Monday, October 30, 2006

Selling Dirt

This isn't "dirt" as in "land." This is dirt as in, well, dirt.

Stuff (NZ) reported Saturday about a couple guys selling dirt.

Two Irishmen have set up a business selling dirt to nostalgic Irish Americans who want a handful of "the mother country" on their graves.

Pat Burke, 27, and Alan Jenkins, 65, have just shipped their first $US1 million load of "official" Irish soil to New York - at $US15 ($NZ23) per 340 gram bag - and confidently expect it will be followed by many more.

"The demand has been absolutely phenomenal," Burke, an agricultural scientist from County Tipperary, said on Friday.

Burke, who has patented a way of processing the soil so it passes US import rules that demand it is free of disease and non-indigenous insects, said the pair were in talks with "one of the world's largest retailers" and a US shopping channel.

Because of Ireland's history of famine and unemployment that encouraged emigration, it's estimated that 40 million Americans have Irish ancestry, and there are at least 70 million worldwide. Quite a market for the dirt salesmen, whose website isn't up yet but will be here.

I'm part Irish, but my grandfather with the Irish ancestry was more in love with being Scottish, so he would have liked a handful of the Scottish Highlands in his grave instead. Maybe I can buy the Scotland franchise...

New Toyota Ad

Here's the latest Toyota RAV4 ad making the rounds:

Watch here

I'm usually the last person to know anything important, so I'm probably just proving how gauche and backwards I am by even showing it. But I'm counting on somebody being even more backwards than I am. If that's you, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


The car is right-hand drive. It's a British (or British-influenced country) ad. Maybe I'm not as out-of-it as I thought.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Michelle Malkin Interviews Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn is my favorite columnist and Hugh Hewitt radio guest. He's insightful and clever, and he has a new book out, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Michelle Malkin, on her Hot Air TV platform, has a two-part interview with Mark Steyn about the war against the jihadists and his book. Watch Part 1 here and Part 2 here (HT: The Truth Laid Bear).

I Have Links!

They're on the sidebar. They all work. God is good to me!

Thanks for your help, Susan.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

GodBlogCon Recap

I'm back home, and I've had my nap after staying up late and getting up early for a couple days. Now I can think again.

At GodBlogCon, I took a lot of notes--Plenary Panels and Breakout Sessions--but I haven't posted them. In a moment of great lucidity (after the first evening's post), I realized that most of the people who would be reading my posts would be bored to tears by the details, but there are a few who would want to know what we talked about. So here are some impressions and highlights of the weekend.

There were a lot of bloggers at the conference who count Hugh Hewitt as their "Blogfather," either through one of his books (here or here) or through listening to his radio show. I'm one of them.

Joe Carter, of Evangelical Outpost and now the Family Research Council blog (a group blog), made a statement during the first Plenary Panel, "Bridging the Christian Divide," which was quoted throughout the conference. He said, "If we want to have graceful Christian bloggers, we need to have graceful Christians." Then he added that if we aren't better Christians, it's because we don't want to be, or we'd be spending more time on it. (Ouch!)

Another issue was the interrelated questions of motivation and reality. Each blogger needs to examine his motivations. Are we in it for fame? Are we pursuing hits and ranking, rather than seeking meaningful contact with other people? At the same time, do we neglect in-the-flesh relationships for the virtual ones?

In the end, there was agreement that blogging allows new "communities" to develop. There are real people at the other end of our blogs, people whose lives are touched in some way by what we say. Mark Roberts told about having been contacted by a man who was a new Christian, and after reading The Da Vinci Code, the man began to doubt his faith. Then he came across Mark's post critiquing the book, and it erased the man's doubts, and he had to let Mark know how grateful he was. Roberts said that touching one life like that outweighs 200,000 hits.

In the third Plenary Panel, "The New Media Political Revolution," Hugh asked a question about the future of presidential politics and the importance of candidates having served in the military.
John Mark Reynolds, of Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute, answered first. He said he advises the young men that if they aren't sure about what they should do, in a time of war they have their call. Unless a gentleman has a clear call to do something else, he has a duty to serve this nation in a time of war. Self-service and sacrifice are acts that most people don't want to do, but anyone who wants to operate as commander-in-chief will have to show that he did something that is self-evidently sacrificial and serving.

The unanimous consensus of the panel (including La Shawn Barber, who "at the risk of sounding retro" said, "There's something about a man in a uniform who serves.") was that 25 to 30 years from now, when the Biola students are at presidential age, their failure to have served in the military during a time of war will disqualify them, in the eyes of the American people, from being elected as President. Bill Clinton, who didn't serve in the military, was able to be elected because the Cold War had ended and we didn't see any threats to our nation's existence on the horizon.

Next, Wikipedia was held up as a truly new thing made possible by the phenomenon of the internet. It's not just an online version of an encyclopedia. It's a compilation of knowledge, contributed to by people around the world, with depth and breadth that was never possible with any other technology. That's the kind of thing John Mark Reynolds envisioned in his opening talk Thursday--though not just a "Christian Wikipedia"--when he talked about the virtual reality of Christian life and about connecting Christian bloggers to each other, with other internet media, to create something with depth as well as breadth.

[Update: At one point he (I think) said, "Imagine clicking on a Bible verse, and having access to every painting, every piece of music, every Shakespeare reference, every piece of literature related to that verse for the last 2,000 years." That's the potential the internet brings.]

We discussed this during the roundtable discussion (which Jimmy Akin pointed out was being held around a square table) at the end of the conference, trying to picture what this would look like. One person talked about needing a kind of index (my word, not his), where if a blogger has an excellent post on abortion, other bloggers could find and link to it instead of writing their own post that says nothing more than "You're an idiot if you want abortion." Another person--I think it was Andrew Jackson--described a kind of portal people could use to get to the Christian blogosphere, where they could find Christians blogging about different things, not just theology. Joe Carter talked about the way megachurches are held together with small groups, and he suggested Christian blogs could form groups of ten. For example, I (my blog) would belong to two groups, of which I'm the only common member, and each member of each group would also belong to two groups, and this way there's connection in the blogosphere without the hierarchy that can degenerate into content filtering.

Kevin Wang, the web designer for the GodBlogCon site was beside himself trying to get the attention of the moderator, Matt Anderson. When it was finally Kevin's turn, he drew pictures on the marker board of what he called "syndicates," where bloggers with mutual respect would form a syndicate, and their posts could be syndicated or not, and the syndicates could list or link to or syndicate with other syndicates as expressions of trust. And this would give us community without hierarchy, but what Kevin brings to this that the small group idea doesn't have yet is underlying "massively powerful databases and massively easy-to-use programs," provided he can get the grants to work on it. I'm not describing it well, but it looks promising to me.

Finally, I admitted to some of the people there that, although I'm a mainframe programmer, I am not only not a PC programmer, I'm not very PC savvy either. I've wanted to add a section of links to the sidebar of my blog for quite a while, but I haven't been able to figure out how. One woman said, "Oh, that's easy," and explained it in a way that I (with my basic HTML training) could understand. So I'm going to give it a whirl soon. It might even work.

That's it for GodBlogCon. That's plenty--except that I overheard someone saying they'd like to take GBC on the road...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cardinals Win World Series

Life is wonderfully sweet. Not quite as sweet as it would have been if the Cardinals had beaten the Tigers in 1969, but sweet enough. They won the World Series today in the fifth game, restoring the honor so rudely taken from them that Dark October of '68.

"I think we shocked the world," Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "It's an unbelievable experience."

I really can't gloat, because I've lost contact with that Tigers fan kid after all these years. Although, I got his dad's email address when I bumped into his parents at Petco a few years ago...

Nah, it wouldn't be nice.

Hugh Hewitt at GodBlogCon

Hugh's radio show just started. He's broadcasting from GodBlogCon, and it's standing room only. He started the program with Lynne Cheney smacking down Wolf Blitzer on CNN but good. What a woman!

"But, Wolf, there's a difference between news and terrorist propaganda."

More after the break...

[I lost the second section when I tried to publish, because the wireless connection wanted me to sign in again. Argh!]

Lynne Cheney whupped Wolf some more after the break, when Wolf tried to equate James Webb's fiction sex scenes with Lynne Cheney's fiction.

Forget Condoleeza Rice for President. Lynne Cheney in 2008!


John Mark Reynolds, who did a hysterical previous segment with Hugh that I can't do justice to, is up now, with La Shawn Barber.

La Shawn and John Mark both believe the evangelical Christian base is energized. And I have to agree. There's enough going on, like the New Jersey same-sex marriage-or-whatever-the-legislature-decides-to-call-it, that Christians are looking forward to the November elections.


