Advertise Here

Community Comment

Archive for April 2009

Thought for the Minute…

Good evening, Netizens…

Here is a contribution from one of my more conspiratorial amigos…

It was once said that a black man would be president when pigs fly, sure enough 100 days into Obama’s presidency Swine Flu.


610 Months

The sentence for Shellye Stark is in.  Six Hundred and Ten months.  That ought to be quieting.  Just over 50 years.  Do you think it’s enough.  Too much?  Life would be better?  Does this bring justice to the death of a human being?

No surprise! Chrysler is heading for bankruptcy…

Good morning, Netizens…

Chrysler, the third-largest automotive manufacturer, will seek bankruptcy protection and enter an alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, the White House announced Thursday. According to my memory, it is the first time since 1933 and the days of the humble Studebaker, that an automotive manufacturer has filed for bankrupcy.

President Obama called the deal “a new lease on life” for the troubled auto maker, and promised a quick, surgical bankruptcy.

One presupposes that the union members and the bondholders for Chrysler would never dissent in such an agreement, but I could be wrong. More details and perhaps a better analysis of the bankruptcy are forthcoming.


Belated Happy Birthday to Jeanie…

Good morning, Netizens…

This morning, as I wavered past the flowering tulips outside the doorway that leads to the Virtual Ballroom, pausing in my introspection to admire the neat handiwork of the Garden Gnomes who have been preparing the soil for our annual festival of garden vegetables, a virtual cornucopia of gastronomical delights for the healthy, it suddenly struck me that all the signs are there – we have the makings of an otherwise chilly but normal spring day in the making. The bulbs are blooming and growing, the ground is prepared for the garden and the Garden Gnomes are now emerging from their underground holes in preparation for yet another growing season.

As I marched stoically into the Virtual Ballroom, however, my early morning reveries were shattered, like so many pieces of fragile pottery against the brick walls of the Ballroom when I slid into my familiar bar stool awaiting to see who was serving Virtual Espresso this morning, and what flavor that might be, for one never knows about such things. Ttanding behind the counter, giving me an unforgiving eye, was a late friend, the Ghost of the late John King, formerly of the Phoenix newsgroup and earlier, a writer for the Spokane Falls newspaper, who stood there glaring at me.

“You, of all people, should never forget the birthdays of those close associates and friends,” he barked, much like the bulldog he once was in life. “I even understand from various associates of mine that, upon occasion, you have even forgotten your beloved wife’s birthday, and I find that totally unacceptable. You should always celebrate the lives that touch yours, not idly pass them by in favor of more lucrative fare.”

“But,” I remonstrated, “Things over the last week have gotten extremely hectic, what with several issues with several clients all simultaneously banging down around my ears. The Virtual Ballroom was and remains an all-volunteer operation, and sometimes I have to prioritize matters based upon income, rather than other criteria. Forgetting Jeanie’s sixtieth birthday yesterday was but a momentary lapse in the overall bandwagon of life.”

“Well, today’s Virtual Espresso should help with any future reoccurrences of that nature, my old friend.” With that, John deftly slid a shiny bright red cup of something simmering and of delightful appearance in front of me. “Today’s Virtual Espresso is called Remember All, and will help you always remember those whom you love.”

As I took my first hesitant sip of the Espresso of the Day, I suddenly knew that next year I strive to always remember important dates, none less important than Jeanie’s birthday. A belated but heartfelt Happy Birthday to my dear consort.


KREM joins others in laying off personnel…

Good morning, Netizens…

It isn’t about the talent or skill, nor is it about their on-air personalities. It is all about the MONEY just about like what is happening to the newspaper industry nationwide. That is the story, according to the Spokane Inlander’s (p:// Nicholas Deshais’s story about the evolution sweeping KREM-2’s news room. The news came down from Belo Corporation, and everyone stepped into their respective positions. Nothing on their web site suggests that people are now unemployed; they are simply not there anymore.

The portion of this story that truly makes me sad is that thus far this year, KREM-TV has already won four regional Edward R. Murrow awards for exceptional journalism, a statistic that, no matter how you look at it, gives them bragging rights that no one else in Spokane can claim. Orders are orders, and everyone stepped in lockstep to comply.

Their news stories about the Valley View fire, Joel building fire, the Sage Tavern closing and record severe winter snow storm all received national recognition, as well they should. KREM was able to put the most people on the ground in situations where needed, and although I question their claim to top honors for their winter snow storm reports, because until the worst of the storm had passed, they did not cover the residential neighborhoods.

Still, some of the brightest and best of the KREM-2 news room are gone, budgetary cuts taking precedence over talent and awards. One has only to wonder where this erosion will all end, but without a robust national economy I simply do not see it stopping soon.


Are you concerned? Are you prepared?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

With the news still hovering in the air like a giant diseased bat about to land in your hair, the World Health Organization this afternoon raised the alert level for the so-called Swine Flu Virus to 5, one stop short of declaring a full-blown pandemic.

While they have asked if people are concerned over in Huckleberries Online, the unspoken question, one that truly bothers me more than that is, how many people are prepared for a world-wide pandemic?

We potentially are talking about wholesale government shutdowns, major shopping centers closed or at least heavily-restricted.The fallout from a pandemic could be much worse than perhaps anyone now recognizes.

At very least we may be forced to wear those tawdry face masks such as they have donned in Mexico.

Always in the spirit of irreverence, do you think it would be too much to ask for designer facial masks if a pandemic does occur?


Arlen WHO…

Good morning, Netizens…

In today’s David Horsey cartoon we delve into a piece of American politics that perhaps few of us pay much attention to: switch hitters, people who switch from one party to the other. The former Republican Arlen Specter, who recently won accolades from members of the Democratic Party, including President Obama, has had verbal rocks thrown at him by members of the Republican Party, including Rush Limbaugh and Fox News Networks’ commentators because he switched sides. 

Obama said he was “glad to have Specter” and Rush Limbaugh said he wouldn’t be missed, if you want to know.

It seems the only place they appreciate switch-hitters these days is in baseball, and only if they are proficient with either hand.

Is this simply political expediency or, as Specter observed, has the Republican Party become too far right-wing for his tastes? Which is it?


Alas, poor Keith Hindman…

Good morning, Netizens…

Over a decade ago I met Dr. Keith Hindman of the former Deer Park Hospital as most people meet a doctor for the first time, as a patient. Dr. Hindman put me at ease in the first thirty seconds of our chance meeting in the Emergency Room of the former Deer Park Hospital, with a casual, friendly manner that bespoke of life in rural Stevens County rather than Spokane County. He was never nebulous, avoiding fifty dollar words that only a medical practitioner would understand, nor officious, like a doctor who is in a hurry to get to his next patient.

He explained my medical condition, helping me understand atrial fibrillation, and told me I would be hospitalized until that condition corrected itself. I drove myself to Deer Park during my first heart attack.

Almost immediately I knew Hindman had known heart issues of his own, for he admitted he had a stroke many years before that mildly affected his speech. Laying there on the gurney, however, with my poor chest doing a pitter-patter that sounded more like a tin drum being beaten by a demented man with a sledge hammer than normal heart rhythm, I trusted everything he said. That would change over time, for I have never cared for nor trusted a doctor since my childhood doctor who delivered babies in mountain shacks and salvaged bodies from mine accidents with equal ease.

What memories I have of that first face-to-face meeting was how gently and reverently his hands explored my poor broken body, for I already had many scars, even in those days, a fact Hindman did not miss.

Praise for Spokane Police Officer

I love hearing positive things about people in our community. KHQ announced yesterday that

Spokane Police Officer Glenn Bartlett will be receiving the Silver Star Medal April 29 for his courageous off-duty actions following a fatal car accident.

Congratulations, Officer Bartlett. It’s wonderful to know that there are people out there that are proactive Good Samaritans and give of themselves to help others.


The irreverent side of swine flu virus…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here are some facts about swine flu you might not have heard in discussions about swine flu or pork barrel politics:

Q. What is swine flu?

A. Swine flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease normally found in pigs. It spreads through tiny particles in the air, by kissing infected pigs or humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it tends to infect large numbers of a given pig population, killing between 1 and 4 percent of those affected. Not every animal infected displays symptoms although lipstick on a pig snout is a sure sign someone has been kissing the pork. Politicians, particularly in a re-election year, appear to be particularly susceptible to kissing pork in a barrel.

Q. Where do outbreaks occur?
A. Swine flu is considered endemic in the United States, and outbreaks in pigs have also been reported elsewhere in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of eastern Asia. In short, most pigs around the world can be infected. Although you can ask any pig if they are infected, be especially cautious about asking wild boars because they are contentious and dislike answering questions from strangers.

Q. How do humans contract the virus?
A. People usually become infected through contact with pigs, though some cases of LIMITED human-to-human transmission have been reported. Don’t kiss any pigs. In fact, don’t kiss anyone you don’t know.

