Thursday, November 30, 2006

Teresa Patriquin

Teresa Patriquin passed an hour ago. She was my Aunt, and she was loved and cherished by her family. I'm not praying for her in this moment, because I know she is no longer suffering and has joined the angels. I pray for my uncle and my cousin and the rest of our family, who now have to continue without her.

Rest in peace, Teresa.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Then and Now, Marine Corps Style

John, Juliet and Chris... Korea, December 1987

And Juliet, John and Chris... San Diego, November 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Looks like the Holidays!

It must be Thanksgiving time, because the family is all coming together!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More from Mom, the Guest Blogger

(I was going to put this into the Comments section, but my Mom specifically asked that I post it here as a separate entry. Seems a bit "patting my own back" to me, but I really do appreciate the time and heart Mom put into it. So here it is.)

Your entire family wants to let you all know how much we love you, Ric & Grant. The three of you gave Teresa and Warren the greatest gift anyone could for their anniversary.

For those of you reading this, last night the three guys got together, cooked steaks, got flowers, table arrangements, baked cookies and put together a wonderful surprise anniversary dinner for my brother and his wife.

Time is running short for Teresa. I know how much joy and love she felt not only from the dinner but from everything these three are doing for them. With the rest of the family so far away, no words can express how grateful we are to John, Ric and Grant for being there. The rest of us are making our plans now to come out & I am hoping that Dad will be able to join us.

You never cease to amaze me. When someone is down, you are all there, lending a hand, no matter what it takes. Proud does not seem to fit how I feel about the things you guys do. No words can express my inner feelings right now, but in many ways it did not surprise me that you would come up with something like this. You all wear your heart in your hand.

Time passes so fast that you do not realize how long its been since you've seen or talked to your family members. It seems to take a tragedy to bring families closer. Don't let this happen to any of you.

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful, caring & loving son, son-in-law and adopted son. We love you all so much and will see you soon.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Warren and Teresa!

Tuesday was the 20th Wedding Anniversary for my Uncle Warren and Aunt Teresa. With so much going on right now, they were unable to get away and celebrate. Enter my fantastic husband and our great friend and roommate, Grant.

Ric prepared a steak dinner with all the trimmings, and we delivered it to my aunt and uncle. The whole operation clicked with military precision! We arrived, and Ric went to the kitchen to finish the meal. (He precooked what he could at the house.) Grant set the table with lace and linen, candles and flowers. And me? My job was to distract Warren and Teresa so they didn't see everything until it was just perfect.

And then, it was. Perfect. We set them down at the table and we quickly got out of there.

Happy 20th Wedding Anniversary!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Three Weeks?

Falling Into Forty is a public forum for my private thoughts, so I am reluctant to share what is going on right now with someone else. But it's not a secret, and there's nothing to be gained from my silence.

Last week, I found out that my Aunt was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was grim, three months without chemo and possibly as long as five months with chemo.

Monday, I found out that it was further advanced than first thought, and the prognosis is two months, tops.

Last night, I learned that the doctor is concerned with her continuing weight loss - five pounds in the previous five days - and the prognosis is three weeks.

I'm heartbroken for my Aunt. I'm sad for her daughter and her husband. And I'm angry that she still has so much on her life's list that she wants to do.

And selfishly, I am scared and angry and sad that this has touched my life, and will continue to do so for the rest of my years. I hate that I will lose others and that someday they will lose me. I feel my mortality at this moment and I am engulfed with the incredible sadness of it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Does he really think that much of himself?

A friend's father asked her that question after meeting me - "Does he really think that much of himself?" She laughed and said, "yes, actually, and it's a good thing," or something to that effect.

I read this today from Daily OM, and it is a good explanation of why I try to focus on the positive things about myself and not the negative. I am not in denial of my flaws and imperfections, rather I think my time and energy is better spent focusing on the good things I bring to this world. Happy reading.

Being Aware Of Your Thoughts

Few people enjoy the company of individuals whose attitudes are persistently negative. Yet many of us tolerate the critical chatter that can originate within our own minds. Since we are so used to the stream of self-limiting, critical consciousness that winds its way through our thoughts, we are often unaware of the impact these musings have on our lives. It is only when we become aware of the power of such thoughts that we can divest ourselves of them and fill the emptiness they leave with loving, peaceful affirmations. Many people, upon paying careful attention to their thinking patterns, are surprised at the negativity they find there. But when we take notice of involuntary thoughts in a nonjudgmental way, we initiate a healing process that will eventually allow us to replace intimidating and upsetting self-talk with positive, empowering thoughts.

