Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not buying it

I am not buying into the internet rumors about Sarah Palin's youngest child not being her own baby.

Let me start by saying that Sarah Palin gives me the heebiejeebies when you pair her name with the words "Vice President". She seems wayyyy too much like our Minnesota's 6th district congresswoman, Michele Bachmann for my comfort.

Bachmann's 2006 campaign for congress just about stood my hair on end, and I don't even live in the 6th district - though it is basically next door.

Being pro-Intelligent Design; calling the human connection to global warming voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax; and being a dedicated opponent of a woman's right to reproductive choice are just three of Bachmann's Right-wing "charms".

Ironic Bachmann trivia: she introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. According to Wikipedia, she said of the legislated phase out of incandescent lightbulbs:
I was just outraged that Congress would want to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the American people. It struck me as a massive Big Brother intrusion into our homes and our lives.
Sarah Palin is, as far as I can tell, Michele Bachmann's ideological sorority sister. She is NOT someone I want to see one step from the most powerful position in the world. So don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Sarah Palin because I like her.

This thing could have been started by someone on the Left trying to out-Rove the McCain camp. And if so, it could seriously backfire.

But - call me paranoid - I wouldn't rule out that it could've been manufactured by the Rove Machine itself to make the Dems look like they're mudslinging when Obama has repeatedly promised to avoid the ugly tactic of personal attacks. All the McCain campaign needs to do is produce clear proof that the rumor is a lie, which shouldn't be difficult, and the liberals who jumped all over the story will look like the worst kind of muckrakers.

As for the story itself, the date on at least one of the supporting photos has been fudged to make the rumor seem plausible. A photo purporting to show Palin's daughter Bristol as pregnant was taken in 2006 - Baby Trig was born in April 2008. So there's no way that photo shows what they claim it shows.

A lot of the details of the accusations are based on assumptions and individual opinions from people who have no first hand knowledge of the people involved.

For example, ArcXIX, the author of the story on Dailykos asserts that Bristol Palin must be pregnant in specific photos because of generalizations about female physiology. Explaining the curve of Bristol's abdomen in close-fitting clothes ArcXIX says:

Bristol is pregnant in these pictures. She is not carrying belly fat, which grows outwardly wide, and does not become dome-shaped. That's because fat is generally evenly distributed around the abdomen and a fetus is not.

That's just ridiculous. I've never been pregnant, but since my early teens - even at my most slender - I've always had a dome shaped belly. Everyone - man or woman - carries their body fat differently, unless they're Michael Phelps and just plain don't have any.

For the record, the photos I've seen of Bristol look like a very attractive, healthy young woman. She isn't a bean pole like the twigs we're accustomed to seeing on TV. She's not a thin as her mother certainly. But I wouldn't look at her and think "pregnant", and I feel sorry for her - a teen in image conscious America, being told by thousands of anonymous voices that she looks pregnant when she's not. Way to make the poor kid's day.

Some people are making a lot of the fact that Palin didn't publicly discuss her pregnancy until she was 7 months along. This, IMHO, is a non issue. My Mister and I didn't know my my sister-in-law was pregnant until she was 8 months pregnant. Not everyone shouts their news to the hilltops as soon as they know. And if I was a politician, I think I'd keep it private until it was pretty obvious, too. It would be easier to get things done if its business as usual, instead of everything you say or do being filtered through or trumped by speculation about your pregnancy.

Also from the same DailyKos diarist:
In a video posted in February (nearing five months of pregnancy at the time), Sarah is seen trim, and walking around all of Juneau, Alaska.
Eight months pregnant. A 6.2 pound fetus. No one notices a visible trace. By the third trimester, a perfectly fit woman not wearing anything less than a space suit should be easily spotted as pregnant.
Again, I say this is a load of bat guano. In the video ArcXIX refers to, assuming it was shot the same month it was posted on (February '08) I would have no trouble accepting that Palin is 5 months pregnant. Compared to her more recent photos, she's plumper in the face, her jacket is fairly loose, and it's common knowledge that women show their pregnancies at widely different times.

I've been amazed by some of the women I worked closely with and knew were pregnant who barely showed until 6 months. One, at the age of 40, had a 9 lb baby; another friend had healthy twins at 6 lbs each. The former was able to wear one of her regular coats zipped closed until very late along. And you'd never have guessed the latter woman was carrying twins even up until she went on leave from work to have the babies.

