Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mercy Chefs

Had you heard of Mercy Chefs before? I hadn't. Their mission is to provide hot meals to victims of hurricanes and other disasters. Here's a link to their blog:

And here's the link where you can contribute money to feeding victims of Hurricane Sandy, this week:

Sexy Wheelchairs?

Janice Lester affirms that there are such things as sexy wheelchairs:


Why did they use the "hospital cheapie chair"? Because that's the kind even people with some health care experience know about. One size fits few.

(Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link.)

Shouting "Flood" on a Crowded Web Site

The Twitterer known as Comfortablysmug publicly apologizes for posting exaggerations of yesterday's flooding in New York:

Last winter a Democrat's campaign staffer in D.C. got caught doing something stupid; this fall it's a Republican's campaign staffer in New York. Local politicians tend to have to depend on volunteers but this web site officially regrets that candidate Christopher Wright has had to depend on, er, a Twit who consistently mistypes his name.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Gross-Out: Caterpillar Photos

Australia's answer to the Eastern States' "Hickory Horned Devil" is the "Skull Caterpillar." Liz Klimas shares magnified close-ups of a caterpillar that is, in real life, only four or five inches long. (That's still twice the size of what we usually call a large caterpillar...)

The parents of this creature, Pink Underwing Moths (Phyllodes imperialis), are endangered; they're thought to require darkness in the antipodean rain forest to breed properly. Australians apparently enjoy these moths and their caterpillars enough that the animals have their own web page at the Australian government site:

More, and perhaps more Halloween-creepy, photos from the Daily Mail:

The U.S. counterpart (not endangered, but mercifully seldom seen, because it lives in the tops of tall trees) is a large, showy moth. (I find it ugly; e-friend Ronia Regal finds it beautiful, and derived her screen name from its scientific name, Citheronia regalis.) Here's the Wikipedia page:

Halloween gross-out-quality photos here:

Do they bite or sting? Paul Villard claimed that they were "very severely urticating." Most sources say they're safe to touch. Sometimes individuals' reactions to contact with insects involve rare allergies, as with the reports of people claiming to be allergic to ladybugs. I've never handled a Hickory Horned Devil, but I once tried to move a wounded one out of the road, using a stick, and I can say that when a four-inch-long caterpillar is really trying to pull itself up by its jaws, it can really chomp. (People have reported five-inch and six-inch-long specimens...on caterpillars this size, individual variations show, but university web pages I checked say they're usually under five inches.)

Clinton Thinks Obama Controls the Ocean?

Mytheos Holt shares quotes, and a video for those who can watch it, from a speech in which Bill Clinton seems to be blaming President Obama for not lowering sea level.

This is the guy I've been calling the King of Tacky for twenty years now, but is he also getting, er, uh, old? And I thought right-wingers blaming the President for not personally diving into the Gulf of Mexico to plug the oil spill, or whatever they expected, was bad. President Obama may have perpetrated some world-class mistakes during what I'm praying will be his one term, but can we please hold off on the idiotic expectation? Presidents of the United States are human.

Flu Shot Recall Map (Part 1)

The Internet is still mostly young people's territory, so most of you readers are probably too young to need routine flu shots anyway. So am I, and I'm glad, especially when news like this breaks:

Something about having survived 1975-76, the year when flu shots were definitely linked to cancer in the U.S., has made me wary of flu shots. Some of my elders get them every year and don't have cancer...but I still think we're not hearing the whole story.

My husband believed in flu shots, and, by taking early retirement, got them as part of his pension plan. He believed that flu shots do not make it possible for patients to transmit flu to others. So around this time every year--except the year he came down with cancer, when vaccine shortages kept him waiting in line behind Real Seniors--my husband would have a flu shot. Within two days he'd have a mild case of flu. And two days later I'd have a mild case of flu. It really was as if I was getting flu shots by proxy, because after sharing a mild case of flu we were flu-free for the rest of the year.

On the whole, this was a good thing. Still, it definitely suggests that he was transmitting flu to me, which tends to undermine my faith in anything else the vaccine industry tells us about flu shots.

Should you get one? Should you double-check which company manufactured the vaccine? Should you wait for updates on this news story? (Reuters is pretty good about covering this kind of story; I prefer to get news from Carol Roach when possible, because she's a disabled writer who works for tiny page-view payments. Please, if following this story, check with both sources.)

How would I know whether you should get a flu shot? I'm not your doctor; I don't know the risks and benefits for you. Generally, seniors and immune-compromised people are advised to get flu shots, and healthy people under age 50 or 60 are not. I would recommend talking to a doctor, this year, instead of just trusting the first "free flu shots" clinic that opens up in your neighborhood. Free vaccine is likely to be the vaccine that's been rejected by other beware!

Did Hurricane Sandy Disappoint Washington?

According to some Washington Post blog links, there are those who feel disappointed that Hurricane Sandy didn't hit their part of the East Coast harder.

Personally, I love a storm that disappoints people.

Ipod Mini (Mock Ad) Link

Liz Klimas shares the video parody of the computer industry's never-ending launches of new products that are "the future, until May, at least, or maybe the end of June."

Seriously, Apple, and all other computer manufacturers: if you want me to buy a new computer, you need to convince me that you're guaranteeing to support this one for fifty years no matter what may be on the market in June.

Phenology: Hurricane Sandy Proves What?

According to Van Jones, says Jason Howerton, Hurricane Sandy proves that Al Gore was right.

Er-herm...wasn't it Donald Pennington who reported, during last year's hurricane season, on over half of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history having occurred before the mid-twentieth-century fad for giving hurricanes human-type names even started? Bigger and badder than Katrina, even. So, how does a destructive hurricane prove anything about global weather trends?

Does anybody out there even remember "Irene" as the cute nickname of a destructive storm, this year? I wasn't thinking about the hurricane when I named this year's calico kittens Iris, Irene, and Ivy. (I might have thinking about Piers Anthony's Xanth novels.)

Hurricane Sandy has yet to cross the Blue Ridge, if it's going to. How many many times since I published a free-verse "poem" about it have other people reported disasters, and what we've had, here in Scott County, has been rain. Light, chilly, misty rain, not enough to look from inside as if you'd need an umbrella, just enough to get you wet if you go outside without one.

Five-month-old Irene, who incidentally had a half-brother called Sandy, offers the following commentary on today's weather. No translations of body language needed. I quote: "Ick."

Seriously: New York City can jolly well take care of itself, but if e-friends in eastern Virginia or Maryland need a place to stay, e-mail I know a very nice house in which a basement apartment has just become available to very nice people.

Obama Campaign Exploits Children

Does this web site need a label for "child exploitation"?

First that poor little kid was sent up on the stage to blurt out unmentionable family secrets to Michele Bachmann, and now this. It's so tacky it makes me wonder whether really mean Republicans are actually doing of those "tip the waiter a nickel and tell him to vote for the opposition" deals?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Petraeus Did What to the President?

This is the kind of colorful figure of speech we try not to use at this web site...

...because it's unnecessarily confusing to foreign readers. "Throw someone under the bus" is the latest cute metaphor for "show a lack of concern and/or loyalty, usually to someone's status and career success." The President is alive and unharmed.

