding the ballots.

Republicans should love this, since the fundamentalist Christians can turn it into a God Bless Republican America Day on the Sunday before official Voting Day.

However, Dubya would probably have mixed emotions; he'd hate the idea of giving federal workers another day off, but love the idea of tossing away more taxpayer money.

It should also be noted that very few federal holidays are actually observed by private enterprise. The last time I got President's Day off was when I was in high school.

I'd actually prefer that tried-and-true, all-American custom for getting people to turn out - provide refreshments and charge for it. Maybe throw in a bake sale or raffle.

A little Gannonizing

Looks like GannonGate might finally be growing some legs, and you can always go to AMERICAblog for all the Guckert/Gannon news.

One thing I wish all the media types would get through their heads - it’s not about someone’s private life.

Who knows or cares what he does in his private life? Does he watch TV? Play Solitaire? Walk the dog? Visit his mother?

What we DO know is what he did in his occupations, which are NOT his “private life”. He was a fake reporter and a member of the world’s oldest profession; either are fair game.

I don’t remember anyone complaining about intrusions into Heidi Fleiss or Christine Keeler’s private life; the media fell all over themselves to give us every juicy detail.

And maybe we are beginning to understand what Dubya was thinking when he talked about a “ManDate”. If he cared to accept it, he had one waltzing in and out of the White House for several years.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Empty seats greet the Empty Suit

For President Bush Social Security reform tops a busy second-term agenda, but yesterday's stop on his campaign-style reform push brought little more than a collective ho-hum from Granite Staters.

White House aides collected empty chairs in an echoing Pease International Tradeport hangar before Bush took the stage since only about half of the 2,000 free tickets were taken.

Never fear, Dubya still managed to find a photo op; with little brown ones, even.

Start calculating

Get out your latest Social Security benefit estimate statement and start calculating.

Here is the Social Insecurity Card calculator, via TPM

If we take the plunge into privatized accounts, this household will lose $1,196 per year – almost $100 per month – as opposed to the estimated benefits under the dreary, unexciting Social Security program of the past.

Wow, where do I sign up?


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My Preznit

Junior in New Hampshire:

"Certainly the personal account doesn't fix the system. There needs to be better reforms, more meaningful reforms than that."

Calling Uncle Karl; your boy is off-message.

Abstinence-only flu prevention

Given the Bush administration’s penchant for throwing good money at bad programs (previously known as the Great Slander Against The Democratic Party) and their zeal for twisting science, I hate to see something like this:

Flu shots of little use to elderly, U.S. study shows

A new study based on more than three decades of U.S. data suggests that giving flu shots to the elderly has not saved any lives.

The article does note, however, that -

Most of the 36,000 people who die each year of flu-related causes are elderly and the nation's strategy has focused on getting shots to them, as well as other high-risk groups.

…and it’s not known if any of those lives could have been saved by a vaccination.

Before anyone in the Bush administration gets any ideas about wiping out federal funding for the CDC, I hope they’ll consider how many dollars are saved by a simple flu shot.

Since we’re talking about the elderly, we have to talk Medicare. How many Medicare dollars are spent on flu-related visits to the doctor or hospital admissions? Could those dollars have been saved by a simple and inexpensive annual flu shot?

The study goes on to suggest a more effective way of preventing the spread of the flu would be mass vaccinations of school-age children.

Ira Longini, biostatistics professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and a proponent of vaccinating schoolchildren says:

if 70 per cent of schoolchildren were vaccinated, the elderly would be protected without flu shots. The strategy would require 42 million doses of flu vaccine. Even during this season's shortage, there were 57 million doses available.

Mass vaccinations of children carries it's own risks, as the physician must carefully consider weight, age, and risk level.

Maybe the Bush administration could be persuaded to include "flu prevention" in the flush-with-funds abstinence-only education program, instructing children to wash hands frequently and abstaining from coughing or sneezing in someone else's face.

Goss warns of terror threat to U.S.

U.S. intelligence officials warned Wednesday that the threat of al Qaeda or other terrorist groups attacking the United States was still imminent and likely would be in the form of a car bomb or other low-tech weapon.

Time for all good Americans to put on their tee shirts?