Hugh and John Schroeder, of Blogotional and Article 6 Blog, briefly discussed Article 6 Blog. It covers issues of religious tests for the presidency, in particular the Mitt Romney campaign, since Romney is a Mormon.

I've left comments on Hedgehog Blog before, expressing my current support for Romney. Of the people who are unofficially officially running for president, too many of them have too many strikes against them. McCain has burnt bridges with the GOP, including the Gang of 14 stunt he pulled over the blockade of judicial nominees. He won't get my vote. Frist is missing his spine and hasn't shown any sign of growing a new one. Giuliani is pro-choice and isn't making any of the moves that unofficial candidates make, so he probably isn't in the running. From what I've heard so far, Romney is where I would want a presidential candidate to be on the issues that are important to me.

As far as religion is concerned, most of the time we're given a choice of two secular candidates to choose from, and Christians actually vote for one of them. Why should it be any different to vote for a Mormon?


Time for the Beltway Boys. Mort and Fred discussed the Wolf Blitzer/Lynne Cheney interview and the Michael J. Fox ad. Mort Kondracke is adamantly in favor of embryonic stem cell research, to the point that he claims adult stem cells don't have the promise that ESCs have. You could see the heads shaking in the room, and as soon as they went to the break, the sound in the room exploded.


Larry Kudlow on the economy. He talks about "the Goldilocks economy" and says it's still intact.

Ford Motors is "the deep yogurt story." They've gone so far in the hole that it's going to be hard to get itself out. He's gotta be right. My brother-in-law in Texas refuses to buy another Ford again--even if it's the best vehicle--as long as Ford continues to not only support but to promote the leftist agenda. Obviously he's not alone.


Charmaine Yoest and Joe Carter, both from Family Resource Council, are the guests this segment. Joe wants the frcblog to be able to respond quickly to media mistakes and attacks.

Hugh has said for the fourth time, about the dinner he attended last night with some Marines, "They hate the media." The military believes they're getting a raw deal from the MSM, and there's no love lost at all.

The students who organized this year's GodBlogCon are up next, and they're being given a hard time from last year's organizer and from their loving professor, John Mark Reynolds. Hugh is in good humor with everyone during the breaks. It's a different show during the breaks, but it's all the same Hugh.


Hugh read a piece by Carol Platt Liebau on Wolf Blitzer's sandbagging of Lynne Cheney.

The patent bias, the lack of decorum, the utter unapologetic tackiness of the entire episode is like an ugly train wreck -- it makes normal people want to avert their eyes. And take a mental shower. Pronto.

Hugh's producer Duane put together Wolf's contradictory statements. "With all due respect, this is not terrorist propaganda." "We said it was propaganda." They played it over and over for a minute. Beautiful!


Hugh is interviewing the conference's token Catholic blogger, Jimmy Akin, and publisher James Kushiner, who has a new magazine, Salvo.

"When we write, we read each other's words, but there's nothing like the human interface." - Kushiner


"Punch Foley for Joe" in Florida's 16th Congressional district.

Lowell of Hedgehog Blog called in and pointed out that he's the one working today, and his co-blogger at Article 6 Blog, John Schroeder, is sitting here at GodBlogCon. The crowd here loved it.


Somebody commented during the break that Wikipedia mentions the "mystery" of Hugh's wife's first name. Find it here.

References to Hewitt's wife of over 20 years, "the fetching Mrs. Hewitt," are made from time to time, although Hewitt will not reveal her first name to preserve an aura of mystery about her.

Hugh is talking to Andrew Jackson and Matt Anderson. Andrew was the one who got last year's GodBlogCon going, and Matt was the organizer.

Hugh has brought up the question that has already been brought up in some of the panels: Do you worry about the idea of your blog posts coming to haunt you for the rest of your career? Matt said some of his friends are curtailing their blogging a bit.

Andrew has a new group blog:

Hugh ended the segment with the teaser about comparing how Lynne Cheney did with CNN to how Bill Clinton did with Fox. Can't wait.


Finishing up the show with Mark D. Roberts, who is taking on Andrew Sullivan in a series over at his blog.

And finally, a poem by Tarzana Joe, "Energizing the Base."

Great show. Lots of fun.

Hugh's question to Mark Roberts after the show went off the air was, "Has a pastor ever said anything in less than a minute?"

Ralph Peters on Winning in Iraq

Yes, I'm at GodBlogCon, but the news is the news. Ralph Peters had a column yesterday in the New York Post about his take on how we can win more decisively in Iraq. His assessment of Iraq's Prime Minister is sobering.

Now [President Bush is] standing up for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - a man who has decided to back our enemies.

I lost faith in our engagement in Iraq last week. I can pinpoint the moment. It came when I heard that Maliki had demanded - successfully - that our military release a just-captured deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr who was running death squads.

As a former intelligence officer, that told me two things: First, Iraq's prime minister is betting on Muqtada to prevail, not us. Second, Muqtada, not the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is now the most powerful man in Iraq.

Peters has a straightforward answer:

For now, Maliki and his pals are using our troops to buy time while they pocket our money, amass power and build up arms. But they've written us off for the long term.

Does that mean we should leave?

Not yet. Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. We delivered Iraq to zealots, gangsters and terrorists. Now our only hope is to prove that we mean business - that the era of peace, love and wasting American lives is over.

And after we've killed Muqtada and destroyed his Mahdi Army, we need to go after the Sunni insurgents. If we can't leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies.

War is not easy. War is not pretty. War is a barbaric effort to use every weapon necessary to destroy those who would destroy life and liberty. It's well past time to take off the kid gloves and get the job done in Iraq.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

GodBlogCon Started Tonight

I'm at GodBlogCon, not exactly live-blogging.

John Mark Reynolds opened the conference, and I took notes as he spoke. My notes are mostly incoherent. Good thing I saved them and didn't post while I typed.

Reynolds was discouraging and inspiring at the same time, explaining his belief that the new technology, the New Media, will go the way of all other technology: It will expand to a certain point and then be solidified in the hands of the few who succeed. Demand for higher quality will rise, and the smaller players will be squeezed out. Whether that will take five years or twenty remains to be seen.

Religious discussions do not take place in significant ways in Old Media. In some ways the New Media will be like the Old Media. It will be solidified in the hands of the few who succeed. Big Money will censor, and it will probably eliminate the Christian voice.

He challenged us, then, to think about the place Christians can and should carve out for ourselves: Decide to become radically Christian and look at the still-open space in the internet and present a vision of the way we wish the world was, yet constrained by the facts on the ground. We need to be willing to reflect new paradigms. Dream. Create myth. Tell stories. Tell the world, "This is the way I think a follower of Jesus Christ should live."

His example of myth was the story of American exceptionalism that came out of the American Revolution and captured the imagination of people around the world, allowing for a society where more people would flourish than in any other.

But this myth isn't enough for us, because we are Christians first, and we need to incorporate the very best of what has been the way Dante took the best of science, theology, philosophy and merged them together. His vision of the technology we might use is online gaming, like Everquest, to create virtual worlds where people can come to try out new ways of life that can show us what this life can be. Imagine Virtual Los Angeles, but without the racism, where people can see and "live" what a color-blind society could be.

It's hard for me to grasp the change from "flat" blogging to virtual visioning, but his warning is clear. Just as Christianity was forced out of Hollywood thirty years ago by a secular minority, we run the risk now of being forced out of New Media by a minority with Big Money and its potential for technological tyranny. Reaching people for Christ will be made more difficult if we stand back and watch where technology goes, rather than trying lead.

On Languages

Disclaimer: These are sweeping generalizations and do not apply to any individuals I know, unless specifically mentioned below.

I once worked with a woman originally from Vietnam, and she explained some of the structure of the Vietnamese language to me. They have a different word for every possible kind of family relationship. Where we would say, "grandmother," they would have different names for your maternal grandmother and your paternal grandmother. Where we would say, "brother-in-law," they would have a name for the man who is married to your sister and another name for the brother of your spouse and another name for the man who is married to your spouse's sister.

But when it comes to verbs, they only have one conjugation. We have different conjugations that tell if we went shopping, we're going shopping, we are shopping, or we always go shopping. They just go, and they let the rest of the sentence tell you the details. "I go now." "I go yesterday." "I go tomorrow."

Language reflects culture. Asian cultures are socially based, so the emphasis is on relationships. Western cultures are indivually based, so the emphasis is on what individuals do.

I took French in school and really loved it. It's a soft-sounding language, that encourages the speaker to purse her lips and linger over the words. My children, on the other hand, took German, a harsh-sounding language that encourages the speaker to hawk and spit.

