Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It won't come off

Palin is a fool

Or, if she was aware of what she was saying here, she is dangerously anti-science, and haven't we had quite enough of that over the last eight years?

In Case You Weren't Scared Enough: Palin on "Fruit Fly Research"
Todd Palmer and Rob Pringle
Posted October 27, 2008 09:18 AM (EST)

Read More: Autism, Cancer, Election 08, Fruit Flies, Fruit Fly, Genetics, John McCain, Palin Fruit Flies, Research, Sarah Palin, Science, Green News

Today, we are blogging from Durham, North Carolina, where we are trying to do our humble bit to help elect Barack Obama. On Friday, Sarah Palin gave us yet another reason to feel good about what we're doing here.

We are far from the first people to comment on this subject -- even within the Huffington Post -- so we'll keep it brief. But Palin's mockery of "fruit fly research" during her October 24th speech on special-needs children was so misconceived, so offensive, so aggressively stupid, and so dangerous that we felt we had to comment.

Here's the excerpt from the speech:

"Where does a lot of that earmark money end up, anyway? [...] You've heard
about, um, these -- some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole
lot of sense, and sometimes these dollars they go to projects having little or
nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris,
France. I kid you not!"
It's hard to know where to begin deconstructing this statement. This was a speech on autism, and Palin's critics have pounced on the fact that a recent study of Drosophila fruit flies showed that a protein called neurexin is essential for proper neurological function -- a discovery with clear implications for autism research.

Awkward! But this critique merely scrapes icing off the cake.

Fruit flies are more than just the occasional vehicles for research relevant to human disabilities. They are literally the foundation of modern genetics, the original model organism that has enabled us to discover so much of what we know about heredity, genome structure, congenital disorders, and (yes) evolution. So for Palin to state that "fruit fly research" has "little or nothing to do with the public good" is not just wrong -- it's mind-boggling.

What else does this blunder say about Palin and her candidacy? Many people have used it as just another opportunity to call her a dummy, since anyone who has stayed awake through even a portion of a high-school-level biology class knows what fruit flies are good for. But leave that aside for a second. Watch the clip. Listen to the tone of her voice as she sneers the words "fruit fly research." Check out the disdain and incredulity on her face. How would science, basic or applied, fare under President Palin?

We have other questions. Who wrote this speech? Was he or she as ignorant as Palin about the central role that fruit flies have played in the last century of biomedical research? Or was this a calculated slight to science and scientists -- a coded way of saying, "We don't care what you know or what you think"? We find it odd that, of all the examples of dubious expenditures of public funds, the speechwriters alighted on this one.

Whatever the explanation, it scares us. Everyone who has suffered, either personally or indirectly, from an inherited illness, and anyone whose life has been lengthened or enriched by modern medicine, should channel Palin's flip comment when they stand in the voting booth on November 4th.

the original story is here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Well, we still have the Kurds

Has anyone else noticed that in the last couple of weeks, we have managed to alienate both the Shia and the Sunni in Iraq? Way to go, George!

The Shia leadership has refused to sign that agreement on allowing U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, and we're threatening them to sign it, or else....or else.....things will be baaad.

And now the Sunni has said they will stop cooperating with U.S. forces due to a raid on some Sunni leadership in Anbar province.

All this, and another 17 Iraqis were killed in ongoing violence in Iraq on Saturday. Another 10 were killed on Friday. On Wednesday, another 15 killed and 40 injured. 27 were killed and another mass grave was uncovered on Tuesday. You know, I've been watching INN news lately on Free Speech TV, and every day, there is another report of 20 to 30 to 50 Iraqis being killed by bombs or violence of some sort, but yet, I hear next to nothing about these attacks on the mainstream media anymore. Interesting, isn't it? I guess the media surge is over.

Must keep it going though. Must feed the military war machine....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mark Morford: Sodomy and Gratitude

Sodomy and gratitude

Nine perfect ways to prepare for the End of Bush. Can you believe it?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mark Morford

No one can really quite believe it.

It is the thing That Can Barely Be Named, the Great Unspoken, the impossible truth that feels too good to be true and hence few dare actually mention it aloud lest it somehow vanish and

time reverses itself and the devil snorts and chuckles and reveals his grand, horrible joke, and suddenly it's 2001 all over again. Please, no screaming.

Can you sense it? Do you feel the deep tingle? Because amid the fiscal meltdown and Obama's stunning poll numbers and the stress of the election, this staggering fact: George W. Bush is nearly done. He will soon be gone forever, America's most spectacularly incompetent footnote, the oily residue left on the pavement after his administration's giant Hummer of ineptitude is finally hauled to the crusher.