I'm asking Santa for the full set.
Hariri buried amid chaotic scenes

I’ve always thought Syria was next on the neocon hit-list; it makes more sense than Iran, as Syria doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, can’t fight back effectively, and provides a “target-rich” environment that would entice any bully.

The Syrian government hasn’t exactly been the good guys; the late Hafez Assad made Saddam look like a kindly old grandfather.

The heir, Bashir, has generally kept his head down, but Syria needs to get their butts out of Lebanon and let the Lebanese take care of their own business.

But is Syria behind Hariri’s assassination? I haven’t the faintest idea, and I am fully confident the Bush administration hasn’t the faintest idea either, despite recalling the ambassador and Condi’s threats:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday Syria was "unfortunately on a path right now where relations are not improving, but are worsening."

Rice did not blame Syria for Monday's bomb attack that, but she did challenge Syria's long-standing claim that its troops were needed in Lebanon to provide security.

"There is no doubt that the conditions created by Syria's presence there have created a destabilized situation in Lebanon," she said.

The Syrian ambassador summed up world opinion of the Bush administration pretty well -

In a thinly-veiled jab at Washington, he said accusations that Syria is supporting terrorism are akin to claims, later disproved, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war.

For reasonable analysis of the situation, I'd much rather trust Juan Cole, who thinks an al-Queda link is most plausible; if so, the assassination is probably another carrot luring the neocons into another trap and designed to create even more chaos in the Middle East.

And as we've all learned, there's nothing more irresistable to the neocons than an al-Queda carrot.

Almost exciting live-blogging

I had planned to spend the evening doing some exciting, thrill-a-minute live-blogging of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but was distracted when one of my own dogs developed a case of diarrhea.

At such times, I’m grateful I have Chihuahuas and not Great Danes.

I shoveled some Pepto Bismol into the dog, cleaned up the mess(es), sat back down just in time to see “Best In Show” and just in time to wonder why a damned rolling dust-mop Pekinese won the Toy Division…..again.

Here is a Chihuahua –

Posted by Hello

Here is a Pekinese –

Roomba! Posted by Hello

I don't know what these judges are thinking.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Actions also have consequences

Bush has finally learned that "Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," but it doesn't seem to have sunk in that actions have consequences as well.

The “small business friendly” Bush administration has what they think is a great idea to make health care insurance more affordable for small businesses and the self-employed:

The President has also signed into law health savings accounts (HSAs), which combine low-cost, high-deductible health insurance with tax-free savings accounts to pay for health care expenses and save for future medical needs.

Only problem is -

New health plans worsen hospitals' bad debt
Because many new health plans carry higher deductibles, Baptist Health South Florida has found it more difficult to collect on its debts from patients.

The south Miami-Dade County nonprofit hospital system piled up $131 million in bad debt in 2004, an increase of 254 percent from 1999. With high-deductible health savings accounts (HSAs) being introduced with President George W. Bush's backing and studies showing employers shifting more health care costs to workers, Baptist and other Florida hospitals worry that the stack of unpaid bills will only grow higher.

"We see over time that, as patients are required to pay more out of pocket, our bad debt goes up," said Eric Shatanof, Baptist's corporate VP for managed care and network development. "There are a large percentage of the patient portions that people just don't pay."

There are undoubtedly a few “dead-enders” in the crowd of debtors who won’t pay, but the vast portion can’t pay.

The patient is suffering, the hospitals are suffering, and employers are suffering.

The only group feeling no pain is the Bush administration, with their short-sighted, underfunded, “quick-fix” schemes.

Spawn of Luciane on GannonGate

If the guy hadn't changed his name and registered on gay porn sites, this would have been one of the dullest hullabaloos of all time. And besides, let he who has never registered with a gay military porn site under a different name cast the first stone.

(sound of stone crashing through window)

Do tell, Jonah.


Monday, February 14, 2005

A Valentine's Day Greeting

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I'm still paying off Christmas,
How about you?

Is it okay if you're a Republican?

Isn't it a little odd that six gay linguists get canned from the military, but one gay hooker is allowed access to the White House and perhaps beyond?

John Aravosis has burned up the internets on the trail of GannonGate, and it ain't purty.

