Sunday, May 31, 2009

Two Blog Challenges

Today I am issuing two blog challenges to the family.

1. Within 3 days of reading this blog, set a goal on the number of posts you would reasonably like to achieve over the course of 2009. Post that goal in your own blog, as well as in a comment here. Also note any milestones you would hit if you met your goal.

2. In looking back over the past year, note in a blog by 14 June what food you have and would eat again that a) in your youth you would never have thought of tasting, and/or b) that the family at large would not consider having on the table at a family function/reunion, but you would gladly eat it if it was on the table.

As for the first challenge is to hit to post by the end of 2009, I would like to go over the 150 mark, but I would be satisfied with 145 blogs which is 5 more than the high in 2008 of 140. Coming into the year I had 365 posts, and to date have well surpassed the 400 mark. My next milepost is 450 which I hope to hit by the end of June. If I reach my goal I will be posting my 500th post sometime in December.

I will give my response on the second challenge in the coming week.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

There is Danger in Being a Censor

I have been downloading onto my Kindle various Canadian history books. Many of the older documents cost only a few dollars. One such book I finished reading is The Red Watch: with the First Canadian Division in Flanders by J. A. Currie. Colonial Currie was the commander of the 48th Highlander, The Red Watch when they went oversees to be part of the 1st Canadian Division.

In reading the book I gained some insights into the perspectives and experiences of 1914-1915. I learned that battalions were often paired so that they were in the trenches for 3-4 days at a time and resting 3-4 days at a time behind the lines. Here is a quote about one of the moment of respite (billet life) about a mile or so behind the line. This happened about a week before the Second Battle of Ypres which almost destroyed the 48th in April 1915 (first time the Germans used gas on the western front).

“One of the happiest features of billet life was the receiving and writing of letters to friends at home. Pen and ink were plentiful, so was paper, and most of the spare time of the men was spent in writing letters to friends. All these letters had to be censored, and the censor was not Lord Kitchener, as some people seem to think, nor Sir John French, as the London papers would have it, but the colonel of each regiment. He is the heartless man who has to wade through reams of love letters, and he never even drops a tear when he finds one of his young men corresponding with two or more young ladies at home, and assuring each of them in the most fervent and fond language that he loves but her and her alone. Sometimes the commanding officer is so busy that the labor of censoring the letters is turned over to a junior subaltern who may happen to be handy. The letters are brought in to headquarters and left unsealed. They are supposed to be read by the colonel, closed and his name written across the front page vouching for the contents. On one occasion one of my platoon commanders brought into the orderly room a very large bundle of letters. His men had been very busy with their pens that morning, and he made some remark to that effect to me. At the moment I was very busy writing letters to irate mothers who would write to me whenever their sons neglected to provide a weekly batch of correspondence, so I told the young officer to take my stamp and censor the letters himself. When he had gone about half way through the correspondence, he gave an exclamation, jumping half way out of his chair. "What's the matter?" I asked in alarm, wondering if he had caught one of his men in treasonable correspondence with the enemy. ‘The matter,’ he said in a tone of rage, ‘Why, one of the men in my platoon is writing love letters to my best girl in Toronto.’”

There is clearly a danger in being assigned to censor the letters. LOL.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Whose Weather Would You Want For the Next Week

Here is the weather forecast for various members of our extended family in where they are living and were living? Of all the various places, which weather would you want to have for the next week?

Washington DC – Dave and Evie – sunny this weekend with highs around 80-84 into early week (lows 56-62)…. a week from now scatter thunderstorms and highs 74-76 (lows58-61)

Toronto/Brampton Ontario – Sears home base – clear for the weekend but rain starting Sunday, highs going from 70 and dropping to 64 (lows 48-50)…a week from now, mostly sunny with highs 71-73 and lows 50-56)

New York City – Camuti home base – other than showers late Saturday, and some rain today, it will be mostly cloudy with highs 71-78…a week from now, a few showers each day with highs 71-75 and lows 56-59.

