HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Friday, January 30, 2009

PERSONAL ATTEMPTS TO STIMULATE ECONOMY?

It really was time to replace the two love seats that flanked the fire place. The original two which we purchased from Pier One a long time ago, had served their time and were stained with cat vomit from Harley and Hannah. The stains had come out (somewhat) but were still evident. We found two really nice loveseats at Chris Bush's furniture at a very good price. The color is described as "thistle" and as you can see is a sage green.
Kim was worried that they would be two dark but with all the light that comes in from the front of the house - two stories of glass - they really look quite light colored.

The dining room table we replaced was wood and had seen extensively scratching, again from our previous cats. We loaded the couches up and took them to Good Will and were astounded to have the guy reject them because of the staining! (Well LA DE DA!)

So we took them home, unloaded them, and attempted to further remove the stains but with little luck. We decided to take them (and the dining room table and chairs) to Hope Gospel Mission.

When we arrived we found that they had an unmanned drop off point so we quickly unloaded everything and made a speedy getaway.

The new dining table is slate top. We found it at our favorite store (Pier One) but were dissuaded from purchasing because it could only seat four. then it suddenly occurred to me that if we bought a large piece of thick glass that was about 6 inches wider all around we could seat six!

Fortunately, they had a glass top we could experiment with an it worked really well. They only had four chairs but the clerk called the LaCrosse store and we found two more down there so next morning we made a fun day of it - stopping at the Norske Nook in Osseo for late breakfast and returning home by mid afternoon.

All that was left then was to find suitable cushions. Kim found some really great ones yesterday at Kohl's! So we have been doing our best to stimulate the economy. Or at least that is our rationalization.

Speaking of stimulating the economy, I watched the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I think his economic recovery plan is the BEST. He thinks that the government should lend money to all of the American people who are in debt, who in turn will use that money to pay the banks the money they owe them, making the banks solvent once more and the citizenry free of debt!

I know there are a couple of credit card bills i would like to get a government hand out to pay off! This needs to be examined further. Seriously! Why would this not work???

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I am embarrassed to tell you how computer-dependent I have become. My computer has been in the shop for two days and I felt like a heroin junkie who couldn't get a fix!

Somehow I screwed up my e mail account and was unable to receive e mail. They almost had to wrench my IMac from my hot little hands when I took it into the shop. Fortunately, MacMan has a really good crew of tecchies and thanks to Eric I got it back this morning with only a two day absence. I can breathe again!

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I am looking forward to the Super Bowl. Mostly because I am going to be able to watch it on a local signal in high definition, but also because I really would like to see the Arizona Cardinals win their first Super Bowl. I am old enough to remember when the great Ollie Matson ran the ball for the Chicago Cardinals.

President Obama and I are having our first disagreement. He is rooting for the Steelers. C'mon O! They have way too many trophies!

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

NO SNICKERING - THE ROAD SIGN MEANS SOMETHING ELSE!



By SARAH LYALL
Published: January 22, 2009
CRAPSTONE, England — When ordering things by telephone, Stewart Pearce tends to take a proactive approach to the inevitable question “What is your address?”

He lays it out straight, so there is no room for unpleasant confusion. “I say, ‘It’s spelled “crap,” as in crap,’ ” said Mr. Pearce, 61, who has lived in Crapstone, a one-shop country village in Devon, for decades.

Disappointingly, Mr. Pearce has so far been unable to parlay such delicate encounters into material gain, as a neighbor once did.

“Crapstone,” the neighbor said forthrightly, Mr. Pearce related, whereupon the person on the other end of the telephone repeated it to his co-workers and burst out laughing. “They said, ‘Oh, we thought it didn’t really exist,’ ” Mr. Pearce said, “and then they gave him a free something.”

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

“It’s pronounced ‘PENNIS-tun,’ ” Fiona Moran, manager of the Old Vicarage Hotel in Penistone, said over the telephone, rather sharply. When forced to spell her address for outsiders, she uses misdirection, separating the tricky section into two blameless parts: “p-e-n” — pause — “i-s-t-o-n-e.”

Several months ago, Lewes District Council in East Sussex tried to address the problem of inadvertent place-name titillation by saying that “street names which could give offense” would no longer be allowed on new roads.

“Avoid aesthetically unsuitable names,” like Gaswork Road, the council decreed. Also, avoid “names capable of deliberate misinterpretation,” like Hoare Road, Typple Avenue, Quare Street and Corfe Close.

(What is wrong with Corfe Close, you might ask? The guidelines mention the hypothetical residents of No. 4, with their unfortunate hypothetical address, “4 Corfe Close.” To find the naughty meaning, you have to repeat the first two words rapidly many times, preferably in the presence of your fifth-grade classmates.)

The council explained that it was only following national guidelines and that it did not intend to change any existing lewd names.

Still, news of the revised policy raised an outcry.