Q. Is it safe to eat pork products?
A. The World Health Organization says properly handled and prepared pork products are safe to eat. The swine flu virus dies when heated to temperatures of 160 F/70 C or higher. Make certain any pigs you encounter are at or above that temperature.

Q. Does a vaccine for swine flu exist?
A. Pigs in North America are routinely vaccinated for swine flu, but no vaccine exists for humans, whether they are prone to kissing pigs or not. In any case, the flu virus evolves quickly, meaning that vaccines are soon obsolete. Health officials say there is no suggestion that the vaccine prepared for seasonal flu will protect against swine flu. The swine flu virus detected in Mexico and the United States appears to respond to treatment with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). In terms of prevention, maintaining good hygiene, for example regular hand-washing and staying a safe distance from those infected, may help.


Swine flu continues to evolve…

Good morning, Netizens…

Today’s picture is grim. Nuns wear face masks during a closed door mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City on Sunday. Churches stood empty Sunday in predominantly Roman Catholic Mexico City after services were canceled, and health workers screened airports and bus stations for people sickened by a new strain of swine flu that experts fear could become a global epidemic.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills) (April 26, 2009)

People are dying out there as swine flu overwhelms the health care systems in various foreign countries. On Sunday, Canada became the third country to confirm cases of swine flu, while global health officials considered whether to escalate the current pandemic alert level.

The strain of A/H1N1 swine flu virus has been detected in several locations in Mexico and the United States, and now appears to be spreading human-to-human in New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio.

Symptoms of the flu-like illness include a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Although the virus is acquired directly from pigs, hence its name, there are some signs that it is already being spread from human-to-human exposure.

Like some news, by the time you read this, since this is an evolving story, more people will probably be infected; perhaps before the end of the week the World Health Organization will pronounce this as a World Pandemic as the virus continues to grow and evolve.

Authorities say the swine flu has not reached Washington State yet, and in the same breath state that samples are being tested for its presence by federal health authorities.

So how are you feeling?


Starvation in many forms…

Good morning, Netizens…

David Horsey takes on the issue of starvation, both forced and chosen as a way of life this morning. Quoting Horsey’s Blog, he states that, “Today’s pageant contestants seem to be vying for the title of Miss Anorexia.”

On the other hand, he seems to be taking a level-headed look at our culture of female beauty, pointing out that beauty queens and supermodels tend to be vacuous and empty-headed at times. This view might offend some, but then we do have a culture that extols the somewhat questionable virtues of Ken and Barbie dolls, do we not?

The issue that David Horsey overlooks in this cartoon, one which leaves me breathing fire and fury, is one of compassion for those who are staving in the world in lieu of anorexic beauty queens and supermodels. We do not have to look any further than our own country to find innocent victims of starvation, do we? Some are beauty queens and supermodels, some are simply dirt poor.

The empty-headed expressions, the inane commentary aside, I love the exquisite detail of this cartoon, the shadows carefully drawn with such finesse. It is David Horsey at his best, and seems like a good way to start a new week off. Some say contention is good for the soul.


A new addition to Community Comment…

Good morning, Netizens…

I fondly remember Milt Priggee from the days when he was employed by the Spokesman-Review; one of the first things I read in the paper in those wonderful days was the political cartoon, to see who or what Milt had set firmly as his targets. He never was particularly shy about whom he chose as targets for his illustrious pen, either.

Given the relative successes we have enjoyed with David Horsey’s excellent political cartoons as of late, last week I sat down and wrote a note in e-mail to Milt Priggee asking for permission to post his cartoons in Community Comment as well, more or less dreading the response I might get because he once was fired from the Spokesman. I was in for a surprise when he agreed. No let’s make that ecstatic when Milt said yes, responding quizzically, “Care to share what has changed?” to which I responded with the entire history of Community Comment beginning with former Editor Steve Smith up to and including the present, making haste to point out that neither Jeanie nor I are members of the Spokesman staff.

However, if you are unfamiliar with Priggee’s incredible talent, his sense of humor and sometimes dry wit, you should visit his home page, and view the entire scope of what Milt has drawn from the beginning. Some of his drawings and cartoons are classics in journalism, but that isn’t to say he hasn’t stepped on some toes while he was at it. After all, isn’t that one of the objectives of drawing cartoons for a living?

In addition to occasionally ruffling feathers that needed ruffling, Milt has been an award winner in the Associated Press Society of Ohio, Mencken Awards, National Newspaper Association, Overseas Press Club, the Small Business Foundation of America, Inc., Pacific Northwest Journalists, the Fischetti Editorial Cartoon, and The First Iran Internet Cartoon contests.

So, I am proud to include Milt Priggee in our little piece of space and look forward to seeing his humor rippling up from the Community Comment ballroom each day.


Quote of the Day — April 26, 2009

Good morning, Netizens…

The quote of the day comes from British writer Clive Barnes, who is frequently cited as thus:

Television is the first truly democratic culture — the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.

Clive Barnes

Now that is a question which keeps poll-takers up late at nights, scratching their heads, manipulating numbers and attempting to project which television shows will “work” next season.

More than anything else, television shapes our news habits, for as several world-reknown journalists have observed, you can get a television viewers to sit vapidly in front of the Tube watching all the news of the day in half-hour segments with the clicker in their hands, but you cannot get them to read a morning newspaper.

Why is that, do you think?

Is it literacy or the lack thereof? Does television news give you something you cannot get from subscribing to and reading the morning paper? Is it the cost factor, that you never sense the cost of cable TV lurking behind the scenes when you are watching Randy Shaw, but you have to pay the Spokesman for reading the news?

Or, as Clive Barnes put it so eloquently, are the essentials which people have come to expect from television more terrifying than most would believe?


Creating a policy for torture?

Good morning, Netizens…

In this morning’s David Horsey cartoon we see the logical outcome of an American term called “waffling”, which is further defined, particularly outside of the U.S., as “denoting language without meaning; blathering, babbling, droning.” In other sources it is referred to as “A repetitive response to a question.”

Both seem remotely applicable, despite the fact that President Barack Obama appears to be the source of the comments made about American torture, also referred to as “harsh interrogation techniques”. Does the United States sanction or approve of torturing U.S. Terrorism suspects? That depends largely upon where you get the answer.

Former President George W. Bush was not much better at answering the same questions as put to President Obama. In fact, according a National Public Radio program heard yesterday, the opinion whether or not “waterboarding” was approved by the CIA waffled back and forth throughout much of Bush’s term-of-office until some former CIA operatives no longer active in Iraq had no idea whether or not waterboarding was torture and, if so, whether or not its use was sanctioned by our government.

It is painfully obvious to even the most-tentative explorer that various forms of torture were used on Iraqi captives, ranging from the now well-known waterboarding, to hanging prisoners from chains and other forms of indecency under the Bush administration. We, as a nation, justified this because a band of terrorists had killed hundreds of innocents at the World Trade Center by flying planes into them. We, as a nation, justified torturing prisoners because Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld implied it was necessary to break the back world terrorism, to ensure Al Qaeda or the Taliban would never again strike American soil.

But was it right? My answer has been and always will be, “Hell no!” if for no other reason than the old axiom my grandmother once taught me, that two wrongs don’t make a right.

However, now that the cat is out of the bag, that we are now forced to admit we tortured prisoners of war, how do we, as a nation of laws, deal with the issue?

So long as President Barack Obama sits at that big desk, as Commander-in-Chief of all our military might and power, it is his responsibility to answer the questions regarding our collective past. It is now his responsibility to create a policy to address the past.

Waffling is simply not the answer Americans need to hear. Or is it?


Spokane County Cuts Hours 15%

From the Spokesman-Review:

By: Jim Camden

Union votes to cut pay 15%.  Dozens of Spokane County employees are taking a 15% pay cut to avoid anyone being laid off.  Employees of a Spokane County department will switch to a 4 day work week.

Demand is down on construction projects. So now the department is making cuts.

Instead of lay offs the employee’s union decide to shoulder the burden as a whole. Everyone will take a 15% cut.

A union staff representative says there are a majority of people not at risk for the layoffs who still voted to save jobs.

The changes will affect about 40 people. The department will also reduce their work week to a 4 day work week. The department will now operate on a 32 hour week Monday through Thursday. The union also agreed to a week long furlough.

Each union employees’ health benefits, vacation, and sick time remain untouched despite the cuts.

The decision will be reviewed every month. The temporarily deal lasts through January of next year.

Where does it stop?

Good morning, Netizens…

So, we’ve collectively got a huge deficit, right? What I think David Horsey is asking in his cartoon is, just whose deficit is it, anyway? Before, under the George Bush administration, we could all gleefully stand and point our fingers at George W. and say something like, “See what you have done, George. You’re a naughty man for allowing such a thing to happen on your watch.”