One time I was getting my hair cut at one of those cheapy walk-in places, and the haircutter was talking to a couple of his friends in a language that sounded French to me, soft and round, but I couldn't make out any words. I asked the guy what language that was, and he said it was Persian. And I found that interesting, because I'd heard Arabic before, and it sounds harsh to me.

The same sort of dichotomy exists in Eastern Europe. It may not look like it, with all the z's in their words, but Polish is the French of that region, and Russian is the German.

And that brings me to an assessment of these culture based on the sound of their language.

Germany was the aggressor nation in the two World Wars of the twentieth century, and France, when attacked (in WWII anyway), rolled over and invited the Germans to come in and run their country for them.

Poland has been conquered endlessly throughout their history, often by the Russians who (from my perspective of distance and much ignorance) seem hard and bent on conquest even now.

I live in Southern California, and we have a sizable Muslim population here, but all the Middle Eastern Muslims I know are Iranian (Persian), having come here with the fall of the Shah in 1979. Maybe they were predisposed to like us, because we supported the Shah, but these are some of the nicest, sometimes funniest, most helpful people I know. Some are conservative, some less so, and very likable.

On the other hand, back in 1983, my then-husband and I (Before Children) took a four-month bicycle trip through Western Europe. We stayed in campgrounds and youth hostels when we could to keep our costs down. At the hostel in Geneva, there was a large contingent of Middle Eastern-looking men who seemed to be Arabs, although I have no idea which country they were from.

I have never felt such an immediate visceral reaction to any group of people before or since. I didn't trust them, not for a nanosecond, not for a micro-millimeter, not for anything. I didn't feel safe around them and stayed as close to my husband as I could. I carried on polite conversation when necessary, but otherwise avoided them and was relieved when we left Geneva.

I'm not implying that we should worry about Iraq and shouldn't worry about Iran. No, Iraq is working itself toward self-governing liberty, and Ahmadinejad is a genocidal-wannabe dictator who needs to be stopped. But if you want to learn something about a people group to get a feel for who they are, try listening to the language for a while. It may tell you more than you might expect.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dog Trouble Update

The Abby-abusing dog, Hollywood, got returned the the Humane Society at the last possible minute before the two-week trade-in time ran out. With her health improving from her bout with kennel cough, she had grown more aggressive with my little dog Abby. Hollywood's now-former owner, AF, has six months to find the right dog as a replacement.

But there's a bigger lesson here than just a big dog being mean to a little one.

Abby's not a bold dog. When my mom's little dog Scooter comes to visit, if Abby is eating and Scooter comes to see what she's eating, Abby will move out of the way and let him eat, and when he leaves, she'll get back to her food. She doesn't defend her dish (or her family) from intruders.

What Hollywood did, though, when Abby was eating, was to stick her nose up to Abby's nose and wait a moment. As soon as Abby backed off a little, Hollywood would lunge for Abby's head or neck, and we'd have to come and rescue Abby.

It's an instinct that some creatures are born with--the desire to dominate, the desire to find weakness and exploit it.

This is the jihadists' instinct, and they've said as much themselves. The only response that works on them is force. Not timidity. Not appeasement. Not concessions or negotiations. Force. The kind of force that will send them back to a place where they're confined and unable to harm the innocent. And we'd best not forget that.

Animal News

Photo credit: Cathal McNaughton

The British are easily shocked. The Daily Mail (UK) reported yesterday (HT: WorldNetDaily) on this pelican's unusual dinner.

Families strolling through a London park were left shocked when a pelican picked up and swallowed an unsuspecting pigeon.

The Eastern White pelican struggled with the desperately frantic pigeon in its beak for more than 20 minutes before swallowing it whole.

Did these people have sympathy for the unfortunate pelican whose meal put up such a fight? No. Did they try to thank the pelican for removing a messy pigeon from the park? No. Instead, they were "aghast" at the sight.

It reminds me of something a friend of mine told me about her animal-loving friend at Sea World. When they went to look at the penguins (forgive me, my friend, if I got the animal wrong), her friend got excited that you could feed them, but she was on a budget and didn't want to spend the money for it. So my friend bought the penguin food, and when she presented it to her friend, her friend shrieked in horror. "They're fish!" she said.

"That's what they eat," my friend said. "What were you expecting?"


It's Nature, folks. Cruel, heartless Nature. We don't have to like it, but animals eat other animals.


The second story, reported Monday by ABC News (HT: WorldNetDaily), is about a deer. They don't eat other animals.

Seventh-grader Kevin Cox was reminded this weekend that animals are unpredictable, and sometimes, just plain odd.

Kevin was warming up for a cross-country race in Bend, Ore., when a deer strolled by.

"I thought it would be pretty cool to pet a deer," Kevin said. "So I walked up and started petting this deer. And then it jumped on my back so I pushed it off and started walking away. And then I looked back and saw it running after me. That really scared me."

"So I started running away, and I thought it was kinda funny at first," Kevin said. "Until, you know, it ran after me for a good about seven minutes."

Kevin's cross-country training came in handy in this situation.

"I didn't know what the deer was gonna do to me when it caught up," he said. "I ran off. … And I was jumping over bushes. And I was running around in circles to get it to stop following me, and it kept on following me. That was kinda creepy."

"It caught up to me, and then it jumped on my back and started licking my ear, so I pushed it off and it started licking my ear again," Kevin said. "So I just kept on running, and there were coaches with sweat shirts and they yelled at me to come towards them. So I ran towards them, and they shooed the deer off with their sweat shirts."

Lucky break for Kevin. He says he won't be petting any deer from now on. Neither should you.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Missed an Anniversary

I've been divorced for ten years now. The anniversary of the divorce decree was October 10th. It became final in 1996, twenty days before our twentieth anniversary. This coming Monday would have been our thirtieth anniversary.

I was surprised today, in the middle of the afternoon, when I realized I hadn't even noticed, and I take that as a good sign.

My biggest fear, when we first split up, was that I'd become one of those bitter, angry women who blames her ex-husband for all the problems she has for the rest of her life. It took work and fervent prayer not to stay that way--not to keep wanting him to hurt, not to keep smashing the phone down when we had to talk (it's a miracle my phone survived those first years).

My friends have watched (and helped) me change. They've listened to me vent my frustrations, watched as I grew comfortable standing on my own, and enjoyed the sight of me rolling in laughter at something they said.

In the last ten years I've been transformed. I went from a frightened woman clinging with all my might to Joshua 1:9, unsure even what I liked to do, to a woman at peace in my own skin. The journey wasn't easy--journeys rarely are--but I'm thankful to have come this far.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9

Michelle Malkin Follows Up With NY Times

Michelle Malkin has been following the story of the New York Times' leak of the "top-secret terrorist banking data surveillance program." Today she posted with some follow-up questions she'd like to ask NY Times public editor Bryan Calame, after he published an apology of sorts for having supported the NY Times' leakage of the program.

Michelle's post focuses on Calame's characterization of the Bush administration as "vicious" in their criticism of the NY Times. While that may get her dander up, what gets mine up is this statement by Calame:

My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it.

Just for starters, is that "serious terrorists" as opposed to "casual terrorists"? C'mon.

My real objection is that "so many people already knew about the program," so that made it not a secret in Calame's mind.

I posted almost a year ago about a "secret" that wasn't a secret to me: when Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985.

I heard about Rock Hudson and Gomer Pyle being an item on the playground in fourth or fifth grade (in the late '60s) from another girl whose father told her. Everybody said, "Eeeewww!" and never came back to the subject. So I figured if I knew, then the whole world must already know. After all, I went to school in a mostly Navy-enlisted, lower-middle class neighborhood in a San Diego suburb--not the kind of place that would be in-the-know about Hollywood insider details.

But just because I knew the secret, and all the other little girls on the playground knew the secret, and that little girl's father (and probably "so many people") knew the secret, that didn't make it any less a secret to the world at large, which was shocked at the news that Rock Hudson was gay.

So for Calame to assume that just because "so many people" knew about the SWIFT program, then everyone (including the extra-special group of "serious" terrorists) knew about it is laughable. The people who knew about it were probably the ones doing the work: international bankers, FBI agents, Homeland Security personnel, and other agencies and businesses involved in trying to stop and catch terrorists. The secret people. The people who keep secrets. The people who are supposed to keep secrets out of the press.

On June 23, 2006, the NY Times published the original article blowing the lid off this program. On July 2, 2006, Bryan Calame wrote his first column on the topic, supporting the NY Times for publishing the story.

That's over a week. By then he should have heard reports that the Belgians were taken by surprise and declared the program illegal (see the end of the first section of this Wikipedia article). And if the Belgian government was surprised, then maybe--just maybe--the terrorists might have been surprised too. But that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

The transcript on the PBS Online NewsHour from July 5, 2006, has an exchange (moderated by Jeffrey Brown) between NY Times executive editor Bill Keller and former National Security Agency Director Adm. Bobby Inman.

