Hume-idity & snow jobs

My friend Richard, in a phone chat Saturday, was complaining about snow, ice and zero temps in Akron, Ohio. I hated to tell him I had my central air running here in South Carolina.

We were talking about the “weather.”

The right-wing and particularly Fox News are trying desperately to convince folks that “global warming” is a tree-hugger hoax.

Fox anchor Brit Hume just can’t get enough of those “it’s snowing, there’s global warming” jokes. On a recent show, he reported that a theater had canceled the showing of Al Gore’s “An Inconventient Truth” due to snow, then reacted to his own joke with a hee, hee and a yuck, yuck.

Hume was talking about the “weather.”

These naysayers neglect to tell their followers and/or audiences that there is a difference between “weather” and “climate.”

The 14 February 2007 edition of the Progress Report, Center for American Progess, explains the two terms:

“To understand why the current cold snap across the United States is occurring during a global warming trend, one must first understand the distinction between climate and weather.

“Climate is the ‘composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.’ LINK In other words, climate refers to recorded history.

“Weather, on the hand, is current events; it refers to the ‘state of the atmosphere at a given time and place.’ LINK Weather is a snapshot of the climate at any one instant. Although the two are related, their relationship is indirect. ‘The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time ... says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.’” LINK

Read the entire Progress Report: “Global Warming: Pouring Cold Water on Skeptics’ Claims:” LINK


In my opintion, the Progress Report is one of the best political newsletters on the Web – informative, well researched and thoroughly documented.

To “Sign Up” for the Pregress Report via email or read online: LINK


Tossed treasure

The Associated Press reports a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card has sold for $2.35 million. See story: LINK

Every time I read one of these “baseball card goes for big bucks” stories, I cringe.

From my earliest recollection up until that fateful day, 8 October 1957, my daddy and I were devoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers. We put the “damn” in “Damn Yankees!”

Every extra nickel I could get my hands on went to the purchase of bubble gum-packaged baseball cards. Throughout the ‘50s, I collected shoeboxes full of these prized pieces of paper – photo on the front, stats on the back.

When I moved into my first apartment, I asked my mother to keep certain items I didn’t have room for, like my junior-senior prom evening gown and my shoeboxed cards. A few years later, I asked for them and learned the gown was handed down to a first cousin and the cards had ended up in the trash. I did not get my pack-rat genes from my mother.

The pain came later as Mickey Mantle cards began to go for thousands of dollars. I must have had them all!

In 1962 I traveled with a friend to California where we stayed in the Palos Verdes home of her aunt and husband, Bill Moon.

One of the highlights of that three-week trip was going to Chavez Ravine to watch Bill’s brother Wally play in a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets.

Los Angeles Dodgers. I should have been excited finally to see a Dodgers game, but the thrill was gone. It left on that fateful October day when O’Malley announced the Dodgers were leaving Brooklyn.

That night I did get within spittin’ distance of the legendary Casey Stengel, manager of the Mets, and former manager of the Yankees during all those seasons when his team beat the Dodgers.

To my credit, I didn’t spit.


In one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, letter writer Helene Hanff, in 1955, wrote London book dealer Frank Doel:

“I shall be obliged if you will send Nora and the girls to church every Sunday for the next month to pray for the continued health and strength of the messrs. gilliam, reese, snider, campanella, robinson, hodges, furillo, podres, newcombe and labine, collectively known as The Brooklyn Dodgers. If they lose this World Series I shall Do Myself In and then where will you be?”

If you have not experienced this beautiful book of letters – a 20-year correspondence between New Yorker Hanff and a London bookstore staff - or the movie starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, do yourself a favor and get them from amazon.com or half.com. The book is always in print and available at your local bookstore.


Hooray for Hollywood!

I am a lifelong devourer of movies with more than 2,000 titles, collected since 1985, in my home film library.

My tastes range from my all-time favorite, David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago,” to Tod Browning’s chilling “Freaks,” from Rosalind Russell’s tour de force “Auntie Mame” to Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving tribute to the movies, “Cinema Paradiso.”

I know movies. I know what makes a film great. Naturally, my big TV night of the year is the Academy Awards.

The highlight of last night’s ceremony, for me, was Martin Scorsese’s “best director” win - after seven nominations.

I am livid over the right-wing’s attempt to demonize all things Hollywood and recall the rabidly religious’ attempt to bury one of the greatest stories ever put to film.

That movie was directed by Scorsese and, in the late critic Gene Siskel’s words, was “one of the 10 greatest films ever made.”

“The Last Temptation of Christ,” Scorsese’s film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, had everything that makes a film great – direction, acting, editing, cinematography, screenplay, costume design, special effects and even a hauntingly beautiful musical score by Peter Gabriel.

Yet, few people actually saw this masterpiece.

The film was boycotted by the Religius Right with Jerry Falwell on Oprah telling his followers not to bother with watching it, because he had decided they shouldn’t.

Word went down from the RR leaders to local preachers, who passed it along to their congregations, that the movie was an evil attack on their faith and must be boycotted.

Even Blockbuster, one of the nation’s largest video rental chains, blackballed it.

A memory: while riding along the main drag here and stopping for a red light in front of Pic-A-Flick, the only rental store offering the film, I rolled down the window and asked a female protestor, “What is wrong with this movie?” “They made Jesus a homosexual” was her reply. Having secured and seen the movie for myself, I concluded she had not seen it and could only be referring to the scene where “the Judas kiss” fell on Jesus’ lips. Everything about this brief conversation summed up the mentality of a nationwide movement of persons who did not bother to see Scorsese’s film and judge it for themselves.

That is the power of the right.

