Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bye, Bye, July

Ok, So it's the last day of July in the year 2008.

I gave one last bill to Obama after I read McCain's statement that Obama played the race card and he played it from the bottom of the deck. If America elects McCain I will have to seriously think about which country to move to, because it will mean that this one will be lost. I plan to work hard so I don't have to move. (and I'll send a little money...You?)

I am sitting here thinking about empty nest syndrome. I sent the next to last college payment for the oldest son today. The youngest has three more years unless he actually figures out what he wants to do, and then we'll see. At any rate, we saved for their higher education and it's a matter of doling it out as needed. the main thing I think about is that our kids don't really live here any more.

And tonight... I'm here alone.

Annie is with her Mom, who is winding down from a life well lived, though no one can call it an easy one for her. She got through it though, and Annie is helping ease her last few months through this world. I came home to feed the animals and take care of a few other chores a house demands. Chores done, I fed myself one of those one pan meals from a Summer garden in the South. Garlic, okra, banana and some other pepper, spices, basil, and a sliced stuffed chicken breast from the weekend. Throw in a few other spices, a sliced beef steak tomato, sear properly and slide it all onto a plate and turn the stove off.

AS it gets dark here in the gorge, the wood thrushes are going off in the yard. I count five and maybe six of these birds surrounding the house. I don't see a single one of them but the voice is unmistakable. They have two sets of vocal chords and can sing harmony with themselves, create some amazing twitters, and yodel.

Yeah...I said yodel.

At times they have a shoot out, like rappers, or break dancers, with one of them calling and the others matching it. Naturally, as I had heard the calls from inside, I walked out on the deck for a clearer listen...and the woods went silent. I sat in a chair and waited.

Ten minutes later they couldn't stand it and started up again. I knew they would. I was entertained in the interim by a humming bird war at the feeder. We change it every few days when it's hot and usually one bird decides the feeder belongs to him. Yeah, HIM... Tonight, HE sat on a near by twig and swooped down on the others as they fed or tried to. At times he would chase one bird off and another would fly in and feed until the boss bird got back. Sometimes I wonder why some of them aren't killed, but tonight it is only ritual combat. At one time there were five flying ninjas feinting and chasing each other, and oddly enough, in all the buzzing and high speed flapping, they all...each and every one of their time at one of the feeding holes and juiced up. Until BIG MOMMA showed up.

I've never seen a female dominate a group of hummers until tonight. This Bitch was Bad! The highly colored ruby, (read: dominant male) that had chased and swatted and dominated every hummer at the feederunti SHE showed up, got his ass kicked. She flew in and started feeding. He flew at her and she thwapped him good. Think "Old Batman TV Show" Thwap!

He didn't believe it and flew back at her and got THWAPPED again. She fed quietly and he, uh, left. Then there were four or five more taking turns feeding, all the while being serenaded by the wood thrushes and all their vocal chords. Now there is a screech owl warming up, and a flock of guineas almost a quarter of a mile away contributing to the chorus. The sky is multicolored "sunset on a thunderhead" yellow, where it isn't deep deep blue.

It is a fitting end to the July of 2008.



Vote for McCain...He's Unpopular!

So how does a guy who owns more mansions than John Kerry get away with calling Barack Obama the code word for "uppity" ?

I mean he shows up in front of reporters in a golf cart driven by G. H. W. Bush with a sign in front of him that says "Property of 41" while wearing $520 designer loafers and talks about the arrogance of his opponent?

His most recent attack ad plays the you know what card by showing the deeply cliche'd blonde white girls alongside Obama, and, as 200,000 Europeans wildly cheer Obama, McCain tries to say that being popular is a bad thing?

Is McCain trying the old Karen Hughes trick of saying "who would you rather have a beer with? The alchoholic, Right! Vote for McCain...He's Unpopular!

I don't know. McCain goads Obama into going to Iraq and then gets pissed because Obama is swarmed by adoring Troops, and is welcomed as he is royalty everywhere he goes, by everyone he meets.

Well, John McCain went to Germany too. He met with the German President while he was there, too. How about that? Yep, John McCain met with the German President Vladimir Putin.

I Freekin' swear!



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Poll MalPractice or just plain LYING?

A Gallup poll showed McCain up over Obama by 4 points, quite contrary to all the other polls in the country. As I noted in the last post, CNN used this to go all medieval on Obama asking why he wasn't further ahead of McCain, particularly since McCain has tripped over his own ice cream in nearly everything he's done recently.

Well...Obama IS ahead of McCain by a decent margin. The Gallup organization simply fudged the numbers by creating a scenario where there were the same number of registered Democrats and registered Republicans. Not Possible..And Gallup says so.

Basically, the supposedly most respected Pollster in this country...Lied!


Packing Heat in School

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Looking Back

Leon Houston's trial in which he was charged, along with his brother, with first degree murder of a Roane County Sheriff's Deputy and a ride-along, ended with a hung jury.

It was a highly charged event with at least four sides to the very complex case. The family of the two slain men sat on one side of the courtroom and the family of the accused sat on the other. Those of us who were undecided sat where we could find room. The fourth side was law enforcement, as the slain men were reputed to be victims of an ambush by the prosecution, and losers of a shoot out that they themselves started, by the defense.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but every eye witness stated that the cops shot first. This was disputed by an FBI agent who testified that one witness, Anne Watts, changed her story from what she stated in his original interview with her at the time of this very tragic event. On the witness stand, Anne Watts made a very credible witness who never wavered from her version of events. The FBI agent, not so much.

This is shocking to me. The FBI agent testified that Watts contradicted herself in his interview. He was asked if the interview was recorded and we heard this...It is FBI policy that interviews are NOT recorded.

