Monday, February 28, 2011

The FBI's Dirty War on Black America

I found this last week, but held off posting until the very last day of Black History Month.  That's because it's the story of  one of the ugliest, darkest episodes in American history.  Nothing to be proud of here, but it's important that this period, complete with all the players involved, be made public yet again.  From TruthOut:

Thanks to a CNN documentary airing this week, the tale of FBI informant Ernest Withers is now well known. The black photographer spent years busily documenting the civil rights movement and capturing candid images of its leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr.
Whether through flattery or the naiveté of his subjects, Withers and his camera were able to get close— very close— to the movement’s inner circles. He got so close that King and others trusted him to record their most intimate moments—ones that Withers would dutifully report back to his FBI handlers.
Withers’s case was not exceptional. At that time, the woods were full informants, both men and women. Their existence was possible not only because of a corrupt, paranoid FBI that was intent on making life hell for civil rights leaders and others during the turbulent 1960s, but because they had the tacit blessing of three U.S. presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. All three men firmly believed that the battle against domestic subversives—that is, communists, socialists, black nationalists, Black Panthers and civil rights leaders, most notably King—justified bending and ultimately breaking the law, civil liberties be damned.
There is also ample evidence in the correspondence, internal memos and discussions made public by historians and former White House staffers, to suggest that Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon never believed moderate civil rights leaders like King posed any real threat to the established order. Yet they still winked and nodded as John Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, launched a top secret and blatantly illegal counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO. It targeted not only the civil rights movement but other more radical leaders and organizations as well.
The mandate of that program, spelled out in the stacks of secret documents released by Senate investigators in 1976, was to "disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize" groups and individuals the FBI considered politically objectionable. Yet in nearly all of the cases, those targeted by COINTELPRO were neither foreign spies, terrorists nor criminals.
The FBI patterned COINTELPRO on the methods used by its counterintelligence division and internal security sections during the 1940s and '50s. The arsenal of dirty tactics they used included unauthorized wiretaps, agents provocateur, poison-pen letters, “black-bag jobs” (breaking and entering to obtain intelligence) and the compiling of secret dossiers.
 I said it was ugly and dark, didn't I?  Read the rest HERE.

Sometimes it is most embarrassing to be an American, given how virtuous we portray ourselves around the world. 
NOTE: The image above is the closest I could find to represent this era.  (Click the image to embiggen)

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unions - Power Concedes Nothing...

It's a matter of short memories and long histories. (click image to embiggen.)
And so it goes.

Weekend's End

As I walked to work yesterday I noticed roofing shingles, garbage cans, tree limbs and other debris cluttering the streets, in some cases blocking traffic movement entirely. It was all gone when I walked home.  Not a sign of where the transformer exploded the night before, either.  It only impacted the north side of the town.  Lucky us.

Didn't check the mailbox on Friday and when I got home last evening the poor thing was bulging to bursting. Stuffed it into a bag and went up to the apartment. Most was information about the Medicare supplemental insurance plans that now number 14, received in the last 3 weeks. I didn't realize so many companies had their grubby fingers in the business. 

Opening the door, I noticed that a large painting had come crashing down from its place on the wall.  Seems those stick-on picture hooks aren't as good as they're cracked up to be.  There are 4 other paintings/photos hung in the same manner, I guess it's only a matter of time for them, too. At least the paintings are glass-free, so only frames require replacement.  Not so for the photos and watercolors.

There was a message from Verizon on the answering machine, too.  Seems the fed has added a new fee for both phone and DSL usage.  I guess they need the extra money for wiretapping, dont'cha know. 

Everything is still this Sunday morning.  Only the cardinals are raising a racket outside. A walk on the boardwalk will be a nice way to start the work day.

More later.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Curse You , Delmarva Power, Curse You!

Scene: doghouse, Snoopy at the typewriter.  It was a dark and stormy night...

And that it was, too. Rain and high winds (up to 50 mph) broken only by moments of sun through breaks in the clouds battered this little beach town without mercy yesterday. Down limbs and whole trees were ripped from the ground.

I had 2 urgent errands to run before work so I decided it would be wise to drive the car to work and avoid getting drenched and possibly sliding into a relapse of the nasty thing I am just now slowly getting over. I am so glad I did.

Following a fairly brisk lunch crowd I enjoyed my a-s cocktail then headed home. Was just changing out of the work drag when I heard a loud "BANG" like a gun shot...then all went dark. Either due to downed power lines, or (what I feared most) a transformer exploded. Put in a call to the power company to have my worst fear verified.  Transformer. At least 4 hours before service could be restored.  Key word here, "could" be restored.

What to do?  I called to find out if the restaurant had also lost power. Thankfully, it had not.  I toyed with the idea of heading back there for a warm something for supper, but the rain and wind made me think twice.  Lit candles in each room, made a festive martini and considered the options. A search of the refrigerator yielded many options, but all required re-heating, except one.  Tuna salad made the day before was the evening special last night.

As the apartment began to get colder and colder, I decided to brush my teeth and crawl under the covers and call it a night. Annoyed that I had no hot water for a shower I kept the sweats on and crawled in. The flannel sheets are wonderful in cold weather.  No matter how one turns there is never a cold spot in the bed. Fell asleep quickly.

Rudely awakened by bright light at midnight meant that the power was back on. All clocks were blinking as I went to blow out the single candle I left burning in the bathroom JIC, and went back to bed as the heat began to bring the place back to life.

Woke at usual time (5 am) and realized I must have slept 10 hours last night.  I guess I really needed the rest and time off the computer - which I didn't miss at all. Seems the storm has passed and I enjoyed a coffee and the morning news on the local NPR station as I went about resetting all f**king clocks and timers all over the place. The only appliance without one is my blessed Senseo coffee maker.

Took a shower and while getting ready for work, checked email and the news blogs.  It appears that the top news story is the demise of the Hasbro Easy-Bake Oven.  No, I am not kidding. Seems that without the incandescent bulbs to heat the thing, little ones will never again get to taste one of those wretched, stinky cakes that came out of those things.

Secondary stories were of the union-busting attempts in various states, followed by unrest and brutality in Libya, Iran, etc.  Long live Easy-Bake!!! Yes. (sigh!)

Look at it this way; it's only 9 hours before I can sit down with a few olives.  In the meantime I get to enjoy the company of diners and regulars who will insure that time goes quickly.

More later.

Cat Burgler Caturday

Make it a great day.

More later.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Infant Dolphin Deaths are up on Gulf Coast

I no longer ask why the mainstream media doesn't cover these stories, but it's sad.  Very sad.
GULFPORT -- Four baby dolphins lay dead in the sand on the south side of Horn Island and one on Ono Island off Orange Beach, Ala., Tuesday.

That’s more dolphins dead in one day than all the dolphins, of any age, found dead in Alabama in 2008.
And those that are washing up this week along the shores of Mississippi and Alabama are all babies, either stillborn or very young. The total is 19 calves from mid-January to present, nine of those in just the last 10 days.

“With some, we’re not sure if they actually took a breath,” said Dr. Delphine Shannon. Shannon handles strandings for the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the agency that collects data on dolphins and sends daily reports to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries division.

This is all happening early in the birthing season, which gets into full swing in March. The early deaths indicate something is wrong, said Moby Solangi, director of the institute.

With the Coast living in the shadow of the BP oil spill, the deaths bring an acute awareness to the situation. But scientists aren’t laying any blame until test results come back, and tissue samples haven’t even been sent to a laboratory yet.

