Is this a great country or what?

"You can't take sex, booze and weekends away from the American people."

[From The RV, an American icon, driving away -- chicagotribune.com]

(And some guy from AIG resigned)

Job losses continue to mount in every state across the country, show new data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers have laid off 4.4 million workers since the recession began, and a record 12.5 million workers are now unemployed....

[From Interactive Map: More Job Losses in Every State]

Click on the link for an interactive map.

Three guys who killed the newspapers

Editor's note: The following essay was written by the late John Walter, who served as executive editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was a founding editor of USA Today....

I want to say that there are three people in the world responsible for [newspapers'] demise, and -- because I have always loved newspapers, even when they weren't on my porch or in my driveway -- I want to say I'm mad at them about it. And, therefore, I want to record for posterity who they are, and why we should be mad at them.

[From Poynter Online - Late Editor Blames Three Key People for Newspapers' Demise]

What's the point?

Actually there isn't one, other than it's a cool place for tourists to have their picture snapped while getting really soaked.  The marker says "Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A.  But wait! There is a spot right on Key West that lies further south.  It's on military property, though, so I guess it doesn't count.  And Key West is an island, so it's not actually in the continental U.S.A.  Come to think of it, the Florida Keys aren't even the southernmost islands in the U.S.A.  That distinction belongs to the Hawaiian Islands.  It's a cool place to take a picture, though...

The miracle worker

We're big fans of greyhounds -- the dogs, not the races. On Saturday, we will bring the fourth rescued greyhound into our home (two have gone to the Great Kennel in the Sky). If she is like the others, she will be quiet, gentle and eager to please. We have often noticed the calming effect greyounds have on people and other animals, but we've never seen anything like Jasmine.

-Paul Knue


In 2003, police in Warwickshire, England, opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. It had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had clearly been abused.

In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a Greyhound female, to the nearby Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, run by a man named Geoff Grewcock and known as a willing haven for Animals abandoned, orphaned or otherwise in need. (Click for- http://www.warwickshirewildlifesanctuary.co.uk/index.htm)

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.

They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.

But Jasmine had other ideas. No-one remembers now how it began, but she started welcoming all Animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It wouldn't matter if it was a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting Animal, Jasmine would peer into the box or cage and, where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents. "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line. One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross. They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee. Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them."

"But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings.

"She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose."

Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and 15 rabbits.

And one roe deer fawn. Tiny Bramble, 11 weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster mum role. Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the Roe deer with affection and makes sure nothing is matted.

"They are inseparable," says Geoff "Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other. They walk together round the sanctuary. It's a real treat to see them."

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life. When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely. She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next Orphan or victim of abuse.

From left, Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, orphaned Roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl; and Jasmine with a Mothers heart doing best what a caring Mother would do... Such is the order of God's Creation.

- Carol Loehr


What goes around comes around

Anyone who has ever been in the position of dealing with unions has to love this.

WASHINGTON — Sometimes even unions have union problems.

Dozens of employees of the Service Employees International Union picketed their own union Friday over its decision to lay off about 75 workers....

[From Union employees picket their own union - USATODAY.com]

- Paul Knue

Which comes real close to sounding like an ideal job

In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.

[From When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking - NYTimes.com]

Tweeting for hire. (Why is it that word "tweet" always makes me think of a bird in a Saturday-matinee cartoon?)

When I was actually working for a living, which seems like a long time ago now, my ultimate ambition was to be a highly-paid postage stamp author. I've come pretty close to realizing something equivalent on this blog but dude, ghost tweeting, that's a whole new thing.



A loan by any other name

Back last fall when the phony-baloney Bush Economy started to implode and everybody pretty much knew by then what was happening and about to happen, Bush pushed through a stim pack bill in which Treas Sec Henry Paulson could give the money to whoever he wanted without oversight or explanation. 'Member? The Bank of America was one of the first to line up for a Federal handout and collected some $15B which it was supposed to use for loans to keep credit loose and money flowing to people and businesses. They loaned it, alright.

To themselves: the bank's own executives and members of the BOD.

For at least seven years, the bank's quarterly insider lending never exceeded $300 million and was often less than half that. But by the end of 2008, it had jumped to $624 million.

The dollar gain was the biggest of any bank in the country, a 135 percent hike from a year earlier. The average for all banks with insider loans was 5.7 percent.

[From Fact-esque]

Troops zapped

WASHINGTON – The military is racing to inspect more than 90,000 U.S.-run facilities across Iraq to reduce a deadly threat troops face far off the battlefield: electrocution or shock while showering or using appliances.

About one-third of the inspections so far have turned up major electrical problems...

Task Force SAFE inspectors found many of the facilities that fall under KBR's contract have electrical problems, according to an internal military document obtained by The Associated Press. Of the 20,340 maintained by KBR and inspected so far, 6,935 failed the government inspection

[From AP IMPACT: For troops in Iraq, shower may be fatal]

"Scores" involved.

And, wait - 90,000 US-run facilities? Think about that next time you hear some Republican congresscritter yip about the Obama stimulus budget.


And the point is...?

In a cash-strapped Idaho high school, where signs taped near every light switch remind the staff to save electricity, an enterprising teacher has struck a sponsorship deal with a local pizza shop: Every test, handout and work sheet he passes out to his students reads MOLTO'S PIZZA 14" 1 TOPPING JUST $5 in bright red, inch-high letters printed along the bottom of each page....