What? Why is this? Their policy is that interviews are to be conducted with two agents and no recorders. One agent asks questions and another makes notes, after which the interview narrative is immediately written down and reviewed by both agents.

In Ms. Watts case, it appears that very few notes were taken by the agent and that he did not write them down until several days later, in fact. Here is some of what I have been able to run down concerning policy, which this agent doesn't seem to have adhered to anyway:

In the pursuit of criminals, FBI agents across the nation routinely use DNA tests, fingerprints, ballistics, psychological profiling and the world's most advanced forensic methods.

But a little-known policy at the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps investigators from using one of the simplest and most effective tools in law enforcement: the tape recorder.

That policy appears in Section 7 of the FBI's "Manual of Investigative Operations and Guidelines": "Use of tape recorders for the purpose of recording the statements of witnesses, suspects and subjects is permissible on a limited, highly selective basis, and only when authorized by the SAC (special agent in charge)."

Standard FBI procedure calls for at least two agents to conduct interrogations: one asking questions and the other taking notes. The notes are used later to produce a typed summary known as Form 302.

When agents testify months or years down the road, they rely on 302s, and memory. As a result, jurors and judges hear recollections and interpretations, not what was actually said. And the defense lawyer often follows up with a cross-examination designed to impugn the agent's memory, competence or integrity.

Critics say the FBI practice leads to botched investigations, lost evidence, unprofessional conduct and damaged credibility for America's justice system.

The Arizona Republic

The full article brings FBI policy into a harsh light. Why would they NOT record interviews? The answer that was told to me by one attorney was, "So they can say anything they want to at trial."

Absurd? Yes! But this leaves the veracity of an FBI Agent's testimony under oath in question. Why would they leave themselves open to such a possibility.

This is brought into an even harsher light when the defense claim of self defense hinges on the actions of the officers and whose testimony you believe.

For me, it renders the FBI agent's testimony highly suspect and essentially worthless as a tool for determining the sequence of events.

When I asked why anyone would talk to the FBI without a recording of the interview, one attorney said, "You don't have anything to gain by talking to them anyway. Don't talk to them."

This saddened me and darkens my view of an organization I have mostly high respect for.



You can read the posts and community comments regarding the Houston's at Use the search function and type "Houstons Trial" into the search box.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Morning Garden Blogging

Not much to add. This is looking across the garden toward the garage/office/music room.

Boiled Okra...Mmmmmmm.

Come on Ref! Call the fouls on him, not me!

John McCain has been whining at the top of his lungs about the Media being way too nice to Obama. In sports we call this, "Working the Refs."

Any team that is constantly in the ref's face about the other guy cheating is usually...cheating.

Well now we find out that CBS has doctored, not one, but TWO John McCain screw ups out of an interview with Katie Couric. He flubbed his answers, is the polite way of saying he lied about things. One answer he just got totally senile wrong. So CBS doctored the tape and then broadcast it on the Today show.

Damn you, CBS! For being unfair to poor old John.

Now we see that FOX News has doctored a John McCain tape as well. OK, Fox News, no surprise here. And they did it badly, showing video from John McCain from eight years ago, when he was merely old. Fox was too stupid to edit the McCain 2000 poster in the background, so it was a lousy fake job.

So now we have something that could screw up, not only the media's credentials for being "fair and balanced" but something is happening here that is far more sinister. If TV Networks keep doctoring John McCain video to make him look less unfit for office, and doing it so badly, they are going to continue to get caught. Getting caught is much worse than actually cheating, which is no big deal in the conservative universe. It's considered a talent.

No, it's getting caught cheating that undermines all of society's precious values. Think about it...If we can no longer trust CBS and Fox to do a seamless job of doctoring videos, we are going to totally lose confidence in the... INSTANT REPLAY!

This could destroy the American Nation's confidence in their electoral process, sure, but what about those close calls at Wimbledon? What about those instant replays in the Super Bowl, Huh?

If our TV Networks can't do a better job of presenting a false reality, we will never know who really won the NFL Championship, and that, my friends, will have a devastating effect on the very fabric of American society.

It's not stealing elections and taking America into a war on false premises that will destroy us, people...

It's doing it so badly that they get caught.



Friday, July 25, 2008

Somebody has Dementia...

So our mainstream media continue to misinform us and fail to call John McCain on his obvious gaffes, and shall we say "contradictions?"

I think we can now make a case for McCain going senile. How else would you explain his blasting Barack Obama for going to Iraq, two months after criticizing him for NOT going to Iraq? Doesn't he remember that?

Does McCain also not remember, while criticizing Obama for making a speech on foreign soil that McCain took foreign money for making a speech on foreign soil just five weeks ago?

And McCain criticizes Obama for going abroad less than three weeks after McCain went abroad?

Seventeen days after taking a trip abroad to Columbia [sic] and Mexico, five weeks after giving a paid campaign speech in Canada, and two months after criticizing Obama for not going to Iraq, the McCain campaign criticizes Obama for taking a trip abroad that includes a stop in Iraq

from Chris Bowers

Why do the media give McCain a pass on this? It is pretty obvious that McCain is either a cheap low life politician willing to say anything to get elected, or our Media is suffering from collective Alzhiemers disease, since they sure don't seem to remember that McCain did exactly what he is complaining about Obama doing.

Is it because McCain's trip to Iraq looked like this:

And Obama's Iraq trip looked like this:
No wonder McCain and the Pentagon tried everything they could to disrupt Obama's trip to Germany, including barring him from visiting American Troops in a Military hospital.