The spike in infant dolphin deaths has the attention of both NOAA and the state Department of Marine Resources.

“Our antennas are up,” Solangi said. “I believe we’re going to see a correlation with something. This is too big a shift.”

So far, four calves in January and 15 in February have been found dead along Mississippi and Alabama shores. Compare that with the two years before the oil spill, when one death each was reported in Mississippi -- both in February.

The numbers for carcasses of all ages of dolphins found in the two states by year, according to Solangi and Marine Fisheries data, is 29 in 2006, 13 in 2007, 21 in 2008 and 45 in 2009. Then 89 were reported in 2010, and 28 in just the first two months of this year.

Blair Mase, NOAA’s stranding coordinator for the region, said her agency is watching the situation and comparing previous years’ data, “trying to find out what’s going on here.”

“We’re trying to determine if we do in fact have stillbirths,” Mase said.

The BP oil spill spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf during dolphin mating season in 2010 and through months of the early gestation period, which is about a year. Thousands of gallons of dispersant was used to break the oil into droplets and suspend it in the water column.

But scientists are not jumping to conclusions.
I believe we all know "what's going on here" but the scientists are afraid of blow-back or risk future funding for their work if they cross BP's line.

Photo caption: Intern Rhiannon Blake, left, and research assistant Jamie Klaus with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies take tissue samples from a dead dolphin calf while a BP cleanup crew works in the background on Horn Island on Tuesday.

Makes me sick. Read the rest HERE.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Breakups Are Devastating

Five Scientific Reasons. 
I wish this had been available 4 years ago when my life and world fell apart and I felt exactly as described below.  In some ways, still do. I suppose we never truly get over rejection. The first time my world fell apart I was 6 and I was better prepared for it at that time than I was 4 years ago.

Raise your hand if you've never heard any of the following lines, in one form or another:
  • Let's be friends.
  • I think we should see other people.
  • It's not you. It's me.
  • I just don't love you anymore.
If you've finished reading this list and your hand is raised, please bring it down to face level. Cup your hand to your cheek. Pull it back three to five inches, and, traveling at an increased velocity, slap yourself firmly on the face. Why? If you haven't experienced rejection from a breakup, this exercise serves as a simulation of what rejection feels like. Actually, a slap in the face is much more pleasant than rejection.
Chances are, though, you didn't raise your hand. I'm willing to bet that if you are reading this article, you are, unfortunately, familiar with the pain of rejection from a breakup.

Rejection Is Physiologically Heart-Breaking
"Rejection" comes from Latin, meaning thrown back. When we are rejected, we feel not only halted, but pushed back in the opposite direction of which we were headed. Now consider this: When rejected, how do we describe the event? We tend to say, "I was rejected." Notice what is going on here. We are using passive voice. This indicates how we feel about the part we play in rejection. We view ourselves as passive, as being the victim of an action, as inactive, as non-participative.

Well, studies have found that after rejection not only do we think passively, but also we act passively. Scientists from the University of Amsterdam found that unexpected social rejection is associated with a significant response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Let's take a quick time-out to discuss just what the heck is the parasympathetic nervous system. When the body is active, generally in fight or flight mode, the sympathetic system engages, heart rate quickens, pupils dilate and energy is directed towards allowing the body to react quickly. However, the parasympathetic system is responsible for when the body is at rest.

When faced with unexpected rejection, research has found that "feeling that you are not liked" results in our heart rate actually slowing down, an activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Thus, feeling rejected results in you reacting both psychologically and physically. It is interesting to mention that in this study, participants' heart rates fell not only when they heard a person's unfavorable opinion of them, but also in anticipation of hearing a person's opinion. If told that the person's opinion of him or her was unfavorable, the individual's heart rate plummeted even further and took longer to return to baseline. Additionally, heart rates slowed even more when individuals expected a positive opinion, but received a negative one. This explains how rejection, especially the kind that blindsides you, literally feels heartbreaking.

We Are Hard-Wired to Fear Rejection
As human beings, we are extremely sensitive to rejection -- especially forms of social rejection. We have a strong motivation to seek approval and acceptance. If we take an anthropological perspective, we can see how back in the day -- I'm talking about back in 10,000 B.C. -- you knew that if you were on your own, your chance of survival was nil. You needed your tribe for food, shelter and protection. Being rejected from others meant imminent death. Evolutionarily speaking, we are hardwired to form relationships and strongly motivated to feel liked and feel like we belong.

Getting Over a Breakup Is Like Getting Over Cocaine
Five out of five neurologists agree: Rejection sucks! And arguably, the worst type of rejection is romantic rejection. Getting over a breakup is like getting over an addition to cocaine. That isn't just my personal viewpoint; it is also the opinion and the scientific finding of researchers at Stony Brook University. The researchers found that the area of the brain that is active during the pain and anguish experienced during a breakup is the same part of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings. Brain imaging shows similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. Rejection hurts so acutely because we get addicted to the relationship, only to have it taken away from us. And after, just like a drug addiction, we go through withdrawal.
The rest is here.

And so it goes.

The Best Burger in America?

It sounds like it from this rave review  in GQ, and looks like it from the photo.  Let's face it, it gets harder and harder to find a burger in this country with actual flavor. Our taste buds have been dumbed down by the likes of McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and all the rest. We make a really good burger at the restaurant, but we use Black Angus beef, which still tastes like beef.  Imagine that.  This, on the other hand, sounds like heaven:
It's half beef and half beyond belief.

I arrived in Los Angeles not much taken with umami, at least not the way true believers are. Too much mysticism, not enough science. Nor did I care much for the L.A. burger culture, not like the locals. Too many toppings, not enough meat.

Then I tasted the Umami Burger, Adam Fleischman's cross-cultural merger of Japanese ingenuity and American know-how. And I thought to myself, This is a man among burger men, worthy of our adulation even if he's always wearing a T-shirt with an Umami Burger logo. (These days, even the greats can't resist self-promotion.)

Fleischman, the founder of the modest but ever expanding four-shop Umami Burger chain, has rethought every element of the hamburger experience. The bun. The meat. The ketchup. The toppings. Even valet parking. Yes, at the original Umami Burger joint on La Brea, 900 square feet of utter simplicity across the road from a Goodwill store, every burger comes with parking, the ultimate in West Coast customer service.

Elsewhere in L.A., the burger world is in disarray. So desperate is the situation, so uncertain are the natives, that at least one establishment specializing in burgers is flying in chopped meat from the LaFrieda purveyors in Manhattan. The old L.A. order—In-N-Out Burger, Fatburger, Bob's Big Boy, Tommy's—is in retreat.

Fleischman's savory umami master sauce puts to shame other "secret sauces," which tend to be orange goo. His organic housemade version of MSG might well carry the DNA for umami (assuming you believe umami exists). His umami-loaded ketchup tastes like a purer, fresher, tinglier clone of Heinz. He defines his discoveries as fulfilling a craving for "that which cannot be explained."

His face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the burger world.

Who is this man? I sat down with him, and he brushed aside his life in a dozen words: Born in New York. Liberal-arts grad. Owned wine bars. Sold them. That's it. (His wife and kids didn't come up until later. She likes her burgers well-done, which doesn't please him. His son calls his father's masterpiece the "mommy burger," which does.) It is as though he lived an inconsequential existence until being reborn as a burger man, fated to do little else, although now he's thinking about an umami pizza chain.