BILL KELLER: We weighed very heavily and looked in excruciating detail at claims that this was not something that terrorists knew, that this would somehow be useful to terrorists.

And the fact is, you know, you can find more useful detail about what the Treasury is doing in the Treasury's own public briefings.

JEFFREY BROWN: Admiral Inman?

ADMIRAL BOBBY INMAN: Of which -- to which the terrorists probably don't have access. But if it's the front page of The New York Times, they will.

And this presumption that people automatically know or probably know is at the heart of the problem.

Exactly. In my mind, this is a bigger issue than Calame's having called the President "vicious."

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Through Ten

Skye (no relation) posted this list of ten questions that she got from Walker, who got them from Fizzy. I love this sort of thing. From past experience, most of you don't, so I won't ask you to play. But here's mine:

Tell me 1 piece of information about yourself that I really should never know.
None of your business.

Tell me 2 colors that you would never ever ever wear.
1) Yellow-orange. It makes me look like I'm sick.
2) Battleship gray. It makes me look like death warmed over.

Tell me 3 things that you love to eat.
1) Chocolate
2) Guacamole
3) Galumkas (stuffed cabbage rolls)

Tell me 4 things that you would never ever serve to a guest at your dinner table.
1) Beets
2) Navy bean soup
3) Organ meats
4) Flan

Tell me 5 things that you keep forgetting to buy from the supermarket.
1) Black pepper
2) String cheese
3) Yogurt
4) Fat-free Half & Half
5) Cough syrup

Tell me 6 things about the autumn that you love.
I'm going to answer this as though I still lived in a place with real seasons.
1) The leaves turning colors
2) The bite of the cold in the air
3) The smell of wood fires burning in people's fireplaces
4) The delicate sound of birch leaves when you scuff your feet through them
5) The raucus sound of maple leaves when you scuff your feet through them
6) The way the sound of maple leaves drown out the sound of birch leaves when they're mixed together, and how that says a lot about people too

Tell me 7 things that you value about your family.
1) They know me and still love me
2) I know them and still love them
3) My brother and sister each married someone I'm thankful to have in my family
4) My parents took us to church with them every Sunday when we were kids
5) My parents didn't force their opinions on me, but gave me the space to wrestle with my own opinions
6) We traveled as a family--sometimes to visit far-flung family, and sometimes to see parts of the country
7) Their support and encouragement through my hard times (and the good times)
That's not everything. It's just the first seven that came to mind.

Tell me 8 things that you like to watch on TV.
Oy! I'm not sure I watch that many things.
1) Special Report with Brit Hume
2) What Not To Wear
3) Project Runway
4) While You Were Out
5) House (my daughter got me on this one)
6) Trading Spaces (sometimes)
7) The Beltway Boys
8) News Watch

Tell me 9 things that you loved about school.
1) Being on the Speech Team in high school
2) Being in plays
3) Going to high school football and basketball games
4) Learning French
5) Learning the sign language alphabet (with my left hand) from the deaf girl in grade school
6) Playing on all the grade school playground equipment that's banned now, because somebody might get hurt
7) The field trip one of my high school classes took around Montana, where we visited a Hutterite colony and also the coal strip-mining town
8) The fact that Montana only required two years (not four) of PE for graduation
9) The trampoline in high school gymnastics

Tell me 10 of the little things that you love about life.
1) Drinking a cup of hot tea
2) Hearing little kids laughing
3) Pansies
4) Seeing the twinkle in a friend's eye and knowing something good is coming
5) Feeling the twinkle come to my eye
6) Having my little dog Abby sleeping beside me
7) Watching the ocean during my commute by train--it never gets old
8) Kneading bread dough
9) The way the sky in Montana gets so blue sometimes, my heart aches from the beauty of it
10) Knowing there are people I've never met in person who have become (or are becoming) friends, because we read each other's blogs

What a world!

Feel free to answer the questions yourself. Feel free not to.

World Series

The St Louis Cardinals made it to the World Series, where they'll play the Detroit Tigers.

Now, I'm not a sport. I'll say that right up front. I don't follow baseball or football. Certainly not basketball. It's not that I hate sports (except maybe basketball. I haven't wanted to watch basketball since I graduated from high school and could no longer go to the home games when our team played Great Falls CM Russel High School's team. Dang, but CM Russell had some hot basketball players!). I couldn't tell you right now what channel my cable company carries ESPN on, let alone ESPN2 or 3 or 4 or however many there are.

No, If I have 2 or 3 hours to spend, and a football game is about to be on (not that I'd know this), I'd rather go see a movie instead.

But it wasn't always that way. My dad was a big Cardinals fan. His heroes had been Stan "The Man" Musial, Dizzy Dean, and Daffy Dean. By the time I was old enough to watch baseball with him, those players had long since retired, and in their place on the Cardinals were Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Curt Flood. It was a great team, and they won the World Series in 1967, with Bob Gibson (the pitcher, mind you) hitting a home run in the final game.

They were back in the 1968 World Series, against Detroit.

My grade school rolled a TV out to the lunch area so we could watch the final game during lunchtime. The kid who lived down the street from me was a Tigers fan, and when Bob Gibson (who was destined to win the '68 Series, just as he'd won the '67 Series) was robbed of his destiny by Mickey Lolich, that kid gloated insufferably, the ignorant cretin.

Like I said, I'm not a sport, but the 1968 World Series is indelibly burned in my memory. So what's wrong with the sportswriters? In the AP article I linked to at the top of this post, there isn't one mention of 1968. The closest they come to giving historical precedence is this:

The Cardinals, seeking their first World Series title since 1982, ended a long postseason streak by winning Game 7 on the road after dropping Game 6.

And the only mention of the Tigers is this one:

With that, the Cardinals earned their second pennant in three years and a date with the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night in Game 1 of the World Series.

The AP Sports department ought to be ashamed.

If I can remember, though, I might even have to find the ESPN channel and sit down and watch the Series this year. It will be sweet gratification to have the Cards pummel that kid's Tigers after all this time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

November Surprise

OK. I made up the Karl Rove/October Surprise part of my post on the Dow hitting 12,000. But it really isn't all that far-fetched, because Tom Englehart wrote a column for The Nation Tuesday about what he calls the November Surprise.

The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn't the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam's judgment day and the midterm elections?

A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? Now, shouldn't that raise a few eyebrows somewhere? If you happen to have a calendar close at hand, pull it over and take a quick look. That verdict would then come, curiously enough, just two days before the midterm elections. It's the sort of thing that--you would think--that any reporter with knowledge of the US election cycle (no less of how Karl Rove has worked these last years) would at least note in an article. But no, you can search high and low without finding a reference to this in the mainstream media.

That the MSM hasn't "connected the dots" between Saddam's verdict day and our election day only says that the MSM hasn't completely gone over the cliff. Not like Englehart, who says he received a forwarded e-newsletter written by Scott Horton, an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Law School, as well as chairman of the International Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association. It was Horton, in his newsletter, who first raised the question of the timing.

I called Horton directly. Here's what he had to say when I asked whether he thought Karl Rove might have anything to do with this:

"For sure. That November 5 date is designed to show some progress in Iraq. This is the last full news-cycle day in the US before the elections. It'll be Monday. And the American public will see Saddam condemned to death and see it as a positive thing.

"This is not coincidence," he continued. "Nothing in Iraq that's set up this far in advance is coincidental."

Still, scheduling the announcement of what will almost certainly be a future execution to give yourself one last shot at a bump in the polls?

Welcome to Bushworld.

There you have it. To the people on the far-left, whenever something happens that's good for the Republicans, it's the evil, scheming Karl Rove behind it. Whether it's in Iraq or on Wall Street or at the gas pump, if it improves the polling results of the GOP, it's a nefarious plot to hang onto power at the expense of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Space Weather

I get email alerts from whenever they have something interesting to report. For this weekend, a couple different things will be going on in the sky:

ORIONID METEOR SHOWER: This weekend, a mild but pretty flurry of meteors will shoot out of the constellation Orion. The source is Halley's Comet.

Although the comet itself is far away, ancient clouds of dust from the comet are nearby, and Earth is about to run through them. The best time to look is Saturday morning, Oct. 21st, just before local dawn. Dozens of meteors might streak across the sky during the hours before sunrise. Dark skies are recommended!

"Dark skies" means get away from the city lights. Here's the sky map, so you have a better chance of spotting the meteors.

AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream is heading toward Earth, and it could spark a display of auroras when it arrives on Oct. 20th or 21st. Check for updates.

Usually when they tell you to check for updates, that also includes looking after the fact at the photos different people around the world have taken and submitted to their site. They already have a gorgeous photo on their site, taken this past Sunday in Greenland.