I think we can sum Obama's trip abroad with the term "resounding success". Over 200,000 people came to see his speech in Germany. If you haven't seen it, you should. At least read it. This speech is being heralded as the one all others will be judged against in the future.

Ok...Other attrocities:

The McCAin campaign has another lobbyist scandal erupting. I think that makes...well, a whole bunch of lobbyist scandals to date.

Robert Novak is a pretty reprehensible pundit in his own right, being used by Karl Rove to out CIA agent Valerie Plame in the run up to the Iraq War. Now, while he's being investigated for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk and then leaving the scene, he wins my sympathy by saying he was duped by John McCain's campaign in a cheap political trick.

" ...this was a dodge, they were trying to get a little publicity to rain on Obama's campaign,'' Novak told Fox. "That's pretty reprehensible if it's true, but we'll find out in a few days. "
LA Times

And poster boy for high crimes and misdemeanors himself, Karl Rove, has been implicated in threatening a witness in a civil trial:
We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to "take the fall" for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations.This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform. See: and

Full story here
Did I mention that Karl Rove is the Headline act for the Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser that reporters have been barred from attending? I think the Republican Party is fast replacing the Mafia as the dominant criminal class in America.
Maybe they already have.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spoken in Berlin

I think they like him....200,000 plus people cheered Obama in Berlin.

...People of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world.

The Speech transcript is here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I can see the email coming...Obama's not a Muslim...He's a ...

Obama at the Holocaust Memorial in Jeruselem...

The photos coming out of Barack Obama's trip are amazing. It is as if the whole world is rejoicing that America will be reborn as itself.

The Day in Pictures

"...Irresponsible Journalism of the Highest Order"

You can surf around the news cable channels and for some unknown reason you get the McCain talking point that the Media is gone all google-eyes on Obama, favoring him in coverage, and failing to seriously challenge his statements.

Let's leave the amazing coincidence that this is the single topic, all of a sudden, on every cable news show and many of the broadcast channels, and ask a question:

If the Media is favoring Obama, why did CBS falsify a broadcast interview with John McCain in order to keep from airing an obviously false statement he made?

In an interview with Katie Couric, John McCain gave a false answer, which was cut from the interview and an answer to a completely different question was falsely substituted in its place by the editors at CBS and then broadcast as if it were factual.

JedReport has it.

DailyKos has the absurd and nasty response from the McCain camp that completely ignores, by the way, the dishonest and clear favoritism Media shows John McCain.

In the meantime, Barack Hussein Obama was greeted by over 3000 cheering troops in Iraq. You saw that on the news, right? You didn't? Hmmmm. That's a lousy way for the media to show favoritism.

Here (Lots of pictures so it might load slowly)

This might be the best photo of the whole trip for Obama...

And I know I'm repeating myself...



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Co-Founder of, Lina Newhouser, Has Passed

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Lina Jeanne Newhouser, 56, of Seal Cove Lane, died at her home Friday evening from complications following an April stem-cell transplant as part of the treatment in her defiant 3-year stand against non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Lina wrote of her long struggle on her blog - has more

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Tomato

Every body else is showing their first tomato and I guess I should show mine.

It really was the first one...I swear. Tasty too! In a mater sammich kinda way... Only like eating a yard pet.

To help you get over that traumatic vegetable experience, this is from just a few minutes ago before the Katydids and the tree frogs started their sing off.



(Wish you were out here, don't you?)

(And yes, if you look closely, you can see that there are clouds below the deck this was taken from)

Partisan, or merely Insane?

Sometimes I forget just how truly malevolent the Bush Administration is:

"If they want to rent a bus, show them where they can rent a bus"

The night before presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) left for Afghanistan, Iraq and Western Europe for a tour of US bases overseas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a cable to US missions forbidding them from holding events for presidential candidates or arrange meetings for them.

The Raw Story article goes on to note:

Rice issued no such cable prior to foreign excursions by presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
What Scum!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When the House are Fulled

Sign of the day at a favorite Thai restaurant:

I was cool AND patient, and the TOT currie was really good.

Where's the Demand for an Apology?

The current eruption of mock outrage from Tennessee Republican Chairwoman Robin Smith would look like a well orchestrated political move, typical of state republicans, except for Smith's inability to make complete sentences in her emails. Smith, you will remember, was put in the hit seat over her party's forwarding of an email with Obama wearing traditional Kenyon clothing and claiming it was "Muslim" and that since Obama had been endorsed by Louis Farrakan, he was anti-semitic.

Tennessee Republicans have apparently been waiting for something to be "outraged" about, and chose a release of one of Smith's nutty emails to the Governor, which is a public document after all, to be outraged and saddened by these tactics by the "Democratic machine."

Let's refresh our memories on "outrageous tactics" from the republicans who start wioth something and then careen off into the vapors with ridiculous speculations presented as fact:

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman said Wednesday it was appropriate to use Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's middle name in a press release issued under the headline "Anti-Semites for Obama,"

The release, which first appeared on the state GOP Web site, also posted a picture of Obama in what it described as "Muslim attire."

"There is nothing to apologize for," she said.

Knox News Sentinel

Note that there has been absolutely ZERO mention of all the right wing preacher nut job endorsements that McCain has had to UN-accept.

Republican Chair Robin Smith is a symptom of what is so wrong with our political process. There is a deep dishonesty in her half of the process and a willingness to let it slide on the part of most news media, and a massive double standard that examines Democratic candidates in minute detail but lets republican candidates get by with slanderous conduct.

The terribly unfortunate New Yorker cover cartoon is already being sent around by right wingers saying "See! We told you so." as if it were fact. The American media is failing its own country and will deserve the government they get. The problem is that you and I will not.