Umami, heralded by Japanese scientists as the fifth taste (after the basics of sweet, sour, bitter, salty), is voodoo science to me. Others are convinced of its authenticity, based on the alleged discovery of a taste bud for glutamate, the building block of the umami concept.

Fleischman is credible because he has focused on flavor, not chemistry. He studied umami tastes, most of them having to do with aging or fermentation, and made certain they were sprinkled on, poured into, and piled atop his burgers. I tasted his patty the American way, plain, with nothing on it, and it was pure and wonderful. I tasted it the Asian way, served with toppings, rubs, and sauces, and a different sort of brilliance emerged. It was deeper, more sensuous, both head-spinning and mind-expanding.

He's also created a Peking-duck burger with hoisin sauce, a crabmeat burger with lemon-miso dressing, and a Stink Burger incorporating anchovies, onions marinated in fish sauce, and ripe Taleggio cheese. It's clear that he has looked into the heart of the burger and seen what others have not.
Mouth watering, yet?  Mine is.

More later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dusting off the Nikon and a Dusting of Snow

Yes, the temp of 74'F last weekend was just a teaser. Last night it got down to 30' and I woke to about 3" of white all around.  Not bad, actually, it could have been much worse. Those north and west got hit with a lot more. (Ooooo, a red velvet cake in the form of a Nikon. Yum. Click to embiggen.)

Still, it put a damper on plans for the free day. Reworked the 2-day agenda to perform some chores originally planned for tomorrow. It's for the best so that if tomorrow is sunny and warmer, I have a shot (no pun intended) at getting out and doing a bit of photography, which I haven't done in almost a year. Weather or work always interfered and it's been gnawing at me for a while now.

Unlike blog-buddie Mark (Our Simple Lives...) who is great at portrait photography (especially of his 4 beautiful kids), I take snapshots of people, for the most part. Sometimes I see everyday things in a different way and try to capture that difference.  It's hard to explain, really. Maybe if I get brave sometime, I'll post some of these.  Maybe not.

One of the chores today then, was to break out the Nikon, dust it off, and try to remember how to use it.  I'm a bit rusty, but some is coming back to this tired old brain.  Thanks to blog-buddie & friend Ron, (Retired in Delaware) I have a little digital camera with me every day. But that made me lazy.

One of my coworkers recently joined a local digital camera/photography club and seems to enjoy the experience.  Maybe I'll follow his lead next Fall after the season is over and there is more free time to play. The club membership year runs from September to May, so it isn't worth the money for me to join for only 2 months - at full membership fee, btw.

After gathering all the year-end tax information I broke out in a cold sweat and decided to have the returns done by a pro who is the accountant for the restaurant and suggested by the doslocosguys. It can't be any worse than my botched attempts of the past. The returns should be ready any day now; I am apprehensive and hopeful that I won't have to pay as much as the past 4 years.  I've got fingers, toes, and eyes crossed. 

Needless to say this makes it difficult to walk and see clearly causing people to look at me kind of funny. I do not mean "funny" as in Ha-ha!

And so it goes.

The Presidents Song by Animaniacs

Wish I had found this yesterday for Presidents Day.  So it's a day late, sue me.  The writers, voice actors, and producer (Steven Spielberg) had an intelligent winner in this animated series. This is just one of the priceless songs written for the show.  Kids would love history if it were taught this way. Alas, my history teachers (back in the dark ages) were all DATE fanatics - they didn't care much about WHAT happened as WHEN it happened. I've spent my life playing catchup, but there's always more to learn.  Enjoy!
I'm having a blast today and as I look out the windows I see the snow is melting with the sun, though it is still only 30'F here.

More later.

River Spillway Water to Aid Marsh Restoration

Just found this and wonder why some genius didn't think of this long ago.

Using the Bonnet Carré Spillway flood-control structure for coastal marsh restoration has been a topic of discussion for years, but now the first steps are being taken to put that water to use.
The structure acts as an overflow valve during specific high-water conditions on the Mississippi River but on average, the structure has only been opened once every eight years, said Steve Mathies, executive director of the state Office of Coastal Restoration and Protection.
The spillway was last opened in 2008 and before that, 1997.
However, the structure isn’t watertight, Mathies told the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on Wednesday.
Every second, an average of 4,000 cubic feet of water flows through the structure into the spillway. For about a year, the Pontchartrain Levee District has been working on a feasibility plan to take some of that water and sediment and pump it into the LaBranche wetlands south of the spillway.
“It seems like a very simple solution,” Mathies said.
Using the water that now flows through the structure simplifies things, he said, since having the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers open the structure, even slightly, for something other than flood control might require congressional action.
It would be the first step in using the spillway for coastal restoration purposes and is relatively simple, said Steve Wilson, president of the Pontchartrain Levee District.
No new ditches would need to be dug, and there’s already a pump station at the site.
The rest is HERE.

H/T Editilla

More later.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pizza for Protesting Workers

It's been a long weekend at work and I don't have any sort of TV service, but I just found, and love this:
Ian’s Pizza in Madison: 30 states/5 countries buy pizza for workers!
Posted on February 20th, 2011
Incredible story from Ian’s Pizza, on State St. in Madison!

They are only serving the workers rallying in Madison and have shut down normal operations; you can call and buy a pizza too:

608.257.9248 - Ask for Protester Pricing!

This is astounding! As of right now, Ian’s Pizza on State’s normal in-store and delivery operations are on hold — due to the high volume of calls, we are only processing orders donated to the protesters. By our (rather harried) count, we’ve heard from 30 states and 5 countries (including Korea, and our northern friends, Canada). Wow.
Thank you!
To our regular customers: We really apologize, but… wow.
 And now this from Politico ...irony is not dead:
In an act of intercontinental solidarity, an Egyptian has ordered a pizza for Wisconsin protesters, reports Politico. The call from Africa is just one of many streaming into the Madison, Wisc., pizza parlor Ian's from all over the world. So far, people from 12 countries and 38 states have rung up looking to help get free pizza to the Wisconsin protesters clustered in the Capitol. On Saturday, Ian's distributed more than 1,000 free slices and sent 300 pizzas to the Capitol. The trend continued on Sunday, as staff member fielded calls from as far away as Turkey, Korea, Finland, China, and Australia. The trend began when a mother of a University of Wisconsin student called in offering to donate $200 to feed the people occupying the Capitol. The pizza chain's postings on Twitter and Facebook soon led to so many donations that they had to shut down on Saturday night.
It's nice to see American people waking from a long slumber taking to the streets - and being supported around the country and the world. Even Egypt.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

As the Full Moon Wanes

Saturday and today were hugely busy days at work. The jovial craziness continued unabated and, as my shift ended this evening, it looked like there was more in store. Not one party-pooper in the lot.   I love when that happens.

One episode really made my weekend.  As I was at my station with a server at my side, in streams a party of 8 delightfully joyful younger folks and as the entire party is finally in the room, the last 2 people to enter scream, "God, it's him... and him, they're both here! Oh this is just the best." I recognized the two immediately. They came in during my first summer on the job and we had a ball together as we talked about the beach, menu items and their stay in town.  They returned last summer and were happy with this very server, and that I was again welcoming them with a smile and hug.

It seems that they raved about me/us to their friends who were a part of this group. The facial expressions within the group were priceless as the snappy patter and bantering went back and forth.  Fortunately, I was able to seat them so the server was able to serve again.

