August 23, 2008

In Honor of the Olympics -- Paulette Huntinova

I tried embedding this and it didn't play.
Please follow the link, instead. It's well worth the trip. :)

August 22, 2008

Don't Just Junk Your Junk Mail

My cell phone company [Credo -- used to be Working Assets] is, imnsho, a really cool company.
It manages to charge the same amount as other companies and, at the same time, donate 1% of your payment to good causes like Green Peace, Care, ACLU, Amnesty International, etc. There are 4 categories of donation sites: those that fight hunger, work for peace, civil rights and the environment. At year's end, all customers receive a ballot so we can vote on how we want the money portioned out.

They allow you to phone Congress every day for free. And they alert you to bills currently being debated, and other important matters. You can contact Congress yourself or, for a fee, they'll send snail mail on your behalf [snail mail gets more attention in Congressional offices than email does.]
All this -- and a competitive price, too. You can't beat that with a stick.

Today, this URL came in their e-bill. The creativity of people as they deal with their junk mail is pretty amazing. I've been sending back those prepaid envelopes for a while now. But I think I'm going to
start mulching my garden with some of it, as well.

You can take a look at some of the more resourceful things people have done with their junk mail here.
Or, if interested in checking out the company, you can go here:

August 19, 2008

Life Emulating Art

In the mid-1970’s when I was in my late 20’s, I took several creative writing classes while attending the university.

Back then, Dr. Ingersol stressed again and again, the importance of creating tension either between characters or between the circumstances and the characters. I went along with the program—I wanted the grade, after all—but I wasn’t a true convert. After all, weren’t there plenty of times when tension wasn’t present in peoples’ lives?
Well, ok, I was aware that my life had been, by and large, pretty angst-filled—but, surely, that wasn’t the norm, was it? Well? WAS IT?

During the months I've endured over the past few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Dr. Ingersol. Maybe he knew his onions, after all.
At first, I was thanking my lucky stars.
I had ordered hurricane shutters back in April, or so. The company kind of dragged its feet until I phoned em and started LEANING on them to get with the program here! Hurricane season was well underway [in late June] and I WANTED MY SHUTTERS, GOLDANG IT!

OK, they got here with the shutters—and the windows had been measured wrong by the sales agent. So, the installers hauled about half of em back to the factory and recut/redrilled new ones. They came back and got em installed quickly, once they actually, you know, FIT the windows they’d been custom-cut for.

Hurdle # 1 cleared.
When I’d ordered em, most of them were set to be cut and hung vertically. There were 2 exceptions because I wanted fire-access. So, 2 windows-worth were hung horizontally so the bottom halves of those windows could be left open for easy [well, EASIER, anyway] exit in case of fire.
Most of the shutters are left up permanently—so, Sunday afternoon saw me out hanging those bottom halves. A simple enough job, you’d think. Drag out the ladder, hang the shutters on the bolts installed around the windows, tighten the thumb-screws, dust off your hands and you’re done, right?


It turns out, the installers hadn’t drilled the holes on one of the panels. They had, oh so thoughtfully, marked which window it was supposed to fit. They’d even marked where the holes were SUPPOSED to be. Of course, I hadn’t noticed the absence of the actual holes till it’s twin was already installed. So, just to be certain, I took down the panel I had hung, fit it to it’s twin and yes, the holes and the dots lined up. So, I went in search of my drill bits—and didn’t find one big enough to fit the bolts that had to go through the holes I would be drilling.

While drilling, repositioning the drill and drilling another hole, then repositioning AGAIN and drilling a hole between the 2 and kind of sawing the drill-bit in a circular motion, I thought about Dr. Ingersol again.

Finally, the holes were large enough and with much grunting and tugging and slapping the panel into position, it was where it was supposed to be. NOW, I could thread the nuts onto the bolts and put away the ladder.