Kira Davis Wants Obama to Notice Her Brain

Hurrah! Finally, another female writer is noticing the way the Democratic Party tend to reduce "women's issues" to, er, uh, excuses to talk about body parts this web site does not discuss. I like Kira Davis's post, even if editorial consistency requires me to hide the link behind a bland, even weaselly "click here."

It's the Internet...some writers and editors are willing to stuff an article with hot, guaranteed-readership keywords, and some are not. I, by contract, am not. And I'm obligated to warn you that parents won't want to share this link with kids. But I'll bet some conservative women readers will enjoy it, whether we hide it from the kids or not.

It's Called Wargaming, But...

In New York, a university professor asked students to plot a terrorist attack.

The purpose of the exercise was, of course, to learn how to thwart a terrorist attack. Duh. It's like the way you might plan a building, a security system, even your search for lost keys. "If I were a building, where would I break down? If I were a burglar, where would I get in? If I were a key, where would I hide?" From analyzing each phase of a terrorist plot, future counter-terrorists get strategies for blocking future plots.

But how did this information leak out to people who don't understand the idea? Was it enough, in the way of security, to have students printing a disclaimer about their good intentions on each page of their hypothetical terrorist strategies? Should hypothetical terrorist strategies have been printed outside the classroom? Should they have been keyed into computers that link to the Internet?

Professor Maras was doing the same sort of thing our military service routinely does, but she deserves a slap on the wrist for not observing military security precautions.

Confederates in the Election?

Has everybody out there read Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic? It's still a relevant study of Civil War reenactors (who tend to like impersonating Confederates because imitations of their gear are cheap'n'grungy), with some side glances at race relations (among non-reenactors, because Civil War reenacting tends to be a White thing) and an occasional glimpse of how present-time politics relates to the nineteenth-century politics of the Civil War.

Bottom line: any way you want to relate, when you go back that far into history, you can probably tie your current beliefs to the historical issues somehow. The goal of Confederates in the Attic was not to explain everything about the Southern States, then or now, but to explain the kind of thing you're likely to encounter if you get into Civil War reenacting. Which is quite a panorama. Horwitz finds most to say about a devoted method actor (whose photo adorns the book jacket) whose concern is primarily with getting every detail, from buttons to the precise position of fallen soldiers, as accurate as possible.

Along the way, of course, he meets Twilight-Zone-dwelling "Children of the Confederacy" who defy General Lee's and President Davis's orders and teach their children to hate Yankees. And present-time conservatives who like the Confederacy's historic focus on individual rights. And also present-time "liberals" who like the Confederacy's opposition to Big Business, which, in 1860, was mostly located in the North.

But check out Mytheos Holt's take on Andrew Sullivan's interpretation of the election:

This web site officially likes Ilikepeople's comment. Amidst the Southern-States-bashing trollery, there are actually several comments that make sense, but Ilikepeople's is the best.

Libya Murders: Allegations, with Cool Plane Pictures

First, don't panic.

Now, for a reasoned explanation of how and why there have come to be allegations of White House neglect of--or even collusion in--the Libya embassy attack, read Liz Klimas' report. This is not celebrity-bashing, although the comments contain some of that. This is a civilian's summary of what she's learned about the military technology involved. Liz Klimas is best known for finding photos and videos, and there are cool plane pictures on this page.

Watchdogs Pile on Libya Murder Story

Karen Bracken urges readers to demand more information about the more baffling aspects of the Libya murder story. This e-mail has been edited for format only by Priscilla King:


We need a full court press all this week.  This is a huge issue.  We have let so much slide with this President and it is time for us to take a stand.  We are asking everyone to take a few minutes out of each day this week to address a critical issue.  PLEASE send this request to everyone you know.  And send a follow up mid-week.

1.  We have gotten a lot of feedback from patriots calling the House Oversight Committee (majority and minority)  They have gotten so many phone calls they put a voice mail on the line and of course it's full.  If you encounter this please keep trying throughout the week.  Majority  202-225-5074 Minority 202-225-5051

2.  It is also time to add the Chairman of Oversight Committee to our call list:  Darrell Issa's DC Office # is:  202-225-3906 FAX 202-225-3303 (fax a letter)
Issa's link to send a message.  I sent him an email demanding an immediate hearing.

3.  Contact your local radio stations, write a letter to the editor.

4.  Call the White House Correspondents and demand that they ask tough questions about Benghazi! The phone # to call is 202-266-7453

Why is the White House lying to us the American people?

When did the President know and why was there no security?

Why did the White House and other security agencies watch live broadcasts from a Drone as killings took place and DO NOTHING?

Why were numerous urgent requests for help turned down by the WH, and security personnel told to “stand down” (do nothing)?

Why was the video blamed when we knew that it was a terrorist attack in real time?

Was this situation an arms deal gone bad with militia or terrorist groups that do not like America?

Why is the media lying to the American people?

We need 1 million++ people to call on Monday so please pass the word around!

Thanks to all the patriots that have contacted me and have shared their calling experience.  Thanks to the many helpful suggestions.  NOW GO GIT'ER DONE AMERICANS!!!!

Karen Bracken - How Do You Kill 11 Million People? You LIE to them!
To fix "THE SYSTEM" We must become "THE SYSTEM" "

Frankly, I doubt my Tracfone would even get a signal to Washington, against the approaching winds today...but this story does call for my favorite Bible quote on the topic of breaking news: "Be sober, be vigilant." Even the murder of a U.S. Ambassador and three citizens is not a valid reason for panic, because there are no valid reasons for panic. But it's time for some vigilance. Secretary Clinton showing her age is not enough. We need more than emotions of remorse, here.

Time to Take Down Your George Allen Yard Signs?

Virginia senatorial candidate George Allen wants supporters to know that he's putting our safety first. Those lightweight metal campaign signs that pop up in voters' front yards during an election are light enough to blow about in a hurricane, yet solid enough to do some damage if they hit people, houses, or animals. So, if you live near the coast, or if the storm appears to be moving into the Blue Ridge Mountains, bring in your signs.

Although it's not marked as a press release, this e-mail is worth sharing with readers who may not be on the former governor's e-mail list:

"What's most important to Susan and me is the safety of you and your family, friends and neighbors.

Governor Bob McDonnell has made sure that our public safety and emergency services are ready for the impacts of this storm.

Each of us should also prepare by having the following items on hand:

  • Three-day supply of food that does not need electricity for storage or for preparation
  • Enough water for drinking and sanitation, approximately three gallons per person
  • Extra batteries for radios, flashlights and other communication and safety devices
  • First Aid kit and prescription medications
  • Copies of insurance policies, identification records and other important family documents kept in a waterproof, portable container
For a complete list, visit I've also included a few emergency and utility phone numbers below.

As you get ready for the storm, talk with your neighbors as well - especially elderly neighbors who may need assistance with preparations.

And be sure that your pets are secure and have the necessary food and supplies.

Lastly, don't forget that yard signs are made of metal frames that can blow around in strong winds, causing dangerous conditions and damage to homes and property. So for safety, bring them inside.

In challenging times, we see the strength of our communities - neighbors helping neighbors, Virginians working together to keep our Commonwealth a great place to live, work and raise a family.

If you can give of your resources or time, please consider supporting your local Red Cross organization to assist Virginians in need. Visit to get involved.