It's not about the sex...it's about security clearance, background checks - and above all, who waved him through.

The same headline over and over and over

Feb. 14, 2005 - NY Times

U.S. Missile Defense System Flunks Test


Why am I not surprised?
Airport Screener Misses Butcher Knife

A security screener at Newark Liberty International Airport failed to spot a butcher knife in a passenger's pocketbook and was removed from the post for retraining, officials said.

Katrina Bell, 27, had cleared security and was waiting with her sister to board a flight on Saturday morning when she discovered she was carrying a knife.

Bell had put the knife in her bag "just in case" before going on a blind date earlier that week, her sister and travel companion, Tikisha Bell Gowens, 30, said in The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark.

"She said to me, 'Oh my God, I have this butcher knife in my pocketbook,'" Bell Gowens said. "My first thought was, 'They're going to think we're terrorists.'"

The North Carolina women immediately told airport personnel, who summoned police and officials of the Transportation Security Administration, which employs the screeners.

The women were not charged.

The screener was removed from the checkpoint and will undergo remedial training, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said.

I’ve mentioned somewhere that airport screeners confiscated my 90-year-old mamma’s tiny nail clippers from her (very cluttered) purse, so I’m at something of a loss to understand why they couldn’t spot a butcher knife.

Let’s skip over the North Carolina woman’s reason for packing a butcher knife – she was going on a blind date, and was carrying it “just in case”.

Any woman who accepts a blind date with a man likely to need discouraging with a butcher knife is desperate at best and maybe should be on the "No Fly" list.

I just happen to own an honest-to-goodness butcher knife, courtesy of my cousin the butcher.

It’s at least a foot of wickedly sharp, curved steel sharpened to a razor-fine point, and responsible for at least two trips to the emergency room.

In fact, the butcher cousin gave all his female relatives butcher knives one Christmas, and the stories are legion. I’m willing to bet there are at least a dozen trips to emergency rooms and clinics between us, and probably a hundred stitches. One cousin suggested we start a class-action suit.

A butcher knife would have to be in a large, strong protective sheath if you didn't want a severed hand every time you reached into your purse.

How an airport screening missed it or how the woman forgot she was packing it is totally beyond me.

Maybe the lesson we can take away from the incident is twofold - avoid flying in or out of Newark airport, and think twice before making a blind date with a North Carolina woman.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bob Novak!

It's hard to decide on a gift for a man who has everything, but I've finally picked out the perfect Valentine's Day surprise.

Bob, honey - you'll find it on the sidebar to the right, just below the blue "There Is No Crisis" logo.

(By the way, Bob, there is no crisis)

When Novak warns Democrats not to choose Howard Dean as chairman of the DNC, you know The Doctor is the right man for the job.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Abbas Declares War With Israel Effectively Over

Don’t look now, but while the Bushies are making threatening noises at Iran and fumbling around in Iraq, there have been some positive moves toward dealing with the fundamental cause behind Islamist terrorism.

There was no “shock and awe”, no meddling from the neo-cons, and no threats from the White House.

The new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said in an interview this weekend that the war with the Israelis is effectively over and that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is speaking "a different language" to the Palestinians. Mr. Sharon's commitment to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle all Israeli settlements there and four in the West Bank, despite "how much pressure is on him from the Israeli Likud rightists," Mr. Abbas said, "is a good sign to start with" on the road to real peace.
"And now he has a partner," Mr. Abbas said.


Mr. Abbas said the war with the Israelis would be over "when the Israelis declare that they will comply with the agreement I made in Sharm el Sheik, and today our comrades in Hamas and Jihad said they are committed to the truce, the cooling down of the whole situation, and I believe we will start a new era."

There will be those on both sides who will do their best to sandbag the agreements, and it will take great resolve on both parties to resist the urge to retaliate; but this is the most positive development in the region in a long, long time.

Fighting the war on terrorism with diplomacy and the ballot box....what a concept.

Applauding the troops

Writing for Agape Press (“All the News That’s Holy Enough To Print”), Matt Friedman relates a story from a caller to his radio show.

On the program that day we were discussing the report that some Europeans were disgusted with the Super Bowl commercial of American soldiers getting applause in an airport. The critics thought it too extreme in its patriotism and a possible incitement to further war.

