Saturday, January 31, 2009

Warm in the White House

The Anchoress is SPOT ON with this post.

No more words needed.

(Photo credit: FoxNews)

Saturday in the Neighborhood

It was a beautiful day today in Shreveport! Clear blue sky and a nice warm day! I really needed to do some yard work but I didn't; instead I headed over to my mom's and got her outside. We sat on her porch in the sun for an hour or so while I cooked a roast for her. We talked catty about the neighbors and had a nice afternoon.

This evening Steve and I are grilling ribeyes and laying low. He's fighting a crazy headache and I'm working on about four hours sleep - not nearly enough for me.

After I got home from mom's, my neighbor came over and knocked on my door; Eric said, "Come look at my new car!" He was beaming with the pride that only your very own first new car can provide! It's a Volkswagon CC. Eric is the son of my dear neighbors, Donny and Gena; he's ... 24? Maybe? I'm not sure. 23? Eric, how old are you?! Anyway, Eric has been driving one of those "well at least it's paid for" kind of cars for a few years now, and this is his first brand new car. And it's a beauty! Looks fast just sitting still! HUGE trunk - HUGE! Kickin' stereo! With XM radio! I'm thrilled for him! But I think his dad might be asking to borrow it from time to time - I think Donny is jealous! "Uh, Eric! Can I have the keys?!"

We all stood out in the driveway and admired the car for a while (had to get the book out to find out how to open the hood; and did you know these new cars don't come with "keys" but with - gadget-looking-things instead?) then Eric took charge of his new wheels and zoomed off to the Mudbugs hockey game. Godspeed!

We have no Super Bowl plans tomorrow. I bought football squares at work and unless fives, eights, and twos are good numbers, I'm not expecting to win. I will make hot wings and guacamole though and we will watch the commercials! I don't really care who wins. Unless they score a five, eight or two.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pentagon Asked to Cut Budget

Update: As of today (2.2.09) this Fox story is in error. Congressional Quarterly reports that Obama is INCREASING the DoD budget by 8% which is online with what Bush had said was necessary. This is non-war spending by the way. While the DoD needs to cut wasteful spending in their budget, I am reassured that Obama is not cutting the DoD budget as previously reported. I criticize him enough when he deserves it and don't want to when he doesn't! I stand corrected on this one.

From FoxNews Urgent desk:

"A senior US defense official tells Fox tonight that the Joint Chiefs have been asked to cut the Pentagon's budget request for FY 2010 defense budget by more than 10 percent - about 55 billion dollars. Last year's defense budget was 512 billion dlrs. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend "burning the midnight oil" looking at ways to cut the budget - looking especially at weapons programs. I am told. OMB is expected to announce a topline figure for the defense budget on Monday. Today Mr. Obama met with a small group of military advisers at the WH: included in the meeting Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs and Gen Jim Jones, NSC Chairman. I am told this is going to be a weekly small group meeting of his military advisers."

I know times are tough but if we can buy new cars for all the government workers why are we asking the Pentagon to cut their budget when we are in the middle of two wars and planning on increasing troops in Afghanistan?

Porkulus Projects

Much has been written about the "Porkulus" bill (I just can't call it a "stimulus" bill) but the more I read about it the more incredulous I get. A couple of days ago I posted a link to the San Francisco Chronicle which listed some of the more extreme pork projects in the bill. This "crap sandwich" as Michelle Malkin refers to it, is still undergoing revision and alteration - for example, Nancy Pelosi was told to remove the contraception-as-stimulus portion. Other things have been scrapped and added but nothing approaching a reasonable bill is on the table at this time. The Senate will get the package next week.

The problem with the bill is that many of the things included are not "stimulus." The Pelosi-Reid Democrats have taken what COULD have been a stimulus package and tacked on many Democratic pet projects such as $2.1 billion for Head Start. This might be a worthy expenditure but it is disingenuous to consider it a stimulus for the economy. How is $150 million to remodel the Smithsonian a stimulus? I guess it provides jobs for the few contractors that get the lucky bids for the project. $600 million for new cars for government workers? The taxpayers have to fund this now? And this stimulates the economy by....??? Oh wait, didn't we already give the automakers a bailout? Or is this part of that?

$100 million to reduce lead-based paint hazards for children in low-income housing? How about the $2.4 billion for projects demonstrating carbon caputure technology? $800 million for AMTRAK?

How about stimulating the economy by increasing welfare? $20 billion for increased food stamps. There are several expenditures under that umbrella, including more money for AmeriCorps and the Low Income Energy Assistance program.

There is also more money for digital TV coupons ($650 million) and I'm still trying to figure out why it is the government's job to be sure I can watch TV.

Kimberly Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explains the stealthy moves in the Porkulus bill toward universal health care. The bill dramatically expands the number of people who will qualify for Medicaid, a program that was already struggling to stay afloat:

Under "stimulus," Medicaid is now on offer not to just poor Americans, but Americans who have lost their jobs. And not just Americans who have lost their jobs, but their spouses and their children. And not Americans who recently lost their jobs, but those who lost jobs, say, early last year. And not just Americans who already lost their jobs, but those who will lose their jobs up to 2011. The federal government is graciously footing the whole bill. The legislation also forbids states to apply income tests in most cases.

No income test? This means millionaires and bank executives that got laid off will qualify. As if the system wasn't already in trouble. It gets worse:

The "stimulus" also hijacks Cobra, a program that lets the unemployed retain access to their former company health benefits -- usually for about 18 months. The new stimulus permits any former employee over the age of 55 to keep using Cobra right up until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. And here's the kicker: Whereas employees were previously responsible for paying their health premiums while on Cobra, now the feds will pay 65%. CBO estimates? Seven million Americans will have the feds mostly pay their insurance bills in 2009.