“Sniggering at double entendres is a loved and time-honored tradition in this country,” Carol Midgley wrote in The Times of London. Ed Hurst, a co-author, with Rob Bailey, of “Rude Britain” and “Rude UK,” which list arguably offensive place names — some so arguably offensive that, unfortunately, they cannot be printed here — said that many such communities were established hundreds of years ago and that their names were not rude at the time.

“Place names and street names are full of history and culture, and it’s only because language has evolved over the centuries that they’ve wound up sounding rude,” Mr. Hurst said in an interview.

Mr. Bailey, who grew up on Tumbledown Dick Road in Oxfordshire, and Mr. Hurst got the idea for the books when they read about a couple who bought a house on Butt Hole Road, in South Yorkshire.

The name most likely has to do with the spot’s historic function as a source of water, a water butt being a container for collecting water. But it proved to be prohibitively hilarious.

“If they ordered a pizza, the pizza company wouldn’t deliver it, because they thought it was a made-up name,” Mr. Hurst said. “People would stand in front of the sign, pull down their trousers and take pictures of each other’s naked buttocks.”

The couple moved away.

The people in Crapstone have not had similar problems, although their sign is periodically stolen by word-loving merrymakers. And their village became a stock joke a few years ago, when a television ad featuring a prone-to-swearing soccer player named Vinnie Jones showed Mr. Jones’s car breaking down just under the Crapstone sign.

In the commercial, Mr. Jones tries to alert the towing company to his location while covering the sign and trying not to say “crap” in front of his young daughter.

The consensus in the village is that there is a perfectly innocent reason for the name “Crapstone,” though it is unclear what that is. Theories put forth by various residents the other day included “place of the rocks,” “a kind of twisting of the original word,” “something to do with the soil” and “something to do with Sir Francis Drake,” who lived nearby.

Jacqui Anderson, a doctor in Crapstone who used to live in a village called Horrabridge, which has its own issues, said that she no longer thought about the “crap” in “Crapstone.”

Still, when strangers ask where she’s from, she admitted, “I just say I live near Plymouth.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

LETTER FROM FORMER SENATOR MCGOVERN SAYS IT PERFECTLY

A couple of times in the past year I have tried to express that the "military" solution in Iraq and Afghanistan is just not the way to go - untenable is the word I believe appropriate. Today I stumbled upon a letter published in the Washington Post by one of my all time personal heroes, former Senator George McGovern, central figure in a great book by Stephen Ambrose "The Wild Blue". George McGovern flew a B-24 Liberator dubbed Dakota Queen in combat over the flak filled sky of Europe and to my way of thinking is a great American patriot and hero.

His letter follows:

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.

True, the United States is the world's greatest power - but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979. They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later, having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is logical to conclude that our massive military dominance and supposedly good motives should let us work our will in Afghanistan. But logic does not always prevail in South Asia. With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another, the one factor that could unite them is the invasion of their country by a foreign power, whether British, Russian or American.

I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East - our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel - that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.

We cannot evade this reckoning. The British thought they could extend their control over Iraq even while pulling out their ground forces by creating a string of bases in remote parts of the country, away from the observation of most Iraqis. It didn't work. No people that desires independence and self-determination wishes to have another nation's military bases in its country. In 1776, remember, 13 little colonies drove the mighty British Empire from American soil.

In 2003, the Bush administration ordered an invasion of Iraq, supposedly to reduce terrorism. But six years later, there is more terrorism and civil strife in Iraq, not less. The same outcome may occur in Afghanistan if we make it the next American military conflict.

Mr. President, the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of Afghanistan.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has estimated that the war in Iraq will have a total cost of more than $3 trillion. That war has clearly weakened our economy and our armed forces even as it has made the national debt soar. The Bush administration committed itself to Iraq before the recession. Today, with our economy teetering, does the Obama administration believe that it is time for yet another costly war in yet another Muslim country?

I'm aware that some of my fellow Americans regard me as too idealistic. But sometimes idealism is the best realism. And at a minimum, realism and idealism need not be contradictory. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has not only angered Iraqis who have lost family members, neighbors or homes; it has also increased the level of anger throughout the Muslim world and thrown up obstacles to our political leadership in that deeply important part of the planet.

Like you, Mr. President, I don't oppose all wars. I risked my life in World War II to protect our country against genuine danger. But it is the vivid memory of my fellow airmen being shot out of the sky on all sides of me in a war that I believe we had to fight that makes me cautious about sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God.

As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.

So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war - unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?

During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries. Such a program is now underway in several countries approved by Congress and the United Nations, under the auspices of the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act. (Forgive the self-serving title.) Although the measure remains painfully underfunded, with the help of other countries, we are reaching millions of children. We could supplement these efforts with nutritional packages for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants from birth through the age of 5, as is done here at home by WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don't think so. It's food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare's cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can't wait.

-------

George McGovern, a former senator from South Dakota, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972.


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Perks of reaching 50 or being over 60 and heading towards 70 and beyond!




01. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.



02. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.