Monday, July 14, 2008

Evening at the creek

Moonrise over the Blue Hole.

The dogs and I took a hike up to get the security cameras. Things seem to be working. We got a few pictures of bats, birds, and a skunk, but no ORV's tearing things up. Thanks to the ORV clubs for helping out and understanding the situation. I hope that some of the folks will walk in to the Blue Hole on Whites Creek and watch the sun go down, as it sets directly up the gorge in summer.

My old dog, Kuma, needs a break after we hike. It's tough being a black dog in the Summer, and an old dog anytime.

Species Count for Whites Creek

Pat, from Conservation Fisheries, has this count of fish species for last Saturday...

Pending a check with J.R., we observed 24 fish species, with one unverified, but likely correct:

longnose gar, largescale stoneroller, whitetail shiner, warpaint shiner, river chub, Tennessee shiner, sawfin shiner, bluntnose minnow, northern hogsucker, golden redhorse (or black, but what I saw appeared to be the former; silver, river, and shorthead also possible, but I don't think we saw any), rock bass, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, longear sunfish, smallmouth bass, greenside darter, rainbow darter, bluebreast darter, fantail darter (1? may only be one prior record in upper Fall or Piney), redline darter, snubnose darter, tangerine darter, logperch, and freshwater drum.

This is a Tangerine Darter male taken at the Conservation Fisheries facility. You can swim with them at Whites Creek. We did.
More time and effort in riffle habitats and deep waters, and more rock turning would likely yield 35+...

Randy got this shot of the first Diana Fritillary female of the year:

She looks totally different with her wings closed. Still beautiful.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Pix of Saturday..Update

I came...I saw...I got out of the water when the storms came through.

There were a bunch of people speaking latin in the creek yesterday, words like Cyprinella galactura, one of which had me thinking we were seeing an Erimonax monachus. It was in the right place and looked like a little shark swimming in the riffle of clear water running over the rock shelf. We wanted it to be a spotfin chub but J R, the biologist staring through the swim mask, set everybody straight. It was a male whitetail shiner all colored up for mating season...Of course...Obviously.

We ran up on the largest soft shelled turtle I've seen in Tennessee, doomed to die from a bullet wound in his neck that will cause him, eventually, to starve to death. Whoever did this should have to swap fates with this animal...A senseless brutality on a beautiful harmless creature.

We saw lots of fish, some more common than others. Gar are fairly common, but a five footer in a small pool in a creek are not.

The eagles stayed hidden in the nest in the white pine tree on the cliff above us but they screeched at us anyway. Other birds put in an appearance, with a secretive but noisy tanager causing lots of discussion. The song sounded like a summer tanager and I had thought so too, until I got a glimpse of it. The black wings identified it as a Scarlet tanager.

The butterflies at least held still for folks to see their first ever Diana Fritillary. This is a great spangled fritillary on the left and a Diana male on the right. The males have been around for well over a month, but we saw the first female yesterday. The males will mate and die off, leaving the food supply to the females. They'll hang around until October, in some cases.

More on all this later, particularly when we get the species report.

The weather went from absolutely beautiful, to dark and stormy, messing up the itinerary a bit, and wetting down our city folks pretty well. If you aren't used to wandering around in the woods during a summer storm, it can be unsettling. We all stayed soaked and most of us loved it.

We had a shortage of pictures on my part so I'm hoping some of the other folks who took them will post some somewhere.



Update: Pat noticed this member of the skullcap family, and after doing a bit of research, thinks it may be something new...
Whites Creek skullcap, most like Scutellaria sp. cf. incana, downy skullcap. But I think it's something different... especially given the dark purple stem and nearly black leaf outlines... I have hyssopleaf skullcap in my garden. There's also a mad-dog skullcap! TN has 16 species, including federally listed large-flowered skullcap, S. montana.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pigs and Hogs

Do these important financial geniuses look worried to you? I'm thinking they will be in a lot of history books one day...
Their names are Paulson and Bernake.

From our "The Free Market Works...Every time" Department:

— Alarmed by the growing financial stress at the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies, senior Bush administration officials are considering a plan to have the government take over one or both of the companies and place them in a conservatorship...

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private financial companies created by acts of Congress to smooth out the home mortgage process. Banks loan money to people to buy their homes and sell the mortgages to Fannie and Freddie, who then hold the loan, collect the payments and the interest. They can keep the mortgages or bundle them together and sell them like bonds to people who have money.

That would be RICH people. Everybody was doing OK until all the financial people got greedy and started approving loans for more than people could really afford to pay and to people who really couldn't afford to pay if any of life's normal hiccups happened to them. They did this a lot.

Rich people and their financial parasites saw this as a good chance to make more money. They kept doing it. More and more risky home loans were made. People were encouraged to buy bigger houses than they could afford. This was happening all through the American economy in many areas besides housing, as bean counters looked at the current fiscal year and squeezed blood out of what ever entity they ran. Lots of blood. Cut costs, send the jobs out of the country, and increase profits. Simple, right?

In the last century there was a mean and nasty but brilliant and driven man called Henry Ford. He was a ruthless business man who made cars in his factory that was designed around mass production. His cars were cheaper than any boy else's cars but not cheap enough that the good people of the middle class..(think You and me)...The common people still did not have enough money to buy Henry's cars. This was a dilemma.

Henry had already cut his manufacturing costs through innovation and sound management, but it wasn't enough. All the rich people already had cars. The problem, Henry realized, is that the "Little people" didn't have enough money to buy cars. "What's the matter with them?" thought Henry. The middle class worker just isn't pulling his weight in this consumer economy. They aren't spending enough money.

Henry gave this some thought and came around to the radical concept that the reason the middle class wasn't spending enough money and buying his cars was that they did not have enough money to spend.