It is, to put it mildly, a bizarre feeling. Surreal. Disorienting. After all, the nightmare has lasted so long. This wound has been raw and open for years.

No matter. It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It is easy to overlook the grand prize, the greatest gift this decade has yet to offer. Yes, it's Obama, but also the flipside: an America without Bush anywhere near the steering wheel. Hallelujah indeed.

So then, I have made a quick inventory, a short preparatory checklist of things you can do, right now, to get ready for the magnificent shift, the massive exhale of thanksitude. Because no matter how bleak and tense it all seems right now, just remember: He can never be president again. God, my fingertips quiver just writing that.

1) Make new travel plans. Yes, the dollar has been gutted. Yes, a small espresso and a day-old sourdough baguette on the rue du Cherche-Midi will cost you 97 dollars. But if you can afford it, now is the time to plan a new European jaunt.

Why? Easy: No more foreigners scowling at you. No more shameful hiding of your nationality. No more telling that hot barista you're from Canada and instead confessing, with even a tiny hint of Obama-infused national pride, "I'm American," and then not apologizing and feeling that sickly sense of mortification. Incredible.

2) Whip out your 2009 Precious Moments wall calendar, start blocking out weekends for all the spring weddings now being planned by your most lovestruck gay friends. Pitiable evangelical panic aside, Proposition 8 shows hopeful signs of being slammed to the ground like the hateful piece of homophobic intolerance it so very much is (then again, as of this writing, this one's still too close to call). At least Connecticut just joined the gay marriage party. What will you wear? Who tosses the bouquet?

3) Remember books? Actual literature? Stock up. Read more 3 Quarks Daily and N+1 and Arts & Letters Daily, subscribe to the New York Review of Books, TLS, The Atlantic, The Sun. Prepare, in other words, for a new climate of intellectual stimulation and curiosity. Prime your mind. It's been a while since someone in the White House had an IQ higher than a pickup's tailpipe. The quality of the national dialogue is about to improve tremendously.

4) Remember Lawrence v. Texas? The landmark 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned the Lone Star State's hateful little law that made consensual sodomy a criminal offense? That single decision has proved to be quietly revolutionary, knocking down similar insidious laws across the nation and transforming the government's role in legislating sexual morality in your own bedroom. You want to celebrate Bush's permanent retirement to Crawford? Enjoy the perfect send-off with a well-lubricated loved one? You know what to do.

5) Get ready to pray. To Shiva, to Shakti, to Astarte and Allah and Buddha and Jesus and the Great Mother and whatever divine energy you like that the Dems don't completely botch it, get just as power-drunk and monomaniacal as their GOP counterparts, and squander what's shaping up to be an astonishing opportunity to reshape the American experiment.

Fact: the neocons and the evangelicals had a stranglehold on the U.S. government for six solid years, and they very nearly destroyed the country. The good news is, there is nowhere for the Dems to go but up. They can't possibly do worse. The bad news is, even with a brilliant, steady, unflappable President Obama at the helm, they could sure as hell try.

6) God is dead. Or rather, the Repub's particularly cruel version, a gloomy, tyrannical, guilt-slingin' God from Colorado Springs who loved war and smacked up women's rights and pretended to tolerate gay people even while hating "what they do," a God who snorted the Republican agenda like it was cheap meth in a Denver motel room, has proven to be a complete failure, an abomination of divine connection. Translation: God is not what they say, and She never was.

I have no suggestion here. Please feel free to invent your own.

7) Plant a garden. Sow a seed. Map out a plan. Prepare a new project, business, yoga practice, love interest, a great thwopping orgasm of why-the-hell-not. See, the energy is changing. The sorcerer's curse is lifting, the wicked witch is dead, the land is barren no more. Anything that needs to grow can now begin to flourish. Anything positive and conscious that gets planted now stands a far better chance of prospering. It's simple cosmic physics.

What, don't believe in that like-attracts-like, up-your-vibration, collective-consciousness hippie crap? How sad for you. And your fellow Republicans.

8) Gratitude. Cultivate it. Celebrate it. You survived. Check that: You survived, barely. To be sure, the accident was awful. The crash was bloody and hellish, far worse than anyone expected. Tens of thousands dead. Hotbeds of terrorism now even hotter. Fewer jobs, more homelessness, more fear, prisons overflowing, banks failing.

So then. Is it not time to feel thankful? That you're still here? That we made it all the way to rock bottom, and we're still breathing? How about that you're still reading these words, right now, and I'm still here to write them, and we still have this connection, this tenuous lifeline of thought and discourse and humor, even as the imps of dread and conservative numbness tried for years to block it, derail it, shut it all down?