Oh, and of course, all this was happening when the weather here on the coast where humidity is generally low and there is ALWAYS a breeze which makes the weather SO much more pleasant than it was back in Missouri in August was feeling downright midwestern. Yesterday saw temps and humidity both hovering in the century range. And those shore breezes were but a pleasant memory as the storm closed in. I guess Fay was hogging all winds for herself and leaving nothing for the rest of us.

Still, Hurdle # 2 cleared.
Then, this morning, I pulled out my hurricane kit and took stock of my supplies. First aid kit: check. No-cook food: check. Flashlights: check. Batteries: check. Radio that doesn’t need AC current: ruh-roh.

I THOUGHT I had a useful radio—I really did. But, when I unpacked it I quickly discovered that, in order to listen to it I have to crank it continuously. And the crank is noisy.

Just try to listen to the radio and actually get some useful information in that situation. I noticed that my bedside clock radio had a battery compartment. So, it was off to Target this afternoon. I picked up several 9 volt batteries, brought em home and installed one. I unplugged the radio and tried to listen to it. Nope. It turns out, the only thing the battery is good for is keeping track of the time so that, AFTER POWER IS RESTORED, it knows what time it is and you don’t have to reset the clock. But as for either listening to the radio or being able to tell the time while the power is out, forget it.
And as for buying a radio I can listen to when the power goes, well—that's not going to happen on the day a storm is due to hit.

I phoned a friend across the street. SHE has been here for years and years and has several battery-powered radios and a battery-powered tv. So, she lent me one of her radios. Once more, saved by the skin of my teeth. And, again, I thought about Dr. Ingersol.
Then, finally [so far], I heard that sometime tonight, the rains are due to begin. So, I went out to close the accordion shutters over my glass doors. And discovered that they had been installed BACKWARD.
One half of my glass door opens and the other half is immobile. And the two sections of the accordion don’t meet in the middle. They meet in the middle of one side where, theoretically, the homeowner can shut them and easily reach the locking mechanism. Only, the installers installed em so that the closure is positioned over the IMMOVABLE side of the door.
I can look through the glass at it and it's the prettiest little lock you ever did see. It looks very efficient and I'm sure it would do a bang-up job of securing the two sections of doors. Only, I can’t actually, you know, REACH the lock over there beyond the pane of glass that can’t be moved.

After struggling with it in vain and finally just giving up, I came in and placed a very nasty phone call to the company that sold me these perfectly good shutters [except for the fact that I had to drill the holes in one of em myself and now, I couldn’t lock the section that is positioned over my MOST VULNERABLE window of all—the one that is 7 feet tall by 8 feet wide. Gee, thanks, Shutter Co.]
Of course, it was now after 10 PM—so the most I could do was leave the company a nasty message which won’t be received till after the storm has passed.
[After all, the company's employees live in Florida, too. They're going to be securing their homes or hunkered down listening to THEIR radios tomorrow--not in the office listening to messages from irate customers.]

So, after I vented my spleen at the Shutter Company’s answering machine I stopped and thought the problem through. And, I had an idea.
That's a dangerous practice, I know. But, I'm used to working without a net.

I went hunting around the house for that ladder I’d used yesterday to hang the shutter panels. And I couldn't find it. I went out to the shed, couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, came inside and couldn’t find the flashlight I wanted. I located another one, went back outside, shined the flashlight around inside the shed and—the ladder wasn’t there, either.

I came back inside and hunted around some more, finally found the ladder and, sure enough, [**whew!** FINALLY SOMETHING WENT RIGHT!] The bungee cords WERE where I thought they were: wrapped around two tubes of the ladder. So, I went outside and rigged two bungee cords across the accordion doors to, hopefully, hold them closed.

BUT, the fact remains, they ARE outside and Fay IS coming. How long will it take her to TWANGGGGG those cords and send them flying, throw open the accordion doors and slam part of my neighbors' roof against my door and take it out? Probably a lot less time than it would take me to sue that company for installing the doors backward and allowing all that damage to occur.