And if we're going to play the comparing photos game, what about this photo of Sarah Palin and family from a few months after Trig was born? Bristol is in the photo with her. Which of the two looks more to you like a woman who has recently given birth?

I've read posts by commenters on various articles that back this rumor using Palin's age as supposed proof that she couldn't have been pregnant.

Do any of these people seriously believe that the hospital she gave birth in would be likely to participate in a cover up?

As for the flight from Texas back to Alaska that Sarah Palin took before delivering Trig that so many of the gossipers claim proves she either wasn't really pregnant (because she wouldn't have taken such a risk), or that she put her baby in jeopardy? Her own doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, is quoted in the the Anchorage Daily News as saying:

Things were already settling down when she talked to me...
I don't think it was unreasonable for her to continue to travel back.
Sarah Palin is actually her son Trig's grandmother?

Sorry. Not buying it.

Oh, and the person with the screen name ambivular who originally submitted the story that I saw on the front page of had, when I checked, only ever submitted 3 stories to Digg - all 3 of which relate to the Palin rumor, and had never yet dugg any other articles on Digg. That alone in this circumstance seems suspiciously like an account had been set up specifically for rumor mongering.

Friday, August 29, 2008

rain garden

Originally uploaded by Andrew Ciscel
We're still waiting to hear whether we've got the house. I understand the paperwork is running through the process as normal on a short sale, and that so far things look promising. Fingers and toes are crossed.

In the mean time, I've been considering what it will mean to have a house with a real yard for the first time. Mowing. Raking leaves. Pulling weeds. The Mister and I are discussing composting grass clippings/leaves wherever we end up living. He'd like to do a square foot garden for beets and such.

And there's something I'm totally taken with now that I'd never heard of when I lived in semi-arid Southern California.

Rain gardens.

Gardens designed to help control runoff from your property when it rains, encouraging more of that water to soak into the soil and get filtered by plants instead of ending up in storm drains. I am all excited about this concept. Partly because they can be pretty, and can be good for local wildlife if you use native plants. And partly because they keep the crud that ends up on your roof from air pollution - and other crud picked up by runoff as it heads to the street and storm drains - out of lakes and streams.

Here are a couple of the websites I've been snooping around on while reading up on the subject:

Rain Garden Network

Gardens for a Rainy Day (MN DNR)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convicted of vicious beating but still walking free

James Eric Benham, convicted of beating an unarmed and innocent US civilian so severely as to require surgical implants to save his victim's face and vision, has still served no time two years after the brutal assault. Benham due for General Discharge from the Navy in Nov '08.

read more | digg story


The author of the blog post that I submitted to - James Howard - has been a friend of mine for more than a decade, and is a man for whose intelligence, honesty and honor I will vouch without hesitation.

On September 16, 2006, Mr. Howard, his wife, and another married couple went out for dinner. That evening Mr. Howard and his party became unprovoked physical targets for James Benham and his brother Chris'* bigoted, ignorant hatred. Mr. Howard was especially savagely beaten.

Excerpts from James Howard's statement to the court:
I have been granted this opportunity to make a statement about the impact to my life:

Where do I begin…

The immediate impact to my life was the painful recovery for an un-naturally sustained set of injuries. A broken nose, a split lip, internal and external stitches, the surgical implant of two small titanium screws in my skull that hold my eye in place with a synthetic mesh are all undeniable. Clear sight did not fully return to my right eye for nearly a month. Nausea and dizziness were persistent during the time of my physical recovery, as the lack of depth perception and blurred vision in combination with the prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain killers was for me, an unpleasant cocktail consisting of mandatory, hard to swallow pills with a shopping list of encountered side effects. Headaches from reading, even with corrective lenses, persist to this day like never before, and it affects my capacity to be fully productive at my work. Sadly, I no longer read or write for pleasure...

* * *

I will begin by saying I am not a victim, but rather a survivor. I am survivor of both the brutal attack that night as well as the legal process which provided Mr. Benham with the ability to harass my friends and neighbors while his paid legal team and investigators worked to vilify us in the eyes of the public and the eyes of the court. I have neighbors still upset over the visitations by his investigators...

* * *

... he and his brother pursued our group as prey, for no reason other than we were different and because we would make no response to the provocative statements and actions he persisted in.

When his threats and directives were directed to a young lady of our group who sought to defuse the matter and report the crime in progress, he violently and continuously assaulted me for defending her right to call the police. He then fled.