And why not? Henry Ford, one of the most conservative men in the United States of America, realized that conservative ideology was incredibly short sighted and would ultimately fail, taking his country down with it, if left unchecked. He raised the pay for his workers just enough so that if they were careful and frugal, the men who worked at Ford Motor Company could save enough to actually afford to own a Ford.

Henry Ford got filthy rich by being less greedy and his country got stronger. The exact reverse of this little morality play is what has happened in America's financial industry.

Rather than getting less greedy, they got greedy...ER!

Pigs get fat...Hogs get slaughtered.

Unless you have a corrupt federal government that will step in and pay you for all your stupid greedy short sighted mistakes:

The government officials said that the administration had also considered calling for legislation that would offer an explicit government guarantee on the $5 trillion of debt owned or guaranteed by the companies. But that is a far less attractive option, they said, because it would effectively double the size of the public debt.

Rich people, corporations, and foreign governments, are the folks who would lose Trillions of dollars is Fannie and Freddie go into bancruptcy. Having already doubled the National debt by borrowing more money than all 42 presidents that came before him, George W. Bush and his Republican buddies look like they will double it again, in one form or another, trying to keep Rich people, Corporations, and FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS from losing a lot of money.

Nothing in anything Republicans have proposed, by the way, does one single thing to help the people who actually live in the homes they can't afford keep living in the homes they can't afford.

Henry (the Pig) Ford is probably rolling around in his grave thinking, "God , they're stupid."



Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Next Governor of Tennessee

Republicans so far: Mayor Bill Haslam, US Rep. Zach Wamp, Former Senator Bill Frist, Former State Senator Jim Bryson, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, US Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and who else?

Democrats so far: US Rep. Lincoln Davis, Former US Rep Harold Ford Jr, Former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, and who else?

I know the old Will Rodgers line, "I belong to no organized political party...I'm a Democrat," but this is ridiculous.

I am an almost total fan of current TN Governor Phil Bredesen. He's done a good job of running our state in lousy circumstances under the worst Federal government in ages, and with a national economy that looks more and more like it did in the robber baron era eliminated the middle class in this country. He's made the tough calls and pissed me off with some of them.

Folks got mad at his Tenncare reforms but I never saw anybody offer an alternative plan that could remain solvent. I did get mad, and I'm still mad and will stay mad until it is corrected, at the confiscation of the Real Estate transfer fees that all of us pay when we buy property.

This fee was enacted to purchase parks and green space land for Tennessee, and could have easily purchased the cream of the Bowater and Huber lands that have now gone to developers and turned them into public lands for everyone to use. Instead our fees were confiscated and used to preserve tax loopholes for corporations. This was a crappy thing to do, and Tennessee won't be better off in twenty years because of it. This is the number one thing I will work to change in the next budget cycle. We did get a lot of land bought and added to Frozen Head and Bredesen did correct the enormous misapplication of state funds that created the Sundquist forests but gave away the timber and mineral rights. Bredesen also promised to prevent mountaintop removal coal mining for the rest of his term. Good, but not good enough. We need a future in this state, one that sees farther out then two years.

So, Bredesen has done a decent job of running a lousy state government. He inherited the lousy state government, so I don't fault him for that. What I do fault the Governor in part, and the Tennessee Democratic Party as a whole, is for doing so little to change this state's lousy state government.

Where's the vision? Where's the plan for the future? What do we want this state to look like in five, ten, or twenty years? What path do we take to get there? What is the first step?
I think the first thing you do is decide what you want your state to look like in 20 years and then you plot the path to get there.

As things stand right now, we are headed toward one giant tacky suburban sprawl, punctuated with decaying industrial elephant carcasses. Our current method of attracting businesses, tax breaks and an under educated labor pool, cannot be sustained. Tax breaks to industries can't continue to be funded on the backs of the middle class if there is no middle class. We fund higher education with gambling proceeds and lower education with taxes on homes in 2008 that have already declined to 2005 values. It is the goal of every Republican, by the way, to get rich enough to pull their children out of public schools, place them in expensive private schools, and get a tax break for doing it... Yeah, THAT works in the long run.

So we know we don't like where we are, but we haven't talked much about where we want to be. Once we know that we can decide how to get there. So here's step one: Let's concentrate on making Tennessee a nice place to live and raise a family. That makes good schools the number one issue. We need intelligent decisions from intelligent people on our school boards and we need our County law makers to back them, instead of second guessing them and cutting school funds at every turn. In my own Tennessee County we have a nice new jail going up, tax breaks for our new industrial park in which parcels have been sold off under market value to speculators, and of the couple of hundred workers presently employed Roane County's industrial park, somewhere around twenty are from Roane County. That was smart.

This pattern is repeated all over our state. decisions are made AFTER problems escalate to the point they can no longer be ignored. That has to change. We need a vision, and we need a plan. We also need an organization that is competent to win public support for the vision and to get the legislation passed that gives this whole state a future. This is where politics comes into the picture.

A true vision does not involve just making sure that my friends get rich, or that the world is made safer for corporations. The vision of almost every corporate entity is to make money in the current financial quarter and make more money in the next one. Human beings don't fit into that picture, except for a very few of them at the top of the food chain, and if the end of the world is twenty years out, it is highly unlikely to figure into any decision ever made at a corporate meeting. Corporations fit the description of the antichrist as well as any monster ever conceived. The political party that primarily serves corporations and rich people is the Republican Party, which has killer marketing but no vision...or certainly not one that would involve making the word a better place to live twenty years down the road.

