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Archive for November 2010

The Value of WikiLeaks latest releases…

 Good evening, Netizens…

There are a lot of very important people from around the world who would like to get their hands on Australian Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, right now. Depending upon where you hear it, Assange is either a criminal suitable for the nearest federal prison or else a leading candidate for Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

Unlike the Afghanistan war logs which were released in July, setting the entire world to buzzing like a nest full of angry bees, with their tales of killed civilians, dead children, confused soldiers, and mounting chaos, the latest release of U.S. Embassy cables are not at all what most are saying.

They are not, as Hillary Clinton has stated, “an attack on America’s foreign policy interests that has endangered innocent people.” Nor are they, as the Italian foreign minster has stated, “the September 11 of world diplomacy. It seems the diplomat wagon train are circling the wagons in denial.

Incredible as it might seem, I have been unable to locate any proof these cables are “top secret”, because several million government employees are cleared to see them. In fact, according to several sources, 500,000 government employees have access to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRnet) where the cables are stored. I cannot fathom how or why, given the encryption capabilities we as citizens have at our disposal, are not better-protected, but that horse is already out of the barn, I fear.

What makes these cables so important in the face of history is that they once more lift up our collective eyesight to the $2.8 billion dollars a week America is spending on the War in Afghanistan, the number of lives that have been lost thus far and the ongoing erosion of our national security. They open up the blinds so we can clearly see President Karzai who has pardoned drug dealers. Perhaps that is because his half-brother is a corrupt drug dealer. The former vice-president of Afghanistan was stopped in Dubai carrying $52 million in cash which he was allowed to keep. No questions asked.

There is a lot of ugliness which Assange has already exposed, and he has promised that more releases are forthcoming. Just for once it is nice to hear the unexpurgated truth about where our nation stands in the world. Do intelligence forces in Pakistan, for example, have a close relationship with our sworn enemies, the Taliban?

When we begin answering these and other questions, suddenly the worth and value of the WikiLeaks releases take on a whole new sense of importance. Of course your opinions may differ.


Black Friday in retrospect…

Good morning, Netizens…

Things to consider in retrospect to Black Friday:

Did you go out and shop yourselves insensible on Black Friday? Did you spend yourself into debt without remorse or fear this year? Did you get out of bed at an ungodly hour of the morning to stand in lines outside your favorite store in the hopes of buying a loss-leader item?

Some other things to consider on the day after Black Friday:

Most of the television announcers who are squalling like pigs just before slaughter about the “new resurgence” of shopper confidence have no factual proof of their assertions. Sure, there were huge crowds at various stores throughout the country, lots of pictures of happy shoppers exiting the stores with full shopping baskets and even a few riots from people who tried to jump their place in line. I remember last year, which has to rank high on the ranks of economically dismal Christmas Shopping Seasons when some of the same announcers made some of the same joyous predictions about that Black Friday. So you see, many of the announcers, but perhaps not all, are paid to say good things about Black Friday even in the face of economically-uncertain times. God forbid they should ever report the facts. It might negatively impact the coming Christmas Shopping Season.

If a deal simply sounds too good to be true, the chances nearly always are they are probably bogus and thus not true. One of my favorite tales from last year’s “super sale” on Black Friday at a regional outlet was the laptop computers being offered at what were ostensibly bargain basement prices, so much so I even went to look at them, despite my ambivalence about Black Friday. I didn’t really need a new laptop. My old one, with some enhancements and modifications, does everything I need it to do and more. But I had to look. This new in-the-box laptop included a low-end Intel processor, tons of software junk I didn’t need and a dirt-cheap price below $200. It was a piece of crap I wouldn’t lend to one of my cats and the price wasn’t that good to begin with.

Do NOT feed the landfill. Perhaps to some this might sound altruistic, naive and negative, but stop and think about what you are buying, especially for your children, grandchildren and other young members of your family. What are the odds that the Christmas presents you buy this year for your younger members of the family will end up discarded, not recyclable and thus tossed into the nearest landfill within two years? Five years? It is a difficult decision you have to make as a parent/grandparent/guardian, choosing when that doll or gadget your offspring are screaming about is a piece of plastic junk that will end up useless and discarded within a few years.

So now perhaps you may understand why I avoid the crush of the crowds on Black Friday. Most of the Christmas presents have already been purchased, or at least cleverly planned long before now. With this out of the way, it leaves me and mine expendable time to truly prepare for the mysteries and joys of the true Christmas Season.


Snowcropolis II or is it III?