As I said, it was very busy so I didn't have the time to spend with them that I would have wished.  They enjoyed cocktails, good food, and a good time was had by all. They were visiting to check out rentals for the coming season.  I hope they find something they will enjoy.

The kicker came long after they left.  After the server had closed out for the day, the Gen. Mgr. walked up to me with a big smile on her face as I waited for my festive a-s cocktail.  I asked what the big smile was about. She handed me the food check from that group on which was written a compliment about me and signed by all 8 of them.  They did the same thing with the second check for the server.

The server and I had a laugh and shared a hug as he headed home for the evening. We knew without using words that those 8 wonderful people made our day.

And then, several old friends from the previous life walked into the bar just as I was about to enjoy my festive after-shift cocktail and, as those in the past, were surprised to see me, having been told that I moved away after the breakup.  Their initial reaction was tentative, but became more comfortable as I brushed off, or made jokes, about those rumors. We shared a short chat as I enjoyed my drink and said our good-byes.  No mention of staying in touch, or getting together socially, and that's fine.  They are from the past.  I don't need baggage from that life.

While I'm not so crazy about my life as present, I love my work, the wonderful people I work with, and those I meet daily. I'll take what I can get from both.

Still, I am exhausted (back of hand placed on the forehead) and need the essence of a few olives to pull me through.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Full Moon with Happy Crazies

Well, this was one for the books, I must say.

It began this morning when I was serenaded by some woman on the walkway below my apartment.  (See this morning's warning post below) Turns out she IS a teacher at the pre-school and they were having some kind of program for the kids and parents today.  Full Moon!

Walking to work, 2 Rehoboth cops stopped to chat (never happens) and whined about not having dined at the restaurant since the new year.  Both left in their separate cruisers, but both arrived for lunch this afternoon.  They left with happy faces and raved about their meals.  Full Moon!

One of the cooks, while dancing around the kitchen with knives pretending to be Zorro the Gay Blade, or something, stabbed himself with a 7 inch chef's knife.  The Cajun Florence Nightingale had to delve into the first-aid kit and dress the dumb-ass' wound.  He'll live, damn it and he got a tiny lecture for being a dumb-ass.  The wound was deep, though not large, and at one point he was close to tears with pain. Full Moon.

Both bar and dining room were pretty busy all day and at one point a guy came in, told me he was meeting someone and asked to be seated at the hi-tops in the bar area.  He neglected to tell me the gender of his dining companion, so I was on the lookout for either who seemed to be searching for someone already in the building. As I sat others and helped servers clear tables, another fellow walks in and asks for a booth - he doesn't tell me about meeting someone - so I seat him in the dining room as requested and go about my duties. Do you follow what is about to happen? Although this guy told the server he was meeting someone, he didn't tell me. Eventually, the 2 dined alone only a few feet away, separated by a single wall,  finally meeting up on the way to the men's room, had a good laugh and told me the whole story as they were leaving - together, finally! Full Moon!

As I wrapped up my shift and ordered my after-shift cocktail, a raucous bunch of elderly couples invaded the bar hi-tops to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of their group.  It was clear this wasn't their first stop for cocktails.  As I sipped my golden margarita I was entertained by this group as they sang big band songs (singing in harmony, mind you) of the 30s and 40s.  Damned good, too.  Full Moon!

Needless to say that made my day and I walked home humming some 40s classics. My olives are delicious and supper is on the stove.  I can't help but wonder what tomorrow has in store.

You can't make this stuff up. Oh well, Cheers!

And so it goes.

Freaky Full Moon Friday

God help us - and it's a long holiday weekend, too boot.  Oy! Warmer temperatures and sun is bound to bring out all kinds of crazy.

I came out of the shower just now to hear some woman singing "Do Re Mi" from the Sound of Music downstairs directly under my window. I assume (hope?) she is one of the teachers at the pre-school below and not some local crazy person I haven't encountered before.

Girding my loins for the day at the restaurant.  

More later.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What The Census Can (and Can't) Tell Us About NOLA

 How sad is this?  My sister who is back in NOLA has been unable to track down many of her neighbors who once owned homes (now washed away) in her area of St. Barnard Parish. This from Harry Shearer:
NEW ORLEANS -- The 2010 census figures about New Orleans made news (here, here, and here, for example), but the stories all came out at the height of the uprising in Egyptian cities, so you may have missed them. But, since they were all written from within the conventional narrative of the 2005 flooding (big storm, natural disaster), you certainly missed the more disturbing implications of those numbers.
There are 118,000 fewer African-Americans in New Orleans than in the previous census. We know that approximately 100,000 of them were evacuated in the wake of the catastrophic flooding of the city. "Evacuated" means they were loaded onto planes, trains and buses, essentially given a one-way ticket to a destination unknown to them until they arrived.
Now for what we don't know. According to Allison Plyer, of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which makes it its business to collect all available statistical information on the area, we don't know where those 100,000 people are now, whether (as Barbara Bush famously predicted) they're happier in their new environs or whether they ache to come home. No public or private entity has thought it important to track those folks who were so suddenly uprooted. We have better information about the movie preferences of minor-league ballplayers than about these survivors of a major catastrophe.
Now to the implications. The flooding of New Orleans was "the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl", according to the co-leader of one of the two major forensic engineering investigations into the disaster (Google ILIT report from UC Berkeley, as well as the Team Louisiana report from LSU). Culpability for the flooding rests not with Mother Nature -- 20% of New Orleans flooded during the city's most serious previous brush with a major storm, 80% flooded in 2005 -- but with the US Army Corps of Engineers, according to those two reports, and to the decision of a US Federal judge in the only lawsuit stemming from the flooding to go to trial. The reports blame four and a half decades of design and construction mistakes and misjudgments. The Federal judge blames conduct rising to the level of "criminal negligence". As a result, 20% of the population of a major American city has gone...we don't know where.
And recent information available to that same part of our government indicates that Sacramento, California, may well be next.
And the entire official population of Washington, D.C., persists in its silence, and inaction, on this subject.
ADDENDUM: Some more things we do know. According to a couple of sources, housing agencies in New Orleans are, or have been, receiving a large number of requests for assistance in returning to the city. Post-flood, rents in New Orleans have risen by a third, while most public housing was demolished. After a long wrangle, federal government assistance, with many complications, was made available to compensate homeowners, but very little was done to compensate landlords. Hence, far more owner-occupied housing has been restored than rental housing.
Harry's recent venture, the documentary "The Big Uneasy" tells the whole sordid tale of the ACOE and the cover-ups. It was a film that no one else had the guts to make and Harry has been passionate about not only NOLA, but for getting out the truth about what really happened beginning before August 29, 2005. See the film if you can. It is an eye opener.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Perfect Getaway Option

Don't knock it.  At least I'd be assured some privacy. Who the hell would follow anyone here?


And so it goes.