Scorsse and Kazantzakis told a “what if” story – what if Jesus had abandoned his mission, come down from the cross and led a normal life - man’s pursuit of happiness and contentment?

That he did not, that he made the ultimate sacrifice was the powerful message of this film’s closing moments and was for me, a Christian, one of the greatest sermons I’d ever experienced.

At the time of its release, I remember the words of a movie critic (although I don’t recall his name):

“Scorsese has sparked more spiritual thinking with this film than he could have by going into the priesthood.”

That is the genius of a great director and the spark the right-wing wants to snuff out.
Congratulations to Martin Scorses on his win and on a body of work that has, undeniably, contributed to our entertainment.


False face of security

Didn’t William Shakespeare always say it best?

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” – Macbeth

The Bush administration has always claimed its long suit is protecting Americans from domestic terrorist attacks.

What would you think if you knew the data these claims have been based on has been grossly inflated, according to the administration’s own Department of Justice?

I post here, verbatim, an excerpt from the transcript of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” MSNBC, Wednesday, 21 February 2007:

KEITH OLBERMANN, host: A new report shows that the Bush administration has been using inflated statistics about its antiterror activity to pat itself on the back, to justify the erosion of civil liberties, and to argue for additional spending of your tax dollars.

In our fourth story tonight, said report comes not from the left nor even from the Democrats, but from the Inspector General‘s office of the Bush Justice Department, which tells us the administration‘s terror statistics includes such crimes as drug trafficking, immigration violations, and that scourge of free societies everywhere, marriage fraud.

On the FBI, specifically, the report concludes, quote:

“The FBI significantly overstated the number of terrorism-related convictions during fiscal year 2004, because the FBI initially coded the investigative cases as ‘terrorism-related’ when the cases were opened, but did not recode cases when no link to terrorism was established.”-

In other words, the report says, any crime that was originally suspected as terrorism, or was just investigated by an antiterrorism unit, ended up as a terrorism statistic, which, in turn, was used by lawmakers to help shape our national policies.

Let‘s turn to a veteran of the Justice Department, attorney David Boies, perhaps best known for prosecuting the Microsoft antitrust case and for representing the 2000 Gore campaign in the Supreme Court.

Mr. Boies, a great pleasure to have you with us tonight.


OLBERMANN: The first question seems obvious, but, specifically, how does the president benefit by getting these numbers wrong?

BOIES: Well, I think in two ways. First, it escalates the fear of terrorism. And, certainly, the concern about terrorism. And, domestic terrorism, in particular, has been an important aspect of this administration‘s policy. So that, I think, by increasing the apparent terrorist threat, that, sir, is a political advantage.

Second, I think by overstating the number of terrorism convictions, it helps the administration make the case that it‘s being tough on terrorism; that it‘s being successful in prosecuting terrorism. And, I think that we know from these statistics that both of those claims are somewhat overexaggerated.

OLBERMANN: Which should terrify us more, that this is intentional, or that this is incompetent, in terms of the botching of these numbers?

BOIES: Well, obviously, both are disturbing. I think if you believe that it was intentional, that is probably more disturbing than believing that they simply got it wrong.

I think one of the things we ought to point out is that this was uncovered, this was brought to people‘s attention, by the Justice Department itself. Now, it did so after there were already some news stories that suggested that these statistics were overstated. But, I think the Inspector General‘s office of the Justice Department deserves credit for what they did.

OLBERMANN: On the other hand, even giving them that credit, the inspector general also says when he—his auditors went back to the Department of Justice to get more accurate numbers, they were still getting bad data. And, this is not even the first report that identified these problems. You worked there. How is it that this vital agency, five years after 9/11, can‘t give Congress or the public accurate numbers about its biggest priority on even the second try?

BOIES: It‘s hard to understand. One of the things that‘s gotten a lot of press attention is the inspector general saying that 24 out of 26 of the statistics that they examined were inaccurate. What hasn‘t gotten so much attention is that there were really 196 statistics that were looked at, and the vast majority of those, the Inspector General‘s office concluded, they really couldn‘t evaluate, in part because they had already tried and failed to correct those in the past.

OLBERMANN: So, this is the raw data that the nation is supposed to be using to formulate strategy for fighting terror at home? And, I‘m asking this as if Iraq never happened. But, what are the risks of going forward using bad data?

BOIES: Well, the risks are, we‘re going to make mistakes. We‘re going to put resources where they don‘t belong. We‘re not going to put enough resources where they do belong. We‘re going to scare the public. We‘re going to make the public believe that terrorism, domestic terrorism, is more of an immediate threat than it is.

We‘re going to overstate the extent to which we are being successful in the drive against terrorism. Maybe that will lead people to relax too much, maybe it will lead people not to put enough resources on terrorism.

When you have bad data, you can‘t make good decisions. And, the thing that‘s most disturbing about this, whether it‘s just an honest mistake or an intentional inflation, is that we now know that we‘ve had bad data, bad data for the public, bad data for public decision-makers.

OLBERMANN: Of course, no government would ever deliberately scare the public.

Attorney David Boies, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.



'Crossing the Bar'

I have been watching a train wreck and its name is Larry Seidlin.

After a blog post and a lot of mutterings under my breath about the insanity of cable news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, I confess I watched the hearing to determine possession of her rapidly decomposing remains.

Larry Seidlin is the Broward County, Fla., judge – the ringmaster of this circus – who made that determination.

When one attorney used that term, calling the proceedings “a circus,” the judge went ballistic. But, circus it was, complete with video of Anna Nicole in clown makeup.

It’s not every day you see an attorney falling out of a chair, the people around him saying he passed out, he explaining he tripped, and the judge, determining he’s diabetic, yelling, “Here’s my credit card. Go get him some orange juice.”