9) See them there, receding, sliding back into the Void with a wail and a whimper. Prepare, at long last, to wave goodbye.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tech Tips

Hey, I learned something from this one. Bet you will too.

Tech Tips for the Basic Computer User

Last week, I wrote an entry on my blog that began like this:

"One of these days, I'm going to write a book called, 'The Basics.' It's going to be a compendium of the essential tech bits that you just assume everyone knows--but you're wrong.

(I'll never forget watching a book editor at a publishing house painstakingly drag across a word in a word processor to select it. After 10 minutes of this, I couldn't stand it. 'Why don't you just double-click the word?' She had no clue you could do that!)"

Many readers chimed in with other "basics" that they assumed every computer user knew--but soon discovered that what's common knowledge isn't the same as universal knowledge.

I'm sure the basics could fill a book, but here are a few to get you started. All of these are things that certain friends, family or coworkers, over the years, did *not* know. Clip, save and pass along to…well, you know who they are.

* You can double-click a word to highlight it in any document, e-mail or Web page.

* When you get an e-mail message from eBay or your bank, claiming that you have an account problem or a question from a buyer, it's probably a "phishing scam" intended to trick you into typing your password. Don't click the link in the message. If in doubt, go into your browser and type "" (or whatever) manually.

* Nobody, but nobody, is going to give you half of $80 million to help them liberate the funds of a deceased millionaire…from Nigeria or anywhere else.

* You can hide all windows, revealing only what's on the computer desktop, with one keystroke: Windows key+D in Windows, F11 on Macs (or, on recent Mac laptops, Command+F3; Command is the key with the cloverleaf logo). That's great when you want examine or delete something you've just downloaded to the desktop, for example. Press the keystroke again to return to what you were doing.

* You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it's the Command key and plus or minus.

* You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.

* The number of megapixels does not determine a camera's picture quality; that's a marketing myth. The sensor size is far more important. (Use Google to find it. For example, search for "sensor size Nikon D90.")

* On most cellphones, press the Send key to open up a list of recent calls. Instead of manually dialing, you can return a call by highlighting one of these calls and pressing Send again.

* When someone sends you some shocking e-mail and suggests that you pass it on, don't. At least not until you've first confirmed its truth at, the Internet's authority on e-mailed myths. This includes get-rich schemes, Microsoft/AOL cash giveaways, and--especially lately--nutty scare-tactic messages about our Presidential candidates.

* You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.

* When you're filling in the boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.

* You can adjust the size and position of any window on your computer. Drag the top strip to move it; drag the lower-right corner (Mac) or any edge (Windows) to resize it.

* Forcing the camera's flash to go off prevents silhouetted, too-dark faces when you're outdoors.

* When you're searching for something on the Web using, say, Google, put quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around "electric curtains," Google won't waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word "electric" and another set containing the word "curtains."

* You can use Google to do math for you. Just type the equation, like 23*7+15/3=, and hit Enter.

* Oh, yeah: on the computer, * means "times" and / means "divided by."

* If you can't find some obvious command, like Delete in a photo program, try clicking using the right-side mouse button. (On the Mac, you can Control-click instead.)

* Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type "teaspoons in 1.3 gallons," for example, or "euros in 17 dollars." Click Search to see the answer.

* You can open the Start menu by tapping the key with the Windows logo on it.

* You can switch from one open program to the next by pressing Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command-Tab (Mac).

* You generally can't send someone more than a couple of full-size digital photos as an e-mail attachment; those files are too big, and they'll bounce back to you. (Instead, use iPhone or Picasa--photo-organizing programs that can automatically scale down photos in the process of e-mailing them.)

* Whatever technology you buy today will be obsolete soon, but you can avoid heartache by learning the cycles. New iPods come out every September. New digital cameras come out in February and October.

* Just putting something into the Trash or the Recycle Bin doesn't actually delete it. You then have to *empty* the Trash or Recycle Bin. (Once a year, I hear about somebody whose hard drive is full, despite having practically no files. It's because over the years, they've put 79 gigabytes' worth of stuff in the Recycle Bin and never emptied it.)

* You don't have to type "http://www" into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: "" or "," for example. (In the Safari browser, you can even leave off the ".com" part.)

* On the iPhone, hit the Space bar twice at the end of a sentence. You get a period, a space, and a capitalized letter at the beginning of the next word.

* Come up with an automated backup system for your computer. There's no misery quite like the sick feeling of having lost chunks of your life because you didn't have a safety copy.