Good morning, Netizens…

According to the City of Spokane, we have entered Phase 2 of the City’s snow plowing plan which means the plows will be running 24 hours per day until all streets, including residential thoroughfares, have been plowed. If one reads the official plan, you see we have to move our vehicles to the positively-numbered side of the streets. They also refer you to the city’s web site so you can tell when and where the plows will arrive. BLZTPH! Sorry, but as of 11:00 AM today the city’s web site doesn’t contain any information about where the city plows are currently working or when they will be plowing residential streets. Even worse, the city’s informational Plow Line recorded message is still stuck in Phase I, main thoroughfares and bus routes, so not even the phone lines can help.

Now, if you are suffering the first phases of long-term depression after hearing all this wonderful news, be aware that once this storm passes, theoretically sometime late today or tomorrow, we actually will have a hiatus from snow falling for a day or two. However, sometime Tuesday an even bigger snow storm is slated to drop additional snow on our fair city, and according to some forecasters, the next storm might be a real doozy, making Snowcropolis III a distant possibility.

Do we dare prepare ourselves for Snowcropolis II or III, distant cousins to the blast from the past two years ago, when the entire City of Spokane inexorably ground to a halt once residential streets became impassable? It’s a good thing this falls on a weekend, so none of the city’s Public Works personnel have to appear before those pesky TV broadcasters to explain how well things are actually progressing.


Retrospect on Thanksgiving Day…

Good morning, Netizens…

This morning’s David Horsey cartoon makes a logical if not a factual statement about the United States Thanksgiving Day, in that most Americans have either dismissed or entirely forgotten the true history of the first Thanksgiving Day and everything that has transpired since. Most Americans, unfortunately, do not want to be reminded of the atrocities they committed in their juggernaut rumble through history.

However, it should be noted that, despite the bloody history of the whites versus Native Americans, those same Native Americans were busily killing one another, making members of other tribes into slaves and other travesties long before the original Thanksgiving Day ostensibly spent with the pilgrims. They were as bloodthirsty and as savage, in some cases, as that of the white man.

However, as any student of history will quickly confirm, Thanksgiving Day, the original Thanksgiving Day, could just as easily be a national day of mourning as it could be a celebration. All one has to do is perform a little digging into the ancient histories of the Native American tribes and how they ended up where they are today.

It is a sobering thought on Thanksgiving. Your results, of course, may differ.


Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone!

Good morning, Netizens…

Here I am at my appointed time and place, more or less doing the same routine I perform nearly every day the year, despite the holiday. My family are here around me, some still slumbering at this ungodly hour of the morning; some have already left for work; some of my friends have already left to be with their families but the rites of Thanksgiving Day are already more or less complete for everyone I know. My grandaughters, son-in-law and beloved wife plan to be sitting down together by about five PM today, and some might not understand when I state I could ask for nothing more than to be surrounded by my loved ones on Thanksgiving Day.

In retrospect, I remember other Thanksgiving Days when things were not so clear or dear to my heart. A long time ago I was the titular landlord at a rough-cut pair of apartments off Ankeny in downtown Portland and moreover, I quickly surrounded myself with lots of faux friends from the University and other business interests. I collected the rents, paid the bills and made repairs when someone’s toilet or sink stopped working.

On Thanksgiving Day I was oriented toward my social life, preparing for a huge feast at my girlfriend’s house and not paying attention to much else. About mid day I received a call from one of my tenants that his next-door neighbor had been discovered hanging in his apartment, dead of suicide, and could I come and tell them what to do. 

Of Steve, I only knew he was a “loner”, a strange man with no apparent friends or family, and that he frequently was seeking professional help for some of his personality disorders. I knew he often wandered around the apartment complex at odd hours muttering strange things in an undertone which didn’t really seem to freak anyone out, just a tiny annoyance in an otherwise unsettled area of Portland-town. I knew his family had more or less disowned him, he had few if any friends and paid his rent on time using federal social security checks. That morning, standing in what was once his living room, peering at his body hanging from the rafter in his threadbare apartment I suddenly began to cry for no apparent reason other than how, on a day of thanksgiving, a day of feasting and joy Steve had chosen to end his life alone. Later on,  in the word of a hard-bitten street cop who showed up to take a report, Steve had run out of options.That phrase stuck with me since that fateful day, and I always remember Thanksgiving Day in that manner.

Since that day until now, each Thanksgiving Day I always look at my circle of friends and acquaintances to make certain they are not alone, stranded, lacking any other options on this holiday. Leave no one behind.

To anyone else, those who are with family or friends on this day of Thanksgiving, I implore you to hold them close to you, love them with all your heart and pray that you are thankful for all the many blessings that your life may have, remembering of course, that for my family we wish each and every one of you a most happy Thanksgiving Day.


When can you judge a man?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

You probably should read Shawn Vestal’s piece on the police-involved shooting at Northwest Boulevard and Monroe which is to gain a different view of the perennial the police versus us contention that always seems to be present in our discourse. Then, read the story about three police officers who, in my opinion, went beyond the call of duty early this morning to rescue a suicidal man who wanted to jump off the Maple Street Bridge here

I just got off the phone with Shawn and in retrospect, I cannot help but remember one of the oldest lessons I learned as a young man growing up on my own in a harsh world. You cannot, history has taught me, judge a man until you have walked in his shoes.

