Cowboys to the end

One way to quell a violent and deteriorating situation, according to the U.S. military, is to flood the place with guns.

That's exactly what is planned for Afghanistan, where a rising tide of chaos is slowly pushing the country past Iraq as the most dangerous battlefield Americans tread upon....

"There are worries...putting even more weapons in the hands of local communities could lead to tribes fighting each other instead of the Taliban. U.S. troops could get caught in the middle." The plan would also hinge upon the weak Afghan government to maintain the loyalties of the newly armed populace.

[From The Raw Story | U.S. will give free weapons to Afghan civilians]

No risk in this investment

From California, Charlie sends this quote from Steven Wright:

"Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now."

Enough for one day

I've played around all day with wiki software, finally found one called dokuwiki I really like, installed it on my laptop, and found out in the process my Unix skills are really rusty. Ouch. Gotta work on that.

But not today. Enough is enough. Starting to get too much like work.

Another cost of energy

(CNN) -- Estimates for the amount of thick sludge that gushed from a Tennessee coal plant this week have tripled to more than a billion gallons, as cleanup crews try to remove the goop from homes and railroads and halt its oozing into an adjacent river....

Environmental advocates say the ash contains concentrated levels of mercury and arsenic.

[From Tennessee sludge spill estimate grows to 1 billion gallons - CNN.com]



Snowtop, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Blue pill goes to war

WASHINGTON (AFP) — CIA agents are offering the potency drug Viagra and other gifts to win over Afghan warlords in the US-led war against Taliban insurgents, the Washington Post reported on Friday....

Four Viagra pills transformed the attitude of one influential 60-year-old warlord who had been wary of the United States.

"He came up to us beaming," one official told the Post.

[From The Raw Story | US offers Viagra to win over Afghan warlords: report]

Or wear higher boots

City has to stop dragging feet in the snow

[From City has to stop dragging feet in the snow]

Holy pixels, Batman!

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.

[From Sacred texts: Vatican embraces iTunes prayer book - BostonHerald.com]

The math test isn't funny enough already?

Imagine what would happen if a Hollywood comedy writer started thinking up questions for the SAT.

[From A funny thing happened on the way to the SAT - Los Angeles Times]

Beyond Christmas

ASK most British people what Boxing Day is for, and they will answer, “It’s the day the sales start.” Or, possibly, the day for “visiting the rellies” — Brit-speak for relatives. Ask an Irish person and you will get a history lesson on Christian saints and martyrs, reminding you that it is St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland. Ask an American, of course, and the answer is: “Boxing what?”

[From Op-Contributor - Why Even Americans Should Celebrate Boxing Day - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com]

Without rail, would stimulus plan go off track?

In proposing a stimulus plan that could total as much as $1 trillion, Obama has promised a new federal infrastructure program that would dwarf President Dwight Eisenhower’s interstate highway system that began in 1956. Obama told reporters at a Dec. 7 news conference that his effort would go beyond “roads and bridges” and fund more innovative projects.

His plans are colliding with deep fiscal shortfalls among states with a backlog of road-building needs and pressure from lawmakers to use his economic recovery package mainly for “ready to go” projects that will immediately bolster the economy.

[From Bloomberg.com: Politics]

Hold that metaphor

From the Arcata police log:

11:17 a.m. Tensions bubbled up ’twixt a man and woman like a pot of boiling oil at the everlasting donut shop. In this metaphor, they would play the donuts, bobbing in the searing grease of anger. Police dunked the drama in an eye-opening cup of disturbing the peace, clearing the shop of tensions like crumbs wiped from a pastry aficionado’s double chin, leaving a surface sheen of relief.

[From Arcata Eye :: The mildly objectionable weekly newspaper for Arcata, California]

It was a bad year for the shopkeepers

Online sales fared best with 2% decline.

Price-slashing failed to rescue a bleak holiday season for beleaguered retailers, as sales plunged across most categories on shrinking consumer spending, according to new data released Thursday.

Despite a flurry of last-minute shoppers lured by the deep discounts, total retail sales, excluding automobiles, fell over the year-earlier period by 5.5% in November and 8% in December through Christmas Eve, according to MasterCard Inc.'s SpendingPulse unit.

[From Retail Sales Plummet - WSJ.com]



An early nominee

Maybe we'll get into the end-of-year game ourselves in '09, something like Top Ten Work Avoidance Efforts might work - and with that in mind we're nominating today's NYTimes piece on news of Christmases past.