03. No one expects you to run--anywhere.



04. People call at 9 PM and ask, did I wake you?



05. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.



06. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.



07. Things you buy now won't wear out .



08. You can eat supper at 4 PM.



09. You can live without sex but not your glasses.



10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.



11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.



12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.



13. You sing along with elevator music.



14.. Your eyes won't get much worse.



15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.



16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.



17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.



18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama Takes Office. TIME TO PROSECUTE WAR CRIMINALS!

I suppose I should be upset with the huge crowd gathered for the inauguration when they booed George Bush upon his being announced, but you know, if I had been there it is something I would have joined in on!

Even better, as the helicopter carrying Mr Dufus out of town circled the mall, the crowd intoned the old Chicago White Sox sneer: NAH NAH NAH NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH, HEY HEY -- GOOD BYE! Soul satisfying.

In a story on line:



Ryan Grim
ryan@huffingtonpost.com | HuffPost Reporting From DC
Bush Protest: Shoes Thrown At White House (PHOTOS)
stumble digg reddit del.ico.us mixx.com
January 19, 2009 05:24 PM


President Bush was given an Iraqi-journalist-style sendoff on his last full day in office Monday, as tourists and demonstrators lobbed shoes, pumps, boots, sandals and Crocs from Pennsylvania Avenue onto the White House lawn.

Before launching the operation live, the shoe-chuckers took target practice in Dupont Circle on a 20-foot-tall blow up doll of the outgoing president, decked out in the flight suit he wore aboard the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier.



Unlike Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter who inspired the protest, none of the shoe-throwers in the group were arrested. (Later that day, reports NBC, one man was arrested for chucking a shoe at the White House.)

Marching down Connecticut Avenue with handfuls of footwear, the group of about a hundred was on the receiving end of enthusiastic honks, thumbs-up and waves from people in the street.

The reception was almost as warm from the people guarding the White House.

"Don't hit me!" one officer behind the White House fence joked as shoes rained around him.

Tracey Primavera, a shoe-lobber from Provincetown, Massachusetts, shouted at the guard that she had a pump that would look nice on him.


"I tried that. It didn't look good on me," yelled back the officer. Primavera tossed him the pump anyway.

Tourists on Pennsylvania Avenue picked up shoes and lobbed them at the White House as well. "A lot of random people joined in," noted one organizer, David Swanson. "Everybody wanted to be photographed with an "Arrest Bush" sign.

The tourists also joined a spontaneous chorus that formed. On the night of the election, thousands of people swarmed the White House and sang the old sports classic, "Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye." The song made a reappearance Monday, as did a number of tunes apparently written for the occasion, with lyrics such as "Hang down your head, George Bush/Hang down your head in shame," and "Take him to the Hague" -- the latter sung to the tune of "Working on the Railroad."

The target practice on the giant Bush doll began around 11:00 in the morning and was still going five hours later, as thousands of people walking through the circle stopped to pick up a shoe and wing it at the outgoing president. Some threw fastballs like al-Zaidi. Others tied several together in an attempt to land them on Bush's long Pinocchio-esque nose. Children took part. ("Okay. One more shoe, kids," said one parent.) Some folks simply walked up to the doll and kicked it in the shins. It fell over at one point and people rushed it, beating it with shoes.



Still others, like al-Zaidi, missed.

"Ah! I missed!" yelled Sharon Kerr, in town from Austin, Texas, after chucking wide of her presidential mark. She said that she felt a little like the Iraqi reporter for missing. But she noted in his defense, "He had people blocking him."

Kerr began to leave the circle but stopped. "I'm gonna go one more time. I'm gonna nail him this time," she said before winding up and striking him cleanly in the belt.

Cheryl Upshaw, in from Atlanta and sporting a full-length fur coat, hit the Bush doll high on the shoulder. "I was really trying to aim for his heart," said Upshaw, a registered nurse who owns a home healthcare agency. The throw was cathartic, she said, and it seemed to relieve some of her anger.

"It's not that I hate him," she clarified. "I don't hate him personally. I hate what he has done to this country."

Medea Benjamin, a cofounder of the antiwar group CODEPINK, said the protest was a way to "get the Bush era out of your intestines."

"I was a little reluctant because I want to be in a positive mood," she said. "I don't want to be seen as doing something violent. The shoe-throwing is borderline, but the intent is to insult, not to hurt. There's a fine line."

Once all the shoes had been tossed onto the White House lawn, the officers collected them and piled them into the back of a small truck. "The next person who throws them gets arrested," said one, though the entire pile had already been thrown.

As the protesters headed back toward Dupont Circle, a Secret Service agent left them with a parting observation.

"You all won," he said.

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It has been an elating two days. I watched the HBO special We Are One last night and ended up sobbing my way through Pete Seeger's stirring rendition of "This Land Is Your Land".

I also found it very fitting that "The Penguin" ended up on his last day in office quacking from a wheel chair, brandishing a cane instead of an umbrella.