I have no desire to re-live the brutal detail of the assault by James Eric Benham and his brother that night. I re-live the event every morning of my life as I stare at a surgically re-constructed reflection of myself who is forever changed by the memory of that night.

If it not been for the intervention of several there that night, I would not be able to recount the events that transpired. James Eric Benham would not have stopped his attack of his own accord. He was pulled off me by several people, as was his brother, who had no visible intent in ceasing their blows...

Read the full statement here

Note: There is a follow up post regarding the pending lawsuit against the Benham brothers here. It includes a photo of Mr. Howard after the assault, which may be a bit graphic for delicate readers.

The defense tried to make much of the fact that Benham's victims were all members of the goth subculture, in hope of somehow justifying Benham's brutal behavior. But even if you're biased against goths (and if you are, you're reading the wrong blog - I'm an unashamed old goth despite no longer looking the part) we're talking about a small party of civilized adults out for a social evening together, not an armed gang of unruly rabble out looking for trouble.

I can only imagine how much pain a former Navy SEAL can inflict in a violent, uninhibited, alcohol-fueled attack. My friend, James Howard, knows the answer only too well.

The law abiding people who now live with their memories and scars from that night continue to wait for closure, because James Eric Benham is still free to go about his daily life without hindrance. It is now just shy of two years since that horrible night. And almost one year since the jury that tried James Benham in a civilian court convicted him. But the sentencing phase of his trial is still on hold until he finishes his term of service in the US Navy, to protect his status in the military.**

That the presiding judge provided such extreme accommodation for Benham's career after his reprehensible behavior and criminal convictions (2 felony convictions and 2 misdemeanor) is simply disgusting, and shows no compassion for Benham's victims.

Meanwhile, the US fails to properly support so many of our military veterans and their families who have served our country with honor and self-sacrifice in uniform, and honored the country they served by doing their best to be upstanding citizens.

This mockery of justice is yet another example of the maladjusted morals of the Powers That Be.

From the San Diego Weekly Reader:
Clothing Maketh the Goth?

By Jay Allen Sanford | Published Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It’s been almost a year since James Benham, a former Navy SEAL, was found guilty of two felony counts of assault. He’s still yet to be sentenced for those crimes and two misdemeanor counts related to a September 2006 attack on a few local goths in Old Town.

“I was called a gothic faggot,” says James Howard, who asserts that the unprovoked assault on him, Mark and Lora Williams, and area deejay Robin Roth resulted in over $25,000 in medical bills.

“The defense tried to play the ‘they were scary goths’ card,” says Howard. “So we all showed up to the trial wearing exactly what we wore the night of the incident, which was pretty damn tame because we were dressed to go to dinner. In Benham’s version of the story, I was wearing a leather trench coat, steel-toed boots, and leather pants. Yeah, right, in mid-September? The only detail they got right was that I was wearing all black and had an earring.”

Howard says the judge “…saw fit to extend a continuance of sentencing, until Mr. Benham serves out the remainder of his term in the Navy.” That means Benham won’t face sentencing any sooner than November 20.

“If any of us had been found guilty of such a hideous crime, we would have immediate sentencing [and] lose our jobs,” says Howard. “Justice was soft-served. Even though I have physically recovered from the assault, the psychological effects still remain.”

Howard, a member of the Gothic Volunteer Alliance, says his organization provides community services such as fundraisers for the SPCA, the Humane Society, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The group takes part in graffiti removal, voter-registration drives, and its next beach cleanup takes place August 3 at South Mission Beach.

– Jay Allen Sanford

Read the original article and reader comments here.

*Chris Benham has not been convicted for his role in the attack. He has admitted to participating in the assault, though according to Mr. Howard's post yesterday, criminal charges have not yet been served.

**Uniform Code Of Military Justice, Subchapter X - Punitive Articles, Section 928. Art. 128. Assault (U.S. Code as of: 01/19/04)

(a) Any person subject to this chapter who attempts or offers
with unlawful force or violence to do bodily harm to another
person, whether or not the attempt or offer is consummated, is
guilty of assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may

(b) Any person subject to this chapter who -
(1) commits an assault with a dangerous weapon or other means
or force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm; or
(2) commits an assault and intentionally inflicts grievous
bodily harm with or without a weapon;
is guilty of aggravated assault and shall be punished as a
court-martial may direct.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heard anything yet?

No news on the house yet, except a quick note to let us know that there isn't any news.

Friday, August 8, 2008

disappointed again

I am really disappointed by the news about John Edwards' 2006 affair.