The ur-event of Christmas past in the greater New York region, the one whose happening in some sense led to all the others, was George Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware River to attack Trenton, in 1776. Not to leap too far ahead of the game here, but one cannot help but think that but for Washington’s feat, Bernard King of the Knicks would never have been able to score 60 points, 208 years later, in a valiant losing effort against the Nets on Christmas Day 1984.

[From News May Slow, but Doesn’t Stop, Even on Christmas - NYTimes.com]

Looking for a place?

The modest, red-brick home once owned by Al Capone is expected to hit the market this spring for an estimated $450,000, marking a new chapter for the infamous South Side landmark that has had just two owners since the death of Capone's mother in 1952.

[From Al Capone's house to go on the market - Chicago Breaking News]

Except the other ones, that is

“[Obama] is the first president who might actually have eaten organic food, or at least eats out at great restaurants,” Ms. Gehman Kohan said.

[From Advocates of Change in Food Policy Look to Obama With Hope - NYTimes.com]


Cleared for takeoff...

Why it's difficult for journalists to report on Santa Claus

This week, the Chicago Tribune published an online column by health and fitness reporter Julie Deardorff, but decided not to publish it in the paper.

The reason: The column was titled "Mommy, is there a Santa Claus?," and the paper didn't want little kids to read it.

[From Poynter Online - Al's Morning Meeting]

Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue, who adds:

Al's another good guy -- he went to Murray State University, launching pad for some awesome journalistic careers. Read to the end -- it goes to the heart of the struggles journalists face. The only time I ever stopped the presses was to correct an ad -- offering a piece of furniture for 75 cents instead of 75 dollars (it was a long time ago, when 75 bucks was still a lot of money.)

A formidable list with, one notes, an omission

Writes Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue:

Another heartbreak for Bengals fans -- the toothless tigers are so bad that they can't even make the list of the all-time worst teams ever. Fire Mike Brown!

But ah, the memories. Those '62 Mets may have been lousy at playing baseball but Casey's descriptions of the games on the late evening news made it all worthwhile.

And the '81 Northwestern football team? Some Chicago-area wag that year modified a highway sign to read:

Interstate 294

Northwestern 0

Here's looking at you

From Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue:

From columns of cloud streaking over the Caspian Sea in January to vast tracts of cleared forest in Bolivia in December. In 2008, the NASA Earth Observatory has captured more stunning images of the Earth.

[From NASA captures stunning pictures of Earth - CNN.com]

Garrison Keillor: Christmas without translation

A man gets a keener sense of the divine in a church that is not your own. Maybe Luther and Calvin and Jan Hus and all them were dead wrong and literacy is not the key nor an understanding of Scripture, and maybe the essence of Christmas is dumb childlike wonder and the more you think about it, the less you understand. Which makes me glad I am no smarter than I am. Let's go have lunch.

[From Garrison Keillor: Christmas without translation | Salon ]

Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue.

Yes, Virginia

On Sept. 21, 1897, The New York Sun published what was to become the most widely read letter to a newspaper. It was sent by 8-year-old, Virginia O'Hanlon, who lived with her parents in Manhattan. Below is the full text of that letter and the reply by Sun editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church.

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."

Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

115 W. 95th St.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable inthe world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

[From Bush's forgiveness of Brooklyn mortgage shark smacks of political favoritism]

Screwing up to the end

Add one more bit of anxiety to the lives of Louisianians who fled to Texas to escape Hurricane Katrina: the threat of identity theft, an unexpected byproduct of handing over personal information to FEMA.

FEMA has confirmed that an "unauthorized breach of private information" resulted in the information release of 16,857 names, Social Security and phone numbers, and other private details of people who had applied for benefits. The information was flashed on a pair of privately run Web sites, but for how long was unclear.

[From FEMA data on Katrina evacuees leaked - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune - NOLA.com ]

It's gonna be a deep winter in the Northland

Snowy winter: Duluth has received about 40 inches of snow so far this season [36 of it in December], 10 inches more than normal. That’s near the pace of the record snowy winter of 135.4 inches set in 1995-96.

[From More snow on the way after Christmas Day | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota ]

Christmas eave

Christmas eave, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Just making stuff up

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a core inflation index that excludes food and gasoline because those items, you know, fluctuate (and math is hard!); turns out some wealth management outfit (I'll manage my own wealth, thank you) in Pittsburgh applies the same imaginative method to calculating "The 12 Days of Christmas" gift list.