Susan and I hope you and your family, friends and neighbors stay safe. Join us is preparing for Hurricane Sandy and continuing to always put Virginia first.

Standing Strong for Freedom,
George Allen

Important Phone Numbers:

911 for All Emergencies

211 for General Information on Hurricane Sandy

511 for Road Conditions

1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357) to report a power outage with Dominion Power

1-877-PEPCO-62 (1-877-737-2662) to report a power outage with Pepco."

Is your electric power company not listed above? In the unlikely event that your lights go out, but you're still able to use a battery-powered computer, people in my neighborhood can report a power outage here: In more likely events, the numbers are:

1-800-956-4237 for Virginia

1-800-967-4237 for Tennessee

How to Batten Down the Hatches

For those who've heard the panic stories about "super-storms," specifically with regard to a hurricane that seems to be heading for New York, Jim Macdonald offers the precise technical explanation, with drawing, of how exactly one goes about battening down the hatches:

There are more up-to-date, modern ways of battening down (or weatherproofing) a modern home. This web site assumes that those of us whose autumn starts in October have already put up their storm windows, caulked their panes, and insulated their water pipes...for all of which this weekend's weather was ideal. If you haven't done those things, here's your reminder to start saving on winter heating bills now.

Warren Buffett Likes Junkfood...and the Obamas...

No surprise for Laura Ingraham's readers: Obamaphile Warren Buffett publicly stated that, at 84, he loves junkfood--especially Cherry Coke.

And the Obamas like junkfood, too. For Mrs. Obama, maintaining her status as a fashion icon and getting some vegetables into the children's diet are understandable concerns. However, considering that both Obamas love their red meat, ice cream, cake, and French fries as much as any other couple of slim people, and the President also smokes cigarettes, backing Mayor "Tiny Portions" Bloomberg's much-ballyhooed "war on soda" is not merely silly, as Buffett calls it. It's hypocritical.

I happen to like broccoli. Steamed just enough to brighten the buds and sprinkled with salted nuts, it's a meal. I also like spinach. In a stew with garbanzos and chicken broth, it's yummy. And it's high time we had a First Lady who was free enough from elitist bigotry to admit there's nothing quite like a fresh-picked vine-ripened tomato...unless it would be fresh-picked corn on the cob...or fresh raw asparagus. (My mother never had to tell a child to eat his or her asparagus. The problem was getting any asparagus into the kitchen.)

Gourmets have been singing the praises of garden-fresh vegetables for hundreds of years and I'm all in favor of a White House that can join the chorus...but let's leave it at that, please. Tell people what you like to eat, but unless you are their personal physician, don't tell other people what they should eat. Or not eat.

And let's admit it: Bloomberg is not personally concerned about the looks of New Yorkers, much less their health. He is an ambitious politician. He is concerned about MONEY. He is trying to help a corporation charge more for less of their product. As they say in New York: feh.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Counting Buckeyes Before They Vote?

Bart DePalma's description of the premature attempt to predict the election from early-voting returns is too good not to copy. More about election results from Ohio, the Buckeye State:

Jeep Made in China?

Cameron DeSmidt quips, below a photo of a Jeep model scheduled for outsourcing to production in China: "Crosses oceans, outsources workers."

Hearings on the Libya Murders

From an e-mail received by Priscilla King:
"I've spent the morning calling all of the Republican members of the House Oversight Committee to request a PUBLIC hearing BEFORE the election with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice. If it turns out that the White House was watching while Chris Stevens and his staff were being killed, and help could have been sent and it wasn't, then this is totally unacceptable and American voters should know this information before the election.
In doing so, one staff member gave me THE number to call to request a hearing, and I'm asking you all to call this number. I spoke to a live person, and the more of us who call, the better. Thank you, and have a wonderful day!
OGR Committee: (202) 225-5074
The contact at the Majority (Republican) side of the committe requested that we also contact the Minority members, at (Minority/Democratic website: (202) 225-5051,".
So far, this web site takes no sides. As with the Waco disaster, the story is just too awful to be used for political spin...but people have a right to know the truth as soon as it can be sifted out of the ashes.

So, I checked the link. That link works, but it's not interactive. It indicates that a hearing on the Libya disaster took place on October 10. For documents related to the hearing on October 10, click here:

How Insecure Is Facebook Data?

We've been asked why none of us has a Facebook page except for Grandma Bonnie Peters, whose company's Facebook page was set up by an employee and does not contain personal (or current) contact information. Here's why:

Facebook asks for more identity and contact information than this web site recommends ever keying into a computer. And they've demonstrably failed to keep this information confidential. Some naive Blaze readers don't think their addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth are high-security information...that shows they're still thinking in twentieth-century terms.

Would Obamacare Mean Subsidized Viagra?

Obamacare could mean tax-subsidized Viagra, and it just might. Doctors have justified prescribing Viagra to hypertensive older men, despite its obvious effect of raising their blood pressure and thus increasing their risk of heart attacks, because having to report for prescriptions for Viagra draws these men back to the doctors' offices where they receive regular check-ups.

From an Egyptian Christian

Ashraf Ramelah writes about the situation facing the Coptic Christian church in Egypt:

Readers may want to visit his web site:

Phenology for 10/26/12: Purple Violet, Galinsoga

An unusually long, warm, wet summer has produced second generations of some spring flowers this autumn. This afternoon, looking at a well-mown lawn, I noticed the truth of the observation that the non-native flowering grass called lady's-thumb will bloom at whatever height you want. This lawn has been kept below four inches, and ladies'-thumbs were creeping along the ground, making little puddles of bright pink in the grass...that clashed amusingly with the orange and brown leaves waiting to be raked up.

Grandma Bonnie Peters has purple violets in the cracks of her driveway. In spring, she says, she considers them weeds and digs them up so they don't help the cracks grow, but in October she found herself showing off the out-of-season blooms.

While cutting back the spent goldenrod in the front yard, I noticed a new wildflower, smaller than the goldenrod, but more persistent. The yellow centers of the tiny flowers are more conspicuous than the white petals. The flowers are shaped like asters, only instead of having a full round of petals, each flower has five little clusters of three petals. I looked it up in Peterson's Field Guide and learned that it's officially known as galinsoga. Having a name, I could look it up online and find this lovely photo-rich fact sheet:

Online, I learned more about the three very similar species, Galinsoga ciliata, Galinsoga parviflora, and Tridax procumbens. (The Galinsogas have been classified in the genus Tridax in the past.) Which species do I have? I don't know. Peterson's mentions only in passing that there are different, similar species. Ciliata is the most common in southwestern Virginia, according to Virginia Tech, but ciliata means hairy. My plants don't look especially hairy. Parviflora is rare. Parviflora means small flowers; my plants have very small flowers. Procumbens means apt to sprawl along the ground instead of standing straight up like "gallant soldiers," the quaintly garbled British name for Galinsoga. A web site called "" offers the confusing information that Galinsogas stand up while Tridax procumbens sprawls, but the photo sites make it clear that, as these flowers grow, all species produce stalks that stand straight up and stalks that sprawl. Mine mostly stand in some of those photos of procumbens. For positive identification...well, on average the seeds differ in half-millimeters.