A news junkie like me would have been hard-pressed to find anything else on cable with Fox News and MSNBC covering the hearing almost continuously, and CNN taking a break occasionally to slip in some real news.

I did have the presence of mind to switch to Court TV coverage, thereby avoiding the daily dose of dirt on Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.

It’s a given: cable news is going to hell in a handbasket, and as painful as that is for a journalist, I could not tear myself away from the freak show. Thank goodness, for Internet news!

Having a degree in political science (in addition to journalism) and more than a few law courses behind me, I confess the fascination was a courtroom situation run amok – counter to anything I’ve ever learned about law.

But, hey, I had a similar reaction to a Supreme Court decision in the year 2000! Well, me, and a whole host of legal lights.

Don’t know if any readers watched this surreal sideshow, but I believe all witnesses and attorneys who suffered Seidlin’s labyrinth of lunacy should be put on “suicide watch.”

Larry Seidlin is mad, and there’s not even method in his madness, not to mention legal decorum.

Which, of course, makes him eligible for his own TV show.


The paternity hearing to determine the daddy of little Danilynn – the billion-dollar baby - begins today. DNA should make this one a no-brainer, which pretty much sums up the last one.


Women in tennis have scored net gain!

From the “Progress Report,” Center for American Progress, 22 February 2007:
“After years of holding out against equal prize money, Wimbledon bowed to public pressure Thursday and agreed to pay women players as much as the men at the world's most prestigious tennis tournament."


The token coalition

First, this post is not intended to diminish the contributions of the Coalition, which has aided our troops in the Iraq war effort and sacrificed lives.

Sources for all information are linked at the bottom of this post.

In 2003, 50 nations joined what the Bush administration dubbed “The Coalition of the Willing.” Other nations joined later.

Perhaps as telling were the countries of the so-called “Coalition of the Unwilling.”

There have been suggestions that the United States “bribed” Coalition members with incentives and concessions, but I will leave that to your own research.

The current status of the nations of the Coalition, with the remaining 23 nations marked with an asterisk (*):

United States of America*

United Kingdom* – 7,100 troops in southern Iraq. Prime Minister Tony Blair announced withdrawal of 1,600.

Spain – withdrawn

Portugal – withdrawn

Denmark* – 460 troops patrolling Basra, will leave in August

Netherlands* - 15 soldiers training Iraqis at part of NATO mission – no plans to leave

Iceland – withdrew

Italy – withdrew

Estonia* – 35 troops under U.S. command in Baghdad

Latvia* - 125 troops under Polish command

Lithuania* – 53 troops in a Danish battalion near Basra - considering an August pullout

Poland* - 900 non-combatant troops – mission extended to end of 2007

Czech Republic* – 99 troops

Slovakia – withdrew

Hungary – withdrew

Albania* – 120 non-combatant troops – no plans to withdraw

Macedonia* - 40 troops in Taji, north of Baghdad

Romania* - 900 troops serving in the south under British command – Romanian PM wants them withdrawn

Bulgaria* – 155 troops, most guarding refugee camps

Turkey – withdrew

Croatia – withdrew

Slovenia* - Four instructors training Iraqi security

Ukraine – withdrew

Japan – withdrew

South Korea* - 2,300 troops in northern Iraq – 1,100 to leave in April – parliament insisting on complete withdrawal by the end of 2007

Singapore – withdrew

Philippines – withdrew

Afghanistan – withdrew

Azerbaijan* – 150 troops serving as sentries – no plans to leave

Uzbekistan – withdrew

Georgia* - 900 combat troops under U.S. command – no plans to withdraw

Marshall Islands – withdrew

Micronesia – withdrew

Solomon Islands – withdrew

Mongolia* - 160 troops – no plans to leave

Palau – withdrew

Tonga – withdrew

El Salvador* – 380 soldiers doing peacekeeping duty in southern city of Kut – no plans to leave

Colombia – withdrew

Nicaragua – withdrew

Costa Rica – withdrew

Dominican Republic – withdrew

Honduras – withdrew

Australia* – 550 troops training Iraqis – no plans to leave

Kuwait – withdrew, but still a supply conduit

Eritrea – withdrew

Ethiopia – withdrew

Uganda – withdrew

Rwanda – withdrew

Angola – withdrew

Joined in 2004:

Norway – withdrew

Moldava* - 11 “sappers,” bomb-defusing experts, returned home at end of January 2007 – still listed as coalition member

Kazakhstan* – 27 military engineers – no plans to withdraw

Thailand – withdrew

New Zealand – withdrew

Joined later:

Armenia* – 46 non-combatant troops – mission extended to end of 2007

Bosnia-Herzegovina* – 36 troops, mostly officers

Percentages of troops in Iraq:

United States – 91 percent
Great Britain – 5 percent
All other Coalition members – 4 percent

As of today, troop deaths since beginning of war:

In 1,435 days, U.S. deaths are 3,150; Great Britain, 132; and other Coalition members, 124 – for a total of 3406 deaths.

Non-mortal U.S. combat injuries – air transport required: 23,417

Total U.S. troops air transported including combat injuries, non-hostile injuries and diseases: 32.544

The Pentagon has stopped publicly listing the countries of the Coalition and troop levels.