London Ontario – mostly sunny with rain Monday, highs 63-75 (lows 42-51)…a week from now highs 70-75 (lows 51-58) and partly cloudy to sunny

Winnipeg Manitoba – where we lived for seven years – highs 57-63 (lows 40-47) and sunny most days….a week from now, 62-66 (lows 47/48) and partly cloudy

Calgary Alberta
– Stephen, Gayle and family – highs 81 today and down to 55/54 by Tuesday (lows 51 to 39), partly cloudy with some rain Monday….a week from now, scatter showers giving way to mostly cloudy with highs 62-64 (lows 40-42)

San Antonio Texas – Josh with the Crossmen – scattered thunder storms over the weekend and into Monday with highs around 90 (lows, 67-69)….a week from now, sunny with highs around 97-98 (lows, 73-75)

Baton Rouge Louisiana – LSU – sunny 89-91 through to early week (67-69 lows)….a week from now scatter thunderstorms and then clearing, highs 87-90 (lows 67-72)

Leola Pennsylvania – Mom and Paul now reside – partly cloudy 77-82 (lows 51-62)…a week from now 75-78 (lows 56-60) and partly cloudy turning to scattered showers

Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania – where Evie spent most of her pre-teen and teen years – partly cloudy and then scattered thunder storms, highs 73-81 (lows 49-60)….a week from now showers giving way to sunny skies, high 75-77 (lows 56-58)

Portland Maine – Dennis, Erma and Tracy – showers most days, highs 68-70 (lows 45-53)….a week from now, showers most days with highs 66-69 and lows 50-53)

Erie Pennsylvania – where Dennis, Erma and Tracy lived – highs 62-70, lows 50-57 with partly cloudy giving way to rain on Monday and Tuesday….a week from now partly cloudy with highs 67-74 (lows 55-59)

Danville Kentucky – Dottie and Steve, Krista, Adam and Campbell – mostly sunny with thunderstorms in the evening Saturday, highs 80-88 (lows 61-67)….a week from now, 78-81 as highs, 60-67 as lows and some scattered thunderstorms Thursday and Sunday

Kingston Ontario – Joanne and Bruce – showers most days with scattered Thunderstorms on Monday, highs 54-63 (lows 44-49)….a week from now, partly cloudy, highs 63-69 (lows 51/52)

Norwich Connecticut – Christian, Elaine, Samantha and Jay – highs 66-69, lows 50-57 with some showers Sun to mostly sunny after the weekend….a week from now, highs 71-73 (lows 50-56) and mostly sunny

Iowa City Iowa – Dave, Evie, Jon and Josh lived for five years – highs 76-83 (lows 54-64) with rain Saturday and Monday….a week from now, some showers Saturday and Sunday with highs 75-79 and lows 55-59

My preference is for temperatures to be running 72-80 during the day and about 60-66 at night. Leola, Washington and Iowa City have weather next week in that range. Clearly Calgary is too cool while San Antonio and Baton Rouge are way too warm for me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Liberty University and Student Democrats

On May 15th Liberty University in Lynchburg Virginia withdrew its recognition of the student organized Liberty University Democratic Club. The Dean of Students’ e-mail stated that recognition was withdrawn because “The candidates this club supports uphold the platform and implement it. The candidates supported are directly contrary to the mission of Liberty University…..The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and Christian doctrine.”

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. stated on the weekend “That the club still has the right to exist,” but the club cannot use the university’s name or receive funding. Further, the club is limited as to where they can meet, and are not able to advertise meetings on campus or distribute its literature to students.

Though Dean Hine says the college is “in no way attempting to stifle free speech” the college functionally is not allowing the Democrats to function on the same level as the Republicans.
Falwell has stated, “Parents and students support the University because they believe in the distinctly Christian identity and mission. Liberty University is pro-life and believes that marriage between one man and one woman provides the best environment for children.”