Recently returned from Iraq, the Marine caller related how the airport crowd really did applaud him and his comrades-in-arms as they walked through the airport….just like the commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.

I’m glad the crowd applauded. I would, too.

I would applaud their courage and devotion to duty when charged with carrying out insane policy.

What Friedman and others like him don’t understand is that we would like the opportunity to applaud those who are too seriously wounded to walk through an airport.

We’d like the opportunity to honor those who return to American soil in flag-draped caskets. And we'd like to see more sensible policy that would enable them to come home in one piece.

As long as those who left life or limb in Iraq are treated like a dirty secret, you bet we'll be disgusted with hollow patriotism and false shows of "support" for the troops.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

It’s safe to have gastric bypass surgery in North Carolina again

…because Dr. Steven E. Olchowski now practices in Iona, Michigan.

This isn’t a life-threatening case, but it still deserves attention.

Eight medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed by patients who said a doctor at New Hanover Regional Medical Center performed one type of gastric bypass when they had agreed to a different one.


The lawsuits claim that Olchowski told patients he would perform a surgery called Roux-en-Y, but instead performed a minigastric bypass.

Both types of surgery make the stomach smaller and allow food to bypass part of the small intestine. Patients thus feel full more quickly and, by bypassing part of the intestine, fewer calories are absorbed and weight loss is achieved. The difference between the two surgeries is how the stomach and intestines are attached.

Health insurance often covers Roux-en-Y, which costs about $25,000, while it does not cover minigastric bypass, which costs $15,000 to $20,000, in North Carolina.

Attorneys Jennifer Umbaugh and Melissa Pollock, who represent six of the patients, said their clients had serious complications from the minigastric bypass, such as stomach ulcers and continual nausea and vomiting. All of them had a second surgery to convert the bypass into a Roux-en-Y.


Olchowski, 57, resigned from New Hanover Regional's medical staff July 1, 2003. He now practices general surgery at Ionia County Memorial Hospital in Michigan.

I just don’t get this.

An incompetent physician doesn’t become competent simply by moving to another state. It’s not a matter of “state’s rights”.

Until we have some sort of national standards and physicians and hospitals start turning these guys in, we can’t get a handle on malpractice lawsuits.

Memo to Dubya – let’s fix this problem before we start curtailing a patient’s right to sue a butcher.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Curses, foiled again

I grew up with all the “Who will Prince Charles marry?” speculation that began about two seconds after his birth.

From that moment on, it was a requirement that every magazine in the world run a yearly article naming suitable young ladies, with much sorrowful head-shaking over Princess Caroline of Monaco’s Catholicism.

I quite vividly remember the day Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales; kneeling in front of the Queen amidst the spectacular pile of Caernarfon Castle. The 21-year-old prince looked a lot like Alfred E. Newman, and that silly crown didn’t help – nonetheless, he appeared resolved to do his duty. I began to have my doubts he would consider marrying an American commoner.

Because just like many other little girls, I knew for certain I would some day be the one waving from the palace balcony. It really didn’t matter that the years didn’t do much to dispel the Alfred E. Newman look; he was a prince and rich and famous, and everything I deserved.

I would have been a spectacular Princess of Wales. Naturally, the British public would have been at once horrified and fascinated with the idea of an uncommon American commoner Princess, but my brilliant wit and gracious smile would have won them over quite easily. The press would have adored me; most especially when I tripped over my own two feet in public and provided them with many other such endearing “she’s just like us!” moments.

The years flew by; the names and faces of potential brides went by the wayside. I even remember the name “Camilla Shand” from somewhere, but Charles was obviously saving himself for me.

It eventually dawned on me that becoming the Princess of Wales meant sleeping with the Prince; however, by that time the artificial insemination folks were making great advances, so it seemed nothing stood in my way.

Then came the evil day when the engagement to Lady Diana Spencer was announced. How dare he?

Actually, at the time, I had given up my fantasies and was married for the second time. But that didn’t stop me from thinking “That hussy!”

More years have gone by; “that hussy” – lovely, gentle, willful as she was – is tragically dead. Charles’ relationship with Camilla is about to be legalized.