Links to sources:

A comprehensive look at 2003-2004 Coalition members by an author who professes “objectivity” while claiming to refute the spin of the “anti-American left.” Worth examing. LINK

Associated Press looks at the current status of the 22 remaining Coalition members (other than the U.S.): LINK

The place to go on the Web for a comprehensive look at all Iraq war deaths and injuries. Scan the entire page! LINK

Excellent article by the Associated Press' Tom Raum, 21 February 2007. LINK


Night before we locked our doors

This column originally appeared in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail, 3 August 1987:

The night before we started locking our doors

By B. J. Trotter

When I was a kid I slept by an open, screenless window to breathe cool night air and allow my German shepherd “Jack Dog” entry to my room.

That was in a safer time, remember, when folks never shut their windows or locked their doors.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint the day my parents decided to start locking the doors to our house. It all started during the night before with a “half nelson,” and to this day the incident brings riotous laughter at family gatherings.

Around 3 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1953, my parents and I awoke to the screams of my kid brother Isaac, then an 8-year-old, “Somebody’s sleeping in my bed!”

He had awakened to find, snoring by his side, a lady wrestler, bleached blonde and clothed in a tiger-skin costume complete with tight-laced black boots.

My daddy approached this oversized Goldilocks cautiously. After some gentle and certainly gentlemanly prodding, he roused the lady – all 250 pounds of her. Had we known her strength, we probably would have let her be and checked into a Holiday Inn.

With a war whoop, Goldilocks was out of the bed and plastering my daddy to the floor with a painful hammerlock.

My kid brother and Jack Dog sniffled in the corner as Daddy struggled to get free. As my mother ran to call the police, I watched in fascination. This was much better stuff than the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports.”

As the lady switched to a half nelson, the faint sound of sirens caught her ear. She freed my daddy, rose with another war whoop, grabbed the chenille bedspread and fled through our open door into the night.

Two policemen came to call that night, and their family gatherings probably are filled with laughter, also, as they recall the scene.

After a dozen or so “Let’s get this straights” and some apprehensive glances into the night, two of the city’s “finest” tiptoed to their squad car to radio for backup.

It seemed Goldilocks, herself a little smashed, smashed her car into a nearby telephone pole and, seeking warmth from the January cold, took our open door up on its welcome.

That night has been recalled many times.

The lady wrestler finally was ferreted out of a neighborhood washeteria by five brave policemen who found her sleeping blissfully and harmlessly in the warmth of a dryer.

My daddy who was blind but never handicapped liked to tell his own version of “The Lady or the Tiger,” saying he thought he was wrestling something just escaped from the nearby zoo.

My brother has taken some bawdy ribbing through the years about his blonde bed partner.

My mother swears she picked up some pointers that night that served her well in the remaining years of her 61-year marriage.

Jack Dog? Well, Jack Dog died after years of trying to live down the night he failed Guard Dog 101.

As for myself, I throw the deadbolts and yearn for those days of unrestricted early morning breezes when “B & E” had nothing to do with a police report and meant something good my mother was cooking up for breakfast.

Mother, Daddy and Jack Dog have gone to that great open door in the sky. My brother Isaac is 62, and when I published a family newsletter to commemorate the year 2000, he insisted this family story be included.


'The good times'

“Laissez les bon temps roulet!” Down in Louisiana’s Cajun country that means “Let the good times roll!”

In the last few days I’ve thought a lot about post-Katrina New Orleans and the good times I’ve had in The Big Easy:

* I spent many Mardi Gras seasons walking with friends in the streets of the French Quarter and people-watching on Bourbon Street.

* My older sister and I viewed a St. Paddy’s Day parade, had Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, then ran through the back streets to Canal where we saw Yul Brynner in “The King and I,” live onstage at the Saenger Theater.

* I stood eight hours in line in 30-degree temps so my two little boys could experience King Tut’s treasures at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. My son Ladd, later an art major, saw the Rameses II exhibit in Memphis and remarked, “Mom, it just wasn’t the King Tut exhibit.” Lagniappe!

* Representing the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus newspaper, The Student Printz, I was the ONLY reporter granted interviews at the New Orleans office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service on the first day of the Iranian hostage crisis. I had made the appointment three weeks in advance and insisted they honor it. President Jimmy Carter had ordered an accounting of all Iranian college students, and INS officials were asking ME about the number of such students at USM!

* In 1987, I got to march in a Mardi Gras parade, accompanying my former husband’s high school band. A New Orleans cop danced to the music as our Crescent High School band played “The Kicker.” That cop became a symbol for me – and a bunch of South Carolina kids - of the spirit of the Crescent City!

* One precious memory is my older son Michael, then age four, whining his way down Bourbon Street, demanding, “I wanna see a naked lady.”

* Ah, the food. The beignets and steaming coffee at the CafĂ© Du Monde. Bread pudding with rum sauce at The Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. Po-boys at Bourbon Street cafes. And, galvanized washtubs of iced-down beer at The Drunkatorium!

* The music! Listening to Pete Fountain playing his clarinet as he sat on the bar at the Bateau Lounge. Dixieland, jazz and Zydeco! And, an impromptu solo by an elderly and surprisingly gifted tenor at a little place whose name in Spanish means “The House of the Sea.” And, I can’t forget the whole place breaking into “Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl” when a patron entered in full Mardi Gras regalia, looking very much a grand duke!

* Showing my friends William and Mary the Quarter and having William, from Costa Rica, proclaim with a note of homesickness that the sidewalks and grillwork “look just like home.” And, I remember my faithful friend Mary lighting a candle in silent prayer at St. Louis Cathedral.

* After moving to South Carolina, 700 miles away, getting the yearly Mardi Gras package of beads, doubloons and plastic cups from my sister Martha and late brother-in-law Tony, then a member of the Krewe of Bacchus.

Wondering if one of my favorites places will ever be the same. Wondering if the neighborhoods which seasoned the gumbo will come back.

Click “Comment” below to share your New Orleans memories.