Today I am, once again, proud to be an American!

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And this for your consideration:


Glenn Greenwald
SUNDAY JAN. 18, 2009 06:50 EST
Binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture
(updated below - Update II - Update III)
It seems fairly easy -- even for those overtly hostile to the basic rules of logic and law -- to see what conclusions are compelled by these clear premises:
Associated Press, April 11, 2008:
Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved. . . .
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Agence France-Presse, October 15, 2008:
The administration of US President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to waterboard Al-Qaeda suspects according to two secret memos issued in 2003 and 2004, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Soon-to-be U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 1/15/2009:
President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general said unequivocally Thursday that waterboarding is torture . . .
Early on he was asked whether waterboarding, a technique that makes a prisoner believe he is in danger of drowning, constitutes torture and is illegal.
"If you look at the history of the use of that technique, " Holder replied, "we prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam. . . . Waterboarding is torture."
Bush official Susan Crawford, 1/13/2009:
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."
"We tortured [Mohammed al-] Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution."
Current Attorney General Michael Mukasey, 1/17/2009:
"Torture is a crime," Mr. Mukasey said in an interview Friday . . . .
CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (signed by the U.S. under Ronald Reagan):
Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture. . . .
Article 4
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
Article 7
1. The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
Article 15
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
Ronald Reagan, 5/20/1988, transmitting Treaty to the U.S. Senate:
The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
U.S. Constitution, Article VI:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
Soon-to-be Attorney General Eric Holder, 1/15/2009 (repeatedly):
"No one is above the law."
These premises -- conclusively established by undisputed news reports and the statements of the person about to become the country's top law enforcement officer as well as a top Bush official -- are clear, and the conclusions they compel are inescapable. The Bush administration authorized, ordered and practiced torture. The U.S., under Ronald Reagan, legally obligated itself to investigate and prosecute any acts of torture committed by Americans (which includes authorization of torture by high level officials and also includes, under Article 3 of the Convention, acts of "rendering" detainees to countries likely to torture, as the Bush administration unquestionably did).
All of the standard excuses being offered by Bush apologists and our political class (a virtual redundancy) -- namely: our leaders meant well; we were facing a dangerous enemy; government lawyers said this could be done; Congress immunized the torturers; it would be too divisive to prosecute -- are explicitly barred by this treaty (i.e., binding law) as a ground for refusing to investigate and prosecute acts of torture.
This is also why the standard argument now being offered by Bush apologists (such as University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner, echoing his dad, Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner in Chicago) as to why prosecutions are unnecessary -- namely: there is "prosecutorial discretion" that should take political factors into account in order not to prosecute -- are both frivolous and lawless. The Convention explicitly bars any such "discretion": "The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall . . . submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution." The principal purpose of the Convention is to remove the discretion involved in prosecuting acts of torture and to bar the very excuses which every torturing society proffers and which our own torturing society is now attempting to invoke ("we were dealing with real threats; there were 'exceptional circumstances' that justified it; we enacted laws legalizing the torture; our leaders meant well; we need to move on").
International treaties which the U.S. signs and ratifies aren't cute little left-wing platitudes for tying the hands of America. They're binding law according to the explicit mandates of Article VI of our Constitution. Thus, there simply is no way to (a) argue against investigations and prosecutions for Bush officials and simultaneously (b) claim with a straight face to believe in the rule of law, that no one is above the law, and that the U.S. should adhere to the same rules and values it attempts to impose on the rest of the world. Last week, Paul Krugman stated about as clearly as possible why this is so:
I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.
It's just as simple as that. Once Eric Holder stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture, and once a top Bush official used the word "torture" to describe what the U.S. did at Guantanamo using authorized techniques other than waterboarding, the "discretion" to investigate and prosecute disappeared-- at least for people who believe in the most basic precepts of the rule of law and equality under it, Western principles of justice established at Nuremberg, and the notion that the U.S. is bound by the treaties it signs. There simply is no way to argue against investigations and prosecutions (and no way to argue that we should use torture-obtained evidence against Guantanamo detainees) without fully rejecting all of those principles.
While many Americans, especially American political elites, may be eager to overlook the implications of immunizing Bush officials for these crimes (as citizens typically are eager to avoid having their leaders branded as torturers and war criminals), it's rather difficult to understand how people think that we're going to "send a message to the world" about the restoration of American values as we deliberately protect the people who have systematically tortured and thereby transparently violate the core provisions of this Convention. Doesn't that conduct rather clearly send the exact opposite message?