While the occasional downbeat or judgmental thought may have little impact on your contentment, the ongoing negativity that passes unnoticed can have a dampening effect on your mood and your outlook. When you are aware of the tone of your thoughts, however, you can challenge them. Try to be conscious of your feelings, opinions, and judgments for a single day. From sunup to sundown, scrutinize the messages you are feeding into your subconscious mind. Consider your thoughts from the perspective of a detached observer and try not to judge yourself based on the notions that come unbidden into your mind. Simply watch the flow of your consciousness and make a note of the number of times you find yourself focusing on gloomy notions or indulging in self-directed criticism.

As you become increasingly aware of your patterns of thought, whether positive and negative, you will gradually learn to control the character of your stream of consciousness. Endeavor always to remember that the images and ideas that pass through your mind are transient and not a true representation of who you are. In training yourself to be cognizant of your thoughts, you gain the ability to actively modulate your mood. The awareness you cultivate within yourself will eventually enable you to create a foundation of positivity from which you can build a more authentic existence.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

And AJ is back!

Our good buddy AJ is back from Yuma and FINALLY posting again on his blog. You can see photos from his Marine Corps ball last night here.

And we went out last night after the ball, and we took this picture of the three of us at Flicks.

Me, Brandy and AJ

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veterans Day

And tomorrow is Veteran's Day, and I post this as a thank you to those brave Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors who have come before me. May our nation always act in a manner that honors your service and sacrifice.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Happy 231st Birthday,

United States Marine Corps!

Click here for the Marines Hymn.

And two quotes...
I would argue that the toughest job in all the Marine Corps is that of an infantry squad leader in combat. The mission of a Marine rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy's assault by fire and close-combat. The squad leader is responsible for the lives and performance of three four-man fire-teams. These Marines are the proverbial "pointy end of the spear" that routinely gets up close and personal with the enemy. Strip away all the politics, peel back all the strategic plans, get beneath campaign and operational planning, and what you have left, in its purest form, is foreign policy balanced on the shoulders of a squad leader in his early-twenties who is leading twelve other warriors even younger than him. (Matthew Dodd)
The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Date Night - Post Election

Only three days into what is becoming a crazy, crazy week, Ric and I decided we definitely needed to go out on Date Night. It really is the only time that the two of us seem to have to ourselves these days.

We wandered the mall a bit, then popped into the Food Court to grab a bite to eat. We avoided everything healthy and went right to Hot Dog on a Stick. Yep, nothing like a couple of corn dogs to remind you that you skipped the gym for the evening! Still, everything tasted delicious, and sometimes that is more than enough.

After that, we headed to the theater. Ric wanted to see Flags of our Fathers, so I agreed. As it turns out, it was an incredible movie and I am so glad Ric insisted. From the previews, I thought the movie would be another Saving Private Ryan, and once is enough for that film. But I wrong. This movie was such a powerful telling of the story of the iconic image of World War II... maybe the iconic image of modern warfare.

I'm back home now, but the emotion from the movie has stayed with me. My thoughts are on the brave Marines of generations past, who fought so valiantly on the beaches of Iwo Jima. I am proud, too, that I share a link with them through the Marine Corps. I will never know the experience of war and battle that they endured, but I do know the pride of wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

Semper Fi, Marines. You truly were the Greatest Generation, and you inspire us all still today.

Best Voting Story

Intent on voting, Pa. woman, 95, calls 911

Anna Urban has been voting since Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and wasn't about to miss an election.

When the 95-year-old Reading resident didn't have a ride to the polls Tuesday, she didn't hesitate. She dialed 911.

Dispatchers forwarded the call to the Berks County Election Services office, where it was considered a compliment.

"To call 911 and ask for help to vote really says a lot," said Deborah M. Olivieri, election services director. "It meant a lot to everyone in this office; it made us feel what we do is worthwhile."

County Commissioner Judith L. Schwank immediately picked up Urban, and Urban walked to the voting booth at Millmont Elementary School on her arm.

"All my life I voted," said Urban, a Democrat, who cast her first ballot in the 1930s. "You need to vote to be a good citizen."

(I know, I know. I should be concerned that she called 911. It is an emergency line that should only be used for true emergencies. But this story says so much to me. Previous generations really understand how important it is to vote. They understand the sacrifices and courage that earned us all the right to vote. I've read stories of husbands and wives that would drive miles to the polls, only to cast opposite votes that canceled each other out. But they knew that voting was more than pulling a lever. It is the embodiment of so much that is great about our country. So thank you, Ms. Anna Urban, for reminding us all that voting is a responsibility, and nothing should get in our way when we are called to the polls.)