Narcosub Seized in Colombia

This is amazing.  It's great to see the war on drugs is going so swimmingly, at least for the smugglers.  Who else, aside from governments, could afford a couple of million dollars to build one of these things? And these are more sophisticated, with all the comforts of home, than the previous, dangerous ones.
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian soldiers have for the first time seized a fully submersible drug-smuggling submarine capable of reaching the coast of Mexico, authorities announced Monday.
Last July, another fully submersible "narcosub" was seized just across the border by authorities in neighboring Ecuador.
Previous drug-carrying vessels found in Colombia were only semi-submersible, meaning part of the structure always remained above the surface.
But the sub discovered Sunday can operate completely underwater, Col. Manuel Hurtado, chief of staff of Colombia's Pacific Command, told The Associated Press. He estimated it could hold eight tons of drugs.
The sub in Colombia was found in a rural area of Cauca province on the Timgiqui River about 275 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of Bogota, the capital.
Hurtado said intelligence reports and tips from informants led troops to the vessel. He said the sub was empty when soldiers found it and no one was arrested.
The 99-foot-long (30-meter) fiberglass boat has room for a crew of six and is powered by two diesel engines and has an air-conditioned interior, Hurtado said. He said it can submerge up to nine feet (three meters) deep and is equipped with a 16 1/2-foot (five meter) periscope.
"The engines were already fully installed and ready to go," Hurtado said.
The sub had "the capacity to sail totally underwater and the ability to travel to the coast of Mexico without surfacing," he added. He said such a trip would take eight to nine days.
Hurtado estimated the vessel had taken six to eight months to build and cost about $2 million.
He said Colombia has seized at least 32 semi-submersible vessels designed to smuggle drugs over the last decade, including a dozen last year.
It's called a "fully submersibl
­e" submarine because previous narco-"sub
­s" were in fact semi-subme
­rsibles. They can't dive and resurface, and are designed to operate just below the water. This one can dive and resurface.
But it's not the first time Colombian authoritie­s have seized one. A half built true submarine was seized in warehouse outside Bogota in 2000. That one would have been able to dive 100 meters and carry 150 tons of cargo. This one is far less ambitious, only able to dive to 3 meters and carry 8 tons.
When the smuggling cartels eventually figure this one out (if they haven't already) the US coast guard is in a lot of trouble, even with ASW help from the Navy. The cartels treat the crews as disposable (their loyalty is secured through a mixture of money and threats against their families), and they can afford substantia­l loss rates and still make a profit.
 H/T: HuffPo

Not much of a war, if you ask me. More like a very expensive distraction and strain on our resources. Clearly, if these smugglers can cough up 65+ million dollars in the past decade for these vessels, we've been out-spent already.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Packers Have Won My Heart

Everyone knows that I am not a fan of American football, but this just took my breath away. Not unlike Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers - be still my heart.  But this is a powerful statement in a time of Republican attempts to bust unions in this country.
We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn't have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.
It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.
The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class. When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin's long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work.
These public workers are Wisconsin's champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.
From HERE.

And so it goes.

Alka-Seltzer Plus or NyQuil?

Whenever I see, hear, or type "NYQUIL" I think of Sophia on Golden Girls talking about how she and her friends got through boring days at the old folks home doing "NyQuil Shooters" to maintain their sanity. Anyway...

 Although I'm making headway and gaining ground lost due to the relapse of the cold last week I am being cautious. Remaining in, or close to the bed for the 2 days off seemed to help and I had more energy when I went back to work on Thursday.  While the deep cough persists (as it does with 3 others at the restaurant), overall I have felt a little better each day.

Working extra long days over this Pink & Red Valentine weekend, I decided not to push my luck and stayed close to home today. I did laundry (desperately needed), had a sudden craving for an old fashioned egg salad (so I made one), and realized that I had 3 pounds of cubed beef defrosted that had to be turned into something before it went bad. So, I am cooking one of my favorite dishes - Beef Daube Provencale - and I am frustrated - frustrated I tell you - that I have no sense of smell to enjoy the aromas.  Damn this cold! (Click on the image above to embiggen.)

Organized all tax materials and got them to the person who is now preparing them for me, since I screwed up so badly the past 2 years.  Yes, she just shook her head and said, "Jeez, just give me everything!" So, I did. This year I was missing only one form (who knew?) which I received in PDF format this afternoon and sent on to her as an email attachment.  So much more convenient to get your blood sucked by the government these days, isn't it? I've been begging the Universe, promising anything (Groucho glasses, feather boa, the kazoo from the upstate NY Flaming Kazoo Marching Band from Pride 2003), so I don't have to pay extra taxes this year.  Forget about a refund, I'll be happy with a neutral return - balance = 0!

The tax stuff was only one item on a short list of things that need doing, as opposed to the longer list of things I want to do. A walk on the beach was scrapped. The weather wasn't as warm and inviting today as yesterday's 63'F.  It was 34' today with stronger winds and I was not going to chance another relapse. 

If all goes well, I will venture out by motor vehicle tomorrow to finish off that short list of "things that must be done" before going back to work on Thursday.

I've received a most bizarre email from some jerk responding to a comment I left on another blog. It was a personal post, nothing political or religious, I simply offered my best wishes.  But this message just said, "Nice going, you are only 2 years late."  I have no idea what that was supposed to mean.  Schmuck!   Delete.

And so it goes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

BP: Making it Right (for BP)

This is the best report I've read in a very long time and it's right on the (ahem) money. This is what people in the Gulf communities have been saying all along, only to be dismissed by BP and the US Coast Guard.  Now, how does that happen?

Who hasn't seen those "Making It Right" ads that BP is using to flood the media like so much run-away oil saturating the Gulf? Over the past nine months, BP has conducted a full-throttle charm offensive, taking out full-page ads in The New York Times, sponsoring small-town festivals all along the Gulf Coast, and running countless television spots, repeating their relentlessly conciliatory message. They're pulling out all the stops -- clearly subscribing to the notion that the amount of penance owed is directly proportionate to the size of the sin. And with the enormity of the transgression of public trust embodied in the spill, BP sure has a lot of "Making it Right" to do.
But BP's a company whose bottom line doesn't account for the cost of restoring our precious natural resources or the health of our communities. BP is it for the money. The amount of "Making it Right" BP is going to do is purely a function of some number-crunching cost/benefit analysis. They spend money on ads because they're more interested in cleaning up their image than cleaning up the Gulf. A clean image means increased profits; a clean Gulf means financial losses in the form of remediation and wildlife rehabilitation costs and Clean Water Act fines.
So while they're working hard, with a whole lot of fanfare, in street festivals and in TV commercials to make it right, they're quietly working even harder behind closed doors in Washington to make it all wrong. In DC, they're undercutting the American public and our Gulf Coast communities, ensuring that at the bottom line of the ledger, they protect their shareholder profits.
This shouldn't be news. From day one, BP has tirelessly downplayed the number of barrels of oil that gushed into the Gulf waterways during their 87-day disaster. Remember when they claimed only a 1,000 barrels a day, and then, when pressed, 5,000? That whole time, their internal documents that were turned over to Congress had BP admitting that in truth, 100,000 barrels a day could have been pouring from their blown well.
Even today, in the midst of their "Making it Right" push, BP still struggles mightily to re-shape the truth. We hear now rumors that BP is lobbying hard in private meeting rooms at the Environmental Protection Agency to once again minimize their impacts and stick a make-believe low number on the amount of barrels that poured forth per day from their disastrously faulty oil rig. It seems as if BP has the EPA over a barrel -- the word is that EPA is actually negotiating with agency to officially reduce the number of barrels spilled in order to reduce the company's fines under the Clean Water Act. By not living up to the true size of this disaster, BP is doing anything BUT making it right.
Please read the rest of the piece.  It's well worth it to know the truth behind the BP coverup and its "Making it Right" fraudulent campaign.  HERE.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines: Not So Much Heart

We're celebrating Valentine's Weekend at the restaurant, (rather than only tomorrow, the 14th) with a special menu, red roses for each table, and special cocktails. It has been a very busy weekend and with all the specials running all day my security level was bumped up another notch so that I could verify and accept any discounts offered and reduce the totals of guest checks.