Of course, some might say we were playing partisan politics for saying such things, but then, perhaps not.

Now that Obama has increased the deficit with various bailout schemes and other ways he is trying to save our national economy, at some point in time we must, in all fairness, make the deficit his property.

My belief is that until that dinosaur called our national deficit starts shrinking downward, it is his, and now we must point at Barack Obama and say, “See what you have done, Barack. You’re a naughty man for allowing this to continue to grow.”

Some may suggest that we are playing party politics again. Perhaps not. The bottom line remains the same. Unless he figures out a way to shrink that T-Rex we call our national deficit, we are in such deep doo-doo.

Of course, I am anxiously awaiting everyone’s thoughts on this, as it affects our children and grandchildren, perhaps as much as two generations from now.


Here’s a cup for you…

Good morning, Netizens…

It’s FRIDAY again, and as we wind down from a long, hectic week, I saw this picture this morning and thought to myself, “I want a coffee cup like THAT.”

Actress Amy Poehler sips from a giant coffee cup during her appearance on NBC’s “Today” program in New York Thursday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) (April 23, 2009)

Of course, this begs the question, how many cups of coffee do you drink each day? I probably drink two or three good-sized cups of my special blend each day, fresh ground coffee that is 50% Kona and 50% a standard blend, all of which I get from Four Seasons. The Kona makes it so one cup of my delightful blend generally will put most normal citizens in low-altitude orbit for the rest of the month.

Of course, that doesn’t include the special blends I get regularly from the Virtual Espresso Bar, some of which I have never heard of.

So, pour yourselves a cup of whatever pleases thee, and enjoy the day.


Quote of the Day — April 24, 2009

Good morning, Netizens…

Our Quote of the Day struck a chord in my head…

If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

Thomas Szasz

Thomas Stephen Szasz (pronounced /sas/; born April 15, 1920 in Budapest, Hungary) is a psychiatrist and academic. Since 1990[1] he is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York. He is a prominent figure in the antipsychiatry movement, a well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, and of the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as of scientism. He is well known for his books, The Myth of Mental Illness (1960) and The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970) which set out some of the arguments with which he is most associated.

His views on special treatment follow from classical liberal roots which are based on the principles that each person has the right to bodily and mental self-ownership and the right to be free from violence from others, although he criticized the “Free World” as well as the Communist states for its use of psychiatry and “drogophobia”. He believes that suicide, the practice of medicine, use and sale of drugs and sexual relations should be private, contractual, and outside of state jurisdiction.

In 1973, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.

Hmph. Suicide, the practice of medicine, use and sale of drugs and sexual relations should be private, contractual, and outside of state jurisdiction, and this is coming from a world-reknown psychiatrist? Or, could it be as one former patient of Eastern State Hospital once stated to me, “all psychiatrists are as nuts as the patients they treat”.Which is it?

Now that is thought provoking.


I’ve been remiss…

Good morning, Netizens…

For the better part of the last three days I have been engaged in what some of my peers might call the eternal trial by fire, as a server hard drive over which I am responsible failed after 3 years, six months and change. What this implies is that for the last 72 hours I have been largely working 16-18 hours per day refitting a new hard drive and performing a restoration process which, fortunately, worked as planned.

There are a lot of people who are attempting to sell backup solutions for computer users, and over the years, I have always stuck with the free solution that has worked so well for everything I do, the Unix “tar” program. As always, the backups it creates worked just fine, and thus for the future, my reputation is secure. (huge sigh of relief) In some cases, it can take days to write a decent tar backup script, but once you have it down pat, you can sleep nights.

Unfortunately, that has left me somewhat distracted from the business of tending the Community Comment, but as of last night I was able to sleep beneath the bar in the Virtual Ballroom, my mind secure and my heart once more beating its normal rhythm. There is nothing like watching a hard disk shred itself to setting your poor heart to pitter-patting like a sparrow wearing tennis shoes on steroids.

Unfortunately, the beautiful warm weather that I occasionally admired out the window while thus engaged in my real day job is going, going gone! Instead we will be seeing possible showers, perhaps even a thunderstorm, and much, much cooler.

I guess I’ll put away the Sea-N-Ski lotion for another few weeks.


Quote of the Day — April 23, 2009

Good afternoon, Netizens…

The quote of the day perhaps has even greater meaning than perhaps its author might have foreseen.

Quote of the Day April 23, 2009

The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

With no offense intended to the author of Reaganomics, we have seen a few horrible changes to our national economy which mandates we add a few additions to how government views our national economy.

One: If you cannot solve the problem, by all means throw money at it. Money cures everything, right?

Two: If you are going to subsidize the United Auto Workers by financially underwriting GM, Chrysler and Ford, ignore how well their respective automobiles are selling. Obviously once things improve, Americans will begin buying new cars. Well, maybe.

Three: (Brightening) Look at the medical sector of the American economy. It continues unabated to grow each year. Ignore those comments that suggest the average American can no longer afford medical care nor insurance. Once things improve, Americans will begin buying insurance and everything will be good once more.

Four: Our nation’s economy will get better. (The choir chimes in with a heart-felt “Yeah, sure!” as the descent into an unknown future continues.

I wonder what Ronald Reagan would do if faced with similar circumstances? Anyone have any ideas?


Another truckload over the edge…

Good morning, Netizens…

We can add another piece to this David Horsey cartoon which aptly depicts the bailout of the American economy, as Freddie Mac Acting Chief Financial Officer David Kellermann committed suicide yesterday. If you look somewhere down at the bottom of the cliff over which the dump truck has been dumping our taxpayer dollars, you may see his body there, along with various other dignitaries that have bit the bullet rather than face their ignominy, if not the disgrace of having led us to this place in history.

The real question, which so haunts me, is how much longer will the government, our government, continue tossing good money after bad over the cliff before someone, with the cajones to do so, says, “ENOUGH ALREADY!” and stops the show?

Of course, this begs the question who really runs the economy of this country: the United Auto Workers or the people? I’ve gotten into deep trouble for asking harder questions than that, but it does seem to be a logical and thus important question to me.


The Art of the Ramble…

Good morning, Netizens…

Report upon a good ramble…

I suppose I need to admit it from the onset that my wife was right, that I had been stuck behind the desk, in the Great Chair, for far too long. Even after I knew beyond a word of doubt that she was correct, that I had become frumpish and withdrawn during the long Winter, as if clinging to something inanimate in my daily routine, I agreed to the concept of our Ramble, as we have come to call it, and shortly after 9:00 AM we were off.

The rules of the ramble have always been the same: we climb in the family Hootmobile and simply try to our very best to get ourselves hopelessly lost. The only rules by which we declare a Ramble in play is (1) we pick a direction of the compass and (2) we drive until we see a road, highway, dirt path or what-have-you that looks interesting at the time. Repeat until either exhaustion or time has expired. I do believe the longest Ramble we ever took was a circuitous trip from Coeur D’Alene to Headquarters, Idaho via Dworshak Dam Road with various side roads far too numerous to name in Clearwater County and from thence back to Spokane. The total time elapsed was over 12 hours start to finish. It was delightful.

Our Ramble this weekend consisted of a trip to Ione, Washington and beyond. Why Ione? Why not? All winter we have been muttering imprecations about the snow in Spokane, while Ione had an equal or greater amount of snow and yet you never heard a word about it. That’s because it is a sleepy little burg where no one minds Mother Nature; they simply tighten their lips and proceed onward.

While we were Rambling around Ione, we stopped at one of our favorite roadside attractions, a place along Highway 20 called The Outpost where, once upon a time we used to listen to several of our favorite bands playing music beneath the stars. We had driven by it once, because the sign said “CLOSED”, but the second time around, we saw people sitting on the lawn next to the river and thus we learned it is under new ownership.

We stopped, got acquainted with the new owners, studied them in our own time-proven methods of character assessment, and after only brief thought, have promised we will return once they finish recovering from the vagaries of winter and the previous business’s closure. They are nice people, with good business backgrounds. It takes a lot of guts to buy a down-at-the-heels resort during bad economic times, a fair amount of capital and some luck.

Once we found a peaceful pull out along the road, we took this tranquil picture to remind us that one can always find peace and tranquility. Sometimes all it takes are two people committed to the game known as a Ramble, and a commitment to each other.


Never forget

Good morning, Netizens…

For the late Mrs. Wilkerson:

I will remember you for all the days I draw breath, for I constantly recall our days at the nursing home, when I was much younger than today, terribly naïve and innocent in the ways of the world. We gathered, quite by accident, on wooden lawn chairs beneath the trees, and since I was courting your granddaughter in a slipshod manner at the time, I was being quite respectful, very careful in my words, for I did not know you that well.