The tab [this year] will be $15,480.10. But that price is valid only if the costly flock of trumpeter swans — the song calls for seven swans a-swimming — are struck from the gift list...

Swans, which vary widely in price because of their scarcity, have caused big swings in the index. The gift package this year would shoot up to $21,080.10 if the swans were included because the going price for the seven is $5,600. That is a 33 percent increase, or $1,400, for the swans compared with the price last year.

[From Skip the Swans and Shower Your True Love - NYTimes.com]

Flights cancelled, but...

Casino lands near O'Hare

[From Casino lands near O'Hare -- chicagotribune.com]

An incidental item

Six paragraphs down in an article about a new medical product being used by Army medics comes this sobering note:

Today, 90 percent of injured troops survive their wounds, the highest rate of any war, Cordts said in an interview. He credited better training of combat medics, better body armor the troops wear and better tactics they use on the battlefield, as well improved bandages, tourniquets and so on.

[From Army halts use of new battlefield first aid item | HonoluluAdvertiser.com | The Honolulu Advertiser]

GlobalSecurity.org reports 4,141 US killed and 30,182 US Wounded in Iraq as of this month.

100 more

God Bless Us, Every Ten : CJR:


Better try hitching a ride on the sleigh

Airlines have canceled more than 400 flights at O'Hare International Airport as of 3 p.m. today because of the snowstorm moving through the Chicago area, city aviation officials said.

[From 400 flights canceled at O'Hare - Chicago Breaking News]

December wall

December wall, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

A Democrat lawyer finds hippie Nirvana

From Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue:

Don Mooney's a good guy, and this is a nice piece about spending the holidays in Taos. I hate the cold, but this makes me want to go back. It's a beautiful place.

An aside:

The first time we visited to Taos was on our first RV adventure in a rented Class C rig, with Cruise America (the rental company) ads plastered all over the sides and back. We were a rolling billboard.

With us was our trusty sidekick Rocket, a retired racing greyhound who was reduced to a 90-pound quivering mass by the motion of the motorized box. We were desperate for a way to ease his anxiety attacks when we ran into a vet in a blustery campground on a mountain ridge outside of town. We described the symptoms, and she told us to go to a natural health store in Taos and ask for a certain concoction -- the name of which we promptly forgot.

In the store, we told the helpful clerk with rainbow-striped hair what the vet had told us, but that we didn't know the name of the product. She smiled and handed us a bottle: "This always works for me."

It worked for Rocket, too -- he spent the rest of the trip on a small bed in the back, blissfully zonked.

Sadly, Taos is also where my friend Max Jennings -- retired editor of The Dayton Daily News, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a wonderful companion on anybody's boat -- suffered a heart attack on a ski slope. Max was a great editor, an incredible teacher and one of the best story-tellers I've ever shared a bottle of bourbon with.

RIP, old friend.

The Radical Left (Coast)

From Charlie in California:

This made my day:

Ted Costa, of the People's Advocate group (led the recall of Gov. Davis which gave Calif. Arnold), has a new initiative for 2010:

If the Calif. legislature fails to enact a budget by its fiscal ending date (June 30th), it would immediately dissolve and the incumbents would be prohibited from running in the replacement election.

Ya gotta love California. If the cliche that California leads the nation's direction is true, then there's hope for the federal legislature.

Finally a little sun

-- Post From My iPhone

Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide

Are you stressed out and uptight? Do you often feel tense? Would you like to enjoy the kind of physical relaxation and peace of mind that result from looking like the biggest dork on the planet? If so, you, or the lucky individuals on your holiday gift list, need the Head Spa Massager.

[From DAVE BARRY: Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide -- chicagotribune.com]

Bear weather

The hardy souls who braved the weather at Soldier Field as the Chicago Bears beat their most hated rival, the Green Bay Packers, experienced the coldest Bears game ever at the stadium.

The 2-degree game tied a 1951 cold-weather record at Wrigley Field, but beat the previous Soldier Field record of 5 degrees, set in 1983. The Bears moved to the lakefront stadium in 1971.

[From Snow falls as temps rise - Chicago Breaking News]


From deep in some bizarre, otherworldly time zone

You gotta love Dick Cheney.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - William Kristol - Popularity Isn’t Everything - NYTimes.com]

But nowhere near as fun to watch

At least Dick Cheney, as wrong a guy as we've ever had this close to the presidency, goes out in character, thinking that he and George W. Bush were right about everything. The problem is that Cheney's character now sounds as weird and unhinged as Jack Nicholson's in "A Few Good Men."