I think I’d better go think up a better way to seal that door. And here it is, coming up on 2:00 AM. Fay has made landfall and is headed my way. I think I’d better get busy.
Meanwhile, I just heard that Fay is starting to get 'more organized’—which means this Tropical Storm could, yet, turn into a hurricane.
It’s starting to spawn tornadoes [and Florida doesn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘basement.’ An oversight I’m sure it has regretted in the past—and will again.]
Now the latest forecast is suggesting it’s starting to zig-zag. So, it could head back west again—toward Clearwater.

OK, Dr. Ingersol, you were right. I was wrong. Are you happy, now?


Two addenda, actually—one a surprise, the other business as usual.


First, one started out as a surprise but quickly devolved to just what you’d expect:

Amazingly, I got a call-back from the shutter company this morning. Who knew?

The operator put the guy who installed the shutters on the phone.

First, he tried to blame me—because he hadn’t noticed the fact that only 1 side of the door can be opened.

I’m willing to accept blame for the fact that I hadn’t checked the installers’ work. Though I did expect them to know what they were doing [silly me].

What I won’t do is accept responsibility for their lack of attentiveness to the situation on-site.

And, second, he tried to convince me that the doors aren’t actually installed backward. I interrupted him to explain that I’m not interested in arguing or parsing words with him while my doors are being held together by BUNGEE CORDS, FERGOSHSAKES!

He said he’ll be here this afternoon to swap out the doors.

Uh, he and his crew will be installing my doors DURING a hurricane? I kind of doubt it.


Second, Tampa has lived up to it’s reputation. It is well-known as a sweet-spot when it comes to heavy weather.

Right on cue, Fay has swung east and IS NOT currently heading for the Tampa area.

Sorry, east coasters, you’re going to get socked by the storm that is veering to miss Tampa. **whew!!!**

That’s not to say we won’t be hit with massive thunder storms, possibly even some fairly mild [as such things go] tornadoes and lose power in the process. But, we’re likely to miss the worst of it. Again.

Some folks attribute our sweet spot to an ancient Indian burial ground in the vicinity. I believe that the people in this region noticed the tendency of storms to skirt the area and figured that their ancestors would feel safe—so they buried them here.

Whatever the reason, Fay curved east and looks like she’ll swerve out over the Atlantic then swing back to hit the US a THIRD TIME without ever hitting Tampa dead-on.

Meanwhile, all my outdoor furniture is indoors and my house is a wreck. But, my baptism by fire may be over. I got to assess my system without it being tested by a full-fledged hurricane.



And, the installation crew is here—BEFORE the storm hit.

I will not let them leave before shutting and locking those doors, this time.

August 18, 2008

Hurricane Alert!

Well, Fay is coming in for a landing tomorrow -- or Wednesday or Thursday -- who knows? They're calling the landfall 'uncertain' [as to time and place]. Gee, ya think???
Clearwater is smack in the middle of the zone-of-probability. So, whatever happens, I'll be out-of-pocket sometime in the next few days.

I've gotten my storm shutters up, brought in ALL my outdoor furniture [my Florida room looks like a junk sale (in fact, the whole house does)] and laid in a load of groceries that don't need to be cooked.
My home is sturdier than most mobile homes -- so I'm probably going to stay home.

Over and above my survival kit, I'm taking Jake-the-Cat, Molly and Huck [the computer twins] with me if I am-scray to higher ground. Hey! you wouldn't leave YOUR pets behind, would you?

Assuming I have a home after Thursday or so, I hope to be back up and running within a couple of weeks -- whenever power is restored.
If you don't hear from me by the end of August, please send any white light you can spare to the Clearwater, Florida region.
Thanx, two crows.
This is the most articulate I've ever heard him be.
Once again, I wish he was a stand-up comic.

August 15, 2008

The World Isn't Laughing. Me, Neither.

He'd be funny if he weren't President. I wish he were a stand-up comic instead:

August 12, 2008

Refusing the Vote to Those Who Serve

It seems the Bush Administration is all for spouting rhetoric about, 'Support Our Troops,' right up to [but not including] allowing them to register to vote.
Please nip over to Sorghum Crow and check out the post for 8/11/08.