What are your favorite basics-that-you-thought-everyone-knew? Let us know in the comments for this column at!

original is here.

The Times's technology columnist, David Pogue, keeps you on top of the industry in his free, weekly email newsletter.
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Reading List for October

September was a total wash-out, what with Hurricane Ike and its aftermath, the financial meltdown on Wall Street and the stress that put on us (especially the wife), and capped off by my mothers death late in the month. They say bad things happen in threes, and I sure got three whoppers.

I'm finally able to pick up a book again....

1) Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. It's a story about a 90-year-old man remembering his days with a circus during the Great Depression.
Man can only live by non-fiction for so long. Once in awhile, you have to escape, or you'll go mad.

2) Confessions of a Street Addict, by James J. Cramer. Yes, the "Mad Money" Cramer. A candid look at Wall Street. This guy has been driven his whole life. It's a wonder he hasn't keeled over from multiple heart attacks by now.

3) Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, by Michael T. Klare. Should be required reading by anyone working in the energy industry.

4) Great American Hypocrites; Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, by Glenn Greenwald. Ammunition. Nauseating ammunition.

5) Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton - and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush, by Robert Scheer. Very enjoyable read.

6) The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America, by Robert Scheer. The neo-cons should be rounded up and....

7. The Best of Houston: City of Sin 2008, published by The Houston Press. This annual guide to what's what in Houston is really fun and informative. You learn all sorts of totally useless things about Houston and the surrounding area. And life itself.

There is something so special about curling up on the couch with a good book (or magazine) and letting yourself be drawn into that special world of words and ideas. TV doesn't come close, that yapping, yammering piece of shit. Turn it OFF, already!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What a nice story!

‘Obama paid for my luggage 20 years ago’

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold, Norway with him. But first, she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2, 1988.

At the airport in Miami, things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
“You will have to pay a $103 surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway,” the man behind the counter said. Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.

“I was desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions,” says Mary.

Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.

“I started crying. Tears poured down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying: “That is OK, I will pay for her."

Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.

“He had a gentle and kind voice that was firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?"

Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man. “He was fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants,” says Mary.

She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from. Mary carried the slip of paper in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out. “He was my knight in shining armour,” says Mary, smiling.

She paid the $103 back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time, he had just finished his job as a poorly-paid community worker in Chicago, and had started his law studies at the prestigious Harvard University.

In the spring of 2006, Mary’s parents heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years ago.

In a letter to Mary’s parents, dated May 4, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Obama wrote: I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me about what happened at Miami Airport. I am happy I could help back then, and I am delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Nor way. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator'.

The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

This week, our reporter met her and her husband in the café that she runs with her friend in Åsgårdstrand.

“It is amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago may now become the next US president,” says Mary delightedly. She has already voted for Obama. She recently donated $100 to his campaign. She often tells the story from Miami Airport when race issues are raised and when the conversation turns to the presidential elections.

“I sincerely hope the Americans will see reason and understand that Obama means change,” says Mary.

original story here. Obama is going to make a fine President. And boy, are we overdue for THAT.

RFK, Jr., The Last Refuge of a Soundrel

Alaskan Independence Party: The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel
by: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Huffington Post

In 2004, America's malleable mainstream media allowed itself to be manipulated by artful Republican operatives into devoting weeks of broadcast attention and drums of ink to unfairly desecrating John Kerry's genuine Vietnam heroics while obligingly muzzling serious discussion of George W. Bush's shameful wartime record of evasion and cowardice.

Last week found the American media once again boarding Republican swift boats against this season's Democratic candidate armed with unfair and hypocritical attacks artfully designed by GOP strategists to distract attention from the cataclysmic outcomes of Republican governance. Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin has taken to faulting Senator Barack Obama for his casual acquaintance with a respected Illinois educator Bill Ayers, who forty years ago was a member of the Weathermen, a movement active when Obama was eight and which he has denounced as "detestable." Palin argues that the relationship proves that Obama sees "America as being so imperfect that he is palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

The Times dedicated a page one article to Obama's relations with Ayers and CNN's Anderson Cooper obliged Palin by rewarding her reckless accusations about Obama's patriotism with a major investigative report. Fox, meanwhile, is still riveting its audience with wall to wall coverage of this pressing irrelevancy.

But if McCarthy-era guilt-by-association is once again a valid political consideration, Palin, it would seem, has more to lose than Obama. Palin, it could be argued, following her own logic, thinks so little of America's perfection that she continues to "pal around" with a man - her husband, actually - who only recently terminated his seven-year membership in the Alaskan Independence Party. Putting plunder above patriotism, the members of this treasonous cabal aim to break our country into pieces and walk away with Alaska's rich federal oil fields and one-fifth of America's land base - an area three-fourths the size of the Civil War Confederacy.