'You can never grow old'

My buddy Chris is a “special” young man and was here for a long weekend. On Sunday morning, Howard Kurtz (CNN’s “Reliable Sources”) was listing some stories buried by cable news’ overkill coverage of Anna Nicole Smith.

Kurtz mentioned a “peanut butter recall.”

BJ: “Chris, I wonder what brand of peanut butter?”

Chris: “Why don’t you go online and find out?”

BJ: “Good idea.”

Chris and I then went to the pantry and pulled out a 40-ounce jar of Peter Pan creamy which we had pretty much polished off over the past month.

ConAgra had recalled Peter Pan peanut butter with lids bearing a lot number starting with “2111.” The lot had caused an outbreak of salmonella poisoning, affecting some 300 persons in 39 states.

BJ: “Chris, do you see any numbers on the yellow lid?”

Chris: “Yes.”

BJ: “Can you read them to me?”

Chris: “2-1-1-1-6-2-8-2-0-0-1-8-4-8-8.”

Chris and I had consumed 40 ounces of the glorious golden goo – “Lot 2111” - and were none the worse for having done so.

I cannot shake the feeling that the two of us might have ended up in the hospital with only my cooking to blame.

Peter Pan is my brand, and I wouldn’t change, but this does give a whole new meaning to “You can never, never grow old.”

'Blood and treasure'

During the last week many words about the war in Iraq – pro and con – have been spoken in the chambers of the U. S. Capitol.

In my opinion, none were as reasonable or as eloquently spoken as the five-minute speech given by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California).

Lantos is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and one of three authors of the House non-binding resolution on troop escalation in Iraq.

He rose on the House floor, his crown of white hair catching the light and, in his beautifully lilting accent, spoke truth about the war that no opponent could deny.

You can read Lantos’ speech on his official Web site (LINK) or by clicking on the TITLE of this post.


The double dog dare

When I was a kid, you just about had to take a “double dog dare” to save face.

This was innocent enough - “I double dog dare you to pick up that garter snake” – but a challenge nonetheless, a gauntlet thrown down.

The double dog dare has resurfaced as Republicans and right-wing pundits are out in force:

· daring Hillary Clinton to take back her vote on the Iraq war, so they can then attack her with the same “flip-flopper” label that worked so well against John Kerry.
· daring Democrats to cut off funding for our troops, so they can then castigate them for doing so.

Do these bozos think every cable TV news viewer is inherently stupid?

Could it have been more transparent that they ripped their “talking points memo” from the printer and swarmed the news shows as soon as the U.S. House approved the non-binding resolution condemning escalation of the Iraq war?

They’re like those little talking dolls, pull the string and you hear, “Democrats hate our troops.” Pull again and it’s “Liberals want us to lose in Iraq, because they hate Bush.”

And on and on: “This vote is designed to destroy the morale of our military.” “This is nothing more than a political tactic to undermine our commander-in-chief.” “Poll numbers don’t mean anything.” “This is an effort to micromanage the war.” Ad nauseam.

“Give war a chance,” indeed.

And, my favorite line came during the House resolution debate, most of which I watched on C-SPAN. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio passionately and tearfully exclaimed, “We didn’t start this war, they did.” They? In context, he clearly meant al Qaeda, once more tying 9/11 to Iraq. .

It’s time for the president and all his devotees in politics and punditry to tell the American people just exactly what is meant by “victory” in Iraq and why the lifeblood of our men and women – 3,133 to date - need be spent in its pursuit.

We double dog dare you.


Yearning for Mr. Smith

Email this morning to the office of Senator Lindsey O. Graham, R-South Carolina:

I am an American and despite the hurdles found in Senator Graham’s statements at the top of his Web site today, I still have the right to express my opinion on the willingness or unwillingness of U.S. senators to intervene in an Iraq policy that has gone so egregiously wrong “victory” is impossible to define.

I read Senator Graham’s statements. Any reasonable input I might have on the issue of the Iraq war is blocked by his statement, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the House resolution dies an inglorious death in the Senate.”

Graham is not interested in my opinion on the Iraq war.

I will single out his claim that Democrats are pandering to the anti-war left and take issue with that.

I am a 65-year-old retired newspaper editor who from earliest recollection has loved her country.

I was born five months after Pearl Harbor. During WWII, while I was experiencing the joys of childhood safe in my parents’ care, my older brother was in the United States Navy, stateside, training pilots and requesting to be sent into combat. One brother-in-law served in combat aboard the aircraft carriers the Hornet and the Wasp and on the destroyer O’Hare. Another brother-in-law was a paratrooper in the Rainbow Division, 101st Airborne, and lost an eye when shot with a wooden bullet by a German as those brave Americans pushed into Germany on the Western Front just prior to the fall of Adolph Hitler.

I grew up with pride in the military. I am not anti-war. I am anti-this misbegotten war in Iraq.

Why do Graham and other Republicans continue to couch this war as part of “the war on terror” and attempt to link this failed effort to 9/11?

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, in debate on the floor of that body, said, “We didn’t start this war; they did.” They? Clearly, he meant al Qaeda, once more linking, erroneously, 9/11 and Iraq.

I have been impressed with Lindsey Graham’s willingness to work across the aisle on certain issues and had hopes he might have the makings of a great American leader.

In this the greatest issue before Graham in his tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has shown himself to be merely a follower.

I support any resolution that will bring our troops safely home and leave the business of government in Iraq to Iraqis. If blood is shed there, let it no longer be that of this country’s young men and women.


Ms. B.J. Trotter


A snail mail went out last week to my congressman, J. Gresham Barrett, and a similar email this morning to lesser light Senator Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, none of whom are remotely interested in Democratic constituents.