HT to my namesake for uncovering this scandal! And, please pass it on to everyone you know!

August 11, 2008

btw-- I just added 2 new sites to my blogroll:
Left In Missouri
They Gave Us A Republic and We Intend to Keep It.
These are two outstanding sites -- please give em a look-see.
Ironically, the hosts both live and post in Missouri. I might've felt less lonely if I'd known em before I moved away from there.

Two Quotes and Proof of their Veracity

'Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.' — Albert Einstein

A news reporter asked, 'What do you think of western civilization?'
Mahatma Gandhi answered: 'I think it would be a good idea.'
From the Washington Post:
Bush's Idea of Swift Justice — Dan Froomkin

Two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and after almost no consultation with anyone outside Vice President Cheney's office, President Bush signed an executive order setting up an extra-judicial system of military commissions, ostensibly to bring tough and swift justice to terrorists.

Nearly seven years, a series of Supreme Court rulings, and multiple congressional capitulations later, [the] system finally rendered its first decision yesterday, in the case of a minor al Qaeda functionary [Salim Ahmed Hamdan— bin Laden's chauffeur].
It was at best a mixed verdict for everybody.
Jerry Markon writes in The Washington Post: "A military jury on Wednesday found a former driver for Osama bin Laden guilty of supporting terrorism but not of conspiring in terrorist attacks, handing the Bush administration a partial victory in the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half a century.

"Charles D. Swift, a former Navy lawyer who has represented Mr. Hamdan for years, said the case would eventually reach the American court system, which he predicted would correct legal errors here. Mr. Swift called the military commission 'a made-up tribunal to try anybody we don't like.'"

Dan De Luce writes for AFP: "At sentencing hearings that began on Wednesday afternoon, the Navy officer presiding over the case, Keith Allred, rejected a request by the prosecution to call an FBI agent to describe the effects of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Allred said Hamdan was 'such a small player' that it would be unfair to have the jury hear the testimony as it would imply Hamdan had a role in the 9/11 attacks."

[Gee, ya think? TC]

Carol J. Williams writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Despite the potential for a sentence less than or equal to the time he already has served, Hamdan has been told by his lawyers of the Bush administration's intent to keep all branded 'enemy combatants' detained indefinitely, regardless of any acquittals."

Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek: "The Bush administration needed a big win in the Salim Hamdan case at Guantánamo. It didn't get one. By convicting Osama bin Laden's former driver -- the first 'terrorist' to be tried under the first U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II -- only of 'material' support for terrorism, and absolving him of conspiracy to commit terrorism, the military judges provoked questions about what Hamdan was doing there in the first place. Is driving a car a war crime? The appeals court may decide not -- in which case even this meager verdict could be thrown out.

"'I would be very surprised if any of this conviction stands at the end of the day,' says Scott Horton, a law professor specializing in human rights at Columbia University. 'He was convicted of things that are not war crimes by a tribunal that has the power only to prosecute war crimes.' . . .

"[T]he Hamdan verdict points up, more than anything else, one of the central mistakes of the Bush administration after 9/11: sheer overreaching. Was this really the best the administration could do — a driver — in the first test run of its much-batted- about tribunal system, nearly seven years after the terror attacks themselves?
By arrogantly deciding that the president had the right to define and pursue the 'war on terror' any way he liked, and that he could define anyone he liked as an 'unlawful combatant' -- then expanding its prisoner population way beyond the true Al Qaeda culprits to include everyone rounded up in Afghanistan and then Iraq -- the administration ensured itself a legal and moral quagmire. . . .

"What began as a hunt for a relatively contained group of self-declared murderers like bin Laden became a feckless dragnet for tens of thousands (if one includes Iraq) that no other country could openly support. And now we are paying for it. We Americans are now fighting the 'War on Terror' all but alone in the world.