AIP's charter commits the party "to the ultimate independence of Alaska," from the United States which it refers to as "the colonial bureaucracy in Washington." It proclaims Alaska's 1959 induction as a state "as illegal and in violation of the United Nations charter and international law."

AIP's creation was inspired by the rabidly violent anti-Americanism of its founding father Joe Vogler, "I'm an Alaskan, not an American," reads a favorite Vogler quote on AIP's current website, "I've got no use for America or her damned institutions." According to Vogler AIP's central purpose was to drive Alaska's secession from the United States. Alaska, says current Chairwoman Lynette Clark, "should be an independent nation."

Vogler was murdered in 1993 during an illegal sale of plastic explosives that went bad. The prior year, he had renounced his allegiance to the United States explaining that, "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government." He cursed the stars and stripes, promising, "I won't be buried under their damned flag...when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." Palin has never denounced Vogler or his detestable anti-Americanism.

Palin's husband Todd remained an AIP party member from 1995 to 2002. Sarah can be described in McCarthy-era palaver as a "fellow traveler." While retaining her Republican registration, she attended the AIP's 1994 convention where the party called for a draft constitution to secede from the United States and create an independent nation of Alaska. The McCain Campaign has reluctantly acknowledged that she also attended AIP's 2000 Convention. She apparently found the experience so inspiring that she agreed to give a keynote address at the AIP's 2006 convention and she recorded a video greeting for this year's 2008 convention. In other words, this is not something that happened when she was eight!

So when Palin accuses Barack of "not seeing the same America as you and me," maybe she is referring to an America without Alaska. In any case, isn't it time the media start giving equal time to Palin's buddy list of anti-American bombers and other radical associates?

original can be found here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The roof is fixed

Finally, over four weeks after Hurricane Ike hit, our roof is restored to its pre-Ike condition. Here's a rather poor shot of it.

During the storm, we lost a lot of shingles and much of the metal trim that you see towards the bottom of that picture above, on the western side. There were no obvious holes in the roof, but the high winds blowing rain sideways (even UP!) allowed some water to enter our house and damage some of the roof on the 3rd floor.

We also have a grate that allows air to pass to the outside from the mechanical room on the 4th floor, and I have no doubt that a lot of blowing rain entered that mechanical room through the grate. In fact, I happened to have an empty bucket in that mechanical room, and after the storm, I noticed that it had easily two inches of water inside it. Two inches of water on a wood floor is going to go somewhere.

We found shingles all over the deck and all over the street after the storm. Many were not ours, as almost everyone in the neighborhood lost some. But now, look how neat again.

I wish I could have replaced all the shingles with some kind of high-tech, recycled, environmentally-friendly composite of somesuch, but the need to fix it was greater than the desire to spend a lot more money on something too high-tech. I do have plenty of room up there for some sizeable solar panels, however....we'll see how many tax credits Obama can get passed for solar power.

As you might imagine, finding contractors to do practically any kind of construction job in this area has been a little difficult. So many homes suffered damage of one kind or another. Most homes had fencing or roof damage. We remind ourselves how fortunate we are that we still HAVE a house. We know more than a couple of people who had homes much closer to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico that simply no longer have a home there. They're gone. Fortunately, no one we know was killed, but the latest estimate is still around 200 people missing from areas closest to the Gulf.

There are still large piles of debris here and there on Bolivar that have not yet been thoroughly examined. I recently read one story of a human rescue/search team that was using cadaver dogs to search for bodies, and the dog slowly circled one huge pile, gingerly climbed on top of it, and gently laid down. There was definitely going to be a body in there. And I cried.

So we were lucky.

We were able to get the A/C unit replaced within a week of the storm, and now the roof is done, but it took over four weeks. Still to be replaced is our fence. We've had a gaping hole in the fence since the storm. We feel rather exposed.

Upon returning from Arkansas recently with the wife, we were southbound on Interstate 45 and began to see a lot of odd-looking vehicles and flashing lights in the northbound lanes. Turns out that hundreds of electric utility trucks were streaming north out of Houston, leaving town after restoring power to millions of Houstonians that were without power from anywhere from one hour to one month. A veritable army of utility trucks and workers had flooded into the Houston area after the storm to help our city restore power. There were so many trucks....wave after wave of them going home....I began to cry again. This time with gratitude to all the wonderful people from all over the country who helped us in one way or another recover from the storm. Things like that....give me faith that we, as Americans, can overcome our present difficulties and be stronger than ever before. We can do it.