UPDATE: Citing the Convention, Hilzoy (a/k/a Johns Hopkins Professor Hilary Bok) wrote:
It seems to me that these facts imply that if Barack Obama, or his administration, believe that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Bush administration have committed torture, then they are legally obligated to investigate; and that if that investigation shows that acts of torture were committed, to submit those cases for prosecution, if the officials who committed or sanctioned those acts are found on US territory. If they are on the territory of some other party to the Convention, then it has that obligation. Under the Convention, as I read it, this is not discretionary. And under the Constitution, obeying the laws, which include treaties, is not discretionary either.
It's just not possible to argue with that. In light of Holder's testimony, the "if" component of Hilzoy's argument -- "if Barack Obama, or his administration believe that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Bush administration have committed torture . . . ." -- is now a certainty. In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands made a similar argument regarding Bush official Susan Crawford's statement that the U.S. "tortured" Mohammed al-Qahtani: "These states [who are parties to the Convention] must take any person alleged to have committed torture (or been complicit or participated in an act of torture) who is present in their territories into custody. The convention allows no exceptions."
While those who argue that the U.S. was right to torture because it's the U.S. that did it are expressing a repugnant form of exceptionalism, at least they're being honest -- far more so than those who argue that Bush officials shouldn't be investigated or prosecuted while paying deceitful lip service to "the rule of law" and the idea that "no one is above the law."

UPDATE II: Several commenters note, correctly, that the U.S. Senate, in 1994, ratified the Convention by specifying that its provisions were not self-executing, but instead, required specific legislation implementing its provisions. As this 2004 Report from the Congressional Research Service (.pdf) details (beginning at page CRS-4), Congress enacted legislation to do exactly that, with minor reservations not relevant to the argument here.

UPDATE III: At the international law blog Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller -- of the University of Auckland Faculty of Law in New Zealand -- argues that parties to the Convention maintain some degree of discretion as to whether to prosecute torturers. He argues that while "Article 7(1) clearly requires the US to submit the case of anyone suspected of being responsible for waterboarding to the competent authorities 'for the purpose of prosecution,'" this "does not mean that the 'competent authorities' — the Department of Justice — must actually prosecute the suspects." He cites Article 7(2) -- which provides that "these authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State" -- as a ground for arguing that some prosecutorial discretion would be permitted, since such discretion is routine when the DOJ decides whether to prosecute "any ordinary offence."
Perhaps. But even if some discretion were theoretically permissible under the Convention, this would certainly not vest (as Heller himself points out) the DOJ with unlimited discretion to refrain from prosecuting due, say, to some garden-variety desire for political harmony and bipartisanship. Additionally, this clause, at the very least, would require that the DOJ open an investigation and determine whether prosecution were warranted by considering the standard factors it applies to such decisions generally. A sweeping declaration in advance that no prosecutions will be considered for purely political reasons would seem clearly inconsistent with that obligation even as Heller defines it.
At the very least, the Convention requires that torture prosecutions be treated "in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State." In general, where the DOJ believes there is compelling evidence (such as a confession) to demonstrate that a serious crime has been committed, it typically (though admittedly not always) prosecutes. Most importantly, the excuses being offered by Bush apologists as to why prosecutions are unwarranted -- i.e.: the torturers acted pursuant to orders, the torture was made legal under domestic law, there were exceptional circumstances -- are all ones that are explicitly barred by the Convention as grounds for failing to prosecute torture.
Additionally, in a 2005 Report to the UN Committee Against Torture, John Bellinger, the Legal Adviser to the Bush State Department, wrote (h/t Kevin Jon Heller):
Article 6 (Detention and preliminary inquiry in cases of extradition) and Article 7 (Extradite or prosecute)
53. As described in the Initial Report, federal law and bilateral extradition treaties provide the legal basis by which the United States can either extradite or prosecute individuals alleged to have committed offenses involving torture, as required by Article 7 of the Convention.
If there is discretion, it is limited and constrained by the clear language of the Convention.


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Monday, January 19, 2009

ONE DAY AND COUNTING - BYE BYE BUSH!

Last night"s Bye Bye You Bastard Bush house party was cathartic, to say the least. It was good t ohve a house full of like-thinking folk who scarfed down pizza -- and drink that they provided for themselves.

It was interesting to note that while this was the first house party we have held since adopting the two kittens, Hammy and Stella seemed to want to be as much a part of it as the humans, as they mingled throughout the evening with everyone and provided instant clean up for any tidbits that might have made their way to the floor.

The highlight of the evening came with the round robin of "toasts" to our "glorious leader" (FOR LESS THAN ONE MORE DAY!!!). The two best, I felt were these:

John Buccholz:

"To George W. Bush: You miserable beknighted homonculus - may you be strangled by Dick Cheney's disemboweled guts!"

And this rather poetic salute from Billy Krause:

"The last eight yers have been a living hell of that there's no denial

So George and Dick and the rest of your boys

We look forward to the trial!"

Well said! Well said!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Collecting Continues -- Outstanding Guns From History

I have always been fascinated with guns, especially hand guns. While in the army, I was lucky enough to b e sent to armorer's school and got to fire everything from the M1911 automatic pistol through the 30 calibre machine gun and all the way up to and including a 105 mm jeep mounted recoiless rifle.