"'By defining the war on terror so expansively the administration has undermined the legitimacy of that very concept,' says [Matt Waxman, the former Defense Department assistant secretary of detainee affairs], who fought several brave battles within the White House, principally against Cheney, his chief legal counsel David Addington and their Justice Department mole, John Yoo, to clarify and rationalize detention and interrogation rules. 'Had the government taken a much narrower approach, and restricted the definition of who could be detained, it would be in a stronger position.'"

Rosa Brooks writes in her Los Angeles Times opinion column: "On Wednesday, after 6 1/2 years of controversy and delay, the administration finally scored a 'victory' in a military commission trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gaining the conviction of one terrorist mastermind.

"Osama bin Laden, you ask?

"Ah, no. He's still living it up somewhere in Pakistan, enjoying a good chuckle at our expense.

"Wednesday instead saw the conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who fessed up to being . . . Bin Laden's driver. He was accordingly convicted of the 'war crime' of 'providing material support for terrorism.' Next up before the military commissions: Bin Laden's pastry chef, for providing culinary support to terrorism."
[All emphases added.]
Click here for the full text.
Well, the administration has done one thing for the rest of us, at least. If Congress will get off its duff and convict these a**h*les [it's too late to impeach them, but we can still prosecute them], we can use their own ‘war crimes’ regulations against them.

I, for one, especially like the part about 'indefinite detainment' though the part about including in evidence confessions made 'under duress' holds a certain charm of it's own.

August 7, 2008

Rampant Paranoia

I just brought in the mail. I received a postcard addressed to 'Postal Customer' that invited me to an 'event' where I could get a passport.
I don't know about you but this concerned me on several levels:

First— Though I've had a passport before, I've never before received an invitation to apply for one. Among other things, the documentation required include: proof of citizenship and proof of identity.

Second— Just yesterday, I read that the government can confiscate my laptop at the border and copy anything it wants to from it.

Put those two things together and it begins to feel like Big Brother wants to 1] know where I am and 2] get it's hands on my laptop.

Right now, just getting to the border costs more than I want to pay. And, given what's happening to our currency, it also costs so much to travel abroad, I'm certainly not inclined to go there.

And, now the government is offering to make it easy for me to get a passport??? What's going on here?
I'd be more than happy to go to a border if the trip was one-way— but somehow, I don't think that's what Cheney/Big Brother have in mind.

Heard on NPR:

On Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!

McCain said, ‘Obama has only been to the Middle East once before.’
To which Obama’s admirers replied, ‘Duh! That’s why they call it the Second Coming!’
True story:
Two thieves stole bedding from a store. They were apprehended behind the store a few hours later where they were discovered asleep on the stolen merchandise—one curled up on several pillows, the other in a hammock.

August 4, 2008

With all that is coming to light now--this administration seems to be coming apart at the seams. Maybe NOW Pelosi will see reason?

Anthrax and ABC News -- The Smoking Gun?

Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News -- by Glenn Greenwald

After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. [Emphasis mine.]
The letter sent to Brokaw is shown at the right.
The letter sent to Leahy contained this message:
We have anthrax.
You die now.
Are you afraid?
Death to America.
Death to Israel.
Allah is great.
By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.
Click: here for the complete text.
In all the hoopla about the high-up muckity mucks who received such letters--please don't forget the individuals across the country [postal workers and people who weren't employed by any government] who received or handled mail and died of anthrax.
And what do we know, for certain, about how Ivins died?
Was our government complicit in their deaths?
We must discover the 'sources' ABC is shielding.

August 2, 2008

Summer Polls and An Offended Cat

Well, THIS explains what all those McCarthy-ites--oops, McSame-ers -- oops, Fair and Balanced Supporters of the Republican Candidate, John McCain are blathering on and on about.
Have you noticed the fact that you can't swing a dead cat these days [ouch! I just got a claw embedded in my ankle!] without hitting some republican who's quoting this poll or that one?

So, I went looking for some polling data all on my own to see if I could make sense of it all and found this commentary on summer polls. This guy doesn't seem to have an ax to grind about one candidate or another. He's just reporting on polling in the summertime. Period.