Any politician who wants to become president should know by now that the US public doesn't turn a blind eye to adultery like they used to. So just having HAD an affair shows extremely bad judgment on his part. But having an affair and then lying about it while trying to maintain a squeaky clean image is inexcusable in a presidential hopeful.

The US public is sick of being lied to. Even the people who don't realize how often they really are being lied to about rather more important things aren't generally going to let lying about adultery slide. Especially given America's fixation on the faith and spiritual convictions of their leaders.

If you've had an affair, it's already bad news for you because allowances for extramarital hokey-pokey aren't part of the average marriage vows. Joe Average Christian American is pretty picky about fidelity when it comes to politicians' marriages.

But if you're running for office and you get caught in a compromising situation, for Pasta's sake, don't try to BS your way out of it. Spit it out, apologize profusely and humbly, and face the consequences. Some voters may think you're a weasel for having had an affair. But at least you won't look like an idiot who thought the media wouldn't ferret out the juicy details when they caught the scent of a sex scandal.

Edwards should have guessed that his affair would come out into the open eventually, and that the Republican party, especially the Rove machine, would have a heyday with that kind of thing.
I cringe to think what would have happened if it were now Edwards vs. McCain.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

China says "don't interfere"

Free Tibet Flag
Originally uploaded to flickr by Gromit Lad

I just "love" China's government telling Bush that one country shouldn't be meddling in the internal affairs of another country.

"The Chinese government puts people first, and is dedicated to maintaining and promoting its citizens' basic rights and freedom"

"We firmly oppose any words or acts that interfere in other countries' internal affairs, using human rights and religion and other issues."

--Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, Bush chides Beijing over rights: BBC News

I'm sorry... did I read that right?

Tibet was a country in its own right long before China decided to rewrite history and claim otherwise. Is there a greater form of "interfering" than forced occupation and ethnic cleansing?

The Chinese government claims that the regions they occupy really want to be assimilated, and that anyone who claims otherwise is a splittist or a terrorist. Why do people buy into this when it is a country with known serious human rights "issues" and no true freedom of speech or the press is saying it? If a husband said this of the wife he had been seen beating; a wife who finally struck him back and then been publically beaten again for daring to so, we would be ashamed of ourselves if we blamed the real victim for her plight. Especially if we knew that the battered wife had been forced into her marriage in the first place.

H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama has long since stopped asking for complete indepencence, and asks now only for the Autonomous Region of Tibet to be allowed self-government as pertains to domestic matters, and a guarantee that they would be allowed to mantain their culture and control their natural resources in peace. These are all things they were promised they would be allowed decades ago when the Chinese occupation began. After all they've been subjected to, H.H. offers to stay "married" to China as long as the beatings, exploitation and oppression stop. For this he is called a subversive.

China "is dedicated to maintaining and promoting its citizens' basic rights and freedom"?

How are we supposed to reconcile that with their oppression by the PRC in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the Tibetan Autonomous Region? How many people in these so-called "autonomous" regions have been killed or displaced from their homes, or been tortured and/or imprisoned for their cultural expressions and spiritual practices?

The irony is flabbergasting. I only wish it were surprising.

I hope either Stewart or Colbert will pick up on the irony of all this because no one else in the media seems to have noticed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

where I've been

I've been playing with this gizmo on

I've only included places that I have memories of having been, so the cities and countries my folks visited when I was an infant are right out. Places I know I've driven through but never gotten out of the car (or airport) also don't count, unless we're talking about driving across a big chunk of a really big place, such as entire US state. Though I don't think I've driven through any US state without at least getting out to buy gasoline or stretch my legs. If I can remember a place, but was too young to remember quite where it was, I've been asking the relevant folks who were adults at the time for the details and adding them.

It's still in beta. There are some features it looks like they'll be adding eventually that would make it quite a bit niftier. Adding missing cities like Tahiti and Moorea would be a bonus. I'd like to see them enable marking cities with "I've lived here" and "I want to go here" along with the default "I've been here." Adding notes to my "pins" would be great. And most of all, I want to be able to mark well known natural wonders, like Bald Rock in NSW, and Mono Lake in California.

On my view the map is full of virtual "pins" on cities the cities I've listed, though this version on my blog seems to only show the names of said cities. I guess that's their way of getting people to log in to see your map as a friend.

Blue means "I've been there".
Red means "I've lived there".
Green means "I want to go there".

Has the war on terror gone too far?