Liberty officials have noted that they have had a wave of complaints from donors, parents and trustees about the club. Instead of noting that a quality institute of higher education is a crucible for the free exchange and debate of views, and defending the same, the leadership marginalized the club.

Such marginalization of contrary views is not surprising given its point of view and mission. Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. often proudly proclaimed that Liberty was to be the “Harvard of the right.” An official brochure says the university has a “strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and the firm support for American’s economic system of free enterprise.” In other words, LU is founded upon a vision of Christianity that is more grounded in the American cultural unabashed and unregulated free enterprise than it is in the understanding of eternal biblical principles. The Bible does not sanction any single economic system or government system, or even a social structure. Yet Falwell has founded a university to teach and support a particular cultural system and justify it in the garb of religious language.

Contrary to what it claims, Liberty does stifle free speech. Faculty who disagree with its narrow teachings are soon without a position. A faculty member who holds that global warming is taking place, or who hints that he/she does not hold to the young earth seven literal twenty-four hour creation story will find their position at LU at risk. Such a posture means students are not being educated by professors who have seriously examined and considered diverse views. Faculty are teaching from safe ground and with an approved set of teachings (hmmmm...sounds similar to what took place in the Soviet Union and Germany from 1933 to 1945, China since 1948, etc.).

A faculty member who voted for Obama, if their secret was discovered, could find that they are asked to leave the university. If the Democrat students were to put together a petition or have a public meeting outside the authorized classroom, such students are at risk of receiving 12 reprimands (demerits) and a $50 fine for participating in an unauthorized activity.

Irrespective of its statements to the contrary, LU has functionally stated that a person who is a Democrat and votes for Democrat candidates is not a faithful Christian…at least faithful a per their definition of what it means to be a Christian.

Liberty says that they are tolerant, yet they have student and faculty policies that contradict such claims. A university is a place for educating the mind, for arguing for and against a host of issues, a place to freely exchange and debate ideas in the search for truth. To allow the debate and free exchange of ideas on an equal footing does not mean that the university agrees with or promotes a particular set of views. It allows its students and faculty to sift thoughtfully and come to a more informed view. Liberty had the opportunity to be tolerant and embrace the free exchange of ideas, but instead they withdraw authorization for the students to have Democrat club on campus. Instead they by their actions they have undermined the fundamental founding principle of the United States, freedom of speech and exchange of ideas, and the ability to organize politically.

Joshua Flies to Texas

At 8:30 this morning Josh boarded a Southwest flight for Chicago-Midway where he catches a flight to San Antonio TX. After a few weeks of drill he will be marching across the country with the Crossmen.

Last night Jonathan, Maggie, Evie and I took Josh out for a nice dinner at J R's Steakhouse, an upscale restaurant in Tyson's corner. This was his last real sit down meal until early August as over the coming ten weeks his meals will eating meals sitting on grass and pavement that are served from a rolling cooking unit.

We wish Josh and the Crossmen well on their upcoming season.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wind Power

In early April Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested that the amount of “developable” wind power of the East Coast. He stated “According to our report there is over 1,000 gigawatts of power, that's a million megawatts of power, that are developable off the Atlantic coast. You think about that, put it in the context of what it means, with respect to an analogy to, or a comparison to coal-fired power plants, it's the equivalent of the amount of energy that would be produced from about 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired power plants. That's a tremendous amount of energy that's out there in the Atlantic.”

Salazar has been rightly criticized for saying that it “is a very real possibility.” First, the wind power is not reliable enough to replace coal or other types of power plants. There would still need to be other sources to provide power when the wind is not of sufficient strength.

Second, while it is true that if the enter Atlantic Coast was dotted with wind generators, and if they were each running at full capacity, they would generate double the amount of power the USA produced in 2008. But that is the rub, the entire coast would have wind power plants up and down the coast. That is an unrealistic goal. Just to produce 20% of the nation’s power needs would take an area about the size of Rhode Island (or double the size of PEI).