Now I'm being repeatedly nipped on the toes. [Jake! Stop it, already!]

So, you read this article while I go make nice with Jake who took offense at my reference to deceased felines for some reason. Sheesh!
[[ Jake! Even candidates for president mis-speak, sometimes! I didn't mean it that way! Honest!]]
This from

What's wrong with these summertime presidential polls?
-- by Richard Dunham

You could get whiplash just trying to read the most recent presidential campaign polls. In the past week, we've seen one poll (Gallup) declaring that John McCain is leading the race by 4 percentage points. But if you were watching CNN, you'd learn that its poll has Barack Obama ahead by 7 percentage points.

In between, we have a 1-point Obama lead (Fox/Opinion Dynamics), 2 points (Rasmussen Reports) and 5 points (Pew Research Center).

Polling in seven key swing states by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute finds Obama's lead shrinking. But CNN is showing the Illinois Democrat's lead growing.

What in the name of President Kerry is going on here?

Here are our five top factors that are giving American pollsters midsummer fits:

1. Summertime polls are notoriously unreliable. People go on vacation, so the samples used by pollsters are sometimes not representative of the population. Fewer young people are at home in the summer. And many voters are thinking of the beach -- or paying for that next tank of gas -- rather than making a final decision on their local congressional race (or even the presidential contest).

"It's just not a good time to poll," said Clay Richards, associate director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

2. More people use cell phones in the summer. Pollsters have been bedeviled in recent years by the increasing number of Americans, particularly younger adults, who use mobile units as their primary -- or sometimes only -- telephones.

Some pollsters rely entirely on land lines, some have a formula for taking into account people without old-fashioned service. This alone can skew the results. Add to that the fact that more people are away from their home phones (where most pollsters call) and you have a recipe for disaster.

3. Pollsters are surveying different audiences. Some summertime polls measure all adults, some measure registered voters, some try to guess who is a likely voter in November. After Labor Day, just about every poll focuses on likely voters, so it's more valid to compare one poll to another. If you do that in the summertime, you're asking for trouble.

4. Nobody knows who's going to vote in November. Even the polls that claim to measure likely voters aren't the same. All use a formula called a "screen" based on answers to several questions. Some polls base their likely-voter screen on whether a person has voted in recent elections. Others base it on the person's enthusiasm level about the current election. Some Democrats argue that current screens undercount young voters, first-time voters and charged-up anti-Bush voters. As independent pollster John Zogby says, all polling mixes art and science. There's no scientific formula that can perfectly predict who will show up to vote.

5. Blame it on cable. The insatiable appetite of 24/7 cable news, the Internet and the blogosphere have accelerated the trend toward covering new poll results like a new inning in a baseball game.

Yesterday, Obama, 51-42. Today, McCain, 49-45. Tomorrow ... stay tuned!

Trouble is, we're really mixing apples and oranges here. It's fine to compare trends in the same poll over time. If several polls reflect the same trend, it's probably true. But the cable talking heads breathlessly read the latest polls as if they are reality TV.

Sorry, folks. They are just snapshots in time -- imperfect snapshots, as we've explained above. All polls are not the same. We should not mix and match polls at will.

What's more, treating poll results like a nonstop sporting event is not only bad journalism, it's just plain dumb.

That having been said, we'll be back next week with more poll numbers and analysis for you. Some of us just can't break our addiction to polls.
OK, I got to the bottom of the problem. My reference to a dead cat wasn't it. At least, that wasn't ALL he was offended by:
First, he was upset at my calling rethugs 'Fair and Balanced.' [So I explained the finer nuances of sarcasm.]
Second, he was upset by the 'dead cat' remark. [And I explained idiomatic speech.]
And, then, he took offense at his second billing in the title.
But, he was at least somewhat mollified when I explained that this is a POLITICAL blog and promised to give him top billing whenever he is mentioned at Scattershot Thoughts [after I signed a document to that effect with the blood from my ankle.]
So, we're all OK over here, now. For the moment, at least.