The festivities and specials began on Friday evening and continued through lunch and dinner Saturday, all day today, and will end tomorrow night when the kitchen closes.

So, I have had firsthand look at the guest checks and the amount of gratuity left by each party - of 1 to 20 or more. And I must say that I have been shocked by what I've seen.  Think about it, the gratuity was left on the original total check, NOT the discounted one they would actually pay. Apalled, doesn't even come close. 

Sadly, I discovered that there are certain ethnic groups who work the server to the bone and leave very little, sometimes nothing, for service. The worst offending groups are Asians, Indians, African Americans, and Lesbians. A family of 6 African Americans ran up an $85.00 bill and awarded their server $5.00, while a party of 4 Lesbians ran up a food and drink tab of $140.00 and left their server nothing.  Not. One. Penny. 

Another group ran up a $65.00 tab for burgers and drinks, paid with small bills, and as the server was counting to see if they overpaid, they left.  Turns out they left $55.00, which meant that not only didn't she receive compensation, but had to pay the extra $10.00 out of her own pocket.  Mind you, this is service on "discounted" meals and drinks.  How cheap can human beings get?

The best group all round to leave generous tips was gay men.  My guess is that many work, or have worked in the business and know how hard the job is and compensate for the crappy rewards they received.  I know that's what I've always done, and still do.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had heard stories from servers about these issues, but I thought it was more prejudice than truth.  I've learned this weekend that, sadly, the stories are true.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gay Pirates are Invading Tampa!?!?!

Deep breath.  Good.

You know, this sort of obsessing gets so surreal that you wonder what these people think about, if anything, other than gay sex. Really, Eugene needs some serious therapy, or intervention, or a safe haven for him to come out - like Tampa. The imagination of these people just boggles the mind, boggles, I tell you.

Oh, the fantasies this man shares.. (The image at left is not that of Capt. Jack Sparrow, but a very young, handsome Guy Madison, so click to embiggen.) This was found at AlterNet, so check it out.
Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican official in Virginia’s Loudon County, best known for claiming that gay TSA agents were getting their jollies patting down male passengers’ junk, is sending out a letter to his constituents claiming that radical homosexual pirates have invaded Tampa Bay, Florida, and are roaming the streets. My bags are packed and I’m hopping the first flight to Tampa with my copy of “How To Talk Like A Pirate” safely tucked under my arm. What fun! I am particularly looking forward to some of the novel uses one might make of a parrot during a gay encounter with a pirate.
January 29th is the 106th annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest in Tampa Bay, Florida. By all accounts it is quite some event, opening with a real live pirate ship docking at port, and literally hundreds of people in pirate costumes “invade” the city in groups called “krewes” The event is a full two weeks of seemingly family oriented events
When I think of family-oriented events, real live pirates are pretty much the first things that pop into my mind. Nothing brings a family together like kidnapping, robbery on the high seas, plank-walking, rum-drinking, some fitful sodomy, and, of course, the occasional lash.
But in recent years Radical Homosexuals have been intent on turning it into a two week alcohol fueled display of public debauchery. Organizers started by purposefully making the parade route zig-zag so no one could call it a “straight parade.”
A little known fact about me is that I used to be more heterosexual than Charlie Sheen on coke in the Plaza Hotel until that fateful summer when I did a zig-zag parade route and wound up in the arms of a well-endowed and insatiable bullfighter before the parade was even close to finished. Once you’ve done the bolero with a torero you want no more-o the senora, as they say, more or less, in Seville.
Word is that Radical Homosexuals have infiltrated as event organizers to promote homosexual events that are designed to prey upon unsuspecting college students by enticing them to join their “krewes” and help build parade floats in exchange for free alcohol. When the young men are sufficiently intoxicated, homosexuals dressed as pirates whisk them away to God knows where to take advantage of them sexually.
Now, I was buying into the whole gay pirate invasion story right until this last bit. I have more than a little experience in the art of gay seduction and I can testify that plying some guy with free booze, even with a little float building thrown in for good measure, is not going to lead a perfectly straight college kid to consent to being whisked off for a little game of hide-the-sausage with a pirate or anyone else. The only person who might give credence to this notion is someone who has limped home after a late night session of buggery and tried to blame it on the Captain Morgan’s. We’re looking at you, Eugene.
There's more hilarity to be found HERE.

And so it goes.

Whaler Once Lost Tells its Tale at Last.

Yes, this is one of those stories I can't get enough of.  Especially this one with its connection to Melville and his Moby Dick. As reported in today's NYT:

HONOLULU — In the annals of the sea, there were few sailors whose luck was worse than George Pollard Jr.’s.
Pollard, you see, was the captain of the Essex, the doomed Nantucket whaler whose demise, in 1820, came in a most unbelievable fashion: it was attacked and sunk by an angry sperm whale, an event that inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby-Dick.”
Unlike the tale of Ahab and Ishmael, however, Pollard’s story didn’t end there: After the Essex sank, Pollard and his crew floated through the Pacific for three months, a journey punctuated by death, starvation, madness and, in the end, cannibalism. (Pollard, alas, ate his cousin.)
Despite all that, Pollard survived and was given another ship to steer: the Two Brothers, the very boat that had brought the poor captain back to Nantucket.
And then, that ship sank, too.
On Friday, in a discovery that might bring a measure of peace to Captain Pollard, who survived his second wreck (though his career did not), researchers are to announce that they have found the remains of the Two Brothers. The whaler went down exactly 188 years ago after hitting a reef at the French Frigate Shoals, a treacherous atoll about 600 miles northwest of here. The trove includes dozens of artifacts: harpoon tips, whaling lances and three intact anchors.
The discovery is believed to be the first of a Nantucket whaler, one of an armada of ships that set sail during the early 19th century when the small Massachusetts island was an international capital of whaling. It was a risky pursuit that led sailors halfway across the world — and sometimes to the bottom of the sea.
“Very little material has been recovered from whale ships that foundered because they generally went down far from shore and in the deepest oceans,” said Ben Simons, chief curator of the Nantucket Historical Association. “We have a lot of logbooks and journals that record disasters at sea, but to be taken to the actual scene of the sunken vessel — that’s really what is so amazing about this.”
The discovery was, in some ways, as fortunate as Pollard was cursed.
The Two Brothers — which was bound for the newly opened Japan Grounds after whalers had fished out the Atlantic and parts of the South Pacific — was long known to have sunk on the night of Feb. 11, 1823, off the French Frigate Shoals.
A shrimp-shaped collection of reefs, the shoals were a notoriously tricky spot. Charts were not particularly reliable in that area, and Pollard was steering the Two Brothers without the aid of stars, since the sky had been overcast.
Several dozen boats are known to have sunk there or in neighboring atolls, all of which are now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, an enormous conservation area that covers nearly 140,000 square miles of ocean west of Hawaii.
In 2008, a team of marine archeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries set their sights on investigating several other wrecks, including a British whaling ship called the Gledstanes, which sank in the remote Kure Atoll in 1837, and the Churchill, which went down carrying a load of coconut meat in the French Frigate Shoals in 1917.
With a few spare days left before returning to Honolulu, however, the team decided to poke around a tiny sandbar known as Shark Island.
Kelly Gleason, the leader of the team, was in the water — crystal-clear shallows about 15 feet deep — when a colleague suddenly signaled that he had seen something.
“All of a sudden,” said Dr. Gleason, a marine archaeologist, “we came across this large anchor.”
The anchor, some 10 feet long, was peacefully resting on the seafloor, and was far too heavy to lift. (The federally protected monument also has strict rules about removal of artifacts.) Anchors, like so many other types of maritime technology, evolved over the years, making them easier to place in a specific time period, and Dr. Gleason was pretty sure the anchor she was seeing was from the early 1800s. 
There's more that includes a bitter-sweet ending to the story, HERE.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baby Peggy: Elephant in the Room Trailer

Those who visit here may remember that a few weeks ago I posted  the "Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room" poster.  You can see that piece HERE.