Thank you America. Thank you all for caring and helping.

During this time, you may have noticed things going a little haywire with the economy. My wife works in the financial world, but she's what you would call one of those "honest brokers" who actually cares about helping people plan and save for their future. At times, she and her company have recommended certain financial instruments to their clients. During this insane time, many of those financial instruments have gone flat broke to zero value, and many of her clients have lost quite a lot of money. She feels somewhat responsible, recommending things to clients which turned out to flatline to zero value. Some clients savings have gone up in smoke. She has shed a few tears over it.

To top it all off, as you may know, my mother passed away recently. Yes, I've been doing a lot of crying lately.

But I think that we, like the markets, have hit bottom, and are on our way back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

She's a post turtle

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, who's hand was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.

Eventually the topic got around to Palin and her bid.

The old rancher said, 'Well, ya know, Palin is a 'Post Turtle''.

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle' was.

The old rancher said, 'When you're driving down a country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a 'post turtle'.

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain. 'You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, and she doesn't know what to do while she's up there, and you just wonder what kind of dummy put her up there to begin with'.

Mark Morford: Licking the Zeitgeist

I'm still somewhat off-balance and off my feed from that horrid September, but I'm getting there. And so is the market.

Licking the Zeitgeist
Go ahead, let the Obamafied optimism wash over you. For now
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, October 10, 2008

You might think it's all said and done. You might think the economic crisis and the nonstop war and the mandatory belt-tightening means that, despite the Obama-led overhaul about to happen in Washington, it's still locked down and certain that you have far less mobility, elasticity, karmic wiggle room than you had hoped.

You would be wrong.

I say go ahead. You can still do it. You can still allow a rush of progressive confidence -- and even a crazy hint of liberal complacency -- begin to wash over you like a warm breeze, like a mad shot of unbridled potential. Despite the housing crisis and the fiscal firebombs and the ugly talk of those enormous, untapped strongholds of racism that won't truly emerge until Election Day, optimism is still allowed. Required, even.

And that nagging thought that, no matter how glorious an Obama win might be, the stunning all-American hole Bush has dug for us is simply far too deep to emerge from unscathed? Let it go.

Just for now. Just for the moment, as you stare in joyous wonder at all the state and national polls that are increasingly leaning Obama's way, if not fallen over completely. Plenty of time in the coming few weeks to imagine the uglier possibilities, America's darker demons, late October surprises. Save that for the final week.

Because the truth is, the notion of an Obama presidency yields many gifts. Foremost: a refreshed intellectual climate, a far higher quality of basic discourse. Squinting and bumbling and "is our children learning" are out, articulation and oratory nuance are in. Out: aw-shucks "go with my gut" Joe Six-pack pseudo-cowboy Jesus-says. In: thoughtfulness, polysyllabic words, sentences with complicated construction and meaning.

The bar has been raised. Or rather, the bar has been lifted out of the cave where it was dumped eight years ago; it's been polished up, reinstalled.

Will you pause, even for a moment, to mourn the end of shrill "culture war" quasi-issues that clogged the pores of the national complexion and gave Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter their careers? Bible literalism, creationism, intelligent design, and screeching over stem cells, flag burning, "f--k" on TV, abstinence education, feminism, censorship, nipples in public, pregnant teens, birth control, the "war on Christmas"?

The "culture warriors" still scattered across the megachurches and Fox News channels of America, they are muted. Their throats are hoarse from all the screaming. No one is listening anymore. Do you see them there, off in the corner of the Olive Garden, re-scouring "Left Behind: The Final Victory" for something they might've missed, their skin turning translucent, their cough getting worse, wondering why it didn't happen for them as the New Reality begins to sink in?

They know their 15 minutes are up. They know they had their shot, gave it everything they had. Six solid years of complete control, their most potent leaders, their best ideas, war and terror and jingoism, anti-gay anti-women anti-science. Also: a million new surveillance cameras, ten thousand right-wing judges, a front-loaded Supreme Court, pummeling the line separating church and state, blaming gays for 9/11, keeping Christian rock alive, creepy museums in Kentucky where humans walk with dinosaurs.

And they failed. Spectacularly. Historically. Unsurprisingly.

In fact, their failure is now so complete, nearly every idea they offered up now proven to be so regressive and detrimental to the advancement of the human experiment, theirs will go down in history as one of the most profound collapses of any totalitarian power cluster in our short history. Mark your calendars. You were there. You survived. Barely.