Talk about taxation without representation.


Put a lid on it!

One of the advantages of being online when you’re visually impaired and can’t run out and shop at will is finding what you need and having it delivered, sometimes next day, to your front door.

Here’s the rub:

Sometimes the particular item you’re looking for has too much photo and not enough description.

I am looking for a SERIOUS pot for cooking a big batch of my homemade soup – tomatoes, veggies, potatoes and lots of beef stew meat!

For most of the country this morning, it’s soup time! Nothing better on a cold day!

This morning I emailed the only person in the world I would dare ask – my reporter friend Bill, who happens to have a little leisure time while recuperating from surgery at home – to look at various online photos of assorted Dutch ovens, soup pots and stock pots with the simple request to tell me if they have lids on them.

Bill rarely lets me down when I yell for help, with such requests often prefaced by, “Your mission, Mr. Phelps … “

Help is needed because, well, one is supposed to ascertain whether the pots have lids from photos, when descriptions are not available, and some folks can’t see photos.

Like “Seinfeld,” this is a post about nothing. Except, my usual complaint: “There are no wheelchair ramps for the visually impaired!”
At least not while you’re out and about or shopping online.



What exactly has the United States offered North Korea as an “incentive” in the current nuclear disarmament agreement?

My friend Frodo, over at his “Frodo, Keeper of the Ring” blog got the scoop!

Take a look: LINK


Those damn liberals!

A Day in the Life of Joe Conservative
by Anonymous

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffee pot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it, too.

He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state-funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the taxpayer-funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have." Source: LINK.


Joe sleeps soundly at night. He expects his government to protect him, but be damned if those far-left, bleeding-heart liberals are going to raise his taxes!

Joe probably doesn’t know that the Bush administration and rubber-stamp Republican Congress have worked very hard over the last six years to overturn many of the benefits he enjoys every day.

That radio (or TV) host keeps his mind occupied with those ever-present red herrings: “God, guns and gays” and “the liberal media elite.” BJ


'I'll provide the war'

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, in his own words:

On 2 February, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, panelist Rupert Murdoch was asked if News Corp, owner of Fox News, had managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq.

Murdoch replied, “No, I don't think so. We tried.”

Asked for further comment, he said: “We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East … but we have been very critical of his execution.”


“We tried” to shape the agenda on the march to war in Iraq? Fox News “very critical” of Bush’s execution of that war?

You decide.

I'll provide the cheerleaders

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, in his own words:

The Associated Press reported that in a discussion with Business Week’s editor-in-chief, Steve Adler, on 8 February, Rupert Murdoch said that the business news channel his media conglomerate plans to launch this fall will be more "business-friendly" than its rival CNBC.

Murdoch said the new Fox business channel - Fox Biz - would be friendlier to the business world than CNBC, whose parent company is GE’s NBC Universal.

"They leap on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal," Murdoch said.


“Leap” on business scandals? Report on CEOs turned crooks? Go after consumer ripoffs? Maybe talk about Halliburton’s use of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Iraq? Point out industrial rape of our environment? The audacity!

Expect more cheerleading from News Corp and those “fair, balanced and unafraid” Fox folks.

Significance of quotes

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s vast media conglomerate, News Corporation, or News Corp, disseminates information and has the capacity to control the groupthink of 4.5 billion people within his company’s reach worldwide. 4.5 billion people!

He openly admits his Fox News channel attempted to influence U.S. policy on Iraq?

He openly states he will rally ‘round big business - and the little guy be damned?

The significance of this lies in Murdoch’s vast media holdings, all of which have the power to influence the way people think.

Back in 1789, this was not what John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, old Ben Franklin et al had in mind when insisting on protection of the press. They could never have envisioned Murdoch’s vast empire.

Scanning the complete, up-to-date list of Rupert Murdoch’s media holdings is at once overwhelming, shocking and, yes, frightening. Click on the TITLE of this post to see for yourself this man’s capacity to influence thought - worldwide.


They sang!

When The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines criticized Bush’s Iraq policy at a London concert, the right-wing went nuts with radio stations, owned by right-wing suits, boycotting their records.

At some point, a mentality emerged in this country that Americans are not allowed to criticize their government – a conclusion that flies in the face of the Constitution of the United States.

Laura Ingraham, right-wing commentator and talk show host, capitalized on the boycott against The Dixie Chicks by making the TV rounds hawking her book, “Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. Are Subverting America.”

The Dixie Chicks documentary on the whole affair played off Ingraham’s admonition with the title, “Shut Up and Sing.”

Ingraham, whose books apparently appeal to the same folks who read Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, received the following review of that book from Publishers Weekly, the bible of the publishing industry (LINK):

“To the author of this vociferous but ill-supported right-wing screed, membership in the elite is not an objective position of wealth, power or influence. It is, instead, a ‘general outlook’- one, Ingraham says, that sneers at religion, morality, patriotism, President Bush, guns, suburbs, SUVs, tax cuts and everything else that ‘We the People’ hold dear.

“Ingraham goes on to apply anti-elitist invective with a broad brush. Most abused of these ‘elites’ are anti-war protesters (‘moral morons’), academics (‘snotty, sanctimonious dolts’), secularists (‘recoil like vampires at the sight of a cross’), internationalists (‘want to murder America’), the French (‘perfidious’) and entertainers (‘shut up and sing’). …

“Her anti-elitism boils down to haphazard political bias: Hollywood liberals like Susan Sarandon are in the elite, while Hollywood conservatives like Arnold Schwarzenegger aren't; more murkily, while the Democratic Party is the elite's ‘natural home,’ lefty Ralph Nader is not in the elite and Republican stalwart John McCain is.