You always wore long sleeves, and your English was heavily-accented with German, but I never gave it a thought until the afternoon you had a minor heart incident while we were sitting outside in the glory of the day beneath the eucalyptus trees in San Jose, talking about nothing of consequence. When the medics came rushing with their self-importance, they rolled up your long sleeves and I instinctively knew the meaning of the pale blue serial number tattooed on your arm, and yet I said nothing.

In the coming months I learned you had Multiple Sclerosis and as your grammar began slowly degenerating, even after I broke off the relationship with your granddaughter for an unremarkable number of reasons, I continued coming by to visit with you at the nursing home when time permitted, and finally in your last months of life we began talking hesitantly about your life in Dachau, and how life in the German concentration camps horribly changed you and yet made you strong.

You told me how it was, and how you were stoic when your husband died, but I noticed at the time you never said how he passed on in the depravity of Dachau. You showed me one of your most-precious possessions, a faded picture of you and your husband just after your wedding day, and while we talked of it, your forefinger tapped it as if emphasizing that was a cherished and sacred memory that, although burdened down with a sack filled with pain, you never had forgotten.

At some point in our series of conversations, you listed the names of your cousins, nephews and nieces, all of whom simply disappeared while you were in Dachau, and how there are no records of their deaths anywhere. It was as if they simply ceased to exist; Hitler’s Germany could do that, as I have since learned. But I made you a promise to remember these things all the days of my life, to pass them onward so that none will ever forget.

A few years ago I encountered and interviewed a White Separatist in Montana who looked at me with bright blue eyes and attempted unsuccessfully with his innocent mien to convince me that the Holocaust was all a myth and that I must be delusional to believe in it. I told him about those days from long ago, and the pictures of missing relatives you shared with me.

I made and kept a promise to never forget.


Is the party over already?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

The Summit of the Americas, huh? Today David Horsey’s cartoon suggests that everyone was completely happy, that a newfound warmth exists between the United States and countries of South America.

It seems like only yesterday that President Obama was being called all sorts of ungracious names by various members of state of the South American Triumvirate. Chavez, who once called former President George W. Bush the “devil” and who last month dismissed Obama as an “ignoramus” were photographed smiling and clasping hands as if they were bosom buddies. Chavez even walked around the table to hand Obama a copy of “Open Veins of Latin America,” a 1971 book by Eduardo Galeano chronicling U.S. and European imperialism in the region.

Now the question is how long will this happy party last before people resume calling each other names again?

Even Conservative voices in South America are making vague sounds as if there might be hope of the United States and South American countries healing the rifts that have held them asunder for decades.

Do you trust this new ambience? Do you think that President Obama’s hand being extended to South American countries will be reciprocated?


Wild Card Sunday April 19, 2009

Good afternoon, everyone…

Since we are in the process of a “ramble” to Ione and beyond, I regret I will have little to say this afternoon except here is your Wild Card for today. Use it with care…


Ramblin’ Fever…

Good morning, Netizens…

First, I’ll play the chorus from one of my old Merle Haggard favorites, “Rambling Fever” which goes like this:

Ramblin’ fever, the kind that can’t be measured by degrees
Ramblin’ fever, there ain’t no kind of cure for my disease

The minute the winter’s accumulation of snow ceased making our highways half so tricky to navigate as they have been and the minute the State Highway Department begins putting their snow plows away for yet another season, I begin to get my annual dose of Ramblin’ Fever. As quickly as the jackrabbits once more begin assuming control of the high meadows in the Sawtooth Range, I tromp my foot onto the accelerator heading for destinations unknown.

Once my wife and I traveled over a three-state area following any of our favorite Bluegrass musical groups wherever they would play. From the mountains of Idaho and Montana to various places throughout Washington State, we rambled whenever one of our favorite bands played, slept out either beneath the stars or, later on, in the motorhome. Unfortunately, that entire urge died. I was told emphatically I could not befriend a Spokane City Police Detective who figured prominently in what was once one of our favorite bands, and it is to the point now that we hardly ever attend any musical festivals as we once did. No, let’s be more emphatic than that: it was a former Assistant Chief of the Spokane Police Department who made the “rules”. All we have done is follow his questionable lead, and we avoid any involvement in the local musical scene. Everyone lost in the deal.

However, the rambling fever, which has always been there subconsciously, that inherent urge to climb aboard something with wheels and head out into the morning sunrise, still lives there beneath the surface, unwanted, but nonetheless part of my consciousness. I don’t like Big Cities, I don’t do well in the heart of a rush hour traffic jam on some concrete slab, and I sure as hell do not relish the thought of some pin-headed high-ranking police or political bureaucrat judging my character without even meeting me face-to-face.

However, the minute that Spring peers its bright green nose above the snowbanks far enough to see from beside the road, I grab the digital camera and look for a road that seems interesting and off we go. If that road passes another that also seems interesting enough to follow, we follow it until we decide to come home. Hopefully we will have gotten lost a time or two; perhaps we’ll find a place to justify ramblin’ fever.

It’s almost time to ramble again. I can hardly wait.

Have you ever gone rambling across country for the sheer heck of seeing the countryside? If so, where did you end up?


Taxes or not?

Good morning, Netizens…

Now David Horsey’s cartoon this morning is bound to set members of the conservative right wing to rattling their sabers and banging their kettles against their foreheads.

What David Horsey states is impeccably true, though. The hard part about this all is how this country is going to deal with its deficit, but that seems to be an issue for another conversation.

However, on this point, Horsey is right-on!


Man versus gophers…

Good morning, Netizens…

The rise of the Rodenator in Spokane’s Finch Arboretum has a lot of citizens up in arms over ground squirrels. In case you hadn’t heard, the Rodenator injects propane and oxygen into the gopher holes and then lights up the highly flammable mix with a spark, thus killing or at least maiming the ground squirrels wherever they happen to be below-ground at that moment. According to its manufacturer, it is an effective, humane method of dealing with one of America’s most persistent underground burrowers.

Here’s the video that warbles ecstatically about how the Rodenator works:

According to the Rodenator web site “The majority of Rodenator customers use our pest control products on the following types of pests: voles, moles, gophers, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits, armadillos, marmots (rock chucks, ground hogs, wood chucks), badgers, foxes and coyotes. As of this morning, their web site is occasionally up but sometimes unable to connect. Perhaps the national news media attention cast their way is bringing new customers their way. Who knows? The web site is quite informative in a brisk, businesslike manner. That, of course, depends upon whether you are a gopher.

I have tried for two days to get anyone from Spokane Parks Department to comment on their use of the Rodentator to solve their persistent problems with ground squirrels, but now after the National Humane Society has taken the City of Spokane to task for their inhumane method of solving the problem, they seem to be a bit reluctant to comment further.

However, there is always someone somewhere on the Internet with a tongue-in-cheek commentary well worth watching.

Having lived on ranches and farms for a fair portion of my life, I have seen two horses being put down after breaking their legs on gopher holes. My suggestion to the Spokane Parks Department is, if they have a good working alternative solution to the Rodenator, it might be time to deploy/use it, perhaps even get working on a patent, because the problem will not go away otherwise.

Of course, your results may differ.


Quote of the Day — April 17, 2009

Good morning, Netizens…

Somehow Barack Obama has already made it into the database that powers Quote of the Day, which comes as no surprise to me, given how “quotable” he has become before, during and since his ascendancy to the Presidency of the United States. So, without further ado, I’ll quote his words, wondering what people will say about him after his first term in office.

There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to

build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there

in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more

hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a

people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree

with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the

government can’t solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will

listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you

to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done

in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand

by calloused hand.

Barack Obama (1961 - ), Election Night Speech in Chicago, 11-04-08


Too Fat? Pay Double

From KHQ today:

United Airlines to start enforcing controversial weight policy

SPOKANE, Wash. - United Airlines is going to start enforcing a controversial policy when it comes to flying. The policy could get overweight people bumped off their flight.

Isn’t this something! First we have a woman that is the focus of millions of people around the world because (1) she is average looking on the plain side and (2) she has the most beautiful voice ever heard.

Now we have fat people having to pay double for seats on United Airlines are get off, big boy.

OK, it sounds like these are two different items – but actually it is one. It is the question of who decides what is “normal.” If I have bushy eyebrows, buck teeth, and a big nose – well, who’s to say that isn’t how God created man in the first place. It’s how He created me. Who said that “beauty” is thin eyebrows, straight teeth, and a small nose. How boring is that?!?

Same with “fat.” What if fat were in and thin was out. What if fat was synonymous with health and thin was sickly and frail.

And we’re talking about airline seats that were designed 40 years ago. They’re TOO SMALL!!! I’m 5‘2” and a little pudgy, not bad (again – could be normal; could be just right) and I’m uncomfortable belted into that crimping, squished, vice-like grip of the too-small seat. Make them bigger! And get off your high horse, United, you aren’t winning a beauty contest here, pun intended.