There's lots of other cool stuff on the SpaceWeather site too. If you like the sky, you'll enjoy the website.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Karl Rove Engineers October Surprise

That evil genius, Karl Rove, has done it again. First, he pursuaded President Bush's pals in the Big Oil companies to lower gas prices in the fall, to try to win hearts to the Republican party.

Now he's engineered another financial coup, just in time for the election. The AP reported today on the latest historic milestone.

The Dow Jones industrial average swept past 12,000 for the first time Wednesday, extending its march into record territory as investors grow increasingly optimistic about corporate earnings and the economy.

The index of 30 big-name stocks surpassed the milestone just after trading began, rising as high as 12,049.51. The Dow had already set closing records seven times during the past two weeks.

Anyone with half a brain (the Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers) can see that this is nothing more than a politically driven October Surprise, a nefarious plot to change the focus away from the horrible economy caused by Bush's oppressive tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Rove has convinced the Bush cronies on Wall Street to manipulate stock prices into a false high, in order to save Republican butts in the November election. There's no other explanation.

Don't forget: It's the economy, stupid.

Women Worry About Weight

Newsflash! Reuters reported Monday that the University of Nebraska in Lincoln actually spent the time and money to conduct a study that showed women worry about their weight more than men do.

Women are more likely to think they need to lose weight than men are, and more likely to diet, a new study of college students shows.

"These findings are in agreement with reports of women's tendency to hold stronger beliefs related to nutrition than men," Dr. Judy A. Driskell of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and colleagues write. "Though men have some sensitivity to body fat, women are much more sensitive."

No kidding.

Dr. Driskell couldn't think of anything more important or less obvious to study?

Your tax dollars at work...

Dog Trouble

I have a little dog, Abby, who I wrote about when I sent her for her summer buzz-cut in June. She weighed 9.5 pounds at her last vet visit, which is a concern for me, since she's always been 10 - 11 pounds up to now. But that's not a problem yet.

Meanwhile, my daughter's friend (DF) has been staying with us for quite a while, and then a couple months ago my daughter asked if another friend (AF) could spend the night a couple nights a week, so she could take the bus to her morning class at the community college. The place where AF lived was a couple miles from the nearest bus stop. I said OK, but then AF never seemed to go home on any night, and then her clothes came to my house, and then I got used to the idea.

Last weekend (a week and a half ago), I took AF to the Humane Society to look at dogs, because she was ready to get one. Abby gets along fine with other dogs, because she's basically an "omega" dog, and most other dogs think they're the "alpha" dog, so it works. AF picked out a scruffy terrier mix, and the Humane Society had me bring Abby to see how the two would be together, and they were content to ignore each other. So AF bought Hollywood (no refunds, exchanges only within the first two weeks) , and we brought the dogs home.

But Hollywood (who is about 3 or 4 times Abby's size) had kennel cough, which is treatable, but when she started getting better, she also started getting more energetic and territorial. When I gave Abby her medication (pills shoved into a small slice of string cheese), Hollywood thought she should get it, and she lunged for it, right into Abby's face and bit at Abby's neck and left some doggy slobber there. Abby started shaking so badly her teeth chattered, and even after she calmed down, if she saw Hollywood, she'd shake all over again. It was so sad.

But that wasn't a huge problem, because DF got a job last week as a nanny--with a place to stay--and AF went with her. They moved out Wednesday night. Dog problem solved.

Except that all three girls went away on a retreat over this past weekend, and there was nowhere else to leave Hollywood on short notice but at my house. So I spent most of the weekend stressed out over the dogs, doing my best to keep them apart. I spent most of Saturday on my bed in my jammies, with Abby sleeping next to me and Hollywood sleeping on the floor by my bed, while I tried to fix up my Poland pictures (that's another story) enough so I could copy them to CDs for my friends who went to Poland with me--in time for dinner with them Saturday.

When I left for dinner (not in my jammies), I blocked Abby in my bathroom with a box across the doorway and blocked Hollywood in the kitchen with what I hoped were high enough barriers. Upon my return, both dogs were in the living room and there were two wet pee spots and some dog poop in the family room.

I kept taking Hollywood out, but she wouldn't do any business outside. And whenever she heard Abby's license clink against her dog dish (because of course the very same dog food tastes better in the other dog's dish), Hollywood would make a bee-line for Abby, who would start shaking all over again. So I had to listen for the clinking and try to catch Hollywood by the collar before she could frighten Abby. And then late Saturday night, Hollywood took all the poop she'd been saving up and dumped it all on the dining room carpet, and I know she did that on purpose, the little snot.

I was so stressed out, that when I got to church Sunday (Abby trapped with a better box in the bathroom, Hollywood trapped with higher barriers in the kitchen), I started to cry. And when they welcomed a few of our Marines back home from Iraq, I cried. And when we sang a couple of the praise songs, I cried.

The girls got home from their retreat shortly before I got home from church, but DF and AF didn't go back home right away, but AF took care of Hollywood after that, and Hollywood behaved better, and Abby only got scared a couple times.

Monday night AF stayed at my house for the bus stop in the morning (DF's new nanny job is also far from the bus), and yesterday morning I drove AF to the Transit Center. On the way, Laura Ingraham had Brian Kilcommons, a co-author of the new book My Smart Puppy, on her radio show. It was exactly what we needed to hear, that there's hope for Abby and Hollywood.

And now AF and DF aren't getting along very well, so yesterday afternoon AF asked if she could move in with us officially and pay some rent. Hollywood, of course, would want to come too. I said we'd talk after I got home.

On my way home, I stopped and bought the puppy book. I showed it to AF and let her start reading it (she has more time on her hands than I do), and told her that if Hollywood hasn't settled down by the end of the month, she (Hollywood) couldn't stay. I can't have Abby being afraid in her own house.

I want my peace back. We'll have to wait and see if that includes Hollywood in the house.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Microcredit Lender Wins Nobel Peace Prize

The AP reported today that a microcredit lender and his bank won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans - microcredit - to lift millions out of poverty.

Through Yunus's efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead.

This is what the Nobel Peace Prize should be like every year. It should reward people who do something to help people in the world to escape from poverty and oppression.

Grameen Bank was the first lender to hand out microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed and repayment is based on an honor system.

Anyone can qualify for a loan - the average is about $200 - but recipients are put in groups of five and once two members of the group have borrowed money, the other three must wait for the funds to be repaid before they get a loan.

Grameen, which means rural in the Bengali language, says the method encourages social responsibility. The results are hard to argue with - the bank says it has a 99 percent repayment rate.

Yunus's told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview that his "eureka moment" came while chatting to a shy woman weaving bamboo stools with calloused fingers.

Sufia Begum was a 21-year-old villager and a mother of three when the economics professor met her in 1974 and asked her how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about five taka (nine cents) from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool.

All but two cents of that went back to the lender.

"I thought to myself, my God, for five takas she has become a slave," Yunus said in the interview.

"I couldn't understand how she could be so poor when she was making such beautiful things," he said.

The following day, he and his students did a survey in the woman's village, Jobra, and discovered that 43 of the villagers owed a total of 856 taka (about $27).

"I couldn't take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves," he said, and pay him back whenever they could. The idea was to buy their own materials and cut out the middleman.

They all paid him back, day by day, over a year, and his spur-of-the-moment generosity grew into a full-fledged business concept that came to fruition with the founding of Grameen Bank in 1983.

In the years since, the bank says it has lent $5.72 billion to more than 6 million Bangladeshis.
Worldwide, microcredit financing is estimated to have helped some 17 million people.

Last week (reported here on KHOU-TV's website Friday) Cindy Sheehan claimed at a book signing that she was one of the finalists for the Nobel Peace Prize. No doubt for helping the world solve its problems by setting the example for bashing President Bush.

But Sheehan didn't win. The Bush-bashing Peace Prize already went to Jimmy Carter, back in 2002. Here's a list of the past Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Grameen Bank's current customers are 97% women. With his microcredit, he hasn't lifted them out of poverty as we would define it. He hasn't filled their lives with luxury. But what he has done is help them get out of a spiral of economic bondage so they can feed themselves and their families and gain the hope of making a better future for themselves. He has probably helped more women improve their lives than all the hot-air-producing people discussing women's issues over at the United Nations.

Congratulations to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank. This award is well-deserved.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pansy Season

They put pansies in the planters outside my work, replacing whatever forgettable flowers were there before. Pansies are my favorite, especially the dark red and purple ones whose color deepens into the black centers. They're not the sort of flower you cut and put in a vase like roses or chrysanthemums. Pansies are content to grow close to the ground, bobbing their smiling faces in the breeze.