This is just scary. Don't even get me started on the Democratic pay-back to ACORN that's embedded in there. It's criminal. Or should be.

So for the record, I'm not opposed to the "Stimulus" bill because it's the Democrats bill. I'm opposed to it because it is massive government spending on things that will NOT stimulate the economy and on things that will increase dependence on government. The House Democrats included little or none of the Republican amendments ("We won the election!") and cut out many of the tax cut recommendations the Republicans put forward.

I stand in hopes that Senate Republicans will hold the line as the House Republicans have and continue to work toward making this bill something that is good for the American people and actually stimulating for the economy.

Updated: Investors Business Daily has an insightful take on the provision that requires only American steel in the infrastructure projects.

A Stimulating Picture

Flip Pidot over at Suitably Flip has created this great graphic to illustrate the "stimulus" debacle. For the visual learners. He has a great post about it as well - check it out!

Quick Morning Round Up

Here's a quick couple of links to some interesting reading this morning:

Charles Krauthammer disagrees with Obama's apologetic tone.

David Limbaugh writes about the scuffle between the Dems and Rush.

and with a rare bit of criticism for Obama, sort of, is Peggy Noonan.

Finally, don't forget to Read The Stimulus! Somebody has to! :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Iran Has Preconditions

When Barack Obama gave his first interview to Al-Arabia television he extended his open hand of reconciliation to the Iranians. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slapped that hand away today.

Remember, in the YouTube debate, Obama was asked "Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea?..."

"I would," he answered.

He has since qualified that slightly, changing "precondition" to "preparation" but in the Al-Arabia interview he said "Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries."

This Obama-as-Muslim reference was off-limits during the campaign, but apparently is okay now. But that's not what troubles me about that statement; what troubles me is that I'm wondering if he really is expressing respect for the leader of Iran or is this just poorly worded? I'm sure that's not what he meant, but really, I have no respect for Ahmadinejad and I think it's dangerous for America to pretend that we do. Offering legitimacy to a terrorist leader is a mistake.

Our differences with Ahmadinejad are not simple differences of opinion - they are deeply imbeded, fundamental issues. And the simple fact is, nothing will satisfy him or his regime, until the western world is annihilated. Period. He has no intention of "getting along" with us.

At any rate, it seems that Ahmadinejad has quite a few preconditions of his own, not the least of which is an apology from the the U.S. and that we "try to repair 60 years of crimes" against Iran. Oh, and he'd also like for us to quit supporting Israel. He wants us to "stop interfering in other people's affairs."

Meanwhile, he's going to keep working on his nukes which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

It's all well and good to extend the hand of friendship to other nations but to expect "Imanutjob" to drop the deep seeded islamofascist hatred that he has for the western world shows a huge and dangerous naievete on the part of the president. In the first place, there is little reason for the United States to apologize to Iran, but if Iran is willing to apologize for, oh say, taking American hostages, continuing with their nuclear program, and as Ed Morrissey says: "I wouldn’t mind an apology from Iran for “death to America” and creating Hezbollah and arming Hamas and trying to wreck Iraq and starting a Middle East arms race and bombing the occasional Jewish community center and…"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rush versus the Democrats

I am watching the Democrats v. Limbaugh feud with great mirth!

Rush Limbaugh has been a thorn in the side of liberals for a long time now, as we all know. Rush is, well, anything but a shrinking violet. Seriously, it is his JOB to be outspoken and even abrasive. But Rush is sly like a fox and anyone that underestimates him is a fool.

Obama gave Rush great power this week when he told the Republicans Friday, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." Rush's response to that comment can be found here. Not much gets under his skin. But Obama should just ignore people like Rush Limbaugh; by even bringing him to the forefront like that shows a naivete and gives Limbaugh relevance that he might not have otherwise had.

The whole thing stems from a Limbaugh comment when he said "I hope he fails!" speaking about Obama. Then you get all this distortion of the comment and wails and cries that Rush is un-American. "How DARE he want our president to fail! He hates America!" But in context, what Rush was saying was that he hopes SOCIALISM fails. In the entire context of his comment he said that he believed Obama's policies to be socialist and he hopes they fail. What he said was:

My hope, and please understand me when I say this. I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, 'Well I hope he succeeds. We've got to give him a chance.' Why? They didn't give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I'm not talking about search-and-destroy, but I've been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his policies are. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed.

If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private secor by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all these things. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, 'Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four. 'I hope he fails.'"

So now The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a petition where you can tell Rush just how you feel about his nasty comments. And Rush, on his website tonight, has asked that you send love and support to him through this petition (and you will quickly note that it is the SAME petition - clever fellow!)

As Rush points out, Republicans are a dying breed in Congress and it has become more clear than ever that Republicans and conservatives no longer seem to be the same thing.

At any rate, I'm sure Rush is getting a nice ratings boost over this kerfuffle and having a good laugh and a cigar over it all.

Winter Weather!?

It was 73 degrees today and now is dipping close to 31 tonight. Our local news media is having a heydey in anticipation of an ice storm. Granted, there IS some ice in Arkansas which is in the "viewing area" and it "might" dip down almost to our area, but seriously - do we really have to dedicate the first fifteen minutes of the newscast to how to drive in icy conditions?

The local anchorettes are all standing along the interstate talking about "steering into the skid" while semis zoom along happily behind them. Then we cut to a story about sand trucks loading up. The only thing that was missing was the shots of crazed grocery store patrons stocking up on supplies (because there will be ICE on the roads for about an hour. Maybe.)

Oh, I know, I'll have mud in my eye if ice actually shows up tomorrow. But I'm not holding my breath worrying about that! And after all, the sand trucks are ready.

Monday, January 26, 2009

On the Reading Table

I just ordered two additions to my nightstand reading, as if the eight other books sitting there might eventually run low or something. I'm almost to page 100 of Team of Rivals (which is very good, by the way.)