General Growth Properties files Chapter 11…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

Hot off the skillet of the Associated Press, General Growth Properties, Inc., the corporate owner of Northtown Mall, Spokane Valley and Silver Lake malls has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this morning. You can read the gory details here but the question that is rattling around in my head, one that makes me chuckle even, is when or if they get their bailout funds?

Of source, since I first began writing this piece, and although there are no real details regarding the debt to liquidity margins for all three malls, the bankruptcy may yet prove to be more than it appears at this moment.

According to the AP story, they had about $29.6 billion in assets at the end of the year, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York and filed bankruptcy on approximately $27 billion in debt. The Company currently has ownership interest in, or management responsibility for, over 200 regional shopping malls in 44 states, as well as ownership in master planned community developments and commercial office buildings. The Company’s portfolio totals approximately 200 million square feet of retail space and includes over 24,000 retail stores nationwide. The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GGP.

So perhaps, as you can from the above, there is more at play here than simply the three regional malls.


The Tea Parties…

Good morning, Netizens…

The Citizenry of Eastern Washington had their opportunities yesterday to revolt against the tax system, and if David Horsey’s cartoon this morning is any judge of it, the God-fearing Right Wing of the Republican Party celebrated while most of the rest of us, those that have real day jobs, watched the evening news to see what we missed.

Perhaps the real question that goes unanswered about David Horsey’s cartoon this morning is whether Rush and Hannity actually celebrate during the Tea Parties yesterday? This implies, in my opinion, that neither of these men would have the wherewithal to attend a demonstration against the very system that has made them so wealthy.

Kudos to David Horsey for seeing through that.Did you attend a Tea Party yesterday? (Just out of curiosity, what kind of tea did you have?)


In the Eye of the Beholder

This Susan Boyle thing has sure stirred up a lot of people.  We are all fascinated with her voice.  Her voice is absolutely beautiful.  But why are we fascinated with it?  It’s actually not the voice – it’s that the majority of the people watching her, and I would guess 99.99% that were watching her, figured if her voice was anything like her body and her face, well it would probably sound like the scullery maid screeching something that didn’t come close to resembling a melody.  And just as soon as I wrote that I wanted to slap my forehead.  I’m ashamed of myself.  I fell into the same ugly stew pot all the other “beautiful people” did around the world.

And I know better.

The remarkable thing about Ms. Boyle, to me anyway, is that she exudes confidence.  She could give me lessons on beauty.

Why does “beauty” have such power in the world today?  When you really think about it, roll that word over your tongue again and again, it’s hollow and shallow.

Can you imagine being in her body right now?  Think about it.  She has been watched by millions of people on YouTube.  And why?  Because she is a plain person who sings like an angel.  We are all shocked, mouths open, that the unbelievable has happened.  A plain person has talent.  You know what’s really small-minded about all of the beautiful people?  They probably think a plain person doesn’t have any brains either.


Quote of the Day — April 16, 2009

Good morning, Netizens…

Today’s random quotation takes me back to another time, another place.The quote of the day is:

You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hind legs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men.

Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956)

Years ago, I met and, despite our obvious differences, became enamored of a Bishop of the Latter Day Saints in Wyoming who, despite being unlettered, having never completed high school, managed to read and retain some of the most-humorous aphorisms which he would dispense, at will, from behind the counter of his Napa Auto Parts Store to anyone willing to listen.

One of his favorite citations went, “If you can teach a horse how to canter, you’re doing good. However, if you can teach a horse to float on his back in the pond while whistling ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ you may have something.”

Unfortunately the Bishop’s son, who never had his father’s loquaciousness nor his abstract sense of humor, inherited the role of Bishop upon his father’s demise as well as titular ownership of the Napa Store.


Giving Up the Bottle

Thought I’d slip something light in here - no cops, no pirates, no taxes.


Giving up the bottle… . . Not the beer bottle – the baby bottle. When my youngest boy was born a mere 17 months after my oldest, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt that I had a second baby while my first born was STILL a baby. I remember walking up the stairs with the brand new baby and looking at the top step where my not even 18-month-old was standing. My heart stopped with a pang. He’s only a baby I thought. I wanted to cry. And sometimes, when both were crying, I cried right along with them. How could I have done such a selfish thing! So, I appeased my guilt by letting my now 18-month-old still use a bottle.

Another breed of pirate…

Good morning, Netizens…

Suddenly the word “pirate” is being tossed around with great frequency by various heads of American state, including President Barack Obama. In this morning’s news there is even talk of bringing back privateers, who were employed against pirates in America’s past: pay the privateers a bounty for each pirate they capture and bring home. It might work.

However, in this morning’s David Horsey cartoon, we envision pirates of a different flavor. These are not your Somali warlords but rather people dressed in Brooks Brothers button-down suits who are viewed by some of Americans as just good old-fashioned capitalists. What is the difference between robber-pirates and crooked capitalists? Come to think of it, there isn’t that much difference.

However, the minute you interject ethics into this equation between the two classes of pirates, Somalis fighting for their survival and blue plate cads who are already well-to-do and getting wealthier on the pain and suffering of others, high-tech American capitalists are not really pirates at all. They are just thieves.

As much as we bad mouth the Somali pirates, they do seem to have a nobler cause.


It did WHAT?

Good morning, Netizens…

Did you have fun in this morning’s little renewal of winter? Well, if you thought this morning’s snow storm was truly odd, guess again. Because I remembered a Spring day about ten years ago, I went and looked it up in my inexhaustible daily duty file, which gets written each day, including today. Here are a few comments excerpted from that document from ten years ago:

April 12, 1999

I woke up this morning to watching it snow outside as if there were no end to winter in sight after several attempts at behaving like Springtime. At dawn there was already 4 inches of newly-fallen snow on the ground, and by 8:30 when I headed to my first appointment of the day on the South Hill, the storm was all but over, although the skies were still leaden and angry gray and the temperature was hovering right at 33 degrees.

Mother Nature, adorned in her near-Christmas finery, however, did not stick around through the forenoon, because by 11:30 the sun was shining and the snow was receding faster than you could say the word meltdown three times. When I met with a client for lunch on the North Side, there was not a shred of the morning snow left to be found anywhere, even on the shady sides of things

However, as if to atone for its morning excesses, Mother Nature let her hair down and beamed upon the budding trees and crocus buds creeping their green heads from beneath the soil, as the temperature soared to 55 degrees with clear skies. The robins and larks once more sang at the top of their lungs from atop the fir tree across the street and suddenly Spring came strolling down the avenue, bestowing her blessings upon us all.

It was as if this morning never happened. No sir. Spring is here, and it never snows in Spokane in the spring.


Jay Olsen resigns from SPD…

Good evening, Netizens…

Well, well… Imagine that…

The Spokesman-Review piece states that Jay Olsen resigned effective immediately this afternoon rather than be fired by Chief Kirkpatrick on official charges. 

Of course by now if you haven’t heard the tale of Olsen shooting Shonto Pete in the head, with all the various permutations of fiction and fantasy that followed in the wake of that incident, you have been sitting too long in the outhouse.

He should have been fired before now. He should have been fired before he collected his back pay, saving the taxpayers from paying for his incompetence and untruthfulness. How much did Olsen cost the taxpayers?


Quote of the Day April 13, 2009

It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth.

George Burns (1896 - 1996)

Is religion dying away?

Good morning, Netizens…

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and if you believe David Horsey, there must be a reason why the churches in Spokane were filled to overflowing despite the fact overall church attendance is declining steadily. However, in his analysis of churchgoers, while David Horsey covered the Evangelical, Catholic, Episcopalian and Methodist he left out several of my favorite religious faiths.

For example, he omitted to mention the Mormons who admit to worshiping God but have their own interpretation of the Bible, complete with two books represented to be Holy Scripture. Are they the most-populous American church? Some say yes, some say no. I say it makes a difference on whether you are a practicing Mormon.

Horsey also overlooks the Unitarians who are perceived by some as somewhat of a alternative religion. According to some other churches, they sidestep traditional God-worship because they ordain Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered (BGLT) persons as ministers, which probably drives the Catholics and the Mormons out of their minds. Ah, and then they allow the battle between religion and science to do battle on a regular basis. As far as I know they have not fully accepted Easter as the rising of Christ from the dead, but I could be wrong on that. This may be what is referred to as “intellectualizing Jesus Christ”, but I could be wrong.

Horsey also fails to pay attention to the Unity movement, the Buddhists, Zoroastrians and various other sects who regularly plead for you to join their congregations and contribute to their cause(s). Each have their own set of disciplines, beliefs and long (sometimes tortured) histories, some of which predate the time of Christ.