So we are left with the Democratic Party as our only hope, and this is where Bredesen comes in. The one Democrat that has the political power to create an organization that could enact a vision for our future is Phil Bredesen. In the two years he has left, I love to see him put together a political party that builds from the street level, from the country road level, an organization and a vision that will make Tennessee the place where we will want to raise our children five, ten, or twenty years from now. Tennessee must become a Blue state for that to happen and I don't see it on the ground right now. We aren't doing what has to be done.

Other states are doing it. The greatness of Howard Dean and Democracy for America is the 50 State strategy. Progressives all over this country are hungry for candidates they can support and organizations they can work within toward a shared vision built, not on fear and greed, but on Public education, Public parks, affordable healthcare, security, and the ideal of wanting a good life for your neighbors...A good life for those that work in the factory, not just a good life for those who own the factory. We want a rational approach to building or rebuilding an America that is decent.

At the start of this rant I posted a list of some of the names of possible candidates for Tennessee's next Governor. As a state, we need a shared vision and a leader who will pound it into us and make it happend. Phil Bredesen has set the table, but hasn't so far built the organization capable of delivering an admirable future. He's run the ball out of the end zone and into positive territory without a whole lot of blocking from his team, and that has to change. Is there a name on that list that can pick up the ball and make the next first down?

We'll see.



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"...How Good you are!"

My pick for Barack Obama's running mate has been changing.

Originally I wanted Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico for several reasons. Top on the list of qualifications is Richardson's ability to get legislation passed. It took an activist Vice Pres. to get our Country screwed up so badly that he and the President can break the law at will and then ram the FISA bill through Congress and retroactively gain immunity for all their cohorts. It will take an activist Veep to help undo the damage.

My first choice for the next Vice President was my first choice for President when all this got started. I am a John Edwards fan.

As we settle in with Obama as the nominee, we can take a hard look at him and realize that he's a top notch manager, extremely smart, and a bit too willing to work with a consensus. Normally that would be a good thing, but his work place will be Washington, D.C., where "Consensus" is just one more barrel of crap on the commodities market. Every day we see how lobbyist money corrupts the democratic process. When a multinational corporation wants something, it buys a consensus of lawmakers who are willing to "Work for Food."

Food in this world consisting of favors and campaign donations. Why else would an elected official of the opposition party vote for a FISA bill that retroactively exonerates AT&T, Verizon, and several others for knowingly breaking the wiretap laws protecting the Constitutional right to Privacy of American citizens?

American Citizens...That would be you and me, and all our family.

Obama has taken one amazing step in ordering the Democratic Party to stop taking Lobbyist and Pac donations for the remainder of this Presidential race. That is a calculated move that expects you and I to give more money in small donations than he would have gotten from Corporations and Lobbyists who are only trying to purchase a little "consensus" for the next eight years. Not being able to buy your way out of a jam is a problem for a company like AT&T, which is currently in the process of wiping out local control of cable, phone, and biggest of all, Internet Provider franchises. If you haven't stepped up to the plate and started donating to the Obama campaign, right now might be a good time to promise them $25 a month or so. Over 1,500,000 of your fellow citizens already have, including me. We have to.

Obama is a noble person who rose up through serious odds. Even so, he is not perfect and needs something. He needs a loyal partner with a solid baseline in the personal ethics department. Someone who sees the damage that has been done to our country and is willing to take the bullets when necessary to effect change...A crusader is called for...And it would help if it is a crusader with a very high national visibility who would help carry the load before the election as well as after.

I have come back around to John Edwards for Vice President.

Edwards speaking to his hometown of Seneca, SC.
Polls show Edwards is actually a significant help to the ticket by several percentage points. There was little doubt that Obama would ask Edwards to serve in some capacity... Attorney General had been mentioned, and someone very very strong will be needed as this is the primary source of corruption in the Bush Administration, without which none of the other outrages could have occurred and even more prominent Republicans would already be behind bars.

The biggest deterrent to John Edwards as Veep is that he has already run as Vice president in a losing effort with John Kerry. Edwards had publicly stated that he wasn't really interested in it, but the earth is shifting as we speak. Edwards has gone from "I haven't considered it" to "Probably not" to "would consider it" and now to "I would seriously consider whatever Barack Obama asks me to do."

Whatever Obama chooses to do, I would hope with all my heart that he keeps John Edwards whispering in his ear throughout his administration. Whatever else he brings, Edwards is a moral voice in America and every bit as good a speaker as Obama. On the podium when John Edwards spoke so forcefully and eloquently in endorsing Barak Obama for President of the United States, I remember the exact words Obama said to him as Edwards finished his speech to screaming and applause...Obama looked at Edwards and hugged him and said...

"Man you are good! I forget how good you are."

America doesn't forget...America remembers.



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Whites Creek Journal

Sometimes I forget what this is all about.

Whites Creek Journal is really about the largest unpolluted watershed in the State of Tennessee, outside the Smokies...And the struggle to keep it that way.

Up until the last month, there have been a number of roads that travel through the three county watershed. I use the term "road" with the understanding that in lots of places they aren't roads anymore...The roads have been destroyed and replaced with Off Road Vehicle tracks. The roads are essentially impassable now, even for the people who own the land, except for ORV's.

A dirt road takes some maintenence, a blade now and then, to maintain it's slope and drainage and the water bars that keep storm water from gathering up with such power that it erodes the road into a ditch. I have spent an hour with a shovel and mattock rebuilding a water bar, only to walk back by the next day and find it cut through with ORV tracks, muddy water coursing down the ruts and into the nearby stream. it is frustrating.