Third, over 75% of the power sites are in areas where the depth is more than 30 meters and too deep to be economically feasible.

All that said, what projects are economically feasible should move forward, not just off-shore but across the country. As a nation we need to get beyond the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome and the “aesthetic pollution” objections raised by the well off folks with their multimillion dollar summer homes in Nantucket Sound, the off-shore site of a proposed wind farm. For me these generators are no more aesthetic pollution than apartment and business buildings that rise well above the tree-tops or the factory plants that sprawl for hundreds of acres, most of which are financed and owned by those who are objecting to wind farms off the coast of Nantucket.

No matter who is making the claims, wind power is not the magic solution that will meet most of our needs, but it is a good environmentally friendly solution to pursue. It is a source that can significantly contribute to the electric grid and decrease power that is generated by non-renewable sources. Salazar should continue to promote renewable energy sources but do so with realistic statements, statements that help move the cause along rather than become the focal point of argument.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pausing on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, these images from the Vietnam Memorial speak for themselves.

To reflect upon the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan go to
On the top right this site has a map using Google Earth the can be downloaded and shows where each of the 5,679 who have died in battle since the beginning of the war in 2002. You can zoom in on the fallen soldier's home town, click on their name and learn when and how they were killed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

For the first of two Memorial Weekend posts, I am posting the following pictures that were taken a few weeks ago at Arlington Cemetery. The Cemetery which surrounds General Robert E Lee's Arlington House is the most sacred ground in the United States. The first soldiers to be buried were the Civil War dead, such as Corporal John McGuire.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24-7. The soldier stands guard the the changing of the guard continues regardless of the weather conditions. During Hurricane Isabel though the guards were given permission to stand down, they remained at their post and continued to go through guard changes right through the hurricane. Those are assigned to this duty live below where they march.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend and Motorcycles

Today thousands of motorcycles started to pour into town. Every Memorial Weekend "Rolling Thunder" and other veteran groups come to Washington DC. All up and down the Mall are parked thousands of motorcycles. Veterans from across the country riding the bikes into town has been a tradition going back to the end of the Vietnam War. The majority of the bike riders are now in their 50s and 60s, and it does not take much to realize that the tradition will for the most part pass away in twenty-five to thirty-five years.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crazy Things People Do

The following picture is self explanatory. I cannot understand why a person would have such a tatoo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cost of Higher Education

I have been working through a budget for Josh for the next year at LSU. The expense side of the budget covers tuition, fees, books and modest supplies, room and board, airfare, a very modest sum for clothing and spending money, and his health insurance. It is a sobering moment when you add all the figures before subtracting scholarships. The cost?.... $32,500.

If he had a car, like he will have next year? Add another $3,500.

Depending upon the college, the non-elite private colleges would be about another $8,000-$15,000 a year more.

Fortunately his scholarship knocks $15,500 off that sum and makes attending LSU to be more affordable than going to a public college in Virginia.

FYI... I have intentionally used red for this post... the color of blood.

Monday, May 18, 2009

G. W. Bush and $100 Million

I learned today that President George W Bush has raised $100 million for a President George W Bush heritage fund. This is not the library fund. This funds will be used mainly to tell the Bush presidential story. In other words, the funds will be used to fund scholars, speakers, articles, events and projects that are focused upon putting Bush in a positive light.

The supporters of Ronald Reagan put together a similar fund to promote the view that Reagan walked on water. His failings have been minimized and his accomplishments magnified and added to. The assumption is that history's judgment in 75 years will be heavily colored by the dominant interpretation that takes place in the first 15 years. When Reagan left office he was viewed highly and in the top third, but not in the top 8. Partly due to the work of Reagan's fund, twenty years later, he is viewed by many conservatives in the top five and in the country at large around 7th or 8th.