Horsey’s cartoon begs the question quite directly: Is Christianity dead or dying on the carpet of Faith? I submit that if you judge the validity of Christianity by the number of persons in church on Easter Sunday, you might be drawn to conclude it is alive and well in America. However, in mid-July this summer, when everyone flees Spokane for camping trips, vacations and other events, you might draw a different conclusion.

My opinion is if you base your belief in the resiliency of Christianity upon the attendance in church, then you might truly end up scratching your heads, because the resident populations dramatically diminishes then.


Captain Phillips free—3 pirates dead

Good afternoon, Netizens…

[Picture Reuters via the U.S. Navy, story portions from CNN and The New York Times]

Richard Phillips, captain of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama, right, after his rescue, with Cmdr. Frank Castellano, the commanding officer of USS Bainbridge.

Captain Richard Phillips of the U.S. cargo ship Maersk Alabama held by Somali pirates for over 100 hours was freed by Navy Seals this afternoon, and in this picture is onboard the U.S. Bainbridge and then transferred to the U.S.S. Boxer.

According to Reuters, “Maersk Line, Limited was informed by the U.S. government at 1330 EDT today that Captain Richard Phillips has been rescued,” the statement read. “John Reinhart, President and Chief Executive Officer of Maersk Line, Limited, called Captain Phillips’ wife, Andrea, to tell her the good news. The crew of the Maersk Alabama was jubilant when they received word.”

Initial reports from CNN said that Mr. Phillips jumped overboard just before the shootout between his captors and Navy Seals ensued near northeastern Somalia. Three of the pirates were killed, according to reports, and one is currently being held in custody. CNN reported that the surviving pirate had been negotiating with American officials.


The Placation from Afghanistan…

Good morning, Netizens…

We take a lot for granted in our great country. Most people reading this probably ate at least one good meal yesterday; even our homeless can eat a good meal occasionally. We can worship our Gods in a church of our choosing, and ostensibly have a democratic government elected by the people.

In today’s David Horsey cartoon, however, we see an aspect of women’s lives in Afghanistan which simply put, would not be tolerated here in the United States, that being women’s rights.

During the rule of the Taliban (1996 - 2001), women were treated worse than in any other society. They were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, not allowed to seek medical help from a male doctor, and forced to cover themselves from head to toe, even covering their eyes. Women who were doctors and teachers before, suddenly were forced to be beggars and even prostitutes in order to feed their families.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the plight of Afghani women has dramatically improved, but with only cursory examination you can see where a lot still needs to change.

Granted, women have been allowed to return back to work, the government no longer forces them to wear the all covering burqa, and they even have been appointed to prominent positions in the government. Despite all these changes many challenges still remain. That is just inside the cities.

If you travel into the rural areas, the repression of women is still prevalent where many families still restrict their own mothers, daughters, wives and sisters from participation in public life. They are still forced into marriages and denied a basic education. Numerous school for girls have been burned down and little girls have even been poisoned to death for daring to go to school.

Some basic facts:

Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies giving birth, as the health care system is nearly nonexistent.

Nearly 87% of Afghan women are illiterate, although this number is slowly dropping.

Only 30% of young women have access to education.

1 in 3 Afghan women have experienced physical, psychological or sexual violence.

The life expectancy for Afghan women is 44 years of age.

Nearly 80% of Afghan women still face forced marriages.

We never see nor hear much about this here in Spokane. That, too, seems to be a shame on us all.


A Good Presentation…

Good morning, Netizens…

Perhaps we have discussed this issue in the recent past to exhaustion, but this link was presented in another conversation and upon watching the UTube video, as jaundiced as I might be from discussing gay marriage, I felt compelled to comment further on this particular video, primarily because of the age of the young man speaking, if not the faces of the people behind him in the crowd.

This 17 year-old kid did a commendable job of eloquently making his case. He has that “pretty boy” quality down pat and could be a choir boy for the gay-lesbian alliances, making speeches on a national basis. I cannot help but wonder how he will do as age and wisdom take over. After all, he is only 17 years old.

After I watched the video through the first time, I watched it again, primarily because of the woman on his left, as she seemed an unlikely enough person, in terms of her age, to support his agenda. Am I wrong here, or are most people in the demographic of 45-65 years of age unreceptive to making gay unions legal? Does that demographic change if you change the term to read “gay marriage”, which implies a church wedding, despite what the young man stated in this video?

I suppose if I were making a controversial presentation before an audience, particularly if the audience had that “reserve” so common in Vermont, I would hope that most of my audience would show the respect, if not the decency they gave this young man.

Is the right to a civil union one of the basic and essential human rights? What about marriage? That seems to be the unanswered question this young man adroitly mixes together. As such, it is a thought-provoking presentation by a kid barely out of high school. His mother should be proud of the job he did.


Tweet? No, thanks…

Good morning, Netizens…

David Horsey’s cartoon of the day certainly hits a sore spot in my repertoire, because although I spent years talking to total strangers on the CB radio, a shortwave radio, Usenet news and e-mail, for some strange reason I have avoided these social networking schemes such as Facebook and Twitter. Somehow it seems a total waste given the amount of time I otherwise spend communicating with other people I don’t know when I could be talking with people I do know. Granted, Twitter has some limited uses for live news broadcasts, but my personal preference is to leave Tweets for our feathered friends, and I don’t even have a Facebook page.

I guess the questions for me are:

If I am satisfied with my wife-for-life and my narrow circle of friends, why should I cast my net further afield in search of someone else? Sometimes I wonder if I spend enough time with them as it is; due to constraints of work and writing, time seems to simply slip away from me as it is.

If I can talk directly to my wife or friends, why should I add another electronic geegaw to the various methods I already employ because it is the latest rage? Personally, I don’t give a damn about the latest fads, because they inevitably change into something else and in some cases never fulfill their purpose to begin with.

Perhaps the biggest concern for me is that of privacy, something which as we have seen over the last six months or more, in the worlds of social networking, privacy sometimes simply ceases to exist. While I’m quick to admit any proof of the lack of privacy in the online community is nebulous and often unprovable, I also know, based upon previous experiences, that anything written online is discoverable under law, and therefore what you say can be held against you.

Somewhere in that great nebulous electronic village things you may have written years ago are waiting, carefully guarded, and waiting to come back to haunt you.


Report suggests cop got a break. Ya think?

There needs to be a reckoning in law enforcement in Spokane County. The image is tarnished and they need to get back to being a public servant, rather than a brute bully who is above the law. True, it’s a few bad apples that are tainting the whole crop. It’s well past time to get in there and weed out the bad apples and the weeder needs to be someone other than the Chief or the Mayor.

An ombudsman is only going to be a bandaid. There needs to be an overhauling. How can cops who are supposed to be upholding the law, disregard it for themselves and then when they break the law, prosecuting attorneys “cut them a break.”

Well, give me a break. How about you?


College Tuition Outrage

There was a tiny little article in the April 2 Spokesman at that is a breath of fresh air in these days of layoffs, price gouging, rate increases, and increasingly higher and higher unemployment numbers.

While the Governor is supporting raising tuition for colleges and universities and yesterday’s announcement that they can increase tuition as high as 28%, Seattle University is offering $10 million in scholarships of $10,800 each – including 400 scholarships to Washington residents who recently lost their job and want to complete their bachelor’s or graduate degree. Hallelujah! Finally.

Can we try to help each other rather than raise utility rates, gas prices, and educational costs?

I work for a Trustee of a foundation that offers scholarships. It is our greatest joy and our most satisfying job. This year, however, we have 20% less to work with – and yet Gregoire wants to raise tuition 28%. That’s a 48% loss to the student.

Am I alone in this boat?


Isn’t it time?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

Last Friday, a depressed and angry Jiverly Wong used a 9 mm and .45-caliber handgun to kill 13 immigrants and service-center employees in Binghamton, N.Y., police said. Earlier that day, the ethnic Chinese immigrant from Vietnam mailed an envelope to a Syracuse television station. In it were his gun permit, photos of him smiling while hoisting shiny, big handguns, and his driver’s license.

Questions have been raised over the upstate New York gun permit issued to Wong in 1997.

Two years later, he was reported to state police by an informer who claimed Wong was planning a bank heist to feed a crack-cocaine habit. Unlike other areas of the state, including New York City, Wong’s Broome County permit did not have to be renewed.


Don’t you think that the permit process for carrying a concealed firearm needs to be re-evaluated nationally? Mind you, I am not suggesting a moratorium on concealed weapons permits or other restrictions on possessing a firearm. I am say if we do not have some common sense rules governing such permits, it only adds fuel to those who would take away our guns. 


Before we’re out of time…

Good morning, Netizens…

You have approximately 29 minutes, during which time you can tell your wife and children how very much you love them. You have 29 minutes to sit down over English tea with your next-door neighbor and make amends for all the times you treated them poorly over their bulldog that is ugly and barks in the middle of the afternoon when you are trying to take a nap. You have approximately 29 minutes, which seems like a piddling amount of time, given the amount of time you spend reading the news, fiddling with your online music collection and reading the Blogs online. You have approximately 29 minutes to tell everyone you appreciate everything they do to make our world better.