The first is Inside Gitmo: The True Story Behind the Myths of Guantanamo Bay by Gordon Cucullu. The author is a retired Army Lt. Col. who went to the camp and interviewed everyone from nurses and cooks to guards and interrogators. Cucullu seems to have concluded that things were in fact bad in the beginning but have long since been corrected and that Gitmo is now one of the most human prisons anywhere.

And longtime Yankee fan that I am, I've ordered Joe Torre's book, The Yankee Years. I've always liked Joe and I think it'll be an interesting read. Did you know that his doctors told Steinbrenner about Joe's cancer before they told HIM? Crazy. The power of the pinstripes.

I also ordered John Grisham's The Associate because I need something light every now and then! I usually save him for the summer, and at the rate I'm going, it will be summer before I get to it!

Pork in the Stimulus

At the risk of sounding repetitive, or re-blogging myself, I want to encourage you to go Read The Stimulus! No matter what side of the aisle you are on, you owe it to yourself (and your kids, and your grandkids) to know what is in this behemoth, all 1,588 pages of it. Nothing is final yet which is another reason to read up on what is working in Washington. No, I haven't made it through 1,588 pages either, but I'm dogging through parts of it.

It is bad enough that Nancy Pelosi thinks that birth control can stimulate the economy. But this bill is so filled with pork, with massive spending, with things that will NOT stimulate the economy that one has to believe that Washington is counting on the fact that the public will not read the document or contact anyone that can do anything to stop it.

I'm sick to death of bailouts. And, as I've said before, I am certainly no economist, but someone please tell me how planting grass is going to stimulate the economy? And why in the HELL should we be giving more money to ACORN, who is already under federal investigation, and other non-profit "neighborhood stabilization"entities?

Here are a few questionable items rounded up by the San Francisco Chronicle:

$44 million for repairs at the Agriculture Department headquarters in Washington.

$200 million to rehabilitate the National Mall.

$360 million for new child care centers at military bases.

$1.8 billion to repair National Park Service facilities.

$276 million to update technology at the State Department.

$500 million for the Transportation Security Administration to install bomb detectors at airports.

$600 million for General Services Administration to replace older vehicles with alternative fuel vehicles.

$2.5 billion to upgrade low-income housing.

$400 million for NASA scientists to conduct climate change research.

$426 million to construct facilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

$800 million to clean up Superfund sites.

$150 million for the Coast Guard to repair or remove bridges deemed a hazard to navigation.

$6.7 billion to renovate and improve energy efficiency at federal buildings.

$400 million to replace the Social Security Administration's 30-year-old National Computer Center.

Again, I know that this bill will morph and change as it goes through the process, but there is a LOT of change it needs to do. The problem with this thing is that so much of this spending is not going to revive the economy. It's just not. The main thing economists believe would revive the economy would be tax cuts and there are precious few of those. The Read the Stimulus site (linked above) is great and has easy and helpful links to specific portions and discussions. Take a look. It's YOUR money.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Read the Stimulus

There was a lot of discussion this morning on the progress of the stimulus plan. On Face The Nation, VP Joe Biden said that "important progress" is being made and that there have already been many compromises made between Democrats and Republicans.

Meanwhile, John McCain says that there need to be "major rewrites" done on the stimulus before he will vote for it. He told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning, "As it stands now, I would not support it." Contrary to what Biden says, McCain says that as far as he can tell, no Republican proposal has been incorporated into the bill.

Nancy Pelosi spoke to George Stephanopoulos and in response to his question regarding incorporating Republican ideas into the bill, she said, "Well, we will take some. We will judge them by their ability to create jobs, to -- to help turn the economy around, to stabilize the economy, and to see how much they cost. But we’re open to them, and we’ll review them, and it all has to be done right away because our bill has to come to the floor this week."

She also said with regard to increased welfare and unemployment insurance issues, "Food stamps, unemployment insurance, some of the initiatives you just mentioned, what the economists have told us, from right to left, there is more bang for the buck, is the term they use, by investing in food stamps and in unemployment insurance than in any tax cuts."

I'm not an economist by any means, but I don't actually agree with that statement. It's been proven and well documented that tax cuts do far more to stimulate a depressed economy than extension and enhanced social programs which don't do anything to actually move the economy forward.

At any rate, disagreement on this bill is certainly expected and in the end I hope both sides put aside partisan BS for the good of the country.

If you want to look at the stimulus yourself, there is a place you can to that here, and add your comments or suggestions. Get involved!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A New Look

Woot! Check out the new layout! I'm loving it!

The genius is Marina Simmons of Penny Lane Designs and she's terrific. I'm so NOT creative and she was able to pull exactly what I wanted out of my knotted little brain. And then she sent me two designs to choose from just to be sure she had what I wanted.

Check out her work on her blog (linked above). I wish I knew how to do stuff like she does, but since I don't, I'm glad Marina does!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Class Act

This just brings tears to my eyes! What a TOTAL class act these girls are!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The First Twenty-Four Hours

It's been about 24 hours since BHO has had the reins of power in his grasp and while one day does not an administration make, I'm wondering if the first 24 hours gives us a clue to the direction in which we are headed.

One of his first acts was issue an executive order reversing the Bush administration policy that bans the use of federal dollars by non-govermental organizations that discuss or provide abortions outside of the United States. Despite campaigning on a hope to reduce abortions, we are now funding overseas abortions.

As promised, Obama signed the empty-order to close Gitmo. I say empty because he doesn't yet know what to do with the detainees. The order also vows to figure out what to do with them. Of the ones still there, 60 have already been cleared for release but because they are in danger of persecution or torture from their home countries, they have no place to go. There are other dangerous prisoners there who can not be tried in regular federal American courts for obvious reasons - they aren't American citizens, for one; they've not been given Miranda rights because they are enemy combatants captured in the field of battle, and the only other option is a military tribunal.