This is what has happened to the "road" that follows the course of Ford Branch.
A few years ago, Ford Branch was part of a study by the University of Tennessee because of its biological diversity. About two thirds of it are essentially biologically dead now. All the sediment that used to be part of the road has washed into Ford Branch, suffocating the living things that need the clean substrate to survive. Many of the small fish that make up the food chain in Tennessee streams start life as an egg deposited in the pebbles on the bottom of these streams. They have a life span of three years or so. Three years of muddy runoff washing into these streams essentially kills off these fish species, eliminating them from the watershed, in some cases. Instead of a summer pool that they can find refuge in, with pebbles and rocks to hide under, it looks something like this:


Sometimes the road passes through the flood plain and we see it turned into a mud hole by spinning wheels of ORV riders who are "just having fun". When the mud hole gets too deep after being dug out by vehicle after vehicle, the rains come and wash the fine sediments away into the creek. Riders then make new trails on someone else's land so they can get through to the next play spot. The riparian environment takes decades to recover, if it ever does. The road cannot be repaired without hauling in replacement material, but since equivalent soil would have to come from another flood plain, it really means that the road can't be repaired. A new one has to be built in many cases in these areas.

Here the road has been destroyed over a 120 foot stretch. The surrounding ground has been denuded of vegetation and new tracks made through the forest, killing the vegetation and eventually the trees along side the "play spot." There are several of these holes in this particular area...I won't show you the pictures of the piles of trash or the photos of the ORV tracks riding into the creek itself where they cut doughnuts on the large rocks that line the bottom of the shallow areas...Just having fun.

Eventually, the land owners can't stand it any more and have to do something. We have. The roads are being closed and signs are being posted saying "No Motorized Vehicles". We have posted them several times now, only to have them torn down by certain ORV riders. I have personally spoken to well over a hundred riders in the last two weeks who have riden right past the signs that quote the Law in Tennessee:

You must have the landowner's permission to ride a motorized vehicle on private property...Period!

Several of the riders have gotten angry...Too Freakin' bad! We're angry too.

One neighbor fenced off his pasture where the riders would park their trucks and trailers and had his fence torn down. He laid logs down where the fence had been and had the logs pushed out of the way and more trucks and trailers pulled in anyway. He staked the logs in place and moved dirt against them so they couldn't be pushed around. The next day his son's pet Lama standing in the pasture was shot and killed. The neighbor worked through his rage by building a gate across his own road that was being used by the ORV riders...A strong gate.

I gave him a sign to post with my telephone number on it. The calls have been interesting. Most of the riders understand. They don't like it, but they understand. A few of them should be arrested. We don't want it to but eventually it will have to happen.

My neighbor can see his gate from his house and watched as a vehicle rode up to it and stopped. The driver got out and read the signs, got back in his vehicle and started pushing on the gate with his bumper. My neighbor rode up to him and said he was going to stop that or be stopped, his choice. The guy said he had bolt cutters and a saw and would just come back later and open the gate.

My neighbor stood face to face with the guy and said, "Why don't you just be a man and do it right now, while I'm standing right here?"

He didn't and left.

This type of confrontation has been rare. Most riders understand and the most common response is, "I knew it was going to be closed. They've messed it up too bad."

Folks have a tough time coming to grips with "They" being "I."

I posted our situation on a local ORV club web forum and got a 100% positive response. Most of these folks are not bad people. Only a very few, actually. The club people have even offered to walk in and help carry out trash.

And there may be another change taking place. Some of the riders turned out to be Sheriff's Officers. As soon as they understood the problem they immediately quit riding here. One of them now patrols it for us on foot from time to time.

"I've never heard that before," he said when I pointed out the wood thrush singing near us. One of the rare Diana Fritillary butterflies landed near us and I told him I had friends who had spent their entire lives in field research who had never seen one alive. He is coming back sometime with his wife and son...They'll be walking.

We have biologists coming this week to do a stream survey. We are hoping to one day have the Whites Creek Gorge designated a State Natural Area. The process has begun.



Friday, July 04, 2008

Born on the Fourth of July

The Crab Nebula was born to humanity on July 4th in the year 1054 with the observance of a supernova by Chinese astronomers.

It actually happened 6,500 years before that, since the star that exploded was 6500 light years away from the Earth and took that long to get here.

People are still surprised to look up at the sound of a jet aircraft only to find that it isn't there, having moved on to another part of the sky because the sound takes time to travel, usually 4 or 5 miles in the case of a passenger jet, the distance from the jet to the ear of the observer.

It certainly almost never occurs to people who look up at stars to think that the stars have moved on also. Lots of them have exploded and have become clouds of fluorescing gases that we call nebulas. Light is pretty fast, much faster than sound, but it has a speed in space and can't cover distance instantaneously. When we view the Crab Nebula we see it as it was 6500 years ago, and it's fairly close to us. The Andromeda Galaxy is 200 million light years away, the most distant object visible to the nekkid eye, but it's easier to see if you dress up your eyes with binoculars.

So the Crab Nebula seems like it was born on the Fourth of July, but it wasn't...It was born a long time before that and just took that long to get here.

Democracy is like that in some respects. It was around for a long time before it got here in America, but some folks don't know that.

President George W. Bush's statement about the Fourth of July:

On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to the "land of the free and the home of the brave" so they can begin their American Dream...

Nonsense! My President is an underachiever in the cerebral cortex. Democracy was not born in America. There have been any number of Democracies throughout history, but the oldest one is right here inside the USA, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy...already many hundreds of years older than the USA at the signing of the Declaration of Independence which their chiefs witnessed as it was created.

On this Independence Day, Americans would do well to actually take some time and read the Declaration of Independence, particularly the list of grievances toward the George of that era. Here's a few excerpts that might give you a weird feeling of Deja Vu all over again:

...The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone...