Pictured are two fairly accurate "replicas" I found through the internet, one of a highly engraved single action army Colt .45 described as "The Deadwood" and the other a rendering of a flintlock pistol given to General George Washington by the French during the Revolutionary War.
I can't imagne how much the flintlock would be worth if it was real!

For a long time, I had a Colt similar to the one pictured, minus all the engraving. Unfortunately, during a really down economic period, I sold it.

I think that's why I bought this replica. I really miss that pistol! I could almost cry thinking about letting it go! Keep telling myself it is just "a thing". But it was a really cool thing!

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Received these wonderful anagrams from my friend Matt:

DORMITORY:
When yo u rearrange the letters:
DIRTY ROOM



PRESBYTERIAN:
When you rearrange the letters:
BEST IN PRAYER



ASTRONOMER:
When you rearrange the letters:
MOON STARER



DESPERATION:
When you rearrange the letters:
A ROPE ENDS IT



THE EYES:
When you rearrange the letters:
THEY SEE



GEORGE BUSH:
When you rearrange the letters:
HE BUGS GORE



THE MORSE CODE:
When you rearrange the letters:
HERE COME DOTS



SLOT MACHINES:
When you rearrange the letters:
CASH LOST IN ME


0A



ANIMOSITY:
When you rearrange the letters:
IS NO AMITY




0A



ELECTION RESULTS:
When you rearrange the letters:
LIES - LET'S RECOUNT



SNOOZE ALARMS:
When you rearrange the letters:
ALAS! NO MORE Z 'S



A DECIMAL POINT:
When you rearrange the letters:
I'M A DOT IN PLACE



THE EARTHQUAKES:
When you rearrange the letters:
THAT QUEER SHAKE



ELEVEN PLUS TWO:
When you rearrange the letters:
TWELVE PLUS ONE




AND FOR THE GRAND FINALE:


MOTHER-IN-LAW:
When you rearrange the letters:
WOMAN HITLER


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prevention Magazine Is Back! HELL -- HERE WE GO AGAIN!

My wife is on that crusade that comes with the beginning of a new year -- losing weight and (cringe) EXERCISING! It's not good enough that she has made the decision. Now I must join in the festivities as well.

She reads to me from Prevention magazine. "You know Larry, it says here in Prevention magazine, if you'd just take a half an hour walk after dinner every night, it wold improve your sex life."

"Honey," says I, "I don't know anybody that lives within a half an hour of the house." It got pretty quiet on that side of the couch after that.

She is right, though. I am gaining weight again. I think it's a memory problem. I can't remember whether I exercised or not. I look down at my feet. If I've got my tennis shoes on, I figure I did it and I go watch television.

I don't tie my shoes in the morning anymore. I figure sooner or later I will drop something. I'll get 'em while I'm down there!

And now that I am in my mid sixties, I have begun to think more about death. I've decided I want to die like my grandpa did: In his sleep --- Not yelling and screaming like all the other people in the car were at the time. And when I die I want everyone who knew me personally to say:

"Did you hear?" (sob) "Larry Heagle died." (sob) (much blowing of nose.)

"HE OWES ME MONEY!"

Ah, yes, it is so much fun dealing with aging. Hair is falling out where it used to grow -- and growing where it never grew before! On my ear lobes! I could weave ear rings. Out of my nose! I am forced to trim it daily and still it protrudes garishly. I swear to God my wife is sticking Rogaine up my nose while I am asleep.

When I sneeze I look like a party favor! AHHHHHH-CHEW! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

But who's complaining. Thanks to a severe motorcycle accident I spent three weeks in rehab -- in a nursing home. I have seen the future and it's not pretty.

So I am learning to take one day at a time and squeeze the living daylight out of each bit of joy that each day offers. Who would have thought that so much love could be garnered from my two rescued kittens from the humane society?

Or just being able to sit down with the lady wife, a bowl of freshly popped popcorn, slathered in butter and another movie from Netflix?

Don't really care if it's minus thirty degreee wind chill factor tonight. Hey! I AM STAYING OUT OF THE DAMN WIND!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A TOAST TO GEORGE THE DUMB ASS

One of the highlights of the upcoming Bye Bye You Bastard Bush Bashing Bash will be a required toast by all present. Here is mine:

A toast, ex-Governor Bush, (I will never ever call you President Bush as you were never duly elected by the people) to you on the impending conclusion of a disastrous eight years of your screwing the country in every possilbe way:

May you return to your oft-visited “ranch” in Texas to find all the fish in your pond dead from environmental poisoning.

May you suddenly find that fish you have eaten from that pond have caused all of your toe nails to turn black and fall off

May the finger you used to pick your nose while on camera at a Texas Ranger/Milwaukee Brewer game become infected

May the next finger over which you used to give the camera the finger in an oft shown video of when you were governor be lost in a brush cutting accident

May Laura come to her senses and throw your worthless ass out

May you be sued by Condoleeza Rice for marital infidelity

May you be caught getting your butt reamed by all the Republican homosexuals that paraded by the national eye in the past eight years

May it be discovered through DNA that neither of your daughters are really “yours”

May your dog Barney take a healthy dump on all the shoes in your closet

May all future shoe throwers in your life make direct hits - preferably to your crotch

And lastly, may you somehow be forced to experience all the agony and grief of all the poor people of New Orleans in a 24 hour period, causing you to have a massive stroke which will leave you unable to speak. God knows, you never could anyway!