You can not hold these guys in regular prisons on United States soil. This endangers the very communities they desired to attack. The military bases that have been suggested as viable options are no good either - military training is going on there, or the bases are part of the community and this would endanger them. Nobody wants them, exept maybe Jack Murtha who actually just wants the pork-benefit of beefing up his own minimum security prison system.

You also have the additonal problem of the martyr. Several of the detainees do not want a halt to their proceedings because they WANT to be sentenced to death and thereby made martyrs. Do you help 'em out, or not?

In short, there are no good options here and the promise to close Gitmo places "hope" before reality and no real clear path to get there. I'm not trying to be a "wet blanket" - it's all well and good to raise our moral standing in the world and to have everyone like us again, but I'd place safety over that any day and I'm not getting the connection just yet.

Ah well, Gitmo aside, Mr. Obama did find time to call a foreign head of state which was to the leader of Fatah, who has terrorist background and terrorist units reporting to him, such as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. THEN he called President Mubarak of Egypt, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, and King Abdullah of Jordan. Symbolism is very important, though, and it seems the first call should have been to our ally in Israel. But maybe I'm being trivial.

And also today we read that Obama may order a hold on a proposal issued in the final days of the Bush administration to expand offshore drilling in previously banned areas. Obama is on the record against offshore drilling and has said that drilling is not the answer. We'll have to wait and see what decision he ultimately comes to on this, but not tapping into our own natural resources does not seem to be the answer to decreasing our dependance on foreign oil. The alternatives of "harnessing the winds" and the sun to provide energy seem a bit far down the road.

Meanwhile, to add a bit of absurdity to the mix, how about Larry King telling Bob Woodward: "My younger son Cannon, he is eight. And he now says that he would like to be black. I'm not kidding. He said there's a lot of advantages. Black is in. Is this a turning of the tide?"

Again, the first 24 hours does not an administration make, and in fact, Obama is holding true to the promises he made to his supporters. As conservatives, he told us as well that this is what he wanted to do and this is why we didn't support him. There are still four years of territory ahead and maybe there will be middle ground for us all. Enthusiasm and hope and global world warm fuzzy love is all well and good, but there are other things to consider such as national security.

And of course, if you think I'm being trival, you can check out HuffPo's piece about Obama breaking the Bush (and Reagan) rule of wearing a jacket in the Oval office. Respect for the office and all that.

Everybody take a deep breath. And calm down.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

AKC 2008 Favorite Dogs

The AKC has released its Top Ten list of most popular dogs:

1.Labrador Retriever
2. Yorkshire Terrier
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Beagle
6. Boxer
7. Dachshund
8. Bulldog
9. Poodle
10. Shih Tzu

My grandpuppy, Bailey, (above) is ranked number two,
but obviously they did not see Checkers, my Boston Terrier, because they left her off the list. She's number one for me though! :)

They also didn't have Steve's dog, Abby, who IS a German Shepherd but she is a WHITE German Shepherd and the AKC does not recognize them. Idgits.

Midland Welcomes 43

Find more photos like this on Mywesttexas Chatter

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watching the Inauguration

I'm not sure how long this link will work, but here is my school watching the inauguration. We aren't a very big school - about 650. The local news station came and shot some video; the link may not work very long.

I know you are dying to know what I thought. I really was not able to watch all that much. I saw the oath and the speech and then as soon as that "poem" was over I had to shut it down. The flub over the oath was not a big deal to me - it just humanized it all. Whether it was Roberts (I think it was) or Obama's flub, didn't matter! Human! Michelle looked nice, except I just didn't dig the green gloves; but there's a reason I'm not a fashionista. I have no fashion sense. I'm sure she was very chic.

I will say this: during the oath and during the speech (or at least most of the speech), I had numerous kids watching in rapt attention. A couple of them specifically stand out. The look of....what can I call it...not wonder, exactly, and not exactly pride, but some of both, certainly. Inspiration? Maybe a bit of that, too. There were others that were less impressed or interested, and some went to sleep on the speech. But I'm glad they got to see it.

As far as the speech, it will be parsed and analyzed to bits and I'm not going to do it here. I heard rings of wealth redistribution in there that jangled,

"A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good."

But, we'll see down the road. Today isn't the day for criticism, for me. I'm not going to watch the balls and parties. I'm long over the hype and the celebrities and the kitschy souvenir crap and the cheap shots at Bush. Even the new White House site launched today is taking shots at Bush on the Katrina reaction and I don't EVEN want to get started on that and our ex-Governor Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin. So, enough inauguration for me. I'm spending the rest of the evening reading Team of Rivals and watching the Penguins play hockey.

(Image credit: WhiteHouseHistory.Org)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Latest Book Roundup

Last night I finished reading Whiskey Chitto Woman by Marguerite Hudson. She's a local author and a retired teacher, and I was interested in the topic. The book is historical fiction and tells the story of Ellen Johnson who travels through the Neutral Strip to bring her husband, Aaron, home from Alexandria after sustaining an injury during the Battle of Mansfield. The Neutral Strip was seriously dangerous territory and Ellen's journey was not without a great deal of risk.

The book was a real page turner in that I was is suspense most of the time worrying about Ellen and her neighbor/companion Sammy as they made their way to Alexandria. Then I had to worry about them getting back home to Whiskey Chitto! It was a good read, though, and I won't tell you how it turns out.

I've also finished reading Michael Gershon's Heroic Conservatism, which I posted about previously. He gets a little preachy but I liked the inside look at the Bush White House.