Some elements of the British public disapprove of the marriage, but I say to them – “Come on, folks; give the poor guy a break”.

He deserves some happiness. After all, he missed his chance with me.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Come one, come all

Scottie McClelland, answering the question "Jeff Gannon. How did he get a White House pass, or what kind of credentials did he have?":

Well, you have to get cleared. You have to -- just like anybody else that comes to the White House, you have to have your full name, your Social Security number and your birth date. So you have to be cleared just like anybody else.

My 90-year-old mamma has all those things, too, but they still took away her nail clippers at the airport and examined her orthopedic shoes and wheelchair for WMD.

Hell, I've got a full name, a Social Security number, and a birth date - I've even got a pseudonym and a blog.

I should have no trouble crashing Scottie's gaggle parties.

Rice: Iran must halt nuclear program

Secretary of state says Iran could be referred to Security Council

”And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials.

It all sounds so depressingly familiar, doesn’t it?

Since everybody and his brother knows Condi's opinion of the United Nations and the Security Council, there's no doubt she's referring to Shock 'n' Awe.

But who, Condi? You and what army? Rummy’s clandestine spook-army? The Boy Scouts?

Now all Iran has to do is stir up (or continue to stir up) trouble in Iraq and keep our troops occupied with that mess.

Condi 0, Iran 1....forfeited by ignorance and arrogance.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Default isn't just who gets the blame

I was shocked back on January 4, 2005 when Krugman said:

Privatizers say the trust fund doesn't count because it's invested in U.S. government bonds, which are "meaningless i.o.u.'s."

Josh Marshall notes Bush floated the idea around today at the Commerce Department:

Some in our country think that Social Security is a trust fund -- in other words, there's a pile of money being accumulated. That's just simply not true. The money -- payroll taxes going into the Social Security are spent. They're spent on benefits and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust. We're on the ultimate pay-as-you-go system -- what goes in comes out. And so, starting in 2018, what's going in -- what's coming out is greater than what's going in. It says we've got a problem. And we'd better start dealing with it now. The longer we wait, the harder it is to fix the problem.

As Marshall points out, this would also violate the presidential oath of office.

I'm totally out of my element here; what possible benefit could come from a default?

Is it "Plan B", ready to be implemented if Dubya's privatization sales pitch fails?

But what else would happen? Maybe martial law?

I googled "default treasury bond", and instantly came up with this post. It's a bit lengthy for copy/paste, and should be read in it's entirety.

I wish I hadn't read it right before bedtime.

The Road Show is coming, but the groupies aren't lining up

Dubya brings the Destroy Social Security Road Show to Raleigh, NC on Thursday, and the Raleigh News and Observer seems to have his number-

President Bush is coming to Raleigh on Thursday and bringing along U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole as an example of the rare politician who won office while pledging to change Social Security.

Here's what Liddy says on her website -

And, no way am I for privatizing Social Security. I support the concept of allowing workers to contribute small portions of their own Social Security in the market because it would negate the need to nearly double payroll taxes on future workers to fund benefits.

Isn't it beautiful? That sort of black-is-white, yes-is-no talk is partly how Liddy got where she is today.

Someone should tell Bush that when Liddy spoke about Social Security during her campaign she always emphasized the first part of that statement, played down the second, and accused Erskine Bowles of not having any plan. But I give her full credit for at least using the term "privatizing".

Just about the only way we can get Liddy to visit North Carolina is when Dubya drags her back here, but we'll leave that without comment and move on.

The few winger acquaintances I've had occasion to speak with are expressing similar sentiments..."Social Security is DOOMED, it was DOOMED from the beginning, it's a Communist plot, Bush is a Man of God, but Congress better not take away a penny of my benefits", often with a few four-letter words thrown in for better effect.

The News & Observer continues -

Bush will be host for an hourlong conversation with business leaders, seniors and young people who support his plan

I'm not sure, but I suspect they may all come away agreeing with each other, providing lefty bloggers with endless "Ax The Preznit" fun.

How about our congressional delegation?

But he picks a state where five of the seven Republican U.S. House members are lukewarm on the idea -- at best.

Only Reps. Sue Myrick of Charlotte and Patrick McHenry of Cherryville favor the accounts.