“Ingraham's tone of class resentment (‘they think we're stupid’ is a refrain) relies on the old demagogue's trick of conflating disagreement with her brand of conservative, nativist populism with snobbish contempt for the silent majority.

“Ingraham (‘The Hillary Trap’) has legions of fans, but as she consigns more and more people - Democrats, moderate Republicans, libertarians, pro-choicers - to the ‘elite’ camp, the voice of this self-identified everywoman starts to sound rather lonely.”

On the other hand …

They sang! They sang on an album named “Taking the Long Way.” They sang an in-your-face single, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” And, The Dixie Chicks won five Grammys last night, including the top three awards, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year – the first to do so since Eric Clapton swept the top honors in 1993.

They sang, and America listened!


Hot, but not my type

When doing a Google search, I ran across the name of an old acquaintance, ETAOIN SHRDLU.

This nonsense phrase, pronounced “et tuh wayne shurd loo,” represents, in order, the letters occurring most frequesntly in the English language.

In days not too long past, the phrase – the bane of writers and delight of readers - often appeared in the middle of newspaper articles. Here’s why:

During the era of newspaper linotype machines, lines of “hot type” composed of tiny metal letters were generated by the linotype machine and dumped into a box at its side. These lines of type were then arranged in a tray to form a newspaper page, the job of the “compositor.”

The letters ETAOIN SHRDLU were arranged vertically at the left of the linotype keyboard. When the linotype operator made a typo, the only way to correct it was to dump a line of ETAOIN SHRDLU into the box, then clear the line with the typo or error.

Catching the bogus line was the proofreader’s job, and often the compositor nabbed the intruder, but sometimes the line would show up in a newspaper article.

I first met ETAOIN SHRDLU while writing for the Lawrence County (Miss.) Press in the late 60s.

This pesky intruder happened often enough and became so familiar to readers that ETAOIN SHRDLU is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary!

An entertaining history of the phrase can be found on Wikipedia, tracing ETAOIN SHRDLU’s appearance as characters in numerous works of fiction, non-fiction, plays, poems, music and even on the comics page as the bookworm in Walt Kelly’s great satirical comic strip, “Pogo.”

According to Wikipedia:

“It also became part of the lore of newspapers. A documentary about the last issue of The New York Times to be composed in the hot-metal printing process (2 July 1978) was titled ‘Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu.’”

Read the Wikipedia article: LINK


News blackout

Here are some of the significant news stories you missed on cable news while CNN, MSNBC and Fox News ran almost round-the-clock speculative coverage of so-called “popular icon” Anna Nicole Smith’s death:

  • Final prosecution witness, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, testifies in “Scooter” Libby trial. Trial testimony shows White House in “near panic” over Joe Wilson op-ed piece and subsequent media coverage.
  • Department of Homeeland Security: New York to be ringed by nuke detectors by the end of the year. Approximate cost: at least $46 million.
  • U.S. senators debate findings of the classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on pre-Iraq war intelligence.
  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate and author Elie Wiesel, 78, was dragged from an elevator and roughed up by a Holocaust denier at a peace conference in San Francisco on 1 February, according to a police report released Friday.
  • Harvard poised to name first female president.
  • FDA approves device to save soldiers’ limbs.
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the main envoy to meetings in North Korea, said agreement has been made on “broad points” of a nuclear disarmament pact.
  • Violence breaks out between Islamic worshipers and 200 Israeli police as anger grew over Israeli renovation near the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. The renovation on a ramp is near both the Jewish holy site Temple Mount and the mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
  • U.S. strike kills five Kurdish troops.
  • U.N. halts aid to curb Iran's nuclear project.
  • Sir Richard Branson announced a $25-million (US) prize yesterday for the scientist who comes up with a way to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • For six months, the two main Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah, had sought an agreement to end the inter-factional bloodshed on the streets. On Thursday, as a Palesinian newspaper headline put it, “They Agreed!”

Express your opinion about the Anna Nicole Smith coverage:

Email CNN on its Web form here: LINK

Email MSNBC at newsservices@msnbc.com

Call Fox News toll-free at 1-888-369-4762 or use email Web form here: LINK


TGIF: alphabet soup

On a “Google” search, this entry turned up: “CBS News Public Eye Etaoin Shrdlu.”

Now, that’s a blast from a journalist’s past!

“ETAOIN SHRDLU,” pronounced “et tuh wayne shurd loo.” OK, kiddies, have some fun! Do a little research and comment on your findings. The best comment wins a year on a small Pacific island away from cable news and goings-on in Washinton. And, reporter Bill, you can’t play! Click on “Comments” below, then read comments by clicking on titles.


Name recognition

I like Rudy Guliani, but I won’t vote for him for president as I already have my eye on the winner! I’ll share this: my kid brother Isaac and I once had two pets who won the grand prize ribbon in a citywide pet show in Jackson, Mississippi. Our little bantam rooster and hen were preened and polished and could jump through hoops. Their names were “Rudy” and “Judy,” and I am amused that if Guiliani wins, the new first couple will have the same monikers!

Pilot episode: high comedy?

The jokes are flying about the female astronaut now making headlines. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post called her an “astronut.” PUNdits are dropping zingers left and right: “The 10,000-Mile-High Club,” and “How can an astronaut not be considered a flight risk?” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, on Imus this morning, dubbed this “Lust in Space,” but my friend Bill, in a comment here yesterday, said it first. Lisa Nowak. I’m not even going there!

Nothing like good ole “gore and gallows” humor when a situation is as bizarre as this, so share yours by clicking on “Comment” below. You don’t have to be a registered visitor to join the fun; just initial your comment and click on “anonymous.” Read comments by clicking on post titles.