It's strange sometimes, being in California, where seasons have names that have no bearing on what the plants around us are doing. Summer is long and hot, when the hills are golden, and then autumn begins. The ivy turns red in late September, and autumn continues for months, overlapping with winter and spring. Each type of tree takes its turn changing colors--some only managing to turn brown--and in February there will still be a few trees with red leaves dangling above bright spring flowers.

Winter is when it rains, and when winter lasts a while, the hills turn green and the wildflowers along the freeway start blooming early. By the end of January, the strawberry stands will open, and I'll be there buying three-packs to share with my daughter.

Spring--the time when the flowers are blooming--never ends. We just change the variety of flowers planted in the beds. It's Pansy Season now, and the snapdragons should be coming soon, many to stand guard in ranks behind the pansies, ready to snap when I press their jaws. In a while, it will be Iceland poppies and then another round of the forgettables--impatiens or petunias or some other flower that doesn't know how to snap or smile.

I look forward to the first after-summer pansies in the landscaping. I like to slide two fingers behind them when a dark one catches my eye, and tilt its face upward so I can get the full effect of its velvet beauty. The other pansies never get jealous that I've singled one out for special attention. They just stay where they're at, nestled in their green crown of leaves, and keep smiling. And I smile with them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Obesity and Mental Function

There are certainly more important things going on, but I can't resist a flawed study (or flawed reporting of a good study). Today it's this study, reported Monday by Reuters, on the connection between obesity and cognition. Here are the facts:

The study included 2,223 healthy French adults who were between the ages of 32 and 62 in 1996. At that time, they took a battery of standard cognitive tests, assessing abilities like memory, attention and speed of learning. Five years later, they took the tests again.

In general, the researchers found, people with a high body mass index (BMI) garnered lower test scores than those with a lower BMI. They also tended to show greater cognitive decline between the two test periods.

So far, so good. Fat people have lower cognitive results, and they decline more, than thinner people do.

But the article goes into what appears to be speculation:

The findings, they say, suggest that a heavier weight in middle age may mean a higher risk of dementia later in life.

"Our results, along with other previous studies, strongly suggest a greater risk of dementia in these (overweight) persons at middle-age," Cournot told Reuters Heath.

What results of their study showed a higher rate of dementia among fat people? What studies show that lower cognitive ability in middle age leads to dementia? Maybe lower cognitive ability in middle age only leads to lower cognitive ability in old age. Maybe. The article doesn't have a link to the actual study being discussed or to related studies.

So I googled the study and came up with a bunch of other articles talking about it. A Fox News article goes into more detail about the study, then offers these hypotheses to explain the obesity-lower cognition correlation:

What's behind the link? "There are two strong hypotheses," Cournot says. Since obesity can lead to heart and blood vessel disease, including hardening of the blood vessels or atherosclerosis, the brain's blood vessels might be affected and not function as well.

Excess weight can also lead to poorer management of the body's insulin, and that could be affecting brain cells as well.

I can see another explanation, one that looks at what we already know about the brain: When we use our brains, they develop stronger, more complex neural connections, which in turn helps us use our brains more effectively.

When kids (or adults) are plunked in front of the TV for hours on end, they don't develop the complex neural networks that allow for strong cognitive ability. But send a kid outside to play, where he can interact with others and be challenged, or give him some good books to read and puzzles to play with, and those neurons will be stimulated, improving his mental function.

TV Slugs of any age tend to get fat. TV Slugs of any age tend not to be as strong cognitively. In my book, there's a strong likelihood for a common cause of both obesity and poor cognitive ability, and that is inactivity/lack of mental stimulation during childhood. In fact, the Fox News article could be used to support this:

Others familiar with the association say the new study makes sense. "It provides even more support for the ideas that there is a link between excess weight and brain function," says John Gunstad, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He gave 486 healthy adults, aged 21 to 82, memory tests and also found that an obese BMI, at any age, reduced memory performance. In his study, published in March 2006 in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders, he found a relationship between obesity and reduced memory performance to be independent of a person's age. (emphasis added)

Both the Reuters and Fox News articles bandied about the word, "Alzheimer's," quoting various researchers who speculated that Alzheimer's could be the end result of obesity's alleged influence on mental performance. But over at the Alzheimer's website, the page on "What is Alzheimer's" makes a distinction between Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia. It describes vascular dementia as, "result[ing] from reduced blood flow to the brain’s nerve cells."

So heart disease, which can be but isn't always associated with obesity, can lead to vascular dementia. But not necessarily the other forms of dementia.

In the end, the results of this study boil down to this: If you're fat, you might be stupid. If you're fat and stupid, you'll probably stay that way. All the rest of it is still speculation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Henry Lamb on North Korea

Henry Lamb is a regular commentator at WorldNetDaily. I like him. Usually he specializes in property rights and national sovereignty issues, and he's a big detractor of the UN's never-ending quest to take over the world and tax the US into oblivion.

But not today. Today Henry Lamb's commentary is on North Korea and what our reaction should be to their nuclear test.

What, then, should the United States do about this North Korean nuclear test? One option is tighter economic sanctions. North Korea has been under sanctions for some time; it didn't stop them, nor will new sanctions. Another option would be for the president to sit down with Kim, one-on-one, and try to come to an agreement that would stuff the nuclear genie back into the bottle. This is the option that many Democrats and socialists around the world would prefer.

Another option: bomb the hell out of Pyongyang, with special attention to every building Kim is known to frequent and every known missile base in the country.

That's why I like him. He's a no-nonsense, get-to-work-and-send-the-message kind of guy. My only concern is that he's getting up there in years, so every week I breathe a sigh of relief that he's still with us, beating up on the socialist-globalist types at home and abroad.

Of course, this [bombing the hell out of Pyongyang] would unleash seismic ripples around the world. Iran would almost certainly crank up its military and enter the fray in Iraq – unless Tehran were known to be on the target list. Russia and China – and France, of course – would scream bloody murder. And the George Soros-funded anti-war groups in the U.S. would go ballistic.

The aftermath would be ugly, no doubt. It will be no more attractive a year from now or five years from now – it will be even worse. But if it does not occur before these "evil" nations get fully operational, the explosions will be in the United States, and the screams will come from Americans.

In the coming election, vote for the party that won't get us killed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Artist in Poland

David, our translator and tour director, mentioned on our first day in Poland that his uncle was an artist--a surrealist--who lived in the same town we were staying in outside of Warsaw. He said his uncle, Tadeusz Puszcz (pronounced, Tah-DEH-oosh Pooshch), was his favorite artist, and not just because they're related, and when we said we'd like to see his paintings, David arranged for us to visit him the next day.

His was an artist's home, red brick covered in ivy that declared the coming of autumn. Inside, dark wood and antique furniture graced the living room, and up a narrow set of stairs was his studio. It was a large room with wide windows that didn't let in enough light to suit his painting, so he works at night. Along the back wall he had racks of his paintings, and he pulled them out and set them up around the room for us to see them.

I can see why David likes his uncle's work so well. We did too. Each picture has a surprise, some detail that doesn't belong in the real world but that makes his paintings intriguing.

I especially loved the way he captured the light as it shone through water in a glass and cast shadow and light on the table. The glasses he painted looked almost like photographs to me.

Tadeusz said he's had gallery shows, but his paintings haven't sold well. People like them, but they usually don't want to hang them in their houses. I don't see why, though. There are some, like the one with the candle, that I would love to have. It's on his website, with a sampling of his work.

He was gracious to the three of us American women who practically invited ourselves to his home, serving us tea and coffee (herbata i kawa) outside under the trees and the warm blue sky. His English--self-taught, like David's--is excellent, and we had good conversation.

He said his paintings take about two months to finish, because they're so large and so detailed. In the past, he'd tried painting smaller ones, but afterword he regretted not having made made them bigger, so now he only paints the larger ones.

For a man who paints because he must, he was encouraged that we liked his work so much, and I recognized a bit that desire for approval. For an artist, a writer, a photographer, the creation process is usually done in solitude, but as much as the work comes out of a need for expression, within that need is a hope for an audience. On that day in Milanówek, Poland, I was honored to be part of that audience.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Iraq The Model on Poll Results

Yesterday I posted about Iraq--about the suspension of the 8th Brigade of 2nd National Police Batallion and about the poll results showing 61% of Iraqis favoring attacks on US troops.

Today I checked on Iraq the Model just to see what's on their minds, because it's been a while since the last time I read their blog. Monday, Omar posted this, titled, "About those poll numbers..." Take a look. What he has to say is encouraging (and I'd email his post to my friend's lefty friend, but I don't feel up to handling another email firestorm).