I have never shot at a person. Had I done so, through years of having maintained good marksmanship through constant practice, I am relatively certain I would hit my target and thus take a human life, something I also am completely opposed to ever doing. But if it ever became necessary for me to do so to protect an innocent life, I could do so without a second’s thought.

However, to routinely strap on a weapon and be emotionally prepared to do that every day, to subconsciously keep in mind I might not be coming home that night because of a mentally-ill man with a shotgun, NO WAY. I reserve my deepest respect for those who can and do.


Thanksgiving Day Eve and all is well…

Good morning, Netizens…

David Horsey’s cartoon this morning summarizes conditions yesterday in Seattle and points beyond, but it is inclusive of our humble pie in Eastern Washington, with the exception this morning when, although the roads are relatively clear, the thermometer sank into record-setting mode. As of 5:15 AM this morning, temperature outside the door to the Virtual Ballroom was sitting at zero, although the weather moguls are all jumping up and down, pointing eagerly at the minus 5 degree temperature at the airport, as if it justifies their existence. As often is the case the further outside the city lights you go, the colder it gets. Having lived in various other locations across the United States, I’ve been in colder places at or before the dawn. Call in the pets, put on an extra blanket or two and snuggle up if the opportunity presents itself.

Yesterday’s commute, in a few words, was financially illuminating, at least from the perspective of tow truck companies who remained busy all morning during the commute. As the illustrious Mhibbs pointed out with bare-faced elegance, he was able to travel throughout most of the City of Spokane with ease, once all the people with bald tires and/or lack of driving skills had been towed out of the way from whatever uncomfortable position they found themselves. In the words of my own beloved, road conditions after the commute hour mayhem were actually quite good once she crossed over the line to Spokane Valley where they applied copious amounts of sand and salt to nearly all intersections. What a concept, applying sand and gravel to intersections!

Take the money the City of Spokane regularly pays out to various indiscretions of the past (that will not be mentioned by me) and apply it to street maintenance and the problem simply evaporates.

Today is purported to be one of the busiest travel days of the entire year, but for me and mine we are having as little of it as possible, as we have already purchased our victuals for the Thanksgiving Day feast and aside from any last-minute provision runs, we will be staying close to home. Although we are not having mince meat pie, my beloved has promised me the culinary delight of pumpkin cheesecake, so we will be more than adequately provisioned for Thanksgiving Day, hunkering down and as prepared as one can be.

Seattle, much like Spokane proper, it seems, is unable to cope with any amount of snow at the onset of a storm for differing reasons perhaps, but the net result is quite similar.


Meanwhile out in the sticks…

Good morning, Netizens…

If you are smart little Netizens, you are probably still huddled up in bed beneath a wealth of covers and perhaps the family dog because it is cold outside this morning. My comments about the blizzard warnings yesterday may have been premature or at very least, somewhat inaccurate for areas outside Spokane’s urban area.

I received an e-mail message from a farmer friend who lives by Odessa who tells me he has a five foot snow drift across the end of his lane and is in a whiteout condition. He would take his heavy-duty tractor and solve that problem, but since the school is closed today, nobody in the house has anywhere they really need to go. Besides, so long as the wind keeps blowing the snow drifts would simply reinstitute themselves as fast as he removes them. His solution was to make coffee, feed the livestock and watch the snow blowing sideways across his barn yard.

The overall word according to those that know is once you travel outside town, where there are no buildings or trees to slow or mediate the effect of the wind, snow drifts have become commonplace overnight. Roads are closed, some schools are closed or delayed and travel is ill-advised in most areas outside Spokane’s inner core.

I wouldn’t qualify this as a blizzard in some areas, but it certainly comes close.

As for Spokane, the main streets for the most part have been plowed in a disultory fashion, and in most cases that is about all you get. Hence once the morning commute actually gets started, we probably could see a version of the bumper car game that will keep our streets and freeways tied up for hours.

Once we recover from all this, tonight it will be frigid with temperatures slated to fall below zero, thus breaking temperature records.


Blizzard? Where?

 Good evening, Netizens…

Oh, perdition on it all! The National Weather Bureau has issued a blizzard warning for most of the Inland Northwest tonight beginning at 7:00 PM and lasting until tomorrow morning. Now I will have to whip out some of my old and true stories about what a real blizzard is like, not one of these half-baked Spokane blizzards, such as the one we endured two years ago. That wasn’t really a blizzard; that was just a lot of snow with a city that doesn’t have the training nor resources to deal with deep snow.