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments:

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Democracy is a magnificent form of government. What remains to be seen is whether the American people will be vigilant enough, strong enough, and courageous enough to preserve it in their own country. The Democracy we see with our eyes now, took a long time to get here, but it seems to be fading like the cloud of the Crab Nebula. Unfortunately it won't be nearly as beautiful as it dies.



Thursday, July 03, 2008

Forward Backward Reverse Inward Twist

Pundits are going to have to come up with a new term this season..."Flip-flopper" is so limited that it doesn't come close to describing John McCain, and it is nearly impossible to keep up with his wrigglings and twistings as his statements contradict themselves, sometimes within minutes of each other.

I am thinking that McCain is pretty flexible for an old person, and in order to get and adequate description of his abilities, we should be watching the Olympic Diving trials now taking place in Knoxville for some ideas.

Since this is so complicated, I have found this nifty link to a chart that can help us with the names. So far, I think McCain is up to a "Forward Flipping Backward Flopping Reverse Inward Twisting 2 1/2 summersault from the Tuck position with a Rollover to the Religious Right"...But I may be missing something.

John McCain is not George W. Bush. McCain lacks W's cunning political ruthlessness, nor the ability to lie in any consistent manner. Bad liars get nailed when they can't remember their lies and McCain gets nailed time and time again when he claims he never said "whatever it is this time" and a damning video pops up on You-Tube minutes later proving he did.

A fresh case in point: McCain's failure to support America's Troops with regard to the New G I Bill, failing to support it by either word or action, even speaking out against it, and then coming out with praise for his own "hard work" to deliver the Bill for W's signature. Veteran's groups all over this country are expressing their disappointment in the one man who should be solidly on their side, but simply isn't there for them.

What we are seeing in John McCain is a man with a very small to nonexistent ethical base, willing to say whatever he thinks will sway the people he's speaking to at the moment. He's compromised most of his long held moral positions in an orgy of pandering. That may have worked in Old Arizona back in the day, but it will never fly in a You-Tube World.

The only hope for Republicans is to blast outrageous lies at Barack Obama over and over as they play the whole race deck. This is why McCain has brought the Swift Boaters on board his Straight Talk express. This is why the NRA has announced a $40 Million ad campaign against Obama. This is why everyone has to understand what is going on and be ready with simply stated facts when this garbage flies out.

McCain's powers are dwindling and he no longer holds any solid positions of his own. All he has are the tenets of the Neo-Conservative train wreck that lie in vestigal form sickening America as its appendix gone bad.

So in order to help everyone keep up with the "Dive of the Day" here is a handy reference, not to the names of the Olympic dives, but of the most egregious instances of McCain's Flops.



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dianas in July

Last year we made a point to let the wild violets in our yard grow as they would after we found out that the Diana Butterfly lived exclusively on them and nothing else as a caterpillar. I have no idea if that helped or if we just have a good year for Dianas but we have them in abundance. We had three males at one time on the butterfly bushes.

It is not time for the girls to emerge, so for now, it's boys only. I shot this one with a flash with a 200mm lense (handheld unfortunately) and the color got washed out a bit. It was early and the light was too low for me to shoot fast enough to compensate for my shakey hands. I wonder if any of those compound eyes are looking at me?

This young man preferred the oregano blooms. The color is still not quite right in the early light. They show much oranger in full sunlight. You can see the scars of daily life beginning to show up as scratches on their wing scales. They get pretty beaten up by the time the girls show up.

Frankly, I've never seen males and females at the same time but it has to happen...Theoretically, anyway.

Dianas are fairly rare and until recently were thought to have receded in range to the four Tennessee Counties in the Smokies adjacent to the North Carolina border. They were not listed as occuring in Roane County but here they are.
There is a distinct population in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and last year, the Diana was designated as the State Butterfly of Arkansas.
I guess I have to buy a decent tripod now.

Nice House(s)

Astute observers are getting to play the "Watch for the (R)hetoric" game in a big way this election cycle.

Poker players recognize the tactic as "(I got Nothin') I'm All In!"

It's all bluff. There are no issues republicans can point to and say "We did a good job on that." The War, the Economy, Healthcare...They have done a really good job of helping the very very rich become absolutely stinking filthy rich, and mostly on war profiteering tax money at that.

Otherwise Republicans really suck at government.

So if you have the worst political record in modern history, what do you base your Presidential campaign on? Bullshit and rhetoric. Skip the evidence, because you don't have any on your side, and go straight to the closing argument. "Don't convict my client, ladies and gentlemen, because even though he is a serial axe murderer, look at the beautiful garden he grew over the top of the bodies he buried." The problem with even that is that the roses are dead this time.

It's nothing new. Remember the emails blasting John Kerry for all those houses? They tried to take Kerry down by saying he just married his money and now he spends it on a bunch of mansions. Hey??? Wait a minute...Married his money? Owns a bunch of mansions? Are we talking about John Kerry of John McCain here?

I personally find Teresa Heinz Kerry to be far more interesting than Cindy Budweiser McCain, but that may just be a matter of personal taste. What I also find interesting is the attacks on Obama's personal residence, which accounts for a significant part of his net worth, and the absolute silence on McCain's 10 residences averaging $1.3 million each and the fact that McCain is running a six figure personal credit card debt and hasn't paid his property taxes on time. They've put several of their homes on the market, recently. What's up with that?

The most amazing thing I've heard rhetoric wise was the attack on Obama claiming HE is the one playing the race card, since he told his supporters to watch out for Republicans playing the race card. A conservative columnist in the Knoxville News Sentinel made that exact statement and closed his piece with "The choice in this election is between black and white."