School officials were not wild about the idea, but Pocatello High School Principal Don Cotant relented after [teacher] Harrison explained the advertisements could help illuminate such topics as the Great Depression.

"I had concerns. I didn't know what this would open up for us," Cotant said. "But we've let this happen because it makes a point about what economic hard times can force people to do."

[From Idaho Teacher Sells Advertising Space On Tests : NPR]

When the going gets tough, the tough eat more pizza. Or sell more advertising. Whatever.

Sighting Spring

Sighting Spring, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

It worked

A Lincoln couple who went to see a play billed as capable of making you "laugh until they throw you out" were thrown out for laughing.

[From Ananova - Couple thrown out of comedy for laughing ]

A two-sided fence

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s economy is being dragged down by the recession to the north. American addicts have turned Mexico into a drug superhighway, and its police and soldiers are under assault from American guns. Nafta promised 15 years ago that Mexican trucks would be allowed on American roads, but Congress said they were unsafe.

United States-Mexican relations are in the midst of what can be described as a neighborly feud, one that stretches along a lengthy shared fence. That border fence, which has become a wall in some places, is another irritant.

[From Clinton Visits Mexico as Strains Show in Relations - NYTimes.com]

True enough

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these [A.I.G bonus] contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

[From Op-Ed Contributor - Dear A.I.G., I Quit! - NYTimes.com]

But neither have the hundreds of thousands who've lost jobs, savings, healthcare, and houses done anything wrong, and many of them worked 12 or more long years. If you don't believe me, come to work with me today and I'll introduce you to a dozen of them. And 20 more tomorrow. (And by the way, Mr. DeSantis, I'll check to see if one of them wants your job.)

(In his resignation email to A.I.G. CEO Edward Liddy, Jake DeSantis, an Executive Vice President of the company's Financial Products unit, also somewhat curiously notes: "You and I have never met or spoken to each other...")

Onion names fictional (maybe) Franz Kafka International Airport worst

Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

So chill

General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, relayed the message yesterday to the defense industry. "Ballistic missiles are about as passé as e-mail," he said to an audience of missile-defense contractors. "Nobody does it anymore. It's just gone... no stupid person, enemy out there would be so silly as to come at us with a minimum-energy trajectory. Give me a break. Even the people we would call 'Third World' have gone beyond that."

[From Top General: Missile Defense Is Dead, Long Live Missile Defense (Updated) | Danger Room from Wired.com]

They're twittering now.


Evening sail

Photo: Phil Compton

Whoa! Maybe I've just discovered a new source of income here

Another key challenge, Mr. Andon says, is getting the proper food for jellyfish. Research labs and the like feed them live plankton. But that’s impractical for domesticated jellyfish, he says. So he’s been growing algae — on his roof and in his bedroom — and freezing it to provide his customers with frozen jellyfish snacks.

[From How to Avoid Liquefying Your Jellyfish - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com]

How big is that algae market, I wonder.

Barbie's bones

This is a CT scan of a barbie doll. Surprisingly, she has a rather detailed skeletal structure, most extensively present in the legs. Note the knee and hip joints...

[From Radiology Art ]

Crawl back under rock, R's tell Trickshot Dick

Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

Displeased with the former vice-president's recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he's hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.

[From TheHill.com]


The cold, cold light of morning

Dude, it's 20º out there. And it's supposed to top out at 33º today. Only a momentary setback, but still.

Not to mention I vegged out on March Madness over the weekend (go UCONN and hooray for CBS and ESPN for streaming the games) and consequently fell behind on a couple of other things (but you shouldn't have to wash dishes every week, should you?) including the latest installment of the Duluth saga, to be continued hopefully soon. And whatever. And on top of everything else it's Monday and I have a double Excel class to do. Grim.

But at least there's sun.


The music store

The music store, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

"Embed" embedded as top cliche

See what's in second place:

CLICHE CHALLENGE: How various clichés of the media and the establishment are faring

What Happens When a Town Loses Its Newspaper? - TIME

What effect do newspaper closings really have on a town? Or a nation? Depending on a person's reading habits, the answers to these questions range from "It's the death of democracy!" to "Newspapers? What newspapers?" ...

A glimpse into what might happen has been offered up by a new study out of Princeton University. Assistant Professor of economics and public affairs Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido looked at communities affected by the closing of the Cincinnati Post at the end of 2007, and it's not an attractive view....

...in towns the Post regularly covered, voter turnout dropped, fewer people ran for office and more incumbents were reelected. That is, when there were fewer stories about a given town, its inhabitants seemed to care less about how they're being governed.

[From What Happens When a Town Loses Its Newspaper? - TIME]

Next? Here's TIME's list of the "10 most endangered newspapers in America."

Don't read this

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

[From The Big Takeover : Rolling Stone]

Maybe I'll go back to bed

The Geithner plan has now been leaked in detail. It’s exactly the plan that was widely analyzed — and found wanting — a couple of weeks ago. The zombie ideas have won.

[From Despair over financial policy - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com]

Krugman's conclusion: "What an awful mess."

When all else blows up in your face...


Washington Mutual, the bankrupt, seized and "under investigation" financial institution which saw some operations forcibly sold off to JPMorgan Chase in 2008... is suing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for more than $13 billion over the roll-up of its banking division into JPMorgan Chase & Co.

[From The Raw Story | WaMu sues FDIC for more than $13 billion over forced sale]