Be not like them. Be generous, forgiving, compassionate. Offer them a cup of coffee, a well-thumbed copy of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," an empathetic pat on the back as you pass by on your way to Burning Man to pick up your fallen hopes and your fire and your newly grinning gods. For they are as lost as the undead, doomed to forever wander the cold purgatory of their shell-shocked fears.

At last, a president who really does care about black people. And minorities. And women. Children. People who make less than two million a year. Animals. Ecosystems. Imagine.

Apathy is the new polyester. Ennui is the new smoking. Willful belly button-pickin' ignorance of world events, environmental issues, energy policy is no longer considered cute and obvious and painfully American. Can you imagine?

No longer will it be tolerable when chatting up a sweet young thing or an older tasty thing at a bar or fetish dungeon or Whole Foods cheese aisle and casually toss in a reference to Obama's solar initiative or the multifaceted cultural upheaval happening in China or India, to watch his eyes glaze over as he shrugs and stares at his shoes and mumbles something about getting baked while lubing his skateboard and watching Xtreme Motocross on ESPN2. Next generation's motto: Engage the world, or become irrelevant.

Oh, there will be recoil. Count on it. There will backlash, green fatigue, a deep reluctance to engage a collective mind so unused to thinking for itself. No matter. We could very well be on the cusp of something new. There is an opportunity to be reborn.

As Bill Maher points out, much of the U.S. has been primed for years to become like a great European city-state: cultured, world-wise, intellectually curious, inclusive and sophisticated, less obsessed with sour Puritanical prohibitions and more fascinated by the interplay of body and mind and spirit and national identity.

But it's this other half, this uneducated, terrified right-wing Bible set, that's shackled us to the mammoth cruise ship of ignorance, refusing to let us evolve.

It is, as always, a choice. But right now, it's a choice that hasn't been this clear, this available, in ages. And right now, it's certainly helpful, if not mandatory, to be just a little optimistic about it.

Thoughts about this column? E-mail Mark.

Link to the original here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Small Nuclear Blunder?

And here's more evidence that John McCain is not to be trusted. And more evidence that Palin is a dangerous fool.

A Small Nuclear Blunder?

by: H. Bruce Franklin, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

(Photo: US Missile Defense Agency)

Some people are making fun of how Sarah Palin pronounces "nuclear." That's a mistake. Instead they should listen to how she used the word - because that displayed a truly terrifying ignorance.

"Now, a leader like Ahmadinejad," she said, "is not one whom we can allow to acquire nuclear energy, nuclear weapons." Her mindless merging of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons threatens the entire structure of the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the only legal obstacle to a planet where dozens of nations confront each other with nuclear bombs and missiles. The NPT is also the only legal obstacle to a nuclear-armed Iran.

The NPT depends on its assurance that all non-nuclear armed states have an "inalienable right" to develop "nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." The treaty even obligates nuclear-armed states to assist this development. To insure that this nuclear energy is being developed for peaceful purposes, the NPT provides for international inspection. That is the legal basis for the inspection being conducted in Iran. Denying Iran's right to nuclear energy would push it into withdrawing from the NPT, thus ending all inspection and actually legitimizing a nuclear-armed Iran.

So was this just a slip by Palin? Or was it just her own ignorance? I'm afraid the answer is much scarier. Palin was attempting (in her garbled way) to express the long-held position of John McCain, which was also the policy that George W. Bush actually implemented, the policy that led to North Korea testing a nuclear bomb in 2006 and moving toward a nuclear arsenal.

Back in 1994, President Bill Clinton halted North Korea's development of nuclear weapons (which had begun during President George H. W. Bush's administration) by negotiating what is known as the "Agreed Framework." Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea's secretly produced plutonium was locked up and placed under strict international supervision, with teams of international inspectors sent to live in North Korea, where they maintained continual surveillance of any possible nuclear activities. In return, the United States agreed to help North Korea meet its energy needs by providing an ample supply of fuel oil and two light-water nuclear reactors, just as envisioned in the NPT.

Washington, however, did not abide by several parts of its side of the agreement, including its promise to help build the light-water reactors. Nevertheless, on and off negotiations continued, and for the next eight years North Korea engaged in no significant development of nuclear weapons.

But then in December 2002, after denouncing Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil" and while deploying forces to invade Iraq under the spurious argument that Iraq possessed an arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction," President Bush announced that the United States was unilaterally withdrawing from the Agreed Framework. When the United States actually invaded the only one of these three nations that did not have any active nuclear program, North Korea predictably decided to go hell-bent for a nuclear deterrent. So in 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. Thus, the international inspectors no longer had any right to be there and Pyongyang was free to rush into the nuclear arms race. On October 8, 2006, North Korea conducted its first test of a nuclear bomb.