Does it matter? Well, Galinsoga is considered edible, while Tridax is medicinal. Galinsoga is not considered a noxious weed, and Tridax is. I wasn't planning to eat my flowers, but if any readers out there recognize this plant and want to try it in a salad, they may want to consult the local extension office for positive identification.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shower to the People

Rebecca Koffman reports on a cool, neat idea...that generates some short-term mess.

Anybody who's ever taken a road trip has to appreciate the idea of a public shower service. It doesn't have to cater specifically to homeless people; it doesn't (in most cases) have to encroach on existing businesses; and, although a waiting area is necessary, the waiting area doesn't have to be messy.

In fact, in towns like Wytheville, Virginia, for-profit shower services are a lucrative business. The primary clients are long-distance travellers--truck drivers, and sometimes Greyhound passengers. The price of a shower is low...but the showers are in permanent buildings, with waiting areas that house fast-food, convenience store, souvenir items, newsstands, and video games, and since most of the clients have money to spend they end up paying for these things as well as showers.

Why don't more cities offer public "bath houses," with fees for those who can pay and vouchers supplied by charity for those who can't? Seems some city planners have, in the past, worried about public "bath houses" being used for immoral purposes. However, in Wytheville a little management by people who are careful to admit only one person at a time to a shower seems to eliminate that problem. There is probably no way to keep penniless and desperate people from prowling around truck parking areas and soliciting truck drivers, but it's not at all difficult, in a well-planned building, to watch that these people don't sneak into showers.

Fraudulent Voter ID

Is Patrick Moran, son of left-wing Congressman James Moran, really telling election fraudsters how to vote sixteen times in different names and polls? Madeleine Morgenstern reports:

Unfortunately for all the conservative readers who think that demanding a photo ID card is going to prevent election fraud, what Moran is talking about here is cheap, last-minute, amateur stuff. (Yes, he should have said righteously, "My father doesn't want fraudulent votes!" Unfortunately, I think people in northern Virginia would hear that as a joke.) Things that wouldn't work in my home town are standard practice in crowded, long-commuting urban areas, e.g. Moran's district.

I am not recommending fraud, nor telling anyone how to do it. I avoided asking how some people obtained the bogus documents I've personally seen. I can say this much though. If you go to a busy urban DMV office at a rush period, when everybody's in a hurry, it is possible to obtain an official identity document that provides false information about you without even trying. I have personally done that in Moran's district; I filled in a form correctly showing my height as 5'4", and thus obtained a state ID showing my height as 5'7", which might have been very useful to the alien who tried to steal my identity with evil intentions, who was in fact 5'7".

However...if I wanted to commit election fraud, badly enough to invest a good bit of time and money in it--probably with the intention of committing more lucrative frauds later on--I'd make out a list of alternative names. Choices could include inactive voters, especially if I happened to find some of my own physical type, or brand-new identities for people who might plausibly have moved into town during the past year. I would visit a few of the appropriate DMV branches, not the same one twice, and get my photograph legitimately printed on a state ID card containing those people's names and addresses. The DMV has added a few hurdles to this process, demanding more documents that take a little more time and resources to fake, but a determined fraudster could still succeed.

I might also visit a skilled counterfeiter and get a few bogus IDs. This does take a high quality of resources these days, and don't ask me where to find a skilled counterfeiter. I don't want to know. My guess is that, like other people who allegedly do illegal things for a price, a lot of them are undercover law enforcement agents who'll turn you in if you ask. It's easier to take advantage of a legitimate, but time-consuming and un-enjoyable, system where everyone is in a hurry and few people really care whether mistakes are made.

Anyway, fake IDs are still pretty commonplace, and easily enough obtained that I've seen them used by people who weren't doing anything illegal--most often to get around irrelevant age requirements for jobs. Why sue for discrimination against people over 55 when it's easy to pass for 45?

The all-time record for fraudulent use of the DMV was probably pulled off in the 1980s by a White male music fan in Texas, who enjoyed imitating his favorite local singer, who was Black and female, so much that he obtained a driver's license and a few credit cards in her name. Although he paid for the costumes he bought in the singer's name, it didn't take long for a store employee to notice duplicate charge accounts in the same name, and the man ended up in jail.

Photo IDs can add a step of difficulty to a fraud scheme, but unfortunately they do not prevent fraud being committed. As Tim LaHaye prophetically observed in Babylon Rising, when the stakes are high enough, adding biometric data to official ID checks won't prevent fraud either; there are criminals who would kill innocent people for "clean" scannable body parts (eye transplants are fairly easy, though not cheap).

Seriously, Gentle Readers, I don't think identity theft is even going to be a factor in the next few elections. According to plans, election data is going to be processed electronically, in foreign countries...and officially neutral countries like Spain (which has won contracts to handle sensitive data in the past) may have more interest in rocking our vote than some of us have foolishly assumed, not to mention their interest in stealing our identities. I think it may be more important to keep complete identity information out of the election records than to worry about verifying it.

Meanwhile, for people who aren't planning to rob any banks or make any fraudulent credit card purchases, but are serious about the election...Patrick Moran got that part absolutely right. It's much easier and safer to take inactive voters to the polls than it is to steal their identities. Flatter them, arrange for politicians in your party to shake their hands, bribe them with treats.

For those who are concerned about election fraud, I think this is the real secret. It's easy to fool the DMV on a busy day, because the building is packed with people who are not having fun and are in a hurry to get out. It's not so easy to fool people at the polls in a small town, where people are mingling, shaking hands, reserving time for socializing. You never know when someone at the polls will know the inactive voter in question, personally. It would not be possible to reproduce this effect in northern Virginia, where people live in Fairfax, work in Arlington, shop in Alexandria, and may leave town any day...but you can get closer to it by getting to know the people in your neighborhood.

If you know the voters on your street, then even if a fraudster has a similar hairstyle and a photo ID with the same name, you'll immediately notice that the fraudster has a different voice. One fraud uncovered would probably put an end to fraudulent voting practices for several years to come. Partisan politicians want people at the polls to say, "Hey, Tracy, good to see you," instead of "That's not Tracy Jones!" And that is how communities prevent election fraud.

Fraudulent Campaign Donations

How easy is it for foreigners to contribute campaign funds to the U.S. presidential election, using blatantly bogus addresses and credit card information? (Could your credit card number be the one tapped?) Liz Klimas reports:

Next, a companion piece on how easy it is for people who will be in the U.S. on election day to vote under assumed names...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Joe Biden's State of Dysphasia

Becket Adams shares another classic Biden moment, with links and a video:

Phenology for 10/24/12: Asian Lady Beetles

I've not seen a lot of these cute little nuisances around the Cat Sanctuary lately. The Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis, is a species of "ladybug" that can have quite a range of colors and spot patterns. Although helpful to farmers, like other ladybugs, Asian Ladies are a nuisance in winter when they seek shelter inside humans' homes.

First the good news. I've heard some wild rumors about this exotic insect species...that they eat wood, that they attack humans, that they kill native lady beetles, or they've been genetically engineered and introduced by an enemy country for some other evil reason. All wrong. They're a natural, though not native, insect that helps farmers by eating aphids and other pests. They don't do any real harm to any normal human (but see observations on allergies, below). They're a nuisance because they have very little sense and no brain to speak of.