Bush's supporters will have a greater challenge than Reagan who is viewed as one of the ten worst Presidents the country has had, and one of the two worst in the last hundred years. A great deal of revisionist work will have to be done to move him in the middle of the pack. I hope money going into subtle marketing efforts does not color how Bush is judged in 15 to 25 years from now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Baby Dedication

A wild card event took place in this morning’s service at the Arlington Corps, a baby dedication. You never know what is going to take place with dedications of a baby. Some babies cry to the embarrassment of the parents (and the congregation feels for them too). Some are sound asleep and oblivious as to what is happening. Today’s dedication was one of those entertaining ones.

The mother held the baby facing the congregation. The nine month girl was alert and adorably cute. The cloth dog with which she was playing kept finding its way into her mouth. When the dog was not in her mouth she was giggling up a storm with her legs going wild. When the audience clapped, she clapped vigorously with them. When Major Fitzgerald held her, her hand kept grabbing at his mustache.

I appreciate that the relative/friend who was taking the pictures was not all over all the place. She positioned herself quietly in the front to take the pictures. Some photographers walk all over the place and by their actions become part of the event.

Overall, a nice dedication that had the benefit of being enjoyable.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another Sobering Moment

Following is another section taken from My Life In The Irish Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs Of Private William McCarter, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry by William McCarter. This is from the section about the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Before the stone wall at Marye’s Heights on the edge of Fredericksburg the Union Army suffered over 12,500 casualties in December 13, 1862. General Burnside ignored the views of the generals under him that the attack was doomed from the outset, but Burnside sent them in insisting his plan would work.

Even as Union soldier lay wounded or cuddled against the ground, the Confederate troops kept shooting into them. It was not uncommon for a Union soldier using a dead soldier as a shield. Others sought little hovels or depressions to help shelter them. McCarter was wounded and unable to crawl off the field. He found a little ridge that could afford him some protection. To enhance his protection he used his rolled blanket.

As was the custom, these wool and gum blankets were rolled up lengthwise in rope form, probably six or eight ply thick, tied with a cord at the ends and slung over the left shoulder like a sash. In this manner, the troops went into action. Immediately after my comrade Foltz fell, bullets were flying so thick around me that the thought struck me to pull or work my blankets off my shoulder and to place them in front of my head. They would serve as at least a slight protection from the deadly missiles.

Fortunate, indeed, that I thought of this. Double fortunate that I succeeded in doing it. The prospect of death now seemed to increase. My clothing was being literally torn from my back by the constant and furious musketry fire of the enemy from three points. A ball struck me on the left wrist inflicting another painful but not serious wound. Another one which would undoubtedly have proved instantly fatal but for my blankets pierced through six plies of the blankets. It left me the possessor of a very sore head for six weeks after. With such force did this bullet come that for some time I really thought it had embedded itself in the skull. My blankets were the receptacles of 32 other bullets which dropped out when I opened them up the next morning in Fredericksburg.

McCarter was wounded three times that day, the one in the leg left him with a life long limp. I cannot imagine unrolling my blanket to find 32 bullets dropping out of it. No doubt one would feel most fortunate. It should be noted that the minnie ball was not a high power bullet and though it could still kill at 125 yards, its force was greatly diminished. McCarter was within killing range but at the end of it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Soldier's Reflection - A Sobering Moment

I have recently been reading various Civil War items on my Kindle. I like items that were penned as journals or reflections by the common soldier rather than the historians who are explaining what happened. I do not dismiss the critical value of those historical works but there is something about reading about the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the common soldier to give insights that the other books miss.

One of the things I like about having a Kindle is its copy feature that allows me to copy sections into a file for downloading onto my laptop. Following is a lengthy excerpt from My Life In The Irish Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs Of Private William McCarter, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry by William McCarter. McCarter was a private in the Irish Brigade, a Brigade made up of regiments of Irish immigrants mainly from New York City and Philadelphia.