The others? Not sure. They are getting mail and calls from people who are worried about Social Security, especially the 900,000 members of the state AARP, most of whom worry that change would mean reduced benefits.

Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro said he finds the idea of personal accounts "inoffensive" but does not see the system as in crisis.

Rep. Walter Jones of Farmville said he'll wait and see what comes out of Congress.

Even Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, who praised Bush's State of the Union address as magnificent, is not sold on private accounts.


Among the last to hear about Bush's visit were Reps. Bob Etheridge, Brad Miller and David Price, the three Democratic House members who represent the Triangle. They had not received tickets as of late Tuesday.

I don't know much about the other two, but I suspect David Price isn't losing any sleep. Or if he's received a ticket, he's already torn it up and flushed it.

Taking the test

I was unexpectedly busy being a birthday girl yesterday; a car pulled into the driveway, and out popped the kid with a bouquet of roses. Her last class of the day was cancelled, so she decided to surprise me with a birthday vist. Excellent added incentive for going out to dinner and enjoying a margarita. Or two.

But I wasn't too busy to notice the results of a CNN/Gallup poll -

More than two-thirds of 1,010 adults contacted from Friday to Sunday said it would be a good idea to limit benefits for wealthier retirees and for higher income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages.


Have you played the Social Security Game from The American Academy of Actuaries?

"Popping the cap" on wages subject to Social Security tax nets you a 77% out of 100% on the solve-the-immediate-problem scale.

Reducing benefits for those whose total retirement income exceeds $50,000 per year gets you a 75% score.

Neither solution solves the long-term problem by itself, but as the poll indicates two-thirds of those polled don't need to take the test to know where the solutions lie.

I'd suggest someone bring the test to Dubya's attention, but as everyone knows he glories in having been a "C" student.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Preparing the way for Dubya or Ahnold?

How did I miss this? I guess "strict interpretation of the Constitution" only applies to judges.

In The House of Representatives

January 4, 2005
Mr. SERRANO introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification.

Happy 39th birthday to me…..again

I’m getting really good at turning 39, so I thought a review of other years containing a “9” might be in order.

Chapter One
Nine years old. - See picture in the sidebar to the right. Funny looking, gap-toothed kid. Amateur beautician mother tormented me and my naturally straight hair with frizzy permanents and dressed me funny.

I was a pretty good baseball player (softball is for wimps!), but limited equality for the sexes meant it would be many years later before I could play on an organized team. By then, I was too old, fat, and lazy.

Chapter Two
Nineteen years old. - (Picture here). Goofing my way through college, and embarking on a disastrous relationship. Big, fat whitebread wedding.

Chapter Three
Twenty-nine years old - After suffering through seven-plus years of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, we divorced quite un-amicably.

“We”, because I gave as well as I got. But I was no match for him in the physical abuse department.

The night I woke up in the emergency room with a broken hand, I looked straight into his eyes and told him to get the hell out of my life while I still had one.

I gave up everything – house, cars, furniture, money. It was a small price to pay and worth every cent.

I rented a tiny apartment on my meager salary, bummed rides to and from work, and lived on water and peanut butter sandwiches. Couldn’t afford jelly.

On the day the divorce became final, I returned to work with the precious, hot-off-the-press divorce papers in my hand. It was lunch time, so I went to the company break room to enjoy my peanut butter sandwich. I splurged on a can of Pepsi and bag of chips to celebrate.

I was halfway through my sandwich with peanut butter smeared on my teeth when a tall, dark, handsome stranger sat down next to me. Not a total stranger; he worked in a different department and I’d seen him around, but we’d never “officially” met.

He asked me to dinner. A couple of months later we were married; we just celebrated our 26th anniversary.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

Chapter Four
Thirty-nine years old. -The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association really should issue a recommendation advising against thirty-nine year old women attempting to raise a toddler. I’ve never been so tired in my life.

Chapter Five
Forty-nine years old - The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association really should issue a recommendation advising against forty-nine year old women attempting to raise a teenager. I’ve never been so tired in my life.

Chapter Six?
Fifty-nine years old - I’ve got several years to go before I get there, but I hope to make it. I'm not that tired.

Speaking of hopes, how’s that diet of mine going?