They're not the only species of "ladybug" that can nip, although no ladybug can bite hard enough to do humans much damage. However, at this time of year, when they're trying their wings and are apt to zoom straight into humans, they're also apt to be pursued by insect-eating paper wasps. Paper wasps do sting; some people have severe allergy reactions to paper wasp venom.

The Ohio State University site linked above contains the surprising (to me) information that some people have mild allergy reactions to ladybugs' blood--contact allergies, or even inhalant allergies--and although my guess would be that if you sneeze when exposed to an indoor ladybug you're probably reacting to mold spores that might stick to the animal, they also recommend not bothering the beetles, to reduce exposure to their blood. You already knew better than to bother a paper wasp.

Ladybugs are absolutely not serious pests, and although O.S.U. suggests some pesticides that will kill them, the position of this web site is that no ladybug species should ever be poisoned. If they're annoying you, scoop them up in a matchbox. Like most beetles, Harmonia axyridis don't seem to mind, or even notice, being scooped up in matchboxes and removed from a building. Their reaction to any new thing that pops up in their way is "explore," so they usually cooperate...right up to the point where, if you really want to help the species evolve away from its attraction to places like your kitchen, you drop them into the fire.

O.S.U. discusses harmless repellent scents...the problem being that some people out there might object to having camphor in the kitchen even more than they object to having beetles. However, having poisonous pesticide sprays in the kitchen has got to be worse than camphor, beetles, menthol, or all three together.

Whaaat? Senator Warner's Web Page--Spam?

Something is rotten in the state of Virginia. I just received what looks like an e-mail from Senator Mark Warner, citing remarks by Leon Panetta on "Virginia's military might." What web site wouldn't link to that? However, the spam filter on this computer classifies the link to Secretary Panetta's speech as spam. It also classifies links to "capitolenews" as spam, and all five links in the e-mail, including one that looks like a newspaper, link to "capitolenews."

Readers, beware. I have no way of finding out whether Senator Warner has anything to do with "capitolenews," whether it's spam, or how bad it is. Sometimes new computer systems activate spam filters, completely against the intentions of the person trying to set up the system. Sometimes, too, in election years nasty pranks are perpetrated in the name of a candidate the perpetrator dislikes.

I will keep youall posted of whatever I find out, and hope anyone who finds out anything before I do will do as much for me.

Republicans Smarter than Democrats?

Maggie Thornton shares the official Pew survey:

It gets better. Attention all Tea Party bashers:

"Tea Party supporters were more likely to possess a college degree than their counterparts (23% to 15%), and also more likely to have completed post-graduate studies (14% to 10%). Tea Partiers were also more likely to have completed “some college” by a 33% to 28% margin, and substantially less likely to have not completed high school than non-supporters (3% versus 12%), or to possess only a high school degree (26% versus 35%)…"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obituary: Russell Means

Here's the link...

Arianna Huffington Is Out for Blood

That would be blood donations, of course:

Need I add anything to this testimony? This: I'm superstitious about taking a blood or organ donation (I was and will always be a fan of Arthur Ashe), and yet I know people whose lives and health have been saved by such donations. Giving blood is safe for the donor. In fact, giving blood is a way men and older women can get the equivalent of young women's immunity to hypertension. So, if you have blood that anyone else could use...

Book Announcement: Father's Day

Not yet a Book You Can Buy From it new!

Book Title: Father's Day

Author: H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Date: 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-81656-2

Length: 242 pages

Quote: "My son's professional destiny is paper or plastic."

Having recently mentioned Buzz Bissinger as a victim of (short-term) censorship by the Illiberal Left, I'd like to let youall know why his name rang a bell. I've been posting these things from a computer center housed in a library. I've often had to wait for a computer, and while waiting I've browsed the New Books shelf for light reading. One light book that's held my attention enough that I've finished it is Bissinger's new book, Father's Day.

It's not actually about a day. It's a memoir of a road trip during which Bissinger reminisces about the birth, childhood, and adolescence of Zach, the one of his sons who has major, conspicuous brain damage. (He has two other sons, one with mild brain damage and one with no evidence of brain damage. Their privacy is protected in this book.)

Along the way he also catches up with two apparently normal boys he profiled in Friday Night Lights, a book about high school students. Perhaps to deflect the charge that he damaged the "slacker" teen's reputation, he reminisces about his long-term friendship with this student during the years since Friday Night Lights cast him as the slacker.

Mostly, though, this is a story about what it's like to watch a "savant" grow up. Zach's brain damage produces some autistic-like symptoms, but is not the same as autism. Mostly Zach is just not intelligent; he has a fantastic mental calendar but is not qualified for jobs that require literacy. He looks "different," too, even in still photos. Some people like him; some are afraid of him, and unfortunately some people's fears take the form of hostility.

Zach is, I'm sorry to say, the kind of person who creeps me out. I consider this a weakness, but it's true. I believe, philosophically, that real stupidity is always a choice; that people like Zach should receive some sort of social credit for the intelligence they use to cope with their physical injury, which is what Zach's brain damage is. I'm the one who doesn't have enough intelligence to be able to communicate with them. I think many normal and "gifted" Americans share my kind of lack of intelligence, and more of us should admit it. But, as things are, reading a biography of Zach is still about as close as I can get to appreciating him as a person. Sad, but true.

If you know someone who is not even "retarded," but permanently damaged (and yet still alert enough to mind being called a ree-tard), you may feel that Father's Day speaks for you or to you.

If you've spent your life thus far trying to avoid being around people with brain damage, or at best telling yourself that your cousin who has cerebral palsy is different from Zach because she's intelligent underneath, you may find that Father's Day at least reminds you that you are suffering from some degree of phobia...maybe a phobia of admitting the deficiencies in your intelligence that prevent you from communicating with someone like Zach?

Ann Coulter, Annoying Again

Did Romney "lose" last night's debate, or was he "kind and gentle to the retard"? Billy Hallowell reports:

Let's be kind and gentle to the person whose recent picture makes her look, in my home town's dialect, taaarrrd. (That's "tired" drawled out in such a way as to make it sound as if you're too tired even to finish saying the word, so it comes out as a long long sigh.)

"Retarded" is a legitimate, if outdated, synonym for "developmentally delayed." It was meant to be a neutral, even hopeful, way to say that a child is behind other children the same age, in terms of physical growth or learning or both, but we don't yet know whether the child may catch up with or pass the others later on. Claiming that this word is offensive is ageist.

"Retard" as a noun, usually pronounced "REE-tard," is an obnoxious primary-school taunt that has no business in the mouth of an adult.

But let's hope that Ann Coulter was just too frazzled to finish typing whatever she meant to type, because this use of "retard" is waaay below her standard.

What do we think? Hallowell asked. The Blaze's log-in system doesn't work with any of the computers I use, so I'll use this space to say that the best comment comes from someone using the screen name Yiska8. Our President's face does look strangely contorted in Benny Johnson's photo clips, especially the close-up near the bottom of the page...

...and although pausing to think through replies to tough questions can be an indication of a better thought-out answer, our President does happen to be a walking demonstration of what mucking around with drugs as a teenager does to the mind of an adult. There is absolutely no basis for the claim that Barack Obama ever was "retarded." He was a bright, healthy child; he is an intelligent full-grown man. There is some basis for concern about the long-term effects drug use may have on his aging process. That lopsided frown looks like nerve damage.