New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer's new book chronicles the use of torture by the CIA, as witnessed by the Red Cross. She says while the U.S. tried to wrest
information from terrorist suspects, Bush administration officials maintained the extreme threat of attack allowed an extreme response.

read more | digg story

I heard Jane Mayer interviewed on Midmorning on Minnesota Public Radio today about her new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. I'm pretty cynical about the current administration's policies in general, but even I was stunned by some Mayer's revelations in this interview. She said she has been working on gathering the threads of this story together since 9-11, and from the accounts I've seen she's used some really impressive sources for her information.

I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot where I worked in the days following 9-11, listening to a member of W's administration say on NPR via San Diego's KPBS radio that if we caught people suspected of being involved in planning the attacks of 9-11, he believed the use of torture could be justified to ensure no more lives were lost. I remember my jaw dropping and a swirling like vertigo in the pit of my stomach as I contemplated the United States excusing the use of torture.

We are better than that. We MUST be better than that. And yet I was hearing otherwise. And worse, I heard very little about it for several years afterward, as the topic failed to really hit the radar of the media for far too long. I know I heard him say it. I'm still trying to figure out who "he" was, as my memory seems to have misfiled his name (probably due to the horror of hearing him say what he had said at all.) I discussed it later that morning with several of my coworkers, who - if memory serves - didn't believe that even W's people would actually go that far. Someone would stop them. Wouldn't they?

MPR makes many of their interviews available to stream a day or so after they air them, and I hope this interview with Jane Mayer is one of them. But more to the point, I will be buying and reading this book. I urge everyone to read it. Whether you buy it (or the audiobook), borrow it from a friend, or check it out of your library (if they have it), we need to know what our government has been doing behind our backs while they tell us over and over on TV that the US does not torture.

As a voter, as an American citizen, and as someone with loved ones in the US military, this is one book I can't imagine not reading. Why do my relatives in the military magnify my concern? Because if We, the United States of America, are known to commit torture, then there is nothing to stop other countries from doing so to our people. And the people most at risk of capture and torture are our troops. The men and women on the ground, serving our country, are in harm's way already. Even if it was somehow morally justifiable or practical* to torture (which I don't believe it is) it just isn't worth the risk to our troops or other citizens abroad to engage in it ourselves. Much less the risk to our position in the global community.

Yet here we are. It happened. We as a nation did this, by electing the current administration and leaving them in power even after their ongoing use of torture and extraordinary rendition came to light.

So now we need everyone to know what our leaders did behind closed doors, in our country's name. If we know, we can shed light on it, and publicly reject it. We must let the world see that we ARE better than our leaders of the last 8 years have made us out to be, by refusing to support any politician or official who was complicit in these shameful, unjustifiable acts - acts which are illegal under the very international laws that the United States helped put in place.

History will tell this story no matter how well its authors try to bury it. We must make it clear with our votes and our voices that we ARE better than this. I didn't vote for W, but as citizens of a representative democracy, we are all only as blameless as those we put (and keep) in power.

Read this book. Face what We have done. And then insist that the next leader in the White House and the next Congress show the world that we CAN be better than we have been.

*Edit: and by "practical" I meant "likely to result in our gaining useful and accurate information." Not fracking likely. Imprison and torture me and I'll tell you anything I think you want to hear to try to make it stop.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

sleep, perchance to wake rested

No accounting for the things that seem exciting these days. I slept a little long last night (my Mister woke me after 10 hours) but for the first time in ages I woke up this morning feeling rested.

I remember dreaming, but they were normal dreams that vanished to vague impressions of themselves as soon as I woke. I've become accustomed to waking from dreams that stay with me so thoroughly that for the first few minutes my groggy brain has a hard time separating the details of the dream from real life.

I had a lousy day on Friday, fatigue-wise, though I was running a low fever and wasn't feeling well in general. I don't expect that one day of waking up and feeling refreshed means I'm always going to from here on out. But it's a great start. I'd been afraid that the meds I'm on to handle the fatigue would make my sleep situation worse. But so far so good. And in September I've got an appointment with an endocrinologist to try to figure out what's causing it in the first place.

Friday, August 1, 2008

house hunting

More house hunting tomorrow. We're planning to see a house not far from the one we liked yesterday. As in just around the corner and down a block or so. After a couple of near hits now on which we've been ready to make an offer just to find out we'd been beaten to it, our fingers are crossed that this one will be both as good as it looks online, and still available.

more loldog pictures