And, I finished reading Scarpetta, by Patricia Cornwell. I was happier with this book than I was with Cornwell's last Scarpetta book in that she redeemed Marino and eased the tension between Kay and Benton. I still hate the Lucy character - she's just irritating and unsympathetic. But, the book redeemed the series for me, so I guess I'll stick with it.

Right now I have picked up Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin I'm not far enough along to pass along a review yet, but so far I'm enjoying it. I'm only through the first 25 pages or so. It's a dense, heavy read and I expect I'll be using my sticky-note method again! It tells the story of Lincoln, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates; sort of four biographies in one. Goodwin has a nice writing style and I think I'm going to like the book.

The only thing about the Goodwin book is that it is not exactly bedtime reading for me - by that time I need something I don't have to concentrate so hard on, so I usually read something lighter right before going to bed. For that, I am now to another Rosamunde Pilcher book, Winter Solstice. I just love the way Pilcher writes. She's very descriptive and creates beautiful, vivid images with her words. Her Coming Home was one of my favorite books because she created such believable characters and made you almost feel like you were living through WWII with them (on the homefront.)

I still have a stack piled up on my nightstand: I have Flyboys by James Bradley, who wrote Flags of Our Fathers. Flyboys tells the story of nine American airmen shot down in the Pacific. One of them, George H. W. Bush. I have the latest issue of Tin House which I have not even cracked yet. And I'm still working through Stephen King's Just After Sunset - I'm spreading the short stories out.

So what are you guys reading?

Ramos and Compean Pardons?

Updated: Ramos and Compean sentences were commuted!

Josh Gerstein has an article on Politico this morning about potential Bush pardons. Like Gerstein, I don't think Bush is going to engage in a flurry of last minute pardons, controversial or not, but I suspect there are a few to come.

I'm really hoping for a Ramos/Compean pardon. Border security is a big issue for me and the way I see it, these guys were just doing their job. They were trying to stop an illegal from illegally entering the country with drugs. As you may remember, Ramos and Compean are serving lengthy federal prison sentences for shooting a drug smuggler who abandoned 743 pounds of marijuana. They shot Mexican national Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila southeast of El Paso after the suspect refused the agents' orders to stop. Wounded, Mr. Aldrete-Davila fled to Mexico, leaving behind the van containing the massive drug load. Then the drug smugger then files suit for violation of his civil rights, after being contacted by the federal government for his testimony. It was this drug smuggler's testimony that sent our border agents to prison.

THEN he pleaded guilty to drug charges, charges which occurred AFTER the previously described incident.

The message that the Ramos/Compean case sends is that we prosecute our own agents for protecting our borders. There's a lot of support for a pardon for these guys, including Diane Feinstein and others from both sides of the aisle.

I'm really hoping Bush acts on this one.

The Gerstein article also addresses a possible Scooter Libby pardon, but I don't think that's likely as Bush already commuted his sentence and Libby has not asked for a pardon.

Another interesting one to watch might be a possible pardon for Alberto Gonzales, which would be appropriate. I don't think Gonzales is asking for a pardon, either.

And here in Louisiana, folks are wondering if Bush will pardon Fast Eddie, Edwin Edwards. I'm thinking probably not on that one.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday A. A. Milne

Today is A. A. Milne's birthday, author of the wonderful Winnie The Pooh. I LOVED the Pooh stories. Favorite character? Piglet.

Loved when Pooh held onto the helium balloons to get to the honey in the tree. I always wanted to do that.

Mardi Gras in Shreveport

It's Mardi Gras season in my neck of the woods. One of the first things I like to do each year is to go down to Julie Anne's bakery and pick up a King Cake!

For my money, Julie Anne's makes the best local King Cake. They far surpass the ones you can pick up in a grocery store. Ferrier's Rolling in the Dough makes a great one too, but I'm an impulse buyer, and to get a King Cake from Ferrier's you have to order ahead. At Julie Anne's I can just walk in and pick one up.

The traditional King Cake, for the uninitiated, is much like a sweet roll. But at Julie Anne's you can also get a cream cheese filling, or raspberry, pralines & cream, to name a few. Traditionally, whoever gets the baby in their slice is supposed to bring the King Cake the next year. Doesn't matter around here because I always buy one whether I get the baby or not!

I'm looking forward to our parades this year, too. On Febrary 14 is the Centaur Parade, followed the next day by the Barkus and Meoux Parade on the Riverfront. Steve and I love the "dog and cat" parade, as we call it, though there are many more creatures than dogs and cats. The next weeked is the Krewe of Gemini Parade and then on Sunday will be the Krewe of Highland parade. We LOVE the Highland parade .

The Highland parade is a neighborhood parade but don't let that phrase fool you - it's huge. It's very family friendly and after the parade is a gathering in Columbia Park which goes on into the hours. We always gather more throws at this parade than any other. Steve likes to catch the hot dogs tossed out by the Krewe of Bar-b-Que!

The Centaur and Gemini parades follow the same long, snaking route from downtown, down the riverfront, and ending up in my neck of the woods along the bayou. We are about a mile from the parade route at my house, easy walking distance, but from my backyard deck on parade days, I can smell the woodfires and cookouts in progress hours before the parade comes. We always walk down early in the day and mingle around, and I always run into someone I haven't seen in ages.

I love the fun of Mardi Gras and I just shake my head every year wondering why in the world we stand out in the freezing cold (sometimes), suffer bodily injuries (sometimes) , battle through crowds (often), and scream our lungs out (always) to get a bunch of brightly colored plastic beads made in China. Because it's fun! I'm ready!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not Acceptable

Title 4, Chapter 1, Section3 of US Flag Code: “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

HT: Inside Charm City

Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dana Speaks

I adore Dana Perino. She's a class act and I love her style. Here's the transcript of her last press conference which just made me a little misty eyed. I'll miss her!