Now a blizzard, at least in the inter-mountain and Great Plains regions, is an entity to fear; you must be prepared for it and take speedy and effective action if one is coming your way or you may die.

According to meteorology a blizzard is defined more or less as a combination of high winds (typically 40 MPH or higher), frigid temperatures of less than 20 degrees and snow, either blowing or newly fallen variety.

I remember my first blizzard which took place in the late 1960’s. We were driving approximately 45 miles on a state highway when we first encountered the storm and within a matter of twenty minutes we found ourselves unable to see the road, with blowing and drifting snow and a wind of over 50 MPH blowing snow across the road. We were told by the state highway patrol to take shelter at Saint Anne School as the road ahead and behind us was closed. By that night the National Guard delivered food and beds to the high school gymnasium, the wind outside was gusting over 75 miles per hour which rattled the windows in the high school. Snow plows were stuck and hundreds of drivers stranded in the 20 foot high snowdrifts on both sides of the town.

I also remember another blizzard from 1980-something, one which closed Interstate 80 for over 100 miles, where I ended up parking my truck for four days in Little America, a huge car and truck complex in Wyoming State. There were over 1600 people stranded that time, and again the National Guard were able to see to our basic needs with trucks full of cots, food and medical supplies. The winds blew steadily at between 50 and 75 miles per hour, with over a foot of new snow with drifts over 20 feet high and visibility near zero. The temperatures the last two nights of what was termed a “super storm” dropped down into the teens which put an increased impetus on the rescue of those still stranded along the freeway.

They have at least one or two blizzards each year in the Dakotas which are equal to or exceed the powerful storms I have recalled.

This is not a blizzard, folks. At nearly ten o’clock at night, I can see still the neighbors house across the street and the street lights three blocks in any given direction. It is snowing fitfully and the streets are still marginally passable, although quite slick in places. But a blizzard? No, this is hardly a blizzard such as those I have known in parts of the Midwest and Western States.

This is just a winter snow storm with some wind and frigid temperatures. Your results may differ, of course, depending upon whether you are outside the city lights where the wind and snow can combine to drift snow.


Speaking out

Good morning all…

[Here is a message from Chef John Olsen forwarded to me in e-mail. It is of particular importance because the City Council in absolute slash and save mode may close the East Branch of Spokane’s library which is wrong.

[Chef Gus eloquently writes:]

St Ann’s Roman Catholic Parish in East Central Spokane is an intentional
Parish.  People attend there from all over the County. We are deeply
concerned about the City Council’s choice to reduce the budget for Library
Services resulting designating the East Branch of the Library being axed.  The
children using this resource do not have Blackberries and home computers.  Nor
do they have funds for transportation to other branches.  The sensitivity of
the Board and City Council to put this forward as the resolution to a
$150,000 budget need is unconscionable.  The political constituents of that
area are least able to object, and are most in need of good library service.
Speak up, and advocate for the weak and lowly if you are a Christian. Chef Gus


Terrorism in the skies and on the land…

Good morning, Netizens…

I probably should have stood upright on my soapbox and bellowed about my perceptions of the TSA long before now, but as in nearly all matters before the public’s invariably bloodshot eyes, there are multiple sides to this issue. I do not fly that often, and in any travel plans I have flying by commercial airlines generally rank at the bottom of the selection list, simply because I do not necessarily like flying.

David Horsey’s cartoon about the TSA this morning is just one side of the issue, reflecting only the Fourth Amendment issue without truly considering terrorism.

I firmly believe there are other methods of accomplishing the same goal, to make travel by airplane safe and secure without violating our Constitutional rights to freedom from unwarranted search and seizure by someone groping our crotches. The existing rules as enforced by TSA stand as an affront to our rights, especially when you consider how the Israelis screen passengers. They simply ask questions without groping anyone’s private parts, and they are at least as much risk of terrorist attacks as the United States, no?

I do not trust the TSA any further than I trust most other government agencies simply because of the risk(s) of abuse of power. I only have their word that no one is surreptitiously making copies of the scanner pictures for amusement and/or profit. I have only their word that all TSA employees have been vetted properly, that none of them are sexual deviants. That is simply not god enough for me.

Then there are the terrorists themselves. They spend ungodly numbers of hours scheming on ways to kill people all in the name of their God. Of them all I will say is their deity must be some kind of chicken hawk if all they live for is killing Americans by blowing up planes, constantly cruising the ether looking for a weakness.

There are some who will insist that the scanners prevent terrorism. I believe there are other better less-intrusive ways of accomplishing that goal. Of course, your results may differ, and that may depend upon whether you have been groped by a TSA agent.That, too, seems to be another form of terrorism according to some. 