Now that I spent enough time mulling this over, I can say that having 40% of Iraqis who disapprove of attacks on US troops is actually a surprising figure (in a good way) and it's not that bad at all. I mean the numbers indicate that war has more support in Iraq than it has in the UK itself or in countries in the Middle East where America is not waging a war! But again, if we want to comment on these numbers we need to keep a few points in our minds…

The magnitude of pressure and misinformation the people here are subject to from the media is a factor that cannot be ignored. Since April 2003 and till now virtually all the media kept describing the US presence as a force of occupation even when the legal status of the forces ceased to be so long time ago.

For over three years, the media kept focusing on the mistakes and shortcomings of the US military and US administration in what I can only describe as force-feeding hatred to the Iraqi people.

It's not only the media, there are also our politicians. A good deal of the political class here is guilty of treason; some betrayed the US after posing as allies and friends while some betrayed the people by dragging them to an absolutely unnecessary confrontation with the US military.

Both types have been trying to convince the people that America is responsible for instability and chaos in Iraq.

He goes on, discussing other influences and talking about the Iraqi culture in general. Then he ends this way:

After all this pressure and suffering, 40% of Iraqis still view America as their friend…now really, you can't find that in many countries that America did not fire a single bullet at especially in the Middle East.

There are 40% of Iraqis who view American soldiers (not only American people) as friends and in my opinion this should be considered a good foundation for building a much better relationship.

I said in the beginning I would not apologize for or praise my people's attitude but I've changed my mind. I can't ignore the part of the poll that says 94% of Iraqis disapprove of al-Qaeda! I'm sure we can't get such a result anywhere else in the Arab or Muslim world…well, maybe not even in the west…who knows!

It's Good For You

Two stories were in the news this week, buried under an avalanche of Foley stories. Unlike Foley, though, these stories could impact your life.

Memory Preserver:

Aftenposten (Norway) reported Wednesday about a study showing that keeping your teeth helps you keep your memory.

Dentists, psychologists and neurologists in Stockholm and Umeå in Sweden and Tromsø in northern Norway, are cooperating on the Betula Project, a study of age, memory, senility and health. The Betula Project has been going on for nearly 20 years in Sweden, and has Center of Excellence status.

A study of around 2,000 persons in Umeå revealed a clear tendency that those who kept a full set of teeth had better powers of memory than those who lost teeth.

"We have tested the problem from every angle and reached the same result," said Professor Jan Bergdahl at the Institute for Clinical Odontology at the University of Tromsø. Bergdahl is both a dentist and psychologist and works closely with the research centers in Umeå and Stockholm.

Their conclusion that older persons with their own teeth have better memory that those without is now going to international publication.

Japanese researchers have seen similar results in mice, "with mice learning to find food in labyrinths but forgetting this knowledge when their teeth were pulled." I'm a little skeptical about this study. If I were a mouse who knew how to find food in a labyrinth, and somebody pulled out all my teeth, I think I'd be a little too traumatized to worry about finding food I can't chew in some stupid maze. It's not that I'd forget. I'd just have other things on my mind.

"We know that own teeth are important for elderly health. Chewing brings oxygen-rich blood to the head and one chews better and harder with one's own teeth," Bergdahl said.

They plan to continue the study, to see if particular teeth are the magic ones, and if the titanium implants give the same results as real teeth. If I see a follow-up, I'll let you know.

Tea Time:

The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday on a study showing that drinking tea reduces stress levels.

Stress hormone levels fell by nearly twice as much in tea drinkers compared with those given a tea-like drink, after all had been put under stress.

The research from University College London was designed so that neither the drinkers nor the scientists knew what was taken during the exercise.

The research involved 75 young men who were regular tea drinkers. All gave up normal tea, coffee and decaffeinated drinks for six weeks and drank one of two "tea" mixtures, four times a day instead.

One group had a tea-coloured drink which was caffeinated and fruit-flavoured, containing all the constituents of black tea. The other was a fake tea, identical in taste but with no tea properties. The participants could add milk to their "tea" or not as they chose.

After six weeks they were give role-playing tasks to put them under stress. Both groups exhibited significant levels of stress measured by increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, increased heart rate and raised blood pressure.

Fifty minutes after the task, levels of cortisol in the real tea group had fallen by 47 per cent compared with 27 per cent in the fake tea group.

There was also an effect on blood platelets, linked to blood clotting and heart attacks. The tea group showed less platelet activity and reported a "greater degree of relaxation" after the task.

One of the movies I like to watch now and then is Sense and Sensibility. In it, whenever there's a problem, the solution is to make the beleaguered person a cup of tea. It helps. The British have always known that. Now the rest of us know too.

Time for a cup of tea...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Iraq Suspends an Entire Brigade of Police

The London Times Online reported today that Iraq has suspended a brigade of the National Police in Baghdad.

AN ENTIRE police brigade in Baghdad has been suspended and its commander placed under arrest on charges of aiding sectarian death squads that have carried out mass kidnappings.

The Eighth Brigade of the 2nd National Police Battalion, which has more than 800 uniformed officers in western Baghdad, was stepped down a day after armed men in official uniforms herded off 14 shopkeepers from central Baghdad, and two days after 24 workers were abducted from a meat processing plant in the capital.

“The brigade’s past performance does not demonstrate the level of professionalism sought by the Ministry of the Interior,” Major General William Caldwell said. “It was realised that removing them would, in fact, enhance security.

“There was clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely, when in fact they were supposed to be impeding their movement.

“The forces in the unit have not put their full allegiance to the Government of Iraq and gave their allegiance to others.”

The disgraced brigade will be sent for retraining by American forces, although one US trainer said the programme had been scheduled months ago as part of a sweeping overhaul of Iraq’s police forces, which were hastily recruited after the 2003 invasion and which have frequently proved inadequate for the task of eradicating violence.

This is definitely encouraging news. That the Iraqi government is taking action to clean its own house is a good sign, and it will go a long way toward building more Iraqi confidence in their government.

A recent poll of Iraqis revealed that 61% of them favored attacks on US troops, and a Lefty friend-of-a-friend sent an email touting that number as the reason we should just pull out of Iraq now. But he ignored the part that showed Iraqis overwhelmingly disapprove of al Qaeda (77% of Sunnis and almost 100% of the rest). He and I email-argued back and forth, and then I finished with this assessment, which apparently shut him up:

Overall, the Iraqis' main concern seems to be their worry that we won't leave when they want us to, and that worry is fueling the bad numbers over the US's presence there. They're not upset and claiming that we're screwing them over or that we're beating them up or mistreating them. They're not mad enough about our presence to turn them to al Qaeda to try to make us go away. This is just a crappy time of impatience while we try to finish the job at hand (training and rebuilding, and killing terrorists), so we can come home. Which we will.

But you want to turn myopic and shout with glee at the slightest bit of bad polling results, while you ignore the encouraging results and the overall picture. I'm dismayed that 61% of Iraqis think attacks on the US are OK, but I'm not short-sighted enough the ignore the goal and to figure instead that the results of one poll (funded and conducted by a group of left-wing organizations) is the same thing as abject failure. There's no way one poll with some (not all) bad results is a mandate to cut and run and leave Iraq to the terrorists.

The more the Iraqis take the lead in running and policing their country, and the more the US steps back and lets the Iraqis lead, the better the attitude of the Iraqi people will be. The suspension of this rogue Police brigade brings us one step closer to the day our troops will be able to come home.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Foley Follies

I've refrained from posting on the Congressman Mark Foley flap this long, because there are so many issues wrapped up in this story, it's hard to know which one upsets me the most.

For starters, Foley used his position as a Representative to get the contact information of congressional pages, and then he pursued a homosexual relationship with some of them, though there's no evidence a relationship ever developed. I find this behavior of his repugnant, first because he was going after underage boys rather than grown men, and second because he was using a position of authority as a way of getting access to these boys.

The first thing Foley did right (if you can call it that) was to not approach these pages until after they had completed the program. The next thing right was that he actually showed shame for what he had done, and he resigned.

And that's where things get murky. Democrats--yes, Democrats--are outraged. Now that Foley has resigned, removing himself as their target, the Democrats are calling for heads to roll (Foley's apparently wasn't enough), starting with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Some conservatives are also calling for Hastert's head, but I haven't been able to figure out the guiding principle that should apply, so I'm undecided about him for now. I'm sure the MSM news cycle will dig up enough dirt to justify continuing to call for his head.

And that news cycle is the next thing that's upsetting. It's October Surprise time--with the Congressional elections just a month away--time to pull a zinger out of the hat to discredit the opposition, when they don't have enough time to recover before the public heads for the polls to vote. They'll keep hammering this as many ways as they can, declaring this as more proof of the Republicans' "Culture of Corruption" or "History of Hypocrisy" or whatever the new Democrat talking point is for this.