Geithner Goofed

NRO is encouraging Senate Republicans to vote against Geithner based on this new and detailed evidence of his failure to pay taxes. It wasn't a "common mistake" and Geithner cannot blame his accountants. He might be "brilliant" but I bet we can find a brighter bulb in the box.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random Round-Up of Stuff

I am getting a cold and feel like crawling under the bed for a week. Whenever I feel a cold coming on I break out the Zicam because it really works. I hope it works this time. Bleh.

We have Monday off so I am looking forward to a long three day weekend. I'm making as few plans as possible except for catching up on reading, blogging, and spending time around the home front. On Tuesday, I learned today, we will showing the inauguration. Bleh. Wasn't planning on watching.

I know I have readers that loathe and despise Bush, and I surely don't agree with everything he's done, but I think his farewell address was a class act.

I'm really interested in seeing what BHO is going to do with Club Gitmo. I've been reading and researching a lot about the issue lately, especially since he's said he's issuing the Executive Order to shutter the place next week. That alone just puzzles me, as I've posted recently, because that's just a symbolic statement. He can't close Gitmo next week because he has nothing to do with the prisoners that are there. They don't want 'em in Kansas, at Leavenworth. They don't want 'em in San Francisco. Pretty much NOBODY is stepping up to take charge of a bunch of hard core jihadists. We can't just let them go free. For some of them, their own countries don't want them back and in some cases, we don't want to send them back because they'd be tortured or killed. Or rejoin the jihad.

There are no good answers on that one. All the options are bad. Which is why Bush kept it open. There are bad people there.

The confirmation hearings this week have held few surprises really. I was a bit surprised that our Louisiana Senator Vitter was the lone vote against Hillary; glad he didn't cave to pressure. I've been disappointed in the Republicans as a whole for not being tougher in their questioning and especially for so many even being absent in the Hillary questioning. That was just a schmooze-fest. The Holder hearing went as I expected with no shockers there, either.

The Geithner thing remains a puzzle for me but I think he'll get a pass on the deal. How can you not pay your taxes then say "Oh I forgot?!" and get away with that? And THEN slide into this plum position in the BHO administration? He gets a no confidence vote from me. Not that it matters.

Ah well. It's cold out and I'm going to hunker down under blankets with my puppy and get some rest. Somebody send over some chicken soup.

Hope it's warm wherever you are.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

John O. Brennan's Philosophy on Iran

The more I read about John O. Brennan the more it becomes clear why he withdrew his name in November 2008 for consideration as Director of the C.I.A. For that position, of course, he'd have to undergo Senate confirmation. As Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security he won't have to deal with that inconvenience. Brennan's firm, you might remember, was involved in the security breach earlier this year in which the passport records of Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain were accessed. Newsmax cites a source that says the "contractor accessed the [Obama passport] file in order to 'cauterize' the records of potentially embarrasing information."

Passports and probably birth certificate files aside, certainly there might have been some questions about Brennan's July 2008 article in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The article is titled "The Conundrum of Iran: Strengthening Moderates without Acquiescing to Belligerence."

Brennan basically lays out the case why the United States should just talk to Iran nicely rather than with belligerence. He suggests we "tone down the rhetoric" and for the United States to "cease public Iran-bashing." If we don't call them terrorists anymore, they'll like us. We must also "show restraint in the face of anti-American comments" from Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials. In other words, they can call us names and we're supposed to take it but we can't call them bullies in return. Right. Got it.

He goes on to say that we should offer what equates to positive reinforcement by rewarding and offering public recognition of positive Iranian actions and individuals. Then they would all want to quit being terrorists, or sponsors of terrorism.

Brennan believes in "the establishment of a direct and senior-level dialogue between Washington and Tehran." Not only that, but he says that "These discussions must take place in private, not in the blinding glare of a public spotlight that limits the political maneuvering room of each side."

So let me get this straight. In order to repair relations with Iran, the United States should play nice, quit calling them names, turn the other cheek when they call us names, praise their good behavior and send in a senior level official to meet with them behind closed doors. Brennan even has suggestions for that official - he thinks Colin Powell would be good, or even Madeline Albright. He also suggested Al Gore.

Won't this make our ally Israel happy!

His final recommendation is that we encourage greater assimilation of the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah into the Lebanese political system. You know, Lebanon? Those folks that are shooting rockets into Israel right now? Those guys. Isn't this sort of like giving gang-members a bunch of brand new rocket launchers? Give them the power and maybe they'll quit killing people? How exactly does THAT work?

What happened to our policy of not negotiating with terrorists? Even the New York Times reported this weekend that Iran is working quickly to the production of nuclear weapons. If we are to believe Brennan, all we need to do is ask them nicely, without belligerent rhetoric to please stop.

I'm not going to surmise what BHO is thinking, but Brennan isn't the guy that would be advising me on homeland security. He doesn't make me feel very safe.

Joe and Tim

Can someone please explain to me why when it is discovered that Joe the Plumber owes $1,200 in back taxes he is vilified and totally discredited but when Timothy Geithner is discovered to have not paid some $32,000 in back taxes and had an illegal in his employ, it's an "honest mistake"?

Hmm. What, media bias? You think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Mobile Azalea Trail Maids

The head of the Alabama NAACP, Edward Vaughn, is objecting to the appearance of the Azalea Trail Maids in the inaugural parade. He says the group reminds him of slavery.

Who are the Azalea Trail Maids? They are high school senior girls who go through a rigorous selection process to serve as ambassadors to the city of Mobile. The organization is a long standing Mobile tradition and the Maids have appeared in the Fourth of July Parade in Atlanta, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rose Bowl Parade, the Easter Parade at Disney World and the George W. Bush Inaugural Parade.

Former Maid, and current advisor, Marcee Hinds has a nice website about the Maids and what they represent.