That vile white stuff hits Spokane…

Good morning, Netizens…

It is Thursday morning and egods it’s here! When I arose at about 3:30 this morning, it was snowing outside, and although it was sticking on the lawn and atop the vehicles, the streets on the North Side of Spokane were navigable, even by Spokane’s marginal standards, although I would wager that the South Hill and other higher areas of the city would be seeing different results.

What truly rattled my sense of humor is that Westbound Snoqualmie Pass was apparently closed for a short time this morning until everyone got their winter driving wings firmly attached by the Washington State Patrol. In this generation of bio-engineering isn’t there a human DNA gene that causes people to drive over mountain passes with bald tires with no tire chains?

However, at 5:00 AM this the passes are open and most major streets in Spokane are wet. Depending upon whether you are driving on bald tires, your travel times may differ.

Welcome to the new frontier. It’s that special time of year.


How close we came to a disaster Friday…

 Good evening, Netizens…

A single man was armed with a shotgun, and half a dozen or more police officers were shooting at him. One would reasonably conclude that the shooter would be riddled with bullet holes, but not according to the autopsy report. According to the Medical Examiners report, the man with the shotgun had just two bullet holes in his body. Witnesses and audio tapes of the shooting all show perhaps as many as 40 shots being fired by police. There were bullet holes in surrounding houses.

On the other hand, a KREM-TV report states there were 29 bullet holes in a building owned by the Spokane Tribe of Indians on Northwest Boulevard. Today, simply because I was curious, I went and looked at the building in question, and I could plainly see the bullet holes in their building and numerous windows.

The question that immediately arose is are the Spokane Police that deplorable at shooting? Even as a young man, I was taught to always make certain I had a good field of fire before pulling the trigger, making certain there was nothing behind or near my target which could be hit by gunfire. Until now, I presumed they taught young students at the Police Academy the same common-sense rule. Get a good field of fire and make certain of your target before you pull the trigger.

While I was visiting the building, I was also able to verify that college students and school-age children regularly use the facility. In fact, on most normal Fridays, students would have been present in the room where a hail of police bullets came through the windows. It didn’t take any imagination at all to conceive of wounded children being sprayed by police bullets. We could have easily had a major disaster here, narrowly averting it only because the kids were not in class that day.

Something is wrong here, folks, but don’t hold your breath awaiting justice.

It seems unlikely that any of the police officers who are on administrative leave are going to be charged. The bullets that went through the windows or outer walls were anonymous, much the same as they would have been had they hit students in the room.


Libertarianism or altruism— which is it?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

We will take a brief step off the pathway of yesterday’s police-assisted-suicide and pot grow operation here in Spokane and take an introspective look back at a time of altruism that had its beginnings in New Mexico and beyond. Today’s David Horsey cartoon shows a vision of Libertarianism, perhaps one that not everyone will subscribe to, but one which seems to have a certain popularity in modern times.

Are you old enough to remember the Hippie philosophies of the late 60’s and 70’s? While I will concede many elements of that age in our history were without much merit, particularly those which were based largely upon psychedelic drug use. Back in that era, some subcultures were based either in part or in total upon the use of LSD, peyote or various other mind-altering drugs, but there were a small number of altruistic communities which were based upon communal living, but without drugs.

Whenever I think seriously of the alternatives to Horsey’s view of Libertarianism, I reflect back on a wonderful character I met at Woodstock named Hugh Romney, AKA Wavy Gravy, who became known around the world for his infamous line, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000…”. Well, lesser people perhaps might have ridden that flash in the pan to other ends, but for The Hog Farm and Wavy Gravy, it hasn’t ended there.

He’s nearing 70 years old now, and is still a walking public service announcement for compassion and giving to those in need. He runs a day care for needy kids, founded an organization to help the blind and regularly contributes to a handful of other charitable organizations around the world. If you want to read the entire litany of his multitude of accomplishments, turn your browsers to and take a brief walk back through his history.

Then go to your most-private corner and ask yourself are you a Libertarian as defined by David Horsey’s cartoon, are you a Libertarian cut from another cloth or, if you had the means, would you rather be an altruist cut from the same cloth as Wavy Gravy? I can hardly wait to see some of the comments about this question, since it is a tough question, really.


Suicide by cop? What can be done?

Good evening, Netizens…

It could not have happened at a worse time of the day than at or just before rush hour hit the corner of Monroe and Indiana and Northwest Boulevard. The traffic at that intersection always tends to be tough to navigate; even worse when everyone hits the intersection on their way home. Add one addled gunman firing indiscriminate shots into the air and later on at encroaching police officers and police officers returning gunfire and killing the man and you have mass pandemonium.

There are restaurants, a sub sandwich shop and all kinds of other businesses at this corner. People were walking in the area, and thus became witnesses to the shooting. It is surprising none of the bystanders were killed or injured. At least one house was hit by gunfire, source unknown.