This section takes place after a small battle at Charlestown VA (now Charlestown WV). Months later McCarter was wounded multiple times before the stone wall at Fredericksburg (major scene in the movie Gods and Generals), and due to his wounds was not able to return to his regiment. Following is drawn from his book and speaks for itself.

War is truly said to be a sad necessity. But civil war, be it long or short and under almost any circumstance, is indeed sadder and more desolating in its effects. History may record the ravages and desolations made and left in the tracks of the bloody feet of war. Even in this most unnatural contest of our own, painters of the rarest talents may one day paint the destruction in masterly styles and glowing colors. Yet, all of these efforts fall far short in showing to the eye or to the mind war's real effects upon people and country.

I proceeded along one of the streets of this ill-fated town [Charlestown] accompanied by several members of my regiment. Our attention was attracted to a three-story house, one of the better class of dwellings there, by crowds of soldiers and a few citizens going into it. These visitors came immediately out again with dull and saddened countenances and, in not a few cases, with tearful eyes. The front door had apparently been smashed and laid about in pieces upon the cobblestone pavement opposite. We stopped and, following the example of others, entered the house and then the room on the first floor.

Merciful heaven, what a sight met our eyes. God save me the pain of another such sight as long as I live. The room was long and narrow. From one end of it to the other, regardless of those present, paced a lady, apparently not over 30 years of age. She appeared to be in terrible grief, misery and despair, refusing entirely any comfort or consolation from those of her friends and neighbors there congregated. The woman was clad in black, but in some manner her dress had been almost torn from her body. She would now and then burst out into heart-rending fits of weeping, exclaiming, "Oh, my child, my Lilly."

Not knowing exactly the cause of the lady's sorrow, I quietly inquired of an old man leaning against the door what it was. He replied that her child, her only child, had been killed about an hour ago by a ball from the Federal battery. The round passed through a window at which the child had been standing, looking down at soldiers on the street. At one end of the room, a few women and several members of our Irish Brigade were gathered around what seemed to me to be a melodeon, or pipe organ, gazing sadly and silently at something lying on its top. As soon as opportunity presented to approach the spot, we did so.

There on the top of the instrument laid a sweet little girl, some seven or eight years old, cold and stiff and dead. Except for the dead yet still beautiful, innocent pale face, all the rest of the body was covered with a large sheet, or white quilt. On this cover, particularly that part of it over the child's breast, were large spots of blood. A young colored woman was cutting the long brown curls from the child's head and perfectly saturating them with her tears.

Approaching still nearer, I asked how the child had been killed. The reply given was in substance the same as the old man's. In a flood of tears, the young colored woman laid her scissors down. With both hands, she slowly and solemnly raised the blood-stained cover off the little breast, saying in sobs as she did so, "Just look there."

My companion and I gazed for a moment at the object in horror and dismay, unable to utter a word. Then turning slowly and sadly away, we left the room. My heart was too full and my eyes positively refused to shelter any longer the streams of hot water that burst from them. The ball had struck the child on the left breast, tearing it and ripping the left arm completely away. Only a small portion of the right breast remained. It presented a most ghastly, sickening appearance. Yet, that dear little face seemed as calm and as peaceful as in a quiet, sweet slumber. Oh, cruel, cruel war! Must the innocent suffer with the guilty, yea, must the mother see her own darling child in a moment turned into a mangled bleeding corpse, for the sin, shame and rebellion of proud, haughty men and women? Alas, such is civil war.