I wish I had the guts to say how I really feel -- guess I am just too nice a guy!





"I went to a hotel and asked the bellhop to handle my bag -- he felt up my wife."
- Rodney Dangerfield

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Today I received an e mail from Joe Davey, advocate for the Hmong people. It is something that I feel should be shared with all:

Subject: High-level Thai delegation to visit Hmong refugees at Nong Khai jail

High-level Thai delegation to visit Hmong refugees at Nong Khai jail

On January 15, 2009, a high-level Thai delegation from Bangkok is expected to visit the 158 Hmong refugees held at Nong Khai immigration jail. The visit is expected to be just another attempt at convincing these Hmong refugees to “voluntarily” return to Laos.

The Hmong refugees believe that the real purpose of these visits is to break their human spirit. The “concerned” officials always ask the group why they are afraid to return to Laos but at the same time tell them that no third-country is willing to accept them, which is an outright lie! The Hmong detainees are also told that they are not political refugees even though they have the UNHCR documentation to prove it! Then, they are told that they only have two options available to them. One, they can “voluntarily” return to Laos. Or two, they can spend the rest of their lives in this small overcrowded immigration jail (photo attached).

Much worse than suffering from the awful physical and psychological conditions at the overcrowded jail is the fact that the United States, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands have all remained seemingly silent on this issue. These are the countries which had quickly stepped forward after a failed deportation attempt some two years ago and agreed to resettle these refugees.

Now, these hopeless Hmong see that this third-country resettlement offer seems to have faded away. Because of this, the refugees are preparing to take their own lives, as they believe no one really cares about them.

Joe Davy
Hmong Advocate
Chicago

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And in yet another sobering glimpse at humanity:

A man sat at a Metro station in Washington , D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour. Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

A new year ~ time for a new perspective. Happy New Year!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

EXTENDED WEEKEND IN MADISON AREA THOROUGHLY ENJOYABLE

The road trip started out with family at a surprise retirement party for my first cousin, Bonnie Allbaugh, nurse extraordinaire -- Some 100 people , mostly fellow work associates, showed up to express their love and appreciation for this little fire ball. I, of course, uploaded the photos for this blog in reverse order. Bonnie is the petite gal with the big smile in the second picture. The other photo is from Saturday night's gig with the United Coop employees Appreciation Banquet at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
It was really an uplifting experience for me as I have not had close touch with Bonnie over the years -- to hear the accolades heaped upon her from staff and friends made me really appreciate her and wish that we had been closer over the years. maybe now that she is retired, we can spend more time catching up! Hats off to Bonnie's husband, Stu, who helped organize the shindig and who actually SURPRISED Bonnie!

After a good night's rest at the AmericInn nearby, I joined the Allbaugh's for breakfast at the house before wending my way up to Windsor to spend my off day with the Johnson Brothers.

I arrived at Chula Vista at 4PM to set up and when I found the banquet room I was somewhat surprised to find that there were dinner settings for nearly four hundred people. Dori Lichty, pictured, was chief organizer out of the coop headquarters in Beaver Dam. She was very warm and cordially invited me to dine with the group. I declined as I don't like to eat just before a performance.

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous as it had been expressed that a "clean show" was in order and after having performed for some 32 years, I have no idea what that means as it changes from one group to the next.
But as the how progressed and it became evident that it was going to be one of those nights where I could do no wrong, I relaxed into it and even threw in a new one liner i had written several weeks ago and was looking for the right time to try it.

After the bit about my being depressed I told the crowd that now that we had a new president-elect, maybe things would get better -- I mean with ears like that, Obama's got to be a good listener! It killed! Boffo, Man!!!

So I left the Dells riding high on adrenaline and arrived home to a spousless house about 11:45 PM only to find two very chilly kittens and the temperature at 50 degrees. the furnace fan was running, but blowing cold air.

I immediately put a call in to Smith Service and our great service man, Nick, was there within an hour. After some preliminary checking, he wandered outside and checked the LP tank and returned with the news that it was "bone dry". Chippewa Valley Energy, our carrier, with whom we are on "keep fill" hadn't -- well -- THEY HAD'NT!!!!

Nick apologized for having to write out a service call (overtime for being after hours) and was kind enough to leave me with four electric space heaters.

After an appropriate amount of loud cursing to vent before I called Chippewa Valley Energy, I got their emergency driver on the phone and managed to get to bed about 4:30AM with some heat.

Kim returned Sunday and today we went out and got thing squared away. Fortunately there is a happy ending. Chippewa Valley is picking up the Erv Smith bill by taking it off the bill for LP and they were, in fact, most apologetic.