I'm wary about visual perceptions of people's condition. I ought to be, because I suffered acute liver infection for two years following an (unnecessary, state-mandated) vaccination, and lots of people wanted to believe that my liver had been damaged by LSD, which I've never used, rather than by something they wanted to believe is good. Then later on I was sent to Washington to follow up on the claim that Bill Clinton's face looked unnaturally red and thick-skinned--was that some sort of "drug look"?--and was assured by White House contacts that it was a simple "vanity look." Then-President Clinton didn't want to look pasty on TV, so he hired a professional makeup artist to pile on enough rouge to keep his face looking ruddy and healthy all day. Our eyes are so easily fooled.

There are people whose faces and bodies lose symmetry over time. Mild asymmetry, when one leg or foot may be half an inch longer than another, is common and not considered a problem. Extreme asymmetry can cause backaches, and make people look strange, but it's not those people's fault. It would be unfair to assume that President Obama is showing drug-related nerve damage if what he has is an hereditary tendency to lose symmetry with age.

However, I think the President owes it to all of us to share whatever medical explanation there may be for his loss of facial symmetry.

Amazon Bans Customer Who Bought Flawed Gadget

Liz Klimas reports on how a malfunction in a well-used e-reader caused a satisfied, paid-up customer to be banned from Amazon:

Yet another reason to buy real books, Gentle Readers. If you can't afford all the real books you need and "buying," or renting, cheaper e-books seems likely to help you earn the grades you deserve, I suggest buying only books by dead authors in e-format, and printing them out so you can keep them as long as you need them. All electronic gadgets will eventually become toxic waste--most within two or three years--and now it seems that your credit may actually be adversely affected when your e-gadgets break down.

Was Amazon altogether unreasonable to blame this customer for her electronic gadget's glitch? Not necessarily. When electronic gadgets are linked, a malfunction in one device may cause costly malfunctions in other devices. Blaming customers for maintaining links to the company may not be the best customer service policy (as Amazon eventually decided)...still, everybody would have been better off if this customer had used her Amazon account to buy real books.

Living writers get a better deal from publishers when you buy their books, preferably new, or failing that as Books You Can Buy From Me, in real-world printed format. And you get a better deal, because it's a rare thing for a book owned by an adult to become unusable during that adult's lifetime, and nobody's going to blame you if you do manage to wear out a real book. And a real book doesn't increase your consumption of electricity...if you read a lot, buying real books is better for the Earth.

Christian Club Requires Leaders to Be Christians

Billy Hallowell reports on a Christian fellowship group becoming a victim of discrimination, at Tufts University, because the group requires its leaders to be Christians:

Tragically, this kind of insanity no longer even qualifies as "news." It was actually in the mid-eighties that I personally registered with an employment service, as a young student. The first job assignment offered to me was with a Jewish nonprofit organization. I thought this was a simple misunderstanding, and told the agent, "They wouldn't want me; I'm a Christian." And heard, "But they can't refuse to hire you because of that! That would be discrimination!"

There's bona-fide religious discrimination--against a particular group against whom the owner of a secular corporation has some sort of grudge--and there's also a legitimate preference that a religious group be represented to the public by members of that group. These are two different things.

It's like the Irish-American League definitely having to admit Ishmael Reed as a member, or consider him as a leader if he were elected by due process, because he has verifiable Irish ancestry whether it shows or not...but the Irish-American League not having to admit, say, Ban Ki Moon, who has no known Irish ancestors.

But why even link to the story about Tufts University's idiocy? Because Billy Hallowell includes a good suggestion at the end. The way to show up the stupidity of this kind of Christian-phobic bigotry is for heterosexual right-wingers to demand leadership positions in homosexual lobbying groups.

Whale Composes Human-Style Song

Liz Klimas reports (with an audio recording, which I can't hear here) on whales who mimic human speech and, now, human songs:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review Link: Ann Coulter's Mugged

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton seems to be more of a fan of Ann Coulter than I am. Here's her review of Coulter's new book, Mugged:

I look forward to reading the library reading room adjacent to this computer lab. Fair disclosure: although Coulter can be annoying, and I've often compared her with my late cat Bisquit (usually to Bisquit's favor), she is a good data collector. From TMH's quote, I'm guessing that Mugged will raise some readers' blood pressure. For those who don't suffer from hypertension, however, it will be an interesting read.

Smart Grid: Bright Idea, Scam, or Security Risk?

Hugh Montgomery thinks a "smart grid" is anything but a smart idea...for Americans, anyway.

Who is Hugh Montgomery? Click here to find out:

Hugh Montgomery has chosen to share concerns he addressed in a letter to Virginia's State Corporation Commission. Although the copy of the letter forwarded to me was in a clunky PDF format, the relevant text was formatted simply enough to be pasted into Word and cleaned. For others who think "PDF" stands for "A Pain to Download, Forget about it," but want to know what the "smart grid" is and why Mr. Montgomery opposes attempts to build it, here's his highly informed opinion:

"[To:] Virginia State Corporation Commission
P.O. Box 1197
Richmond, VA 23218


I serve as a member of the Virginia Commission on Energy and Environment. I am writing,
however, as a private citizen to provide public comment to the Commonwealth of Virginia State

Corporation Commission in the matter of Case Number PUE-2011-00093, for which a public

hearing is scheduled for March 6, 2012.

I would like to begin by stating for the record that I am an active environmentalist and a longtime

public speaker on behalf of energy conservation and environmental issues. I drive a hybrid vehicle,

designed our home 25 years ago to be extremely energy efficient and was "green" long before such

things became fashionable. It is therefore with deep regret that I must express my very strong

opposition to the Dominion Virginia Power proposal for installation of individual metering systems

and the initial stages of the so-called "smart grid" technology.

Let me offer my qualifications to speak as an expert on the subject. I am a retired federal Senior

Executive and Senior Fellow with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. I served for almost two

decades on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations as the Department of Navy senior career

civilian for Science and Technology requirements and resources - the sponsor for all technical

programs of the Office of Naval Research. My educational background includes graduate degrees

in Physics from the University of Tennessee and in National and International Security Policy from

the Kennedy School at Harvard University. I serve in retirement on a part-time basis as a Special

Assistant for Science and Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. I was the

founding Executive Director of the Institute for Defense and Homeland Security, with a primary

emphasis on national energy independence and energy security. I published a book, "Bureaucratic

Nirvana," in late 2010 on the Federal Research and Development system, and engage frequently in

public speaking in the areas of Science and Technology, national security policy and national energy

security. I was appointed by Speaker of the House William Howell to serve on the Virginia

Commission for Energy and Environment.