I don't believe that Edward Vaughn's argument against the Maids will float really, but the audacity of it just knocks me out. Reminds him of slavery? Give me a break. Should we also get rid of large houses with columns across the front, like Tara? Should we quit showing "Gone With the Wind" on television? Where do you draw the line, really? Everyone on the planet can get offended about something, for crying out loud. Where does it stop?


(Photo: The Mobile Azalea Trail Maids)

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Random Stack of Stuff

A quick roundup of random stuff:

First, I'm sure he reads MY blog so Happy Birthday to Rush Limbaugh today!

Our school calendar is bizarre this year; normally we finish the first semester before Christmas and then get new kids and start the new semester after Christmas. Not this year. This year we came back from Christmas break, had one more week of class, then gave finals Friday and today. Tomorrow, on a Tuesday, we start the new semester with new students. It's not a big deal, and I'm flexible, but it's still a little weird. I say I'm flexible, but I don't like change. Does that make ANY sense?!

Speaking of not making any sense, on the political front we have PEBO this weekend with Stephenopolous saying that he won't actually be able to close Club Gitmo in the first hundred days because, well, there are dangerous people there (really?) and it's more complicated than he first thought. Many countries do not want these detainees returned to them. But then today he did a turnabout and said that he will, after all, issue an Executive Order next week to close Gitmo. Of course, he doesn't really mean close it because he doesn't know what to do with those folks yet. It basically amounts to a reaffirmation of his promise to close it. It sounds good. Makes the voters happy. He's eventually going to close it.

Why are people complaining about Gitmo but not the other prisons for terrorists we have in place, like at Baghram? Just wondering.

On another note, some interesting confirmation hearings coming up this week- Holder and Hillary. I'm anti-anti on the Holder thing; I don't like his actions on the terrorist pardon deal and I don't like his stance on the Second Amendment. He's tied up with Resko and Blago and I don't trust him. And Hillary's ought to be intersting because of the questions about financial donations and such. I don't think they'll give Hillary too hard a time actually, but I could be wrong.

And lest anyone think I'm being too hard on the Democrats, I'm sick of this bailout mess. Everytime I turn around someone else wants a handout. Enough already! Enough! Crazy!

And finally, is it just me or was the Golden Globes last night totally classless? I'm no prude and I can cuss with the best of 'em, but for crying out loud! On national television shouldn't we put our best foot forward? What happened to celebrities with class? *Sigh*

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Nuclear Iran

The New York Times article this morning about the Iranian nuclear program is just blowing my mind.

The first thing that comes to mind is why publish things for all the world to see (like the Soviets) that involve covert U.S. operations against Iran? But then I see that the information from the article comes from a book to be published on Tuesday by the author David E. Sanger, who is also Chief Washington Correspondent for the Times. Compromising U.S. security for self-promotion? Typical.

The gist of the article is that Israel, in early 2008, sent a shopping list to the U.S. for bunker-busters, refueling equipment, and permission to fly over Iraq. Not hard to figure that one out. The U.S. deflected the first two requests but said "hell no!" to the third.

Israel had given up hope, it seems, that Bush would handle the Iranian nuclear problem; the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) report in late 2007 which said Iran had suspended development of nukes in 2003 didn't convince anyone. Bush didn't believe it and neither did Israel. So Israel decided to take things into their own hands. After some exercise missions, ultimately they decided that without American help they could not reach their targets or objectives.

Despite the continuing covert operations, one senior intelligence official says that Iran is now so close to achieving weapons capacity that it cannot be stopped.

The exit question here is now what does Obama do? He inherits this conundrum. During the campaign he said that he wanted to diplomatically engage Iran, but do you still do that when they are a nuclear power? That won't sit real well with Israel. Does Obama continue the covert operations against Iran (such as they are now that the Times has exposed the plan)?

Obama's decision to keep Robert Gates may give us a clue; Gates has said that we should not be considering a strike on Iranian facilities at this time. Surely the expertise Gates carries in this operation factored into Obama's decision to keep him on - a decision that befuddled many democrats.

There is no question that this is a tough one. Of course, Iran will say we're making it all up. But I guarantee that the Soviets are watching to see what we do.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review: On the Road With Gary Sinise

What a true patriot Gary Sinise is! I just watched the FOX special, "On The Road With Gary Sinise" and it was great.

He's been to Iraq several times as well as Afghanistan and many other places, but this special centered primarily on his most recent Iraq visit. You'll have to catch the rebroadcast, or get the soon-to-be-released documentary, but it's a great story.

Sinise is not at all self-promoting here, although he could easily be. His focus is all about the troops, their service, and their sacrifice. The segment on Hussein's palaces was incredible and horrifying. The gratitude of the troops to Sinise for his visit was very moving, especially the guy on the C-130 that wrote a message to Sinise on the brim of a hat and passed it down the line to him. Sinise read it then looked up at the guy who smiled, nodded, and thumped his own chest over his heart with his fist - a thank you.

On that same flight Sinise opened and read a note he received from another soldier at the base which said how much his visits meant to them. He was clearly overcome with emotion at the words of the letter. Very moving.

The special closed with Sinise doing a voice-over of how much it meant to him to receive the Presidential Citizen's Medal in December. What impresses me so much about him is his attitude of celebrity. He points out that he makes a good living and appreciates his freedoms, as should we all, but that he feels that the way HE can serve is by entertaining the troops. His Lt. Dan Band is pretty darn good!

In this day and age when so many, not all, but many, celebrities are so self consumed, it is more than refreshing to see someone like Sinise or Chris Isaak (who was on one of these trips) and others who give their time to support the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform of our country.

Sinise closes with a reminder to us here at home to thank those folks who serve whenever we see them. It means more than you know.

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction?