Then we throw the dice, or so this morning’s David Horsey cartoon has it. North Korea has nuclear capability and now the means, or nearly so it seems, to launch a nuclear-tipped rocket against anyone they desire. Then we have 29 minutes, just in case he decides to launch against the United States West Coast.

Iran has the missiles to deliver a nuclear payload, and this morning it was revealed that several New York Banks unwittingly were involved in a plot to sell atomic bomb-making materials. If that plot had succeeded, they would have less than fifteen minutes before Jerusalem was hit.

It is time we stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons before we run out of time.


Whistle-blower told to shut up…


Good morning Netizens…

06 Apr 2009 11:22:00 GMT

Gioacchino Giuliani, an Italian seismologist, is my kinda’ guy. Sensing radon emissions rising, combined with increased seismic activity, he made a prediction several weeks ago, that a major earthquake would strike in the vicinity of L’Aquila, Italy. Gioacchino Giuliani, had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses, prompting the mayor’s anger. So angry, in fact, Giuliani was forced to take his warnings off the Internet, sit down and be quiet.

Here we see the outcome of the tragedy which destroyed many Italian towns, some of which date back to the time of Christ or beyond. An injured man sits in the garden of his destroyed house after an earthquake in the Italian village of Onna April 6, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Now I wonder how the Mayor of L’Aquila feels now?


When will the mayhem end?

Good morning, Netizens…

As we creep forth from our repose in the beginning of yet another week, I cannot help but be mindful of the number of innocents that were killed last week in a flurry of murders across our country. The shootings came during a particularly violent three days across the U.S., with shootings that left 14 dead in Binghamton, N.Y., and six dead in Washington state, where a father shot five of his children, ages 7 to 16, using a rifle, and later, himself. It also follows just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot in Oakland, Calif., in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001. Last month, a North Carolina man shot and killed eight people before police shot him and ended the rampage, and a 28-year-old man killed 10 people, including his mother and four other relatives, across two rural Alabama counties before killing himself. When will the rampage end?

In this picture, Tina Nguyen, second from left, prays with relatives of shooting victims Lan Ho and Long Huynh outside the American Civic Association in Binghamton, N.Y. where Jiverly Wong killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at the immigrant community center on Friday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (April 05, 2009)

On one hand, I mourn the death of so many innocent people whose only sin, it seems, is that they were all trying to improve their plight in life through education, attempting to learn the English language so they could better integrate into American society. Mayhem and murder seems to be lurching around our country looking for their next victims, and one has to wonder when, where or how it can be stopped.

In another story, here: a man held up a convenience store with a gun while his 9 year-old daughter stood by his side. When he pulled the gun on the store clerk, did he ever once consider whether the clerk might pull his gun, thus beginning a deadly gunfight? Did he ask his daughter her opinion? He narrowly averted another tragedy, and I wonder if his daughter, now reunited with her mother, knows how to pray.

Some sociologists suggest the mayhem and murder will not stop until the economy improves, and perhaps that is true, for social unrest often does follow the path of financial hardships. This, of course, does little to sway the eternal question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.

However, the underlying message inherent in this picture is the young people themselves, who are praying. In an age when and where our offspring have lost sight of their relationships to God, where they seemingly have lost their ability to feel humility, when the only times they appear in the news media is shortly after they face arrests or indictment, it is refreshing to see them in a gentler light.

That seems like a good way to start the new week, hopefully free of more murder and mayhem as we approach the Easter Holiday.


The Obamas in Europe…

Good morning, Netizens…

Of all the political cartoons I have viewed over the last week, David Horsey perhaps has captured the essence of how the Europeans view President and Mrs. Obama. It is NOT the same as when George Bush was President; frankly speaking he was a bit more “starchy”, more of what Europeans have come to view how American Presidents appear, talk and act in public. The Obamas are more like rock stars.

All the machinations and political statements aside, perhaps the single incident that will go down in history as one of the premiere moments actually could be claimed by Michelle Obama who gave a heartfelt and touching speech to students at an English girls’ school. It was a personal, heart-warming speech, not one of those speeches that American’s Presidents’ wives have come to be known for. If you watch the various videos of her speech, at the end you will see her Secret Service detail having major fits as she reaches out to audience members.

It has been too long since an American President and his wife have so easily captured the hearts and minds of their European counterparts. While it is true that Barack Obama appears to have obtained less than he originally was requesting from the G20 Summit, he failed to obtain either the financial or military support he originally had asked of the G20 leaders, it still should be said of his first major trip abroad that the Obamas captured the hearts of Europe with his natural skills, warm personality and innate dignity.

It remains to be seen whether those skills and his popularity around the world will solve the plethora of economic problems that confront the world economy, but at least we can say with some degree of finality that in the final judgment of President Obama’s first major foray into Europe, he made more friends for America’s way of life than enemies. When he wooed Europeans, they not only welcomed him with open arms, they swooned. It was almost as if he and Michelle were rock stars, rather than our leaders.

That, in my opinion, is a welcome change indeed.


An Irreverent Sunday vision…

Good morning, Netizens…

Since it is an otherwise lovely spring day out there, what better time nor place to take a brief trip down the road toward irreverence as we view a picture of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they are greeted by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, France, Friday, April 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Of course, you might wonder at how irreverent this picture might be, until you notice where Sarkozy has his hand. When was the last time you patted your spouse’s backside with the whole world watching?

I’m uncertain about it, but it seems that in America we avoid such intimacies in public. It is almost as if we are ashamed of admitting our own minor peccadilloes, especially when the all-seeing eye of the world’s Fourth Estate is peering in our direction. However, the French do not seem to think about it much.

It does make me wonder what conscious or subconscious thoughts were soaring through Sarkozy’s mind when this picture was taken. Of course, that truly makes this irreverence, doesn’t it?


The Verdict on Jo Ellen Savage…

Good morning, Netizens…

Long ago I wept for Jo Ellen Savage who, as everyone knows, did a pile drive from the River Park Square Parking Garage, for she was a delicate, sensitive and wholly engaging woman of infinite skill sets who had a gentle smile and laughter that rippled like the sounds of children playing in the dusk just before being called home in the twilight before dinner. Mine was a private weeping, for despite what others may say is or is not true, I have considerable knowledge of how and why her car fell from the parking garage; a set of indeterminate facts which, when patched together minus the political agenda, make it questionably unclear to me how she died. Yet her memory perseveres.

I do know beyond a question of doubt that gravity killed Jo Ellen Savage, that and her collision with the concrete entryway at the base of the garage. I’ve read approximately everything written about her untimely death, and being very mindful of the political minefields that have been laid by some, many of whom I have know personally, until now I have attempted to remain detached, ambivalent and unbiased, wholly aware of the my responsibilities as a titular Blogger in and for the Spokesman-Review and its vast corporate structures thereto.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker stated Friday that in his opinion, “it would be difficult to prove criminal charges against the officials of Cowles Co., or the corporation, for the Pullman woman’s death.” What he states is probably true, that the task of proving anyone guilty of manslaughter for Savage’s untimely demise would be difficult, perhaps even impossible.

What remains to be seen is that this entire affair has been handed back-and-forth like a sack of bad beans between Spokane County and the Federal Prosecutor until time has expired, and the appearance of it might be construed, as former City Councilman and lawyer Steve Eugster has stated, as a whitewash.

Still in my quiet moments, I can envision Jo Ellen Savage’s last moments, and then I recall this poorly-done video which tells the viewer more about Jo Ellen Savage than all the legal documents combined:

Next Monday will be the third anniversary of the death of Jo Ellen Savage, and in my mind, I can still hear her scream.


Message from the Heartland…

Good evening, Netizens…

Dawn BarbouRoske, second from left, of Iowa City, leans towards her partner, Jen BarbouRoske after learning of the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalizing gay marriage in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday. Between them is their daughter Bre, 6. Their other daughter, McKinley, 11, reacts to the ruling at left. (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register, Christopher Gannon) (April 03, 2009)

The ultra-conservative right wing, in the meantime, made several news media forecasts that by approving gay marriage in Iowa, the State of Iowa would probably become a state where gay partners wishing to tie the knot will eventually gravitate. Since I have spent an immoderate amount of time living in the Midwest, I feel I know the political mindset of Iowa. I admit the State Court ruling in favor of gay marriages seemed a bit ironic to me, despite the fact I also feel the courts have no business in the institution of marriage.

Why or how did Iowa, a mostly-conservative state when it comes to such matters, choose to legalize such marriages?


Reverie at dawn…

Good morning, Netizens…

A picture of Canadian Leonard Cohen, whom I met briefly back in the late 60’s and a snip of what some say is one of his more beautiful songs:

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
Like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.