With respect to the issue at hand, I served for three years on the Defense Science Board Energy

Task Force, chaired by Dr. James Schlesinger, who served as the first Secretary of Energy and also

as Secretary of Defense. I was a member of two of the four subgroups of the Task Force, the

Research and Technology Subpanel and the Policy Subpanel, the latter chaired by former CIA

Director and noted energy advocate James Woolsey (who also wrote the preface to my book). The

Task Force examined the nation's energy resources and infrastructure at highly classified levels so

as to determine "ground truth" with respect to our national energy security. To say that what we

learned with respect to vulnerability of the power grid was alarming would be a great

understatement. Specific details are available in the classified annex of the report for those with the

requisite clearances and need-to-know. The following excerpts from the publically available

unclassified report were taken from the Defense Science Board website:

"For various reasons, the grid has far less margin today than in earlier years between capacity

and demand. The level of spare parts kept in inventory has declined, and spare parts are often colocatedwith

their operational counterparts putting both at risk from a single act. ...In addition to

physical attacks on the grid, there is the potential for cyber attacks. U.S. grid control systems are

continuously probed electronically, and there have been numerous attempted attacks on the

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that operate the grid. None have yet

resulted in major problems in the U.S., but the potential exists for major outages in the same way

successful hackers can disrupt computer networks. ... The confluence of these trends, namely

increased critical load demand, decreased resilience of commercial power, inadequacy of backup

generators, and lack of transformer spares in sufficient numbers to enable quick repair, create an

unacceptably high risk to our national security from a long-term interruption of commercial


Contrary to the understanding - and sincere belief- of supporters of the "smart grid" that such a

system is secure from individual hackers or organized terrorist activities, even the most cursory

examination at classified levels shows that this is not true. Damage far more severe than hours or

days without power can be inflicted from anywhere on the globe by a person with malicious intent,

a laptop computer and internet access. Although I regret deeply that this is the case, the smarter the

grid becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes - thus the more vulnerable we all become,

individually and collectively. And in the case of Dominion Virginia Power, the more vulnerable the

corporation becomes to a deliberate externally-induced catastrophe.

I respectfully urge the State Corporation Commission to consider the unacceptably high risks

inherent in this proposal and to deny its implementation. The efficiencies gained pale in comparison

to the risks incurred to the Commonwealth, the corporation and the people of Virginia. To quote

again the Defense Science Board report,"... an unacceptably high risk to our national security

from a long-term interruption of commercial power." If we start down this path in Virginia, I am

deeply concerned that the issue of a catastrophic power interruption becomes not a question of if,

but when."

[Signed: Hugh Montgomery]

Michigan Opposition to "Smart Meters"

In Michigan, concerned homeowners want "smart meters" (which can be used for espionage purposes, potentially even hacked into by burglars, and which have been reported as health risks) removed from their homes. This proposal will be introduced in their state legislature this winter:

This link was forwarded by concerned conservative readers who think the Virginia legislature could use something similar.

I'll agree with them. Currently nobody spends much time in the room close to the "smart meter" at the Cat Sanctuary; this could change. We have enough health hazards up here, with snowstorms, thunderstorms, power outages, freak cyclones, and a daily ongoing war against mold, without adding radiation hazards to those.

Regulating Pet Sales

Here's a proposed rule for regulating online pet sales. Those of us who are more concerned about animals' right to a natural life (as in the Cat Sanctuary) than about their "right" to be spared any suffering except the suffering inherent in being confined, sterilized, and euthanized (as in the Humane Pet Genocide Society's efforts) need to check out the legalese:!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0003-0001

(Note that this link appeared on the White House Blog only after the deadline for discussion with those who proposed these changes to existing regulations.)

Should people be buying pets from professional breeders, online, sight unseen? Not if they want rewarding relationships with healthy, friendly animals. On the other hand, what have federal regulations ever done for any sector of the economy?

Friday, October 19, 2012

National Wildlife Refuge Week

National Wildlife Refuge Week is being celebrated, probably at a site near you...

Washington Post Reports Allen/Kaine Debate

Click here for the report and the video:

Finally, Something Good About Pepco

A popular topic of conversation in the Washington Metropolitan Area is dissatisfaction with the Potomac Electric Power company, or Pepco. When the heat in your hotel room cuts off every time the temperature starts to creep up past 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or all the electric power in your neighborhood is shut off for five days after a storm that didn't even break the summer heat, you probably don't care to think about the magnitude of the job population congestion has given Pepco. You may also notice that Pepco kilowatt-hours cost more than kilowatt-hours measured on your bill in your home town. Bad, bad, bad Pepco!

All corporations are, however, made up of human beings. Inevitably, sometimes those humans do good things as well as bad things. Clinton Yates shares a link to the Washington Post report on Pepco employees saving a child from a fire:

New Optical Illusion

Here's an optical illusion that I, for one, have never seen before. Escher would've loved it:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Calling Californians Who Like to Talk on the Phone

When this e-mail came in, my first thought was "Wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole." I hate when my phone rings, and I frantically scramble to pick it up thinking it's a call I actually need, and it's some stranger--or worse yet a tape recording--trying to tell me how to vote. This is so not a way my brain processes political information.

However, people make these calls because some people actually like to get a call from a charming person who wants to discuss an issue in depth. Maybe you're one of them. Maybe you know some of them. Maybe you can connect with others who like to talk on the phone in California.

If so, this call for callers may be for you:

Hillary Rodham Clinton Takes Responsibility

This is such a refreshing change...the most annoying thing about Bill Clinton was the way he blamed everything his administration got wrong on some other person, while blithely, or Blythely, taking credit for everything Alan Greenspan got right. (Greenspan, of course, being the one influential person in this administration who had neither campaigned with nor been appointed by Bill Clinton.)

This new, independent Hillary looks a lot older than the "blonde head of the Billary" was...but she's matured. This web site officially congratulates her on being the first Clinton to perform a class act in many many years.

What Lasers Reveal About Stonehenge

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing this Guardian report on what's been called one of the world's "most threatened" historic sites:

Aspen Health Questionnaire: President's Answers

Karen Bracken shared this link to the Aspen Institute's health care questionnaire, as answered by President Obama:

I sometimes think "PDF" stands for "Pain to Download, Forget about it." If your computer tolerates PDF documents, careful reading is recommended. For instance, female cardiac patients currently tend to have "worse outcomes" than male patients...probably because the basic cardiovascular care program has been relentlessly marketed as a men's health care program. Women are immune to high blood pressure (though not to diabetes) before, most women who aren't diabetic think they have more to fear from breast cancer or from the aging process itself than from cardiovascular disease. And they're wrong. Those of us who are female need to be working out, meditating, and watching our fat and sodium intake just like the men we love. Instead, many of us end up dying from the conditions we (successfully!) help our men control. But you notice how these insiders in the insurance-pharmaceutical-government conspiracy ooze right over this problem of miseducation, or mis-marketing. Women are an "underserved population." Women don't need simply to do what we already know men need to do; women need to be sold more "screenings," and maybe some of those wonderful "preventive" statin drugs that cause diabetes. Bah, humbug.

There is an incredible amount of humbug about almost all our politicians' responses to questions about "health care." Maybe if we demanded that they stop using words in a weaselly way, and make a clear distinction between the health care everyone needs to take for ourselves (without being nagged or bullied into it, because nagging and bullying generate rebellion, see "Prohibition") and the medical insurance system that so badly needs to be reformed...specifically by getting the insurance industry out of the system of paying for poor people's medical care.

Dumbest Criminal, Judge, and Bigotry

From the front page of the Scott County Daily News, October 12-18, 2012 (This newspaper is distributed in Scott County, Virginia, as an "edition" of the Kingsport Daily News from Kingsport, Tennessee):

"In what could the episode on 'World's Dummest Criminals', Gate City police arrested a woman on a felony charge of breaking and entering after she called police to report a burglary."