[From I'll be thrilled to see you go, Dick Cheney]

Today on the snow gauge in Western MA

Today on the snow gauge, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Curiously Toyota

TOKYO — Toyota Motor, the Japanese auto giant, announced Monday that it expected the first loss in 70 years in its core vehicle-making business, underscoring how the economic crisis is spreading across the global auto industry.

[From Toyota Expects Its First Loss in 70 Years - NYTimes.com]

So that would be, I happen to know - the 70 years, I mean - since 1938. And that, in turn, would mean Toyota, according to this announcement as reported by the NYTimes, suffered no loss in its "core vehicle-making business" even during WWII. Which is pretty impressive. Or mysterious. Or...well what were you expecting, Bunky, anyway?

Did we just hear a pin drop?

[A Cheney interview on Fox] comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office.

[From Cheney offers blunt defense of Bush administration's record - The Boston Globe]

Newsweek: The Global Elite

From Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue:

Fascinating reading. The 50 most powerful people in the world include #34 Steve Jobs, beloved by his employees, and #50 Jim Rogers, vilified by his; #16 David Petraeus, the savior, according to John McCain and #24 Nancy Pelosi, Satan herself, according the McCain/Palin followers; #9 Vladimir Putin and #46 The Dalai Lama.

See Newsweek The Global Elite | Newsweek.com


Kettle, meet pot

In a scathing 500-word statement, the White House ridiculed The New York Times for a front-page Sunday story that suggests President Bush is directly responsible for the mortgage crisis....

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino wrote the response to the article, accusing the paper of "gross negligence" and extremely biased reporting.

[From The Raw Story | White House slams NY Times for 'gross negligence']

How awesome is that? Dana Perino accusing the Times of bias.

Next month, after the Obamas get sworn in, maybe the Bushies could all get together and start a new comedy channel.

Not too early to start planning an escape

Tourist Traps You Love

[From Tourist Traps You Love - Budget Travel]

Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue.

The Suite Life

Once upon a time, celebrities swinging through New York City often spun through the Plaza hotel’s famous revolving doors to check in, dine, or cavort.

[From The Suite Life at the Plaza: About Us: vanityfair.com]

Photos of celebrities at New York's Plaza hotel noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue, who also notes, accurately, the Plaza had one of the world's great bars, nearly as good, in fact, as the Algonquin.


And as soon as we can figure out what that is, we'll let you know

The flip side of Nashville

The 'Athens of the South' has much more than country music

By Phil Vettel | Tribune Reporter

December 21, 2008

Related links

Spike O'Dell's favorite eats

[From The flip side of Nashville -- chicagotribune.com]

Story, in toto, on Chicago Tribune web site (11:14 EST 12/21).

Are they freaking kidding?

White Christmas Probability Maps

[From White Christmas Probability & Forecast Maps - weather.com]

News you would never in a million years believe

Or, then again, maybe you would.

Overall, 33 states are now in a recession, while 17 are at risk for one, according to Moody's. The District of Columbia, with its government and government-related jobs, still has an expanding economy.

[From ABC News: Recession Nation: No State Spared]

Yup, that's right. The only place in the country with an expanding economy is DC.

Quelle surprise.

Nearly as surprising, to moi, here, is that Massachusetts is still listed by Moody's as "at risk," although certainly that judgement is based on whatever's happening in Boston and not anywhere near the aforementioned moi. Here in Appalachia North (yes, that's the north end of the Appalachian chain out there) it ain't so swell. But maybe it's still better than some places else, which is, for the moment and for us, good.

The scandal factor

The recession has many victims, but one of the least heralded is the collapse of the juicy sex scandal. It seems like ages since anyone cared about John Edwards’s extramarital folderol. Madonna’s divorce settlement is a footnote. Eliot Spitzer is so pre-Fannie Mae....

...when greed trumps lust, and fraud is more fascinating than infidelity, it’s safe to say that the recession has arrived.

[From Critic’s Notebook - Scandals to Warm To - NYTimes.com]

Economy booms for shoe company in Turkey

Demand quadruples

4,000 pairs ordered by Maryland company

The brown, thick-soled “Model 271” may soon be renamed “The Bush Shoe” or “Bye-Bye Bush,” Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

“We’ve been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy,” he said. “We’ve even hired an agency to look at television advertising.”

[From Bloomberg.com: Europe]