Malott's Blog has a post today addressing the timing of the Foley scandal. People have known about Foley for a long time. Democrats have known about Foley for a long time. The press has known about Foley for a long time. But the story stayed under wraps until now. Why? Why did they wait, if not to use the story to the best political advantage for the Democrats?

But I'm also outraged by the Democrats' outrage. Crying "foul" about homosexual behavior is the antithesis of all they believe in. I left a comment on Malott's post that illustrates the double standard:

If you look at the Democratic Party and what it stands for and the issues it promotes, there is no "scumbag" here.

Homosexuality is perfectly normal behavior, and the poor, ostracized Rep. Foley should be allowed to express himself the way he was born to do without all this hate-speech hounding him out of office.

The age of consent for homosexual behavior should long ago have been lowered to 16 or 17, so really there's no problem here. Foley didn't touch any pages during the program. He waited until after they had gone home, so no harm no foul. Let him keep his job. And celebrate his coming out, however reluctant it was.

Oh wait. That only works for Democrats. He's a Republican? Throw the scumbag out, and throw out the Republican House leadership with him, because they should have stopped him from using his position for such perverted, deviant, predatory actions against an underage child.

My head hurts from trying to make sense of this.

Foley is out of office, and that's good. Law enforcement agencies are investigating possible criminal charges, and that's good too. Why isn't that enough?

Health Matters

I have a cold.

Normally when I get a cold, it starts in my throat. My throat doesn't feel scratchy as much as it just feels wrong. The cold stays there until it decides whether it's going to my nose or going straight to my lungs.

This time it decided quickly. Yesterday, right after lunch, my throat felt wrong and I tried to pretend it was nothing. Then it hit my nose with a vengeance, and I grabbed some Sudafed from my Bag of Tricks I carry with me. It could have been allergies (which I don't really have), but then I wanted a cup of tea. Not my usual black tea with cream and sweetener. I wanted that one teabag of chamomile tea that's been sitting in my desk drawer for at least a year.

There was no more denying it. I was getting a cold, and the box of Kleenex on my desk was almost out. By the time I left work, the box was empty and I had broken out the travel pack of Kleenex from my purse.

It's exhausting fighting off a cold. At 7:30 I wanted to go to bed, but I couldn't, because my son called and wanted to come over to look at the cool wooden box I brought home from Poland in 1997, because he needed a box for his new film that he and his partners are making (I get to star in this one. Well, not star, but I have a small role.) and he remembered that I had one.

So we looked at the box, but although it was cool, it was way too small. We looked at his sister's cool wooden jewelry box, but although it was cool and bigger than mine, it wasn't tall enough. They need a box cool enough and big enough to hold a time machine. So he said he'd have to go to the thrift shops, and then he left. And then my daughter and her friends came home, and I didn't get to bed until 10pm, so I slept in this morning (on purpose) too late to catch the train.

But I forgot about driving to work with a head cold. The road I take goes up a hill. A very high hill. A hill high enough that my ears do that altitude-pressure thing on the way up, but they won't fix themselves on the way back down, so I end up hearing everything muffled until I can finally get the pressure equalized.

My cold is toying with my lungs now, but it hasn't taken hold there just yet. It's making my voice deeper ("sultry" is what I like to call it), and within the next day or two, I'll be able to sing bass along with Bill Medley's part in Righteous Brothers songs. And I don't have an infection yet, either. It's a little soon for that, but I'll know if I get one, because I'll want to take my temperature. I'm calibrated for a fever. As soon as it hits 99.0, I can almost feel the cool hardness of the thermometer against the right spot under my tongue. And then I'll start to feel sorry for myself in a big way, not like now when I sort of feel sorry for myself for having a cold.

So that's the health report for today. I'll go now. I need another Kleenex.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Calling All Quilters

If you read Hugh Hewitt's blog, you would have seen this post yesterday. The new Wounded Warrior Center at Camp Pendleton Marine Base in California needs hand-made quilts for full-size/double beds.

The WWC is for the injured marines and/or sailors who aren't ready to go home but no longer need to be hospitalized. Here's part of the email Hugh quoted, from the "Commander of the Quilters:"

The Wounded Warrior Center was opened in mid-August as a long term rehab center for Marines and Navy wounded. These soldiers have been discharged from the hospital but are not yet ready to go back to active duty or to civilian life. This center gives them a rehab environment that is far less sterile and more encouraging than a hospital billet. There are 26 beds at the facility, and the expected duration of a stay is anywhere from three to six months. Gunny Sgt Greer, who oversees the facility, wanted to have some touches of home and managed to obtain a quilt for each of the beds. His intent was that upon discharge, the soldier would be able to take “his” quilt away with him.

I saw the initial newspaper article about WWC and saw from the photo that the quilt on the bed was homemade. After a few phone calls I reached SSgt Sommer, who told me that extra quilts would certainly be appreciated. I drove there with two and looked over the facility. I left there with a full blown panic attack starting, as the good intentions of the administrative folks had no grasp of the reality of how long it takes to make one quilt. When I left there, all the beds were covered and they had SEVEN quilts in reserve. Simple math told me they were in trouble, big time. 26 beds x 2 occupants per year = 52 quilts. At this time they have eight residents, but they expect to have a full house by the end of the year. Even in my manic period after the death of my husband, I could only produce one top per month, and my budget would certainly not cover making the number they will certainly need. Upon arriving at home I sent out emails and letters to all the quilters I know, and these have steamrolled.

I tried quilting once and got this far before I got stuck, when I couldn't figure out the next set of instructions:

When I was in Montana last year for my dad's funeral, most of the girls stopped at the quilt shop one afternoon (little town, huge quilt shop), and I remembered to ask them how to do that thing the instructions were trying to tell me to do next. But I haven't got back to working on my quilt since then. Spare time is in short supply.

Maybe it's time I try to squeeze in a little quilting time now and then and see if I can finish this...

If you have a quilt you'd like to donate, you can send it to either of these two addresses:

Wounded Warrior Center
SSgt Sommer
PO Box 555191
Camp Pendleton CA 92055

Therese Thomas
PO Box 2243
Valley Center CA 92082-2243

Monday, October 02, 2006

War To Come To Israel

Looks like war is coming again to Israel. This time, though, it will start with a bang, not a whimpering kidnapping of IDF soldiers.

WorldNetDaily reported today that Gaza appears to be readying for war.

Hamas has succeeded in smuggling "hundreds of tons" of weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and is preparing for the possibility of launching a large-scale conflict with Israel, according to a report by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

The report, drafted by Fatah's General Security Services and obtained by WND, stated Hamas has smuggled from the Egyptian Sinai desert between several hundred and 1,300 tons of advanced rockets; anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles; rocket propelled grenades; raw explosives; rifles; ammunition; and other heavy weaponry.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last year. In a deal brokered in November by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Egypt-Gaza border, once controlled by the Jewish state, now is manned by Egyptian and Palestinian security officials and is observed by European monitors. The monitors reportedly have fled their duty several times the past few months.

But that's not all.

Ynet News reported yesterday that Israel has completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

IDF sources confirmed Sunday that Israeli army forces have completed their withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in accordance with the decision of the political and military echelons.

The IDF said in a statement that it holds the “Lebanese government responsible for peace and security in its territory.”

Another officer told Ynet earlier that the first forces would depart Lebanon from several areas: "The decision to pull the forces out, despite the fact that there are still unresolved issued in the coordination with UNIFIL, was made because there is no longer a point in keeping the soldiers in the region. These differences can be bridged after the troops are in Israel," he explained.

Of course, that doesn't mean war is coming. Of course. But this does:

Breitbart reported today that Lebanon is moving its army to its southern border (with Israel) for the first time in 40 years.

The Lebanese army will confront any new Israeli "aggressions", Army Commander Brigadier General Michel Sleiman has warned as the military deployed along the southern borders for the first time in almost 40 years.

"I call on you to confront any Israeli aggressions and violations," Sleiman told conscripts during a ceremony in which the Lebanese flag was hoisted on a hilltop in the border village of Labbouneh for the first time since 1970.

The deployment "to monitor the southern borders and the maritime and territorial borders is meant to prevent aggressions as well as the smuggling of weapons and other prohibited items," he added.

Now, just how long will it be before the Lebanase army spots something it considers "Israeli aggression"? And if Israel disputes the claims that it's being aggressive, whose side will the UN take in the dispute?

Hezbollah is still armed. Lebanon is sending an army to the Israeli border. And Gaza is arming with "hundreds of tons" of weaponry. By the time the attack on Israel comes, I hope Israel's leadership has discovered the will to fight to win.