The secretary said we should check our tank every three weeks or so -- that would help stop this from happening again. that rubbed me the wrong way, but i bit my tongue until we were in the car.

This brings to mind the old rule: If you are going to have anything break down, like a door lock that won't unlock, or a fuel tank that goes bone dry, it will most certainly happen on a weekend night or a holiday!

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Nice to hear from MSPLPCKR in the comment section - and no, that is not a Jim Zorn jersey but rather the jersey of Wisconsin native Dave Krieg who played his high school ball for Schofield High School near Wausau.

On a separate blog, I got a comment from one "Cordelia" who says: "I thought you were supposed to be funny -- at least that's what my brother told me".

Golly, gee, Cordelia, sounds like you have issues with your brother -- counseling?

And, dear, humor is such a subjective thing -- I know that's a pretty big word -- Look it up in the dictionary, babe. How's this for funny?

S-H-H-H-H! THAT'S THE SOUND OF NOBODY CARING WHAT YOU THINK.

IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, RAISE YOUR HAND -- AND PLACE IT OVER YOUR MOUTH.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOUR PROBLEM IS, BUT I BET IT'S HARD TO PRONOUNCE!

CAN I GET YOU SOMETHING? LIKE A NEW PERSONALITY?

Oh, now, see, Cordelia, you've gone and made me use upper case.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

WHERE'S MY HOUSE BOAT AND OLD GUITAR?

Why is winter harder to handle than it was say even five years ago? There was a time when I looked forward to snow fall as it meant an opportunity to get out the cross country skis, wax 'em up and put in a couple of miles through the woods, communing with nature - reminding myself that it still is out there!

Now my attitude as I trudge from house to office with the frigid air ripping at my lungs is: WELL, WE ARE ONE DAY CLOSER TO SPRING, AREN'T WE?

And that really is not a way to live. I had either best change my attitude or else change my latitude and longitude. something is not working. It is pretty frightening to catch myself saying half aloud while I am making a run for the nearest source of warmth tht I now understand the theory of being a "snow bird", a follower of the sun.

It makes me want to make an old pipe dream of mine come true.

Years ago, I dreamed that one day I would sell the house and auction all my unnecessary stuff and buy a good sized house boat with the proceeds, climb aboard armed with my old guitar and maps of the Mississippi river and simply follow the sun through the four seasons, stopping along the banks of the mighty river to play bars and coffee houses in river towns (I've always been attracted to river towns) to make fuel and grocery money to move on up or down the river as the weather demands.

Talk about the ultimate fishing trip!

Wow! Just putting it down in writing where I can see it brings the dream alive again.

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Going on the road for three days later this week. Taking off for Madison to help my cousin Bonnie Allbaugh retire from nursing. then I have a one day layover which I will spend with the Johnson brothers in nearby Windsor, Wisconsin, before heading north a bit to play an annual farm cooperative meeting in Wisconsin Dells.

Will be difficult to be away from Kim and the kittens for that long. We have grown accustomed to being together! But when I get back, we will be three days closer to Spring!

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Sent out our invitations to the "Bye Bye You Bastard Bush" party this past weekend. So far, two people have confirmed. Maybe nobody wants to go out in this kind of weather? They are all Republicans? Hell, it's too soon to wonder about it!

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

IT'S BEEN THIRTY TWO YEARS -- BUT WHO'S COUNTNG?

Today is January 1, 2009 - In addition to being New Year's Day, it is Kim and Larry's thirty second wedding anniversary.

Yeh, thirty two years ago, we tied the knot. Got married on New Year's Day so that I would be certain to remember our anniversary. At the time I jokingly told Kim that this way when I woke up with the biggest hang over of the year, I would know it was our anniversary time again.

Well, the days of going out and joining the throng for New Year's Eve are long gone. We never really did that anyway because most New Year's Eves I was working a club somewhere -- and that will dull the shine of hanging out with amateur drunks to all hours of the night.

Now we are lucky if we make it past the 10 PM news.

My chiropractor, Jerry Retzlaff has the right idea. He goes to a little bar on the north side of Eau Claire where they celebrate New Year's Eve with the Irish -- at 6PM -- when it is midnight in Ireland.

So it is our anniversary. We don't do much to mark it. We both express aloud that we are interested in renewing our subscription for another year and we wish each other well throughout the day, watch a few videos and then I make the same thing for our anniversary dinner that I always prepare.

Since almost all restaurants are closed on New Year's Day (we didn't think about that), I prepare what I would probably have ordered on such a special occasion had we gone out: steak and lobster. This year I have two rock lobster tails and two nice tenderloins in the refrigerator and when I finsih writing here, I will be going over to get the baked potato started.

Truth is, our marriage is still working pretty damn well! There is something to be said about mature relationships. You get comfortable with one another. Marriage becomes like a well worn pair of shoes.

It's a great way to start the new year. To be with the one person I would rather be with than anyone else!

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