Here is the trailer for the finished 58 minute documentary that I may never get to see (unless released on DVD) because it will never play here. Diana is a very special woman and her thoughts, insights, and memories are extraordinary and I am so pleased that this Dutch filmmaker, for whatever reason, chose to focus on the career of this tiny star and the person she became.

From the YouTube description: This is the trailer of a 58 minute documentary about an extraordinary lady, Diana Serra Cary. In the early 1920's she was one of Hollywood's first major child stars Baby Peggy. Diana tells us the story of her life and the impact her career had on her family. The documentary will be released in 2011 and is produced, directed, filmed and edited by Vera Iwerebor.
And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How I Feel Today: part 2

Yes, this is how I feel today.  My ass needs a vacation; some time off away from everything and everyone.  Haven't been on a real holiday since the ill-fated wedding trip to Toronto in 2003, and to my mind that doesn't count. I would love to have a week, but would settle for a few days if I could.

I've done nothing of value to the world these past couple of days. Nursing the cold has been the top priority, so other than taking meds for that, I've eaten when hungry, slept when sleepy, drank constantly (mostly water, hot green tea with honey, and orange juice) and repeated as needed.

No music, no radio, no news, and no reading. Only the deafening silence broken by my coughs, or ragged breathing. Just getting to and from the microwave to heat food was a major chore. Didn't even have the energy to walk down the stairs to the laundry room to wash and dry some clothes.  That's how bad it has been.

Feeling a little better this afternoon though the cough is still deep and painful. I may get to work on some of my tax forms later on. I'm going to take a crack at cooking supper tonight rather than face another micro-leftover. That, in itself, is a good sign. 

This isn't the dreaded flu that everyone's talking about.  No, this is a demon rhino-virus that takes you to the mat and keeps slamming you back there each time you try to rise. Not 100% on my feet - but better than Monday. 

Come to think of it, maybe I did do something of value by staying away from other humans who may have contracted this vile thing if I was around.  No Typhoid Mary am I. No sir!!!

And so it goes.

Patriot Act Extension Fails in the House

You know the GOP is in trouble when even the tea-party Reps voted against the extension. Frankly, I am happily surprised by this turn of events. After a decade living with this cloud over all of us I thought we'd never get rid of Big Brother.  I love it when I am wrong. 
The House on Tuesday night failed to approve legislation to extend surveillance authorities in the Patriot Act.
In a 277-148 vote, the House fell just seven votes short of the two-thirds majority of voting members necessary to move the bill under suspension of the rules.
More than two dozen Republicans bucked their leadership in the vote, by far the biggest defection for the House GOP since it took over the lower chamber. Until tonight's vote, Republicans voted together in all but two votes this year, and in those two votes, only one Republican voted with Democrats.
Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Rob Bishop (Utah), Paul Broun (Ga.), John Campbell (Calif.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Randy Hultgren (Ill.), Tim Johnson (Ill.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Connie Mack (Fla.), Kenny Marchant (Texas), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Ron Paul (Texas), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Bobby Schilling (Ill.), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Rob Woodall (Ga.), and Don Young (Alaska).
Among the Democrats, 67 voted with Republicans, and nearly twice that much, 122, voted against the GOP.
Democrats were gleeful that the bill fell short.
Veteran Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) exited the House chamber boasting that the GOP unsuccessfully held the scheduled 15-minute vote open for a total of 35 minutes to twist enough Republican arms to change the outcome.
"They didn't have the votes! They kept trying to get them to switch, but couldn't get them," Frank exclaimed as he walked through reporters in the Speaker's Lobby, which is just off the House floor.
Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) laughed as he told The Hill, "We're so happy, I'm so happy. I voted against it. They tried to get enough Rs to switch their votes, because the Tea Party voted 'no' also... but it wasn't enough."
The bill, H.R. 514, would extend the authority that allows U.S. agents to conduct "roving surveillance" of targets, collect business records and other tangible intelligence records, and surveil solo operators who are not tied to a specific terrorist group but may pose a threat to the United States.
These authorities expire on February 28, which means the House may have to take up the measure quickly under a rule, which would make for a slower process but would also allow it to pass with a simple majority. Clay said he expects Republicans to take this route.
The controversial bill was debated earlier in the way, which allowed several Democrats to voice their opposition.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was one of the more vocal opponents, and cited a report that said the FBI has conducted thousands of warrantless searches using so-called "national security letters." These letters are a form of subpoena that the FBI and other agencies have used to demand records, and they are not subject to any judicial oversight.
"The Patriot Act is a destructive undermining of the Constitution," Kucinich said. "How about today we take a stand for the Constitution to say that all Americans should be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and to make certain that the attempt to reauthorize the Patriot Act is beat down."
Of course Sensenbrenner (sponsor) isn't happy and will continue to push on this one.  The rest of the story is at the Hill.  HERE.

More later.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bush Swiss Trip Canceled Due to Arrest Threats.

A story you will never see, hear, or read at FOX News.

Oh, how I would love to see this come to pass.  Not just for Dubya, but Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice, too. Arrest them, then hold them accountable with an international trial at The Hague.

I know, I know, Nice fantasy, but that's as far as it goes.
Human rights groups have vowed to track George W Bush round the world after their success in forcing him to cancel a trip to Switzerland amid concerns over protests and a threatened arrest warrant.
Katherine Gallagher, a lawyer with the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, said: "The reach of the convention against torture is wide. This case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next.
"Torturers, even if they are former presidents of the United States, must be held to account and prosecuted."
Although Bush has travelled freely round the world since leaving the White House in January 2009, human rights groups believe he is vulnerable to prosecution after admitting in his autobiography last November that he authorised waterboarding and other interrogation techniques.
"Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use," said Gallagher, who is also vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights.
Bush's staff, as well as US embassies around the world, will have to factor into their planning of future trips whether a country is a signatory to the convention on torture, as most countries are, which should at least theoretically trigger near-automatic action by legal authorities, and negotiate with governments to ensure there will be no arrest warrants. They will also seek assurances that Bush has diplomatic immunity.
Since the arrest of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998 over alleged murders, senior politicians linked to war, internal conflict and oppression have had to be more careful in their travel plans.
It's a good piece and the rest can be found HERE.

More later.

Monday, February 7, 2011

1982 Reagan White House Press Conference

Gay men dying was a big joke to the press and WH back in 1982.  Reading this transcript brings my blood to the boiling point all over again.  That kind of anger never goes away.  Valuable time lost to insensitivity and homophobia.