The plane truth

If Jay Leno, in his man on the street interviews, asked, “Who is next in the ‘line of succession’ for the presidency – after the vice president?”, I would bet 10 out of 10 wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve got a burr under my saddle over the right-wing indignation that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is getting a secure plane for flights to California. Calling the plane “The Flying Lincoln Bedroom” and “Pelosi One” stirs the ire of the uneducated. Mrs. Pelosi, in her new position, is second in line for the presidency after Dick Cheney, and the plane is provided for security to protect our “continuity of government.” Pelosi has been provided the plane by the Sergeant-of-Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives, and that’s SOP! All this strengthens my argument that every high school student in this country should be required to take a course in how our government works! I did. “Government and Economics,” taught by "Big John" O'Leary, tenth grade.


Shire delight!

My friend “Frodo” over in the next shire has a very entertaining blog. The Gentleman of the Old School will entertain you with song lyrics, political satire, a vast knowledge of popular culture and an occasional romp with his two dogs. His Monday, February 5 entry, “Kiss me once and kiss me twice, it’s been a long, long time” takes a refreshing look at the most prominent Republican presidential hopefuls. You’re sure to enjoy this one: BLOG LINK

'... at the end of my ride'

Heard in the wee, small hours that one of my all-time favorite singers, Frankie Laine, has died at age 93. Most of you younger readers might not know Laine, unless you’ve heard these memorable lyrics from the old TV series “Rawhide:”

“Rain and wind and weather,
Hell-bent for leather.
Wishin' my gal was by my side.
All the things I'm missin',
Good vittles, love, and kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride.”

My favorite Frankie Laine album is Torchin’ and nobody could sing a torch song better.

Saddle up, Frankie, those “Ghost Riders in the Sky” are waiting.

Conspiracies, plots and paranoia

My friend Bill sent this British Broadcasting Company (BBC) examination of the rise in conspiracy theories. Without having first read the article, I would have bet the farm this rise has something to do with the Internet, right? Turns out that’s true, but there are other reasons for their spread.

Writer Peter Knight is senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester and has written a number of books about the phenomenon of conspiracy theories. Here he explores both the history of comspiracy theories, and why they are so rampant now. He states, “Certainty has given way to doubt, and conspiracy has become the default assumption in an age which has learned to distrust everything and everyone.” Read on: ARTICLE

'Houston, we have a problem'

An astronaut love triangle, a snuff bag filled with a BB gun and $600 cash and a woman who drives 900 miles nonstop to seek revenge on “the other woman” – the plot of the latest hot novel? No, today’s big headline! Willie Guise on with “Tucka” – Tucker Carlson of MSNBC – asked the logical question, if the lady astronaut had to stop for gasoline, why didn’t she go to the bathroom then?” That question was later raised by Keith Olbermann of the same cable news channel. The logical answer, of course, is, “Depends.”


Hitting a new low

This night owl was up at 2 a.m. ET and caught the premier of Fox News’ new show, “Red Eye.” Featuring guys and gals with a collective IQ of a gourd sitting around making inane and obscene chitchat, this one hits a new low, even for Fox News! Just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked by anything on TV! Some serious research needs to be done on an audience that thinks this one is informative and entertaining. Read what “MediaBistro,” purveyor of scuttlebutt on network and cable news, has to say about “Red Eye:” ARTICLE.

'Oh, what tangled webs ...'

Are you keeping up with the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby in the Valerie Plame Wilson/CIA Leak investigation? Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is on trial for perjuy and obstruction of justice in the investigation. This one is “hotter than a pepper sprout.” Why should you care? Because somebody’s lying, and the truth matters – since at the heart of the matter was the faulty intelligence which led us to war in Iraq. For a very good synopsis of the first week of the trial: ARTICLE.

Like taking candy from a baby

Candy giant Masterfoods, Inc., the maker of all those wonderful chocolate Mars bars, M&Ms, Skittles and Twix, among others, has announced it will no longer market its products to children under the age of 12.

Childhood obesity is cited. A whole lot of childhood joy for me was wrapped up in a nickel, a short walk to the neighborhood grocery and the brown paper around a Snickers candy bar. The price has gone up considerably, but I still indulge in this favorite.

Obesity didn’t have a chance with bike rides, skating and backyard softball games. As commendable as its action is, the candy giant should rethink its marketing decision and maybe pass the buck to TV networks and video game manufacturers. Inertia is probably more to blame than chocolate, caramel and peanuts. What would childhood be without Snickers candy bars?


'I have a dream'

I might have been the only person on the planet to wake up this morning wondering who won this year's Super Bowl. The hype and big money of organized sports leaves me cold. About the last time I loved the game of football was in the late 60s when Archie Manning quarterbacked at “Ole Miss” – the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Manning, whose lustre wore away after 15 years of losing seasons with the New Orleans Saints, is reliving the game through his sons Peyton and Eli. Peyton Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to victory and received the “Most Valuable Player” (MVP) award, coached by one of the first two black coaches in the big game's history, Tony Dungy. I cannot help but reflect how far things have come when the father played at a school which had first refused, then was forced to admit its first black student, James Meredith, and the son is coached to victory by a black man, distinguished by another first.


Bush sent a $2.9 trillion spending plan to Congress today. The plan would make his tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest Americans, permanent; would allocate s$245 billion (in additon to the $70 billion already sought for 2008) over the next two years to the war in Irag and "fighting global terror;" and would include $78 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over the next five years. To read more about how this affects you: ARTICLE *With deep respect for the late Molly Ivins.