Based upon what limited information is currently available a man, name unknown, left a house on Cedar and eventually ended up at the Indiana address, shooting a rifle or shotgun into the air sporadically. When police instructed him to drop the weapon he fired it at them. Eventually he was surrounded and shot by Spokane Police.

There may be several versions, multiple choice details to this crime, but as far as I can tell from what little public information that exists, I would term this “Suicide by cop”. I can think of no other reason a man in possession of his senses, surrounded by police officers, would continue shooting his gun in the air in the vicinity of a busy city intersection. Now the real question remains: what can we as concerned individuals do to stop suicide by cop?

Is it because we emptied our state hospitals and put people who are dangerous to themselves or others on the streets? Is it because our economy is peering back at us out of the bottom of the toilet?


Old soldiers and youngsters…

Good morning, Netizens…

Old soldiers seldom forget to salute the flag. It is ingrained in their memories, even long after their service to our country. This morning’s picture, shot of a statue in Ohio of a soldier saluting the morning sunrise, somehow is fitting given that today is Veterans Day.

For most people Veterans Day appears to be a “disposable holiday”. Sure, it’s great that parking in Spokane is free, that most government agencies are closed for the day. For some it is even a paid holiday. Does it ever sink into our collective conscientiousness that nameless men and women gave their lives so that we might live free? Does it ever filter down into our minds how many American young men and women there are scattered around the globe today in mortal danger? Sadly, I wonder.

The word heroes has somewhat of a false ring to me, mostly because so many people who have never served in a time of conflict are proclaimed by the news media as being heroes, when they have done nothing to earn that title. They have not given their lives so that someone else could live, nor have they given their lives for our country. That is my definition of what it takes to be a true hero. Most of our veterans who are heroes came home in boxes, although a few survived.

Happy Veterans Day? In my opinion there is nothing happy about today. There are still the memories of veterans who are eking out horrible lives in pain and anguish from their service, veterans for whom there is little care and assistance, and I don’t give a damn what the Veterans Administration has to say about it. There is acre after acre of silent graves, the anguish of families and loved ones and the knowledge that young men and women gave their lives for our country.

It is much more than the list of names on a wall or even the memories of a loved one who died in some far-off war. Today commemorates veterans for their service to our country, and it is incumbent upon each of us to remember their service. That is our obligation as citizens in this country. It is sad that so few Americans take the time, save one day each year, to remember their service.

Search out all the veterans you know, walk right up to them and eyeball-to-eyeball, shake their hands and say thank you.


The transition from dirty politics to dirty Christmas…

Good morning, Netizens…

Have you noticed the larcenous ease with which we have migrated from the political attack advertisements during the election campaigns to the self-serving saccharine sweet Christmas advertisements? This is part of a planned event called advertising.

As in previous years, each year the date Christmas advertising begins hitting the airwaves seems to draw closer to July Fourth and predictably enough, each year I complain more mightily about how we seem to have entirely lost sight of the meaning of our once-sacred holidays.

Even those demarcations of shopping holidays, such as Black Friday, which if one follows the tradition, takes place on the day after Thanksgiving Day have already been expediently moved up the calendar this year. All the big sales, those offering steep discounts for Christmas Shoppers, have already begun; and here we are, still several weeks ahead of Thanksgiving, and several major vendors are already advertising Black Friday sales and it isn’t even Friday.

Additionally, while we adults have been practicing economic survival, attempting to keep/get decent jobs ahead of the holidays, maybe save a buck or two in the process, McDonald’s has been pitching intense advertising at our kids. Of course I’ve seen this move coming. However you would never catch me eating in a McDonald’s. There are, thank God, enough high-quality eateries left in this town I need not look past my list of favorite places.

Everybody has their hands out this pre-Christmas Shopping Season. How do you tell the difference between our run-of-the-mill scam artists, bunco chimps who have no moral values whatsoever about stealing from you or assaulting your body and our typical Christmas scammers? That one’s easy. Look for the festive Santa hat, tinsel in their hair and listen for the jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and check your calendar to see if it is really Christmas yet.

Of course, your results may differ.


House Speaker John Boehner sans socks…

Good morning, Netizens…

KXLY-TV’s Mike Gonzalez sometimes gets it right. There is an interview segment on Facebook and Youtube showing an interview between Gonzalez and John Boehner from a number of years ago. Something was missing though, like… BOEHNER’S SOCKS! So GMNW is holding a sock drive for him. Send or bring socks to 500 West Boone.

I want to see a candid picture of Boehner’s face when the socks begin arriving.


The pendulum is swinging…

Good morning, Netizens…

Whether you agree with him or not, cartoonist David Horsey has struck a nerve perhaps in this morning’s cartoon featuring Speaker John Boehner arriving on the front door of the White House to confront President Obama. The subtle touch of “Boehner’s Army” being portrayed as the Confederate Army does seem to be a bit of a stretch perhaps, but then you have only to consider some of the statements made during and since the election.