Three days later, Sen. John McCain went on NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America" to blame North Korea's bomb on President Clinton and the Agreed Framework. To advance his position, McCain blatantly rewrote history, ignoring the basic fact that the Agreed Framework had stopped North Korea's development of nuclear weapons for eight years. Later that week, a number of analysts called this the beginning of a campaign by McCain to win the White House in 2008.

McCain's position on nuclear proliferation two years ago is still his position today. Forget meaningful negotiations, ignore the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and rely on threats and force to keep nations such as Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. So it's not hard to understand how Sarah Palin, after her pre-debate crash course in talking points, could end up saying that Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear energy.

That's scary. What's even scarier is that so few Americans know enough to be scared by the words coming out of the mouth of someone who could easily become president of the United States sometime in the next four years.

original story is here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Palin found to violate ethics laws

This investigation of Palin's actions began one month before McCain announced her as his running mate. If he was aware of this situation, I guess kowtowing to the religious nutbags (by picking Palin) trumps having a running mate with ethics problems. If he was not aware of it, he's an idiot.

Can Joe Six-Pack and hockey moms relate to ethics violations?

Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers


Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

Gov. Sarah Palin at a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wis., on Thursday.

A 263-page report released by lawmakers in Alaska on Friday, found that Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten dismissed, as well as allowed her husband and subordinates to press for his firing, as a result of a divorce proceeding between him and Ms. Palin’s sister in 2005.

“Such impermissible and repeated contacts,” the report states, “create conflicts of interests for subordinate employees who must choose to either please a superior or run the risk of facing that superior’s displeasure and the possible consequences of that displeasure.” The report concludes that the action was a violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

What now lies ahead is not fully known at this point. Ms. Palin could be censured by the Legislature, but that is unlikely.

Ms. Palin, who was elected governor in 2006, was tapped as Senator John McCain’s running mate in late August, about a month after an inquiry was opened into her firing of Mr. Monegan. Her political ascendancy took what was essentially a state personnel matter and elevated it into a national issue, one that has been simmering in the background of an increasingly heated presidential race.

the whole thing is here.

Send text msg from computer to cell phone

FMI (for my information)

United States

Provider E-mail to SMS address format
Cingular Wireless
Houston Cellular
MCI Phone
Pacific Bell
Southwestern Bell

there are many others here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain running disgraceful campaign

Has John McCain no shame? After saying he would run a "clean" campaign with no dirty attacks, just look at what he has stooped to. The New York Times had a good editorial on it.

Hey, Republicans, are you proud of this guy?

Politics of Attack

It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.

Despite the occasional slip (referring to Mr. Obama’s “cronies” and calling him “that one”), Mr. McCain tried to take a higher road in Tuesday night’s presidential debate. It was hard to keep track of the number of times he referred to his audience as “my friends.” But apart from promising to buy up troubled mortgages as president, he offered no real answers for how he plans to solve the country’s deep economic crisis. He is unable or unwilling to admit that the Republican assault on regulation was to blame.

Ninety minutes of forced cordiality did not erase the dismal ugliness of his campaign in recent weeks, nor did it leave us with much hope that he would not just return to the same dismal ugliness on Wednesday.

Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.

That line follows passages in Ms. Palin’s new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama’s ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber. By the time she’s done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers — and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government. The Democrat, she says, “sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled “kill him!” as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.

Mr. McCain’s aides haven’t even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were “going negative” in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis — and by implication Mr. McCain’s stumbling response.

We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics. He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.

And the tactic of guilt by association is perplexing, since Mr. McCain has his own list of political associates he would rather forget. We were disappointed to see the Obama campaign air an ad (held for just this occasion) reminding voters of Mr. McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five savings-and-loan debacle, for which he was reprimanded by the Senate. That episode at least bears on Mr. McCain’s claims to be the morally pure candidate and his argument that he alone is capable of doing away with greed, fraud and abuse.

In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about. He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of “victory” in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.

But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger and hatred.

see the real thing here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Martial Law?

Did George W. Bush threaten some United States House of Representatives members that MARTIAL LAW would be imposed if they DID NOT VOTE FOR THE BAILOUT?!

Give us our money or else!!

And now that they got the money, the bailout hasn't seemed to help a thing! So they get their money, and we're still fucked. Boy, talk about needing a change!

I'm not sure this country is going to make it...

Reminds me of something Bill Maher said recently, to the effect that,

"Yes, there ARE two Americas: one, a rather European-like, enlightened bunch; and the other, religious neanderthals who won't let America advance."

You betcha!