Between 1980 when it all began to hit the fan, known then as GRID (Gay Related Immune Disease, or something close to that), and 1992  I lost virtually all of my old friends.  The image at right suggests how many of us, those who eventually died ignored, and those of us survivors and care-givers who were also ignored feel about Ronald Reagan and his non-AIDS policy. 

Just a snippet: (As usual, click the image below to embiggen.)

None of these people are laughing any longer, except Reagan, and only because he can't remember that he's dead.

It would be 5 long years before Reagan publicly uttered the word AIDS.  And only because he was forced to acknowledge the enormity of the epidemic in 1987.  So many lives lost that may have been prevented if he had ordered research early.  The fact that he never really put force behind research - even cutting funds to the CDC - and mocking his own Surgeon General, for suggesting sex education in middle school.

This is why St. Ronnie isn't a saint to anyone touched, or hammered by AIDS.

h/t JMG.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's SNAFU* in America

This damned cold has again brought runny eyes, scratchy throat,  and sinus congestion that feels like my head is stuffed with porridge. We hates it, precious, yes we does.

I arrived home this evening to these interesting (?) stories in the news.

Let's see:
  • George W. Bush is afraid to visit Switzerland fearing he may face prosecution for using torture.
  • Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld won't even consider visiting France for the same reason.
  • Rightwing-nuts celebrate The Gipper's 100th birthday by ignoring what he didn't do to fight AIDS and basically rewriting his entire legacy. In future history books, Reagan will be portrayed as one of the Founding Fathers. Yes, the stoopid is that strong.
  • Two gay men await being stoned to death for the crime of homosexuality in 8th century Iran.
  • Then there's "Breathtaking Footage of Uncontacted Tribe" - let's hope it's not a repeat of the fake one posted a few years ago. This one is in Brazil, while the other was in New Guinea.
  • Serving only a half term in office before quitting, Sarah Palin now questions President Obama's work ethic. Yes, read that again.
Yep!  Just your typical SNAFU* day in America.

SNAFU = Situation Normal, All F**ked Up.

More later.

Description: How I Feel Today.

The cold is unchanged from last evening.  A full day ahead with the pre-plunge brunch, apres-plunge celebrations, and the Super Bowl. Oy!

Just want to remain upright and make it through the next 9 hours.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Polar Bear Plunge & Super Bowl XLV

Preparations for both have been ongoing in the background as I fight off another head cold.  Doing what's required, but feeling like my body is moving in slow motion.

Yes, the Polar Bear Plunge will occur on Sunday at 1 pm, but the entire weekend is devoted to them with a 5K race, various workshops, restaurant specials (including DL, we're sponsors of the weekend's events) and activities around town for the whole family.  For those who don't know, the Plunge is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics which happens annually in about 16 states whose borders include the ocean.

This is the 20th year for the Delaware Plunge, having raised almost 5 million dollars over that period. The Plunge was postponed last year due to the snow storms and nor'easters that rocked our world for the entire month.  It finally took place the weekend of March 12-14 and a good time was had by all.

No, I do not immerse my testes in the frigid Atlantic (I may be crazy, but I am not stupid), I will be on hand to welcome those who do to a festive brunch prepared in their honor.  The restaurant will open 2 hours early for this special event.  There will be special cocktails offered apres the plunge, as well.

Following the chaos of the Plunge, we will shift gears for the Super Bowl with, again, a special menu, and bar menu just for the game.  Thankfully, I will be out of there before any of this happens.  Away from those screaming at the TV screens and tucked away in my tiny apartment nursing a hot green tea with lots of honey and lemon while under the covers hoping to fall into a dreamless, relaxing sleep.  May it be so.

Actually, the boss saw to it that I had a stiff shot of Jameson's and a wedge of lime before I left this evening. I am about to brew a mug of green tea with honey and lemon and disappear under the covers until morning.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

1500 year-old Church Uncovered in Israel

Here's another one of those historical stories that fascinate me and make me want to learn more about their discovery, history, and what the find can ultimately tell us about the past. (Click image to embiggen.)
HIRBET MADRAS, Israel — Israeli archaeologists presented a newly uncovered 1,500-year-old church in the Judean hills on Wednesday, including an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks.

The Byzantine church located southwest of Jerusalem, excavated over the last two months, will be visible only for another week before archaeologists cover it again with soil for its own protection.

The small basilica with an exquisitely decorated floor was active between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D., said the dig's leader, Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. He said the floor was "one of the most beautiful mosaics to be uncovered in Israel in recent years."

"It is unique in its craftsmanship and level of preservation," he said.

Archaeologists began digging at the site, known as Hirbet Madras, in December. The Antiquities Authority discovered several months earlier that antiquities thieves had begun plundering the ruins, which sit on an uninhabited hill not far from an Israeli farming community.

Though an initial survey suggested the building was a synagogue, the excavation revealed stones carved with crosses, identifying it as a church. The building had been built atop another structure around 500 years older, dating to Roman times, when scholars believe the settlement was inhabited by Jews.
 Read the rest and view the pictures HERE.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Girded and Ready...Giantious Storm Passes West

The Winter Wonderland shut down the day after Christmas and isn't likely to re-open anytime soon. Just so you know. Plan accordingly.

While over 30% of the country is at a virtual stand still due to the giantious (yes, it's a word, I just made it up) storm blanketing states from Texas to Maine, we on the lower shore of Delaware on the Atlantic ocean have dodged much of the horror.  So far.

We were hit hard by the Boxing Day storm (best known as "Shoveling Day" here) and then again the second week of January, 2011.  We have been spared, for the most part, the last 2 storms by getting a wintry mix, but mostly rain.  That would include this one.  I am not fooling myself, I am sure there are a few with our name on the list of not-to-miss places.

February 2010 is etched in our collective memory, forever.  Three consecutive snow storms, each followed by a brutal Nor'easter, devastated this area. At the worst point there was nearly 4 ft. of snow with higher drifts caused by the strong winds.  My previous apartment was without power and water for over a week and I stayed with a co-worker in town, who was kind enough to take two of us in - for 5 long days.

If you want to relive that month for yourself, please go here.  Top posts are the end of the month, so you may want to scroll down and work your way up to get everything in chronological order.  Or, not.

Now that I live in town I am not as concerned about getting around. I can walk to work and a small market is only a block away.  The only real concern would be the loss of electric power.  Everything is electrically powered; heat, water, cooking.  Fortunately, the electric grid in town makes us less likely to lose power unless there is a truly monster event.  The newer homes along the highway are more likely to lose power because the original grid was installed when most of that land was family owned farms.  In the mad rush to build new housing developments, most of the electric upgrades were minimal to keep the costs down.  Of course, very few home buyers knew (or know) about this.

My old house was near Rehoboth bay in an older community and I rarely lost power, while the newer communities a half-mile up the road would go dark at the first sign of thunderstorms.

As I type this the temperature is 44' F and heavy rain is falling.  All I can say is "Thank G*d it is 44' and not 24'F" This rain could have easily been snow. The updated forecast for the area calls for clearing skies, temps in the 50s this afternoon before plunging into the low 20s. Tomorrow will be windy and cold - again - but no snow in the near future.  I can deal with that.

I am just waiting for the inevitable religious nut-bag to claim that this weather is caused by the gays. Well, hell, we cause everything else, don't we? (Sigh.) So powerful and yet, a second-class citizen.

To all readers and blogger buddies in the effected states, please be safe, stay off the roads and keep posting updates (and comments) if you have power and Internet access.We're all concerned for your safety.

And so it goes.
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