From Boehner’s own words, the first item on the agenda is to eliminate Obama’s Health Care completely. That is now something that is high on the list of things the Republicans want to change. They propose to start dismantling reforms that now keep people with pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance, allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance to age 26 and raise the hope of guaranteed care for 20 million folks who cannot now afford or obtain insurance. I ask you, is this forward progress?

Perhaps Horsey should have attempted to characterize some of the big insurance conglomerates and corporations in this drawing. Could it be they are celebrating with the thought of Obamacare going away? In my mind, they would seem to profit from undoing the rules of Obamacare, but nobody really is focusing on that.

Of course, it has been noted by Horsey in his comments that there has been no consensus that Obamacare is as seriously flawed as the Republican attack ads during the election tried to suggest. According to several of the polls I have read, it is nearly an even split between those in favor of Obama’s Health Care Reform and those who think it needs to be ended now. That, to my way of thinking, is not a clear consensus.

John Boehmer had better be careful where and how he steps in his new role. Once people realize what they are giving away by dumping Obamacare in the trash the pendulum may begin swinging the other way in the next election.

Of course, your results may differ.


Howdy neighbor!

Good morning, Netizens…

As we complete the end of the election and begin (or continue) that unworldly descent into Christmas Shopping Season a great deal of chatter is being heard throughout the land about neighbors and our neighborhoods. Since I reside in a diverse neighborhood filled with people from a broad spectrum of living, at this ungodly hour of the morning I found myself once again confronting just what the heck is a “good neighbor”? Actually, once I stopped to consider such a weighty issue, I found it easier to define what is NOT a good neighbor. Here are just a few examples of what are or are not good neighbors. Feel free to contribute to the list.

I probably should leave the decision of whether this woman is a good neighbor or not to someone else. Despite having what some might term a considerable bosom, she nearly always goes outdoors without wearing a bra. To further compound the issue, she wears these scanty bottoms that leave little to the imagination; all this at the ripe age of 50-something. She has been known to nearly cause traffic accidents on the nearby street when she bends over to tend her prized roses, since she rarely wears underwear of any kind. She does have a considerable intellect, with an advanced degree in English Literature, and is perhaps more-knowledgeable about horticulture than anyone I know; she regularly wins prizes for her roses. She and her husband are sweet and gentle people and I consider them both to be good neighbors. They are just different, that’s all.

An entire family we call “Howdy Neighbor” lives down the street. They acquired their name because that is all any of them ever say when meeting you on the street, sort of like an old-fashioned farmer meeting you at the Grange Hall party last Christmas after a long absence and not recalling your name. Shortly after their only son married and fathered his own son, their son received what he terms “the call”. He is now working two part-time jobs to finance his way through ministerial school. The sad part is the son constantly wants to discuss his religious views and tries in his own way to perform various religious conversions on me at every possible opportunity. I haven’t begun to fathom why he has adopted his father’s habit of saying, “Howdy Neighbor” rather than using my name. We regularly have discussions that immediately center upon either his call or the Books of the Bible, at least according to his interpretation thereof. As to whether they are good neighbors, I’d have to say yes conditionally, because they are so different from most ordinary people.

Perhaps our best neighbor is as innocuous and soft-spoken a man as I have had cause to know in my walk through life. The year (we remember that year, don’t we?) we saw a record-breaking snowfall hit our fair city, and since few of us had snow blowers, he immediately spent parts of several days plowing our street, sidewalks and helping everyone create parking places for their cars. A man of infinite skills and resources, this summer he re-roofed his entire house by himself, with some of the neighbors either helping out or contributing constructive opinions from the sidewalk level. Since his girlfriend moved out earlier last summer, he spends a lot of evenings sitting on his porch sipping his beer and smoking sweet little cigars, keeping his own counsel on almost everything that matters. I guess if he needed anything and it were mine to give, I would offer because he is what I would term a good neighbor.

I have more good neighbors and bad to add to this short list, but I am expected for breakfast at one of my best neighbors, Mr. Hibbs in 15 minutes, and therefore I will have to continue this list later on today or perhaps even tomorrow. Enjoy this that promises to be a perfect fall day.


Poll to the Pollsters

Here’s a question to all you avid election results watchers in Spokane County, Washington – Do you miss being able to go to the polls?

I have been watching the Idaho blog (Huckleberries) with a little jealousy. They were able to go to the polls and vote. And they are getting their results pretty quickly – although they have a fair number of mail-in ballots.

Washington has made this a county-by-county decision (whether or not to go entirely to mail-in ballots). So – the big issue between Rossi and Murray will not truly be decided for DAYS. Mailing in your ballot is convenient – but is it satisfying?