You lose fourteen pounds
And what do you get?
Another year older
And deeper in debt….

If I haven’t lost at least another fourteen by the time I’m fifty-nine, feel free to call me the laziest, wimpiest critter on the planet.

Other hopes:
*Watching the kid receive her master’s degree and/or embarking on a satisfying, successful career.
*Bush and his neocon buddies thoroughly disgraced and out of office forever and ever amen.
*Peace on earth
*Good will toward men

Enough of this. I’ve got to go rest up so I can blow out all these candles.

Posted by Hello

Peace, ya'll


Monday, February 07, 2005

Message to vets

You're being screwed. Again.

NY Times- President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

The next time big bidness and/or the administration parade you around in public to show their hypocritical "support", it's time for something like this -


Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Geezer Generation

The administration has put out a lot of lame, disingenuous, smoke-and-mirrors regarding Social Security, but in my mind the most shameful has been aiding and abetting the crowd that whines - “why should I contribute MY money for these geezer’s retirement?”.

No matter how special you think you are, no matter how talented, smart or cool – not one of us arrived on earth without a lot of help from a geezer generation.

Geezers gave you birth; you were probably helped into the world by geezer doctors and nurses. The roads you traveled on your way home from the hospital were built and maintained by geezers.

The car, bus, or train that transported you was built, maintained, and driven by geezers.

The house, apartment, trailer, or shack you were brought up in was built by geezers. Geezers kept the electricity flowing, the water running, and your sewage disposed.

Somewhere, a geezer worked to put food in your mouth and clothes on your back.

Geezers changed your diapers, wiped your snotty nose, mopped up the vomit when you were sick, and toilet-trained you.

If you’re reading this, you were taught to read by a geezer. Geezers built and maintained your schools; geezers were your room mothers and den leaders, music teachers, school bus drivers, and coaches.

Geezer policemen and geezer firemen risked and often gave their lives to protect your life and property.

Geezers paid your college tuition and/or paid taxes for your grants. Your professors are geezers, and the persons who read your resume' will quite likely be geezers.

The owner of the company that pays your wages will probably be a geezer. He/She may be a disagreeable geezer, but without his/her initiative and a geezer's entrepreneurial spirit, you wouldn’t have the benefit of a paycheck.

What’s that you’re looking at? A computer monitor? You can thank the geezers for something you've probably taken for granted. Legions of geezers produced your computers and Xboxes and Ninentendos and pioneered the technology that allows you to play those games.

Listen to your favorite musical artist during an interview; most of them will credit a geezer as their inspiration. Without geezers like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and the Motown crowd, you’d be chillin’ with Lawrence Welk’s champagne music.

Those great artists don’t need you contributing to their retirement, but the legion of fans who supported and encouraged their careers, bought the tickets and records – they are geezers.

And by the way – if it weren’t for the geezers, you’d still be listening to those artists on vinyl 45 and 78 rpm records. Look it up. Geezers gave you cassette tapes, then CD’s.

Certainly, the geezers have made mistakes. So will you, and so will the generation that comes after you.

Do you owe geezers anything?


You owe them everything.

Rein in the attitude, and help figure out a way to make Social Security truly secure; not just for today's geezers, but for YOU when it's your turn.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Can we remember this...

...the next time otherwise sensible Democrats suggest wooing John McCain as a Democratic candidate?

The six Democrats who voted to confirm Gonzales as AG should hang their heads in shame and be held accountable come re-election time.

But nobody has more to be ashamed of than John McCain.

John McCain's 5 1/2 years of captivity in North Vietnam were divided into two phases. Early on, this son and grandson of high-ranking Naval officers was accorded relatively privileged status. Then he refused early release--which he saw as a public relations stunt by his captors--insisting that POWs held longer than him should be granted their freedom first. Thereafter, McCain was treated much more severely, but he also had an opportunity to bond with his fellow prisoners. Those experiences strengthened his resolve and eased his transition back into civilian life.

McCain willingly rode the POW horse into office; any man who has seen and experienced torture firsthand should have the courage to stand against it.

The six Democrats who voted to confirm have disgraced their party and principles. McCain disgraced the uniform and experience he once wore so proudly.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?