The wacky story of how a separating couple brought the police into a quarrel about the present ownership of their home is worth reading for a chuckle, but I'd like to call attention to the errors in this lead paragraph:

1. "Could be..."

2. " episode..."

3. The News of the Weird label is "Least Competent Criminals."

4. The word is "dumbest."

5. Considering the probability that charges will be dropped, after these former friends have to go into court and apologize for wasting the police's time, it's hardly accurate to classify this couple as "criminals." Meanwhile, this same edition of the Daily News has failed to follow up on the story of a real criminal, whom Scott County residents will recognize as one of the world's dumbest.

According to Sheriff John Puckett's all-caps report, this would be "TRACY ADAM ROGERS, 34," resident of "DUFFIELD REGIONAL JAIL," to which he was returned last week for "PROBATION VIOLATION (7 COUNTS)."

As reported during the last month, Tracy Rogers was released on probation, to everyone's surprise, after being arrested for parent abuse for the fifth time. Many creditors, landlords, and other residents of Scott County might sympathize with the urge to beat up Tracy's foul-mouthed deadbeat father, but since most of us are not alcoholic jailbirds, we have controlled ourselves. However, in September police found Tracy Rogers beating his 85-pound paraplegic mother (while drunk). This report prompted readers whom I observed to utter comments like, "They'd better send him away for life."

Probation? For the fifth identical charge? What was the judge thinking?

Now, where does "Dumbest Bigotry" come in? Gentle Readers, several Daily News readers have told me I ought to be working for the Daily News. Since it's a low-budget locally-owned paper, I followed up on this suggestion only when the Daily News advertised for technical support--including, but not limited to, proofreading. One of the proprietors of a business that advertises in the Daily News every week called me about this job opening, enthusiastically recommended the proprietors of the paper to me and wanted to recommend me to them with equal enthusiasm, and even offered to drive me to and from the interview.

While living in Washington I acquired more technical support experience than the average Kingsport resident, and the proprietors of the Daily News were definitely interested until they read down to the last quarter of the printed form they'd handed me. Although the job description said nothing about driving, the form contained a few questions about my car. I answered, "Not applicable." I don't own a car. I am a competent driver in an emergency, and will drive only in an emergency. If hired for this job in Kingsport, I said, I would spend the work week in an apartment in Kingsport that a relative was trying to rent out, and walk to work; the distance would be less than a mile. However, the body language of the proprietors could hardly have been clearer--"We don't want to work with anyone so different from us as to consider walking to work."

So as a result they've hired a technical support person who lets lead sentences like that one get through, and has also printed mistyped phone numbers in paid ads and at least one special supplement that averaged five or six errors per page...but at least this person owns a car!

Buy the Nice Ring, Get a Rifle

In Iowa, Harold van Beek offers one free rifle to any legal firearm buyer (no addicts or felons need apply) with the purchase of an engagement ring priced over $1,999. Erica Ritz says the jeweler wants the world to know he's "crazy"...

Rare Phobias

If the link I just posted this morning revulsed you, you might be a victim of lutraphobia (fear of otters). At least the computer shows that you readers aren't troubled by isopterophobia (fear of wood-eating insects). And now I know the correct way to explain my sexual preferences...I don't have genuine gerontophilia (an interest exclusively in older partners) so much as pentherophobia (fear of mothers-in-law). More chuckles at:

Thanks, Liz Klimas.

Meerkats in the Australian National Zoo

The blogger known as Skylark photographed meerkats at the Australian National Zoo. Also otters, wallabies, peacocks, lions, a bear, a Tasmanian Devil, and more...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meet Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR

First, for the completely uninformed: Richard Petty was the first seven-time champion of NASCAR. "The King" was sometimes cast as the calm, gentlemanly competitor against tough, burly Dale Earnhardt and aggressive little Mark Martin. Still later, by the time he retired, the King of NASCAR had gained another distinction: by making a big hat and glasses part of his look, he was widely agreed to look better preserved than his son and competitor Kyle Petty. (There was no question that he was a better racer.)

Now, for NASCAR fans: Would you like to meet the King of NASCAR in person? Get an autograph? Get a souvenir signed? Get a new photo?

If so, you'll want to be at the Food City store in Gray, Tennessee, on Thursday afternoon, 10/25/12.

Inside-track tips: Take a few Benjamins. The photo op. is in aid of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Actual disabled veterans will be present. Bigger donations to the cause, better souvenirs. Able-bodied adults should plan on three-figure donations just to be able to hold your head up in this crowd; two-figure donations are for kids and wheelchair users. Then you know the store's going to run some must-have, stock-up-now-for-the-rest-of-the-year grocery sales...might as well load up a few more race fans and pack a minivan.

This tip didn't come in the e-mail. It came in real mail, and contained a photo showing that your new pictures will still be recognizable. Which means that, with the hat and glasses, Richard Petty still hardly looks old enough to retire (he retired twenty years ago). Even if you're not a race fan, but are just interested in the phenomenon of People Who Appear Immune to the Aging Process, you may want to drive out to Gray.

U.N. Agenda 21: The Book

Gentle Readers, I've borrowed a real-life friend's laptop computer for the day. Reading the e-mail again is great. Trying not to leave e-fingerprints all over his computer, since we're politically and neurologically almost opposite, is a bore. Lots of perfectly simple functions, like copying and pasting this press release so you can see it here, have become temporarily impossible.

Instead of trying to remember to copy and paste it tomorrow, please allow me to share with you this link to the original page. (Aren't links 95% of all we can afford to share with you, anyway? And aren't you still reading this web site? I love you! Blessed be!)

Yes, this link does go specifically to the title U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development in the U.S.A., and yes, it's on my wish list too.

Has Global Warming Stopped?

Some e-friends are circulating this Daily Mail report as if it were conclusive proof that global warming (1) had started and (2) has stopped. If you read the report, it actually reflects a scientific debate about whether either process has lasted long enough to be understood as an absolute fact...

Harmon Kaslow Produces "Atlas Shrugged II"

Click here to read Ed Farnan's interview with the producer of the movie Atlas Shrugged Part II, scheduled for release just before Election 2012:

Time to Defund Sesame Street?

Well, here's that point of agreement with Mitt Romney I requested, thanks to Emily Goff:

"Sesame Street" has been around since I was in primary school. Back then, many educators thought all television was counterproductive to the learning process, and TV programs especially for four- and five-year-olds were bad things...intellectual junkfood.

(I liked "Sesame Street" and watched it whenever my family was in a place where I could watch it; I even enjoyed watching it with kids I baby-sat in high school. Of course, that was when Ernie and Bert were being played as brothers...For kids like me who could already read, "Sesame Street" was still supposedly counterproductive. I don't know. I didn't watch enough TV to damage my eyes.)

By now, it's been shown that "Sesame Street" programming does help four- and five-year-olds, most of whom don't yet see well enough to read, absorb the concepts of reading and phonics. And some other concepts that may need some remedial attention, for some children, like sharing, saying "please," and treating even real weirdos like Oscar and Big Bird as respected members of the community.

So, as our economy declines and our federal budget has to be cut, why does "Sesame Street" need federal funding? Private sponsors know it's been a good show for an incredible forty years. Private sponsors can sponsor infinite reruns if they don't like where the new writers take the show. Why not let a private sponsor pick up "Sesame Street," and cut that item out of the federal budget?