Personally, after all the free-for-all balderdash and twaddle, today, the day after the election, is kind of anticlimactic. Now I have to (impatiently) idle my time until we know – and then will we know for sure?


After the bar brawls are over…

Good morning, Netizens…

There are several key phrases that have bothered me since this election campaign began. I should state at the outset that this election has more similarities to an old-fashioned Stevens County bar brawl than any public process I have ever seen. At least with a bar brawl, you are almost certain that, before long, the Sheriff’s Department will arrive and put some of the combatants into jail before the night is done, but in this election, some of those involved in throwing the worst punches will end up serving terms in government offices with paid health care, perks that you nor I can ever hope to enjoy and worst of all, they are ostensibly serving you and I, the tax-paying voters.

Core values is a catch-all phrase that has captured as many candidates as there are that are speaking. Whose core values are we speaking of? Who says you or I share whatever this phrase means to our elected officials? Core values sounds to me like someone saying, “Here I am, and you know how I stand, so elect me.” On that basis I don’t trust hardly any of the candidates.

That is because, based on previous experiences, once you put someone into public office, they simply cease to represent our core values, but rather represent the core values of government. Either that or they are hopelessly naive. Does this imply that I think the Tea Party candidates fortunate enough to have won hotly-contested offices are going to forgo their lofty-sounding campaign slogans in favor of more of the same discordant crap we have come to accept as government-in-action? I think the Tea Party candidates newly-elected into office are in for a real shock, once they realize the harsh realities of public office.

On the more positive side, at least as of this morning, the local TV stations are once again restricted to serving up the usual ghastly advertising, rather than the absolutely unspeakable political advertisements slamming, if not slandering other political candidates for public office. Even better than that, it is Wednesday, Hump Day, and it might be weeks before we learn whether Patty or Dino are going to be elected to the Senate, longer if you allow for the inevitable lawyers who will sue for various recounts of the ballots.

You get what you voted for. Maybe not.


Health, Happiness, and Hobbies

Do you read?  Write?  Play Sudoku?  Assemble jigsaw puzzles?  Do you have a hobby that brings you joy or peace?  

Having a hobby is a huge stress relief activity.  Some hobbies are multi-taskers.  They benefit the person actually participating in whatever hobby it is, plus other people in proximity.   For example, playing the piano.  If you are half-way decent, you will bring a sense of pleasure and peace to listeners.  The act of playing the piano can be relaxing and, in addition, you get to listen to beautiful music.  (Now, if you don’t play well – maybe choose another hobby – like putting together a scrapbook).

I have played the piano since I was in Third Grade.  I love playing the piano.  It has always been relaxing for me, and takes my mind off whatever is stressing me at the moment.  When I lived in an apartment, the little boy that lived upstairs from me told his mother that I was making “perfume music.”  He’d lay on the floor so he could hear me better.  And a next-door neighbor girl always came over while I was playing so she could “play with me” too.

Mechanic Man loves working on old cars, which is why I call him Mechanic Man (just in case you missed that part).  When he is working on cars, he goes into another world and any problems that are bothering him are nonexistent for the time he is working on the car.  He comes out of his self-imposed solitude feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, if not a little stiff and sore from using muscles he’s ignored for a while.

What is your hobby?  How do you feel it affects your long term health and stress level?


Cringing in City Hall…

Good morning, Netizens…

According to Mayor Mary Verner speaking to the City Council last night, the grim realities of life in Spokane will be getting worse as the budget shortfall of 12 million dollars begins to hit home. City services may be cut including steep cuts to police, fire department and street departments. Mayor Verner was quick to blame the unions because they wouldn’t agree to cuts in pay raises and changes to medical plans.

The Spokane Police Department will be hit the hardest of all, with 38 officers and 7 civilian positions all being cut plus additional demotions and other staff shuffling taking place to better deal with responding to emergency calls.

The Fire Department is the next on the hit list with 28 positions on the line. The reduction will mean the department will need to either close one fire station or reduce crew sizes from four to three personnel.

Additionally, 14 positions will be cut from the beleaguered street department under the proposed budget. Our streets have never been one of the City of Spokane’s strong points, with potholes and a proven inability to do street maintenance always seeming to fall to the bottom of the priority lists. Ostensibly under the new-and-improved budget, street repair projects will require 1 supervisor instead of their typical complement of three for each job, thus it may take longer to perform routine tasks.

A library may be closed, or at least see its hours severely reduced. Community Centers that depend upon the City Parks Department may be reduced or even curtailed.

In short, if Mayor Verner’s budget stands as proposed, any requests for service from the City of Spokane to its residents may take longer if they can be met at all. The unions that represent city employees will either need to agree to concessions with the City of Spokane or face the loss of jobs and, coincidentally, a steep loss of services to the public.


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