We proceeded a little farther along. Lying on a vacant space of ground between two houses, we found the dead body of a woman. The lower part of her garments were apparently burned or singed and the fragments of an exploded shell were scattered all around. Her nearly grey hair, for she had fallen with her face on the ground, indicated that she had been well advanced in years. In front of the body laid a small waiter, several pieces of broken china and some slices of bread. We inferred that she had been in the act of carrying these articles, probably to a neighboring house, when the fatal shell struck her. Turning a corner near the same place, we saw a cart or wagon on which laid the dead body of a young man, a Rebel soldier. He had evidently been placed there by some of his companions after dark. The only injury to the body visible to us was a small cut or hole above the eye. A little pool of blood had formed on the ground underneath the cart.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Torture of Detainees Held by America

The language that we use to describe an object, an action or a relationship colors how we interpret and view the same. Severe beatings, water boarding, sleep depravity for five or days, depriving a person of clothing and blankets for weeks at a time, load music being played 24 hours a day seven days a week, etc. have been inflicted upon American military and citizens by the North Vietnamese, North Koreans, Japanese and Nazis. In the past America has decried these techniques as torture. These acts have been performed upon detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other sites of American holding sites.

While in the past America has termed these techniques as torture, in recent months, particularly in these last weeks Republican talking points have been terming these devices as “aggressive interrogation techniques.” Americans who have suffered torture in the past were comforted by the thought that America was not like these despotic nations and that America lived at a much higher moral level.

Just as these techniques were torture when performed on Americans, they are still torture when performed upon detainees. Just as it was morally repugnant in the past, so it is these last years. Further, the “ends justifying the means” rationale is an equally morally repugnant argument. Such rationale is thin at best and is used by people who know that they are morally wrong and have no creditable justification. What these people fail to realize is that the Nazis, Japanese and others used the exact same arguments. Through their rationalization and their adoption the phrase “aggressive interrogation technique” they are standing in the company of prior despots who used the same techniques.

What is sad, very sad indeed, is that many of those who are justifying these means sit in church on Sunday mornings. For me, that thought brings a chill and gives me pause to think.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

American Healthcare

While in Leola this weekend I read that the Lancaster General Hospital, a community based non-profit general hospital reported that they have been impacted by the downturn in the economy. They reported that they had a significant decrease in net income surplus over the last year. Their surplus was $113 million, down from the record $136 million of the prior year.

The administration of the hospital were pleased to note that they had not laid anyone off over the last year….I better hope not given their solid surplus and that the hospital is a non-profit organization. They noted that their income declined because they had an increase in the number of people without insurance. The administration did note that the number of uninsured puts pressure on increasing charges for those who have insurance….that makes sense and is a given. Though the article did not say, non-profit hospitals have more patients without insurance because from what I understand for profit hospitals turn away uninsured non-life threatening cases and have the uninsured go to their local non-profit hospital. One can therefore imagine what the surplus would be like for the for-profit hospital. That all said, a $113 million surplus at the end of the year is still very respectable.

Here is another interesting tidbit I found interesting in the article. There were about 100,000 emergency room visits. Of those visits, about 14,000 or 14% had no insurance, which is a significant number. This 14% does not include those who are underinsured who have large gaps in their insurance coverage. Over the last decade, medical bills are the number one cause for people filing for bankruptcy in America. While it is unlike to remain true with the housing decline and subprime loan mess paying medical treatment will no doubt remain at least number two reason after mortgage defaulting.

The same hospital reports about 23,000 or 23% of those visiting the emergency room had Medicare. About 26,000 or 26% had Medicaid. In other words, about 49% of those visiting the emergency room were on some sort of government based medical plan. Add the 14% without insurance means that about 37-38% of ER patients at the hospital in question relay solely upon private insurance. This helps puts a national plan government based plan into a different perspective.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

LSU Trombone Choir - Spring 2009

I discovered on YouTube two videos of the LSU Trombone Choir. In the first clip Josh is just to the left of the conductor in the grey shirt. In the second clip he cannot be seen as he is standing in front of the conductor. I will leave it to Josh in the comment section to note what items they played.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Family Is Whole - For Three Weeks That Is

For the last few days only Jonathan and Evie have been home. I have been on the road and arrived back home last night about the time Josh’s plane was landing at BWI.