[Leonard Cohen]

Yes, I am delighted that it is Friday, despite the tasteless gray skies that incessantly are leaking snowflakes down on my head in my reverie this morning, for I know that temperatures more spring-like than today are just around the corner, that the various flowers in the Virtual Garden out back of the Virtual Ballroom are already experimentally poking their heads out of the soil.

Thus, sitting alone with my thoughts this morning, I have been contemplating the status of this blog, for it has changed and yet it remains so much like it was from the beginning, an unrepentant, often outrageous catechism of the ways Spokane could be made better. Yet, sitting alone, which is a real virtue when you consider the number of hours I have spent in the last three weeks talking with people about their needs. I feel so fortunate in that my real day job continues to grow stronger over the passage of time while so many others are hurting, but I feel utter remorse, deep within my innermost being, because this Blog, which I helped create, often has fallen by the wayside, put off in some cases until I can catch up with real work, and typically my attention span in these occasionally furtive forays into journalism are not nearly as good as I would like them to be.

Then, on days such as today, when time favors me with sufficient laxity to revisit this place, to hug my two granddaughters who (knowing as all granddaughters do) know my schedule, and sneak up the back stairs for competitive hugging when the day is still new, and my newfound friend August the Crow comes to the window to demand counsel, suddenly in this time the ribbons I have won are all for thee. For there are heroes in the seaweed and my children in the morning. Thank you, Mr. Cohen.


Blagojevich indicted…

Good evening, Netizens…

Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois has been indicted on a stack of federal charges.

United States v. Rod R. Blagojevich, et al includings the following:

        Rod R. Blagojevich, 52, of Chicago
        Christopher Kelly, 50, of Burr Ridge
        Alonzo Monk, 50, of Park Ridge
        William F. Cellini, Sr., 74, of Springfield
        John Harris, 47, of Chicago
        Robert Blagojevich, 53, of Nashville, Tenn.
Charges:                                     Count(s)             Defendant(s)
        Racketeering conspiracy              Count 1              Blagojevich and Kelly
        Wire fraud                           Counts 2-12          Blagojevich           (2-12)
                                                                  Harris                (4)
                                                                  Monk                  (11)
                                                                  Robt. Blagojevich (3, 12)
        Fraud conspiracy                     Count 13             Cellini and Kelly
        Extortion conspiracy                 Count 14             Cellini and Kelly
        Attempted extortion                  Count 15             Cellini and Kelly
        Attempted extortion                  Count 16             Blagojevich
        Extortion conspiracy                 Count 17             Blagojevich
        Attempted extortion                  Count 18             Blagojevich
        False statements                     Count 19             Blagojevich
        Forfeiture                                                Blagojevich
Penalties (maximum on each count):           Imprisonment         Fine*
        Racketeering conspiracy              20 years             $250,000
        Wire fraud &
        Fraud conspiracy                     20 years             $250,000
        Extortion conspiracy &
        Attempted extortion                  20 years             $250,000
        False statements                     5 years              $250,000
* Note – On some counts, an alternative maximum fine of twice the gross gain to any
defendant or twice the gross loss to any victim, whichever is greater, may apply. If convicted,
the Court would determine the appropriate sentence to impose under the advisory United
States Sentencing Guidelines. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair
trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Is the golden doorway closing?

Good evening, Netizens…

I have been following this story for several days now and now that the IRS has begun moving in on some of those behind-the-scenes in the offshore tax-evasion business, I cannot help but hope and wonder what we might be seeing.

MIAMI, April 2 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities on Thursday arrested and charged an accountant in Florida in the first of what they said could be a series of tax evasion prosecutions of American clients of Swiss bank UBS AG (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N).

Steven Michael Rubinstein, who worked for a company in the yacht-building business, was accused of filing at least one false tax return that failed to disclose he had an account with UBS or made any money from it , the Justice Department said.

Rubinstein, an American who also had a South African passport, was arrested at his home in Boca Raton, Florida, which the charge against him says he built with the help of funds from his UBS account. A Fort Lauderdale judge ordered him to be detained pending a bond hearing scheduled for next Tuesday.

On one hand I hold to the opinion that, given the number of crooked bankers, accountants and others making money off offshore banking, will government investigators indict them all? Are we seeing a pattern emerge where only certain members of this elite, crooked community get caught, or are we seeing the end of the illegal offshore tax havens forever? Are we seeing the demise of unnumbered Swiss bank accounts, which are commonly used to “hide” American assets from the IRS?

On the other hand, I have always believed there should be one set of tax rules, which all US taxpayers follow. Unfortunately that has clearly never been the case, based upon even a cursory examination of the various ways high-rollers have of hiding their income and assets from paying taxes. It seems that there are lots of shady companies eager and willing, for a share of the revenue streams, to help the super-wealthy hide some of their incomes from the tax man.

Is it over? Does this mean the government under President Obama is actually going to “clean house” and eliminate the unfairness of how taxes are collected once and for all?


A record-breaking winter…

Good morning, Netizens…

It’s just another day in our snowbound paradise, and despite the fact we are already warming up to the idea that we might actually have a real Spring buried somewhere beneath this noxious wasteland of snow this morning, it snowed overnight again! Thus we have secure a place in the annals of history for ourselves, as this is indeed a record-breaking snowfall.

However, it was predictable that I saw a snowplow proceeding in a stately manner up our street with its blade lifted high into the air.

Equally unfortunately I probably will have to go out on my rounds today, so I’ll see if Saint Crumpandbump, the sacred saint of Spokane’s winter streets, has been afoot already this morning. John Olsen is probably laughing his behind off; John just left for Arizona the other day, and probably is absorbing more rays than snowflakes.

Are you glad it snowed?


Would you buy a GM from the government?

Good morning, Netizens…

I’m with David Horsey. I do not claim to understand our national economy, nor do I necessarily understand how it works. What little I do know of it you could put in an economic thimble, except for the fact I know when I’ve been truly screwed by watching my investments steadily, inexorably diminish in size and scope over the last year largely due to people like Bernie Madoff.

However, as Horsey’s cartoon this morning points out, suddenly our great nation may now be in charge of selling and marketing automobiles, and there may be more companies than GM, because Ford Motor Company may be the next in line to be absorbed by the government. Maybe not.

The question that rises up unwanted from my perspective is would I as a consumer buy a new vehicle from the government? Would I buy a new vehicle without a durable guaranty, a warranty not underwritten by a government entity?

I remember the two GM vehicles I have owned quite clearly. One came with no warranty whatsoever, because it was a 1955 GM 4X4 pickup whose time had come, and I rebuilt it and drove it for over five years. My second, a brand-new GMC 4X4 pickup purchased from Matt Lott GMC in Evanston, Wyoming, was perpetually in the shop for repairs under warranty, and eventually I got rid of it in favor of an older but more durable 4X4.

If our government suddenly assumes control of GM, I’m sorry, but that would not entice me to buy a new GM truck. No way. What about you?


Quote of the Day — April 2, 2009

Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.

        Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004)

When I first saw this quotation come up, I froze both the word of the day and quote of the day, which are processed together, until I had time to verify the authenticity and validity of what the late Former President Reagan was quoted as saying. After several hours spent fruitlessly looking for any alternatives to this quote, or perhaps a clarification of what was said, I have nothing to show but the quote, itself.

Now perhaps more to the question, did Ronald Reagan actually talk with Thomas Jefferson? It seems extremely unlikely, but the question remains nonetheless. According to this quotation, he did.

I guess I can blame it on the Internet.


April Fools Anyone?

Good morning, Netizens…

I rise from the depths of sleep, pour myself a cup of something meaner than my latest Avista bill and immediately peruse the news that’s fit to print on the Spokesman web site at 3:00 AM. What? Another blast in Bozeman, Montana? They are still removing the bricks from the blast according to the latest Bozeman Daily Chronicle here: And Shelly Stark is back in court testifying last Thursday? What part of dysfunctional is this? The jury found her guilty, and she’s going away to that big house already. 

Thinking I must have read it wrong, my medications haven’t kicked in yet or perhaps there is a computer error somewhere, I re-read both pieces before I believe I finally found the source of the aggravation. Somehow a computer glitch occurred and they printed last weeks news mixed in with a few more-recent stories. I imagine that immediately the cry goes out from the depths of empty desks in the news room, “Where is our copy editor?”

Back in the old days there were one or more individuals whose job it was to read the morning paper as it came off the tail-end of the printing presses, making certain that the news, as printed, was as accurate and fit to read as it could be. There were also copy editors running around the news room gathering the news stories that would be published later on that day. I ought to know because various pieces I’ve written over the years were unceremoniously tossed on the news room floor upon multiple occasions.

This must be April Fools, right?


Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Community Comment.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
Advertise Here