I've not read Atlas Shrugged since high school but after reading this Wall Street Journal article by Stephen Moore, I think I should dust it off:

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

Sound familiar? Yep. Rand was very familiar with socialism and it plays as a heavy theme in her works.

And it goes on:

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"


"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.

And trust me, Bush and the Republicans are not blameless in this either, despite the seeming slant of Moore's conclusion here. Apologies for the heavy cut 'n paste post but I've got to run dust off my copy of Rand's book.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Family Farmers?

Roger Doiron, an organic gardener and food activist in Scarborough, Maine has started a campaign (complete with website) to encourage the Obamas to dig up part of the South Lawn for a vegetable garden.

His website is called Eat the View.

Actually, through the years, first families have done various things with the South Lawn. The Washington Post has the article and reminds us that during World War I Woodrow Wilson turned the South Lawn over to grazing sheep.

While the White House already has a small vegetable garden on the roof, Mr. Doiron would like to see a five acre veggie garden. That's a lot of tomatoes. He would like for the Obamas to grow food to furnish area food banks as well as the first family. He makes the comparison to the Victory Gardens of the World War II era.

Naturally the Obamas would not be expected to tend this garden, although I find growing my own vegetables kind of fun (but not five acres worth)! The National Parks service would inherit this detail.

Or perhaps Mr. Doiron would like to bring his volunteers over to hoe the carrots?

Strange and Bizarre

Some crazy headlines on the FOX news page this evening; interesting diversions from the even crazier political news today. How about this one: Hoarder Dies After Becoming Lost in Maze of Own Trash. Dude. Seriously.

And how about this gross one: John Gotti Neighbor Was Dissolved in Acid.

Strange and bizarre, indeed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Do You Write Notes in Your Books?

Do you write in your books?

I've been thinking about books a lot lately; maybe it's the New Year and the inevitable "read more" resolution. It's partly the articles I've been reading about the Rove/Bush annual reading contest (one of those articles listed many of the specific volumes George W. Bush and Karl Rove read and then I examined many of those myself and ordered a few.) It could also be the winter-nesting-reading cycle I get into.

At any rate, I've been thinking about books. When I was a student in college I was a big fan of the highlighter. As I read texts I would highlight voraciously. Looking back at the few of those texts that I kept I can see that when I was a freshman I highlighted with a great deal less discretion than I did much later. "What the hell did I highlight THAT for?!" As a more "mature" student I discarded the highlighter for the neater, and less permanent, light pencil underline, with marginal notes of my professor's brilliant comments and analysis.

Sometimes I print articles off the internet (I hate reading long texts online) and I will highlight those. Sometimes I'll forgo the highlighter and underline, or write margin notes. I remember specifically one Obama speech, before he was even a presidential candidate, about which I wrote copious questions and incredulous comments in the margins.

As an adult reader and a collector of books, I now find that I can not bear to write in a book. It's not even so much that I collect RARE or priceless books (although I do have a few treasured rarities that are quite antique) - many are even softcover and easily replaced. I find myself now resorting to the sticky-note method. By every reading spot in the house you will probably find a small pile of various sizes of sticky notes and a mechanical pencil.

My copy of John Adams, by David McCullough, is nearly twice as thick as it's original size because of all the sticky notes. I know this is bad for the spine and the binding of the book. Most of my books don't have as many notes as the Adams book, but as I'm reading Heroic Conservatism, for example, I find interesting quotes or salient points that I want to make note of, remember, or possible quote from. Sticky note.

It brings to mind, speaking of John Adams, what David McCullough pointed out as he discussed the voracious reading habits of both Adams and his friend Thomas Jefferson. Both men read a crazy number of books and the classics often in their original languages. Adams had over 3,000 volumes in his library, and he didn't exactly have Barnes and Noble in his neighborhood, or even Amazon. Books were precious items back then! In 1815, Jefferson sold over 6,700 volumes from his personal library to the government to replace the collection of the Library of Congress that was burned when the British invaded the Capitol.

McCullough writes, "Unlike Jefferson, who seldom ever marked a book, and then only faintly in pencil, Adams, pen in hand, loved to add his comments in the margins." In that regard I am much more a Jeffersonian reader than like Adams. In Mary Woolstonecraft's French Revolution, Adams wrote some 10,000 to 12,000 words, depending on your souce, in the margins (he disagreed with almost everything she said.)

A couple of years ago there was an exhibit in Boston showcasing over 3,800 volumes of the Adams collection, some in glass display cases with his marginalia visible (pictured above.) For my money, his notations and commentary would be absolutely as interesting as the texts themselves!

So what about you? Do you write in your books?

(Image credit: Globe Staff Photo / Michele McDonald)

On The Road With Gary Sinise

Saturday night FOX News is airing a Gary Sinise special called On The Road in Iraq with Gary Sinise; here's what Sinise, who recently was awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal, says about it:

"My brother-in–law Jack Treese served as a medic in Vietnam and wore his dog tags on a rosary with a St. Christopher medal. I wore that same rosary and dog tags as my character, “Lt. Dan”, in the movie “Forrest Gump”. With the help of the USO, my brother-in-law Jack, and my friend Jonathan Flora who used a handheld camera, you will see what happened on a seven day trip I took to Iraq last summer which will air this Saturday night on the FOX News Channel. It was my fourth trip there with the USO. My goal, as always, was to cover as many miles as possible and to take pictures, sign autographs and shake hands with as many troops as I could in the time I had."

As previously posted, Sinise is a huge supporter of our troops and is one of the most active celebrities working in the old Bob Hope USO fashion. I remember all those Bob Hope specials on TV as I was growing up. Sinise works tirelessly to thank our troops for their service.

If you get the chance this weekend, check it out, or at least set your DVR! You'll see Sinise meeting troops throughout Iraq and a bit of his Lt. Dan Band!