With Josh arriving home our family was whole again, at least for three weeks. Josh has completed his first year at LSU and he is now a sophomore. In the coming week we will learn how he has done this semester (only two grades are posted, both As).

As part of his welcome Jonathan and Maggie brought Ally to visit. Josh was given the opportunity to take Ally for two walks before she left.

For the next three weeks Josh will be relaxing, connecting with friends and going through his drum corps conditioning routine. On May 28th he leaves for the summer. In August he will be home again for 7 to 10 days before being gone until Christmas.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

US 29

US 29 is one of the longest highways in Virginia. This four lane divided highway starts in Arlington VA at Key Bridge in the north, goes west to Gainsville VA before turning south through Charlottesville, Lynchburg and leaving the state just south of Danville VA.

I drive this highway nearly every day as it is the one that fronts our complex. I have driven every mile of this highway and have come to know it well. Sunday, on my way back from Lynchburg (3 hour trip) I started to notice the various highway signs posted along the way. I was struck by the number of one particular sign.

This sign is by far the most numerous sign along the whole route. Can you guess what sign it is?

No it is not the speed limit sign. The sign in question outnumbers the speed limit signs by more than 20 to one.

While they are more numerous than the speed limit, the Hwy 29 sign is the the sign. The route sign is one of the more numerous signs but it is not close in the frequency of the sign in question. Below is the sign.

If you drive along the highway you will only see the backside of the sign. To see the front of the sign you have to look in your rearview mirror or at the two lanes on the other side of the divided highway. As the road is a two lane highway in both directions the sign appears in pairs. Below is the sign.

The red "Wrong Way" sign appears far more often that the next closest type of sign. Along nearly the whole route outside the Arlington/Fairfax area, the sign is posted at every major and minor cross road, mall and business exits, and turnarounds.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Derby Day Salute to Big Red

On this Derby Day I am saluting Secretariat. Secretariat, also known as “Big Red” was one of the greatest horses of all time. The first clip is the 1973 Derby and he went on to win the Triple Crown, an accomplishment which had not been won for a long time before Big Red did so. The 1973 Derby was the first one I remember watching and have watched each Derby since then.

This is the Preakness, the second jewel in the Triple Crown.

This is Big Red’s amazing Belmont run that stunned the racing world.

Years later through a friend of ours Evie and I were able to go see Big Red at his stud farm. We still have pictures of our visit to see Big Red and Riva Ridge.

Friday, May 01, 2009

What May Brings

The first of May is now here and brings with it a significant annual event that I look forward to watching each year....the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is run annually on the first Saturday of May, and in Kentucky is the official first day of barbeque season.

Since living in Kentucky the Derby has become one of those special days, much like July First, July Fourth, Thanksgiving, New Years, but not yet at the same level as Christmas.

The first Saturday afternoon across the Commonwealth of Kentucky business comes to a hault in the late afternoon. Streets are quiet as people gather to barbeque, party and watch the Derby. People who rarely watch horse racing, do so that day. Favorites are selected and friendly betting pools are done. People who never handicap a race will wade into the waters for this one race.

I too tomorrow will pick a horse to cheer. I will listen to the stories and make my choice. There is no real method to my process and no money invested, but I make my choice for a horse or two to cheer and follow during the race. Sometimes I am quickly disappointed with my selections but often by having selected two, sometimes a third, to watch and cheer I often have one that is in the thick of things coming around the final stretch.

Before going to college I would give passing interest to the Kentucky Derby, but that change in 1976. Watching the Derby is part of Kentucky that remains with me today. Even in Winnipeg with snow still melting around that Saturday was the first day we fired the barbeque. We are not able to barbeque in our complex, but I will be cooking up something on the George Forman grill tomorrow.

I have driven past Churchill Downs but I have never taken in a race at that track. One day I hope to go to Churchill, and spend a day or two just enjoying the races at this historic park.