The Republican Response

Pitiful. That's the only way to describe the Republican spin machine and the Bush administration. After months (years?) of hearing that the Democrats were more concerned about the terrorists, and only interested in raising taxes, and against religion, and truly godless and amoral... after all that... today, the President and his press secretary announced that the Democrats need to work with the President.

Now I agree that political gridlock is helpful to no one, and that some of the most effective, beneficial legislation comes from bipartisanship. But it's the ultimate chutzpah to spend the last election cycle attacking the Democrats, then demand they get in step with the Republicans after such a Democratic election victory.

I read that the Republican-led Congress devoted more than 100 hours of investigations to the "potential misuse of the White House Christmas card list by the Clintons, " but spent only 12 hours on hearings investigating the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Some priorities, huh?

I expect better than that sort of grandstanding from this Congress. I want Congress to actively investigate what this administration has been doing. I want to know about no-bid contracts, manufactured intelligence, and government corruption. America wants to see a House and Senate that will do something productive. We want to see results, not cheap attacks. So get after it, Democrats, and don't take marching orders from this administration.

Like Dominos...

First the Governors, then the House, and soon to come the Senate. And while we're at it, let's start knocking off the other examples of incompetence. First to go, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. As I type this, he is resigning.

And while we're at it, maybe we should go after the appointments Bush made. Maybe we should boot most of them out and replace them with people that have experience in their fields. Crazy, huh? Imagine a scientist overseeing scientific offices? Or someone with a background in Emergency Management in charge of FEMA? Or someone with experience in the field of Space Sciences managing the offices of NASA?

Oh, this is only going to get better.

Punch Clock Agreement

It all starts with an idea that becomes a simple plan that builds through effort to a powerful result. This is how we rebuild Congress to an institution worthy of respect.

Have you heard about the "Punch Clock Agreement?" It's a non-partisan plan to make our elected officials more accountable to us.

The Punch Clock Agreement

I believe citizens have a right to know what their Member of Congress does every day.

Starting with the next Congress, I promise to publish my daily official work schedule on the Internet, within 24 hours of the end of every work day. I will include all matters relating to my role as a Member of Congress. I will include all meetings with constituents, other Members, and lobbyists, listed by name. (In rare cases I will withhold the names of constituents whose privacy must be protected.) I will also include all fundraising events. Events will be listed whether Congress is in session or not, and whether I am in Washington, traveling, or in my district.
The idea is based on the simple premise that we are all accountable to our employers for the work we do. Why should our representatives be any different? Democrat, Republican or Independent... if you are working for your constituents, why wouldn't you want us to know what you are doing?

I know, I know. It's a pretty optimistic notion, to think that they will agree to this. But if the message of this past election is really accountability, then now is a good time to try to make this happen. If you agree, contact your representatives and ask them to sign the agreement. And send this message along to your friends so they can decide for themselves.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Go, Dems, Go!

As of now, the Democrats have taken a majority of Governors seats and have taken the House with a solid majority. The Senate is still up for grabs, with the Dems needing to take all three remaining contests - Webb over Allen in Virginia, McCaskill over Talent in Missouri, and Tester over Burns in Montana. The Virginia race is close enough that there will definitely be a recount. McCaskill is gaining steadily over Talent, but it is still too close to call. And Tester looks like a winner over Burns.

So now is as good a time as any to head to bed. I need to get some sleep, and the results will be here for me when I wake up in the morning.

It feels good to know that this country may be on its way to recovery after the debacle that has been a Republican Presidential administration, House, Senate, and majority of Governors. There may be hope for all of us, yet.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Wicked the Musical

These are for my Mom. We saw Wicked together in Los Angeles last year, and I have been trying to find clips of the show so she could see them again.

This is a montage of cast performances.

If this gets you excited about seeing the show, you can check it out in Los Angeles when it opens in February 2007. It will play at least until December 2007, so get your tickets!

Ric, John and Gus

Believe it or not, I am going to spend the next 24 hours completely politics free. There will be no more posts about politics. In fact, until 9pm tomorrow night, this blog will be free of politics, emotion, concern, and worry. I declare this a "fun zone" until polls close and the results start coming in tomorrow night.

To kick off this fun, I present a picture of Ric. He is photographed with Gus, a beautiful bird that belongs to our neighbor, Mike.

And here I am with Gus. This bird is so sweet.

Why I'm Voting (Part IV)

Okay, I promise. THIS is the last post I will make about the importance of voting tomorrow. This list is courtesy of Think Progress.

We need a new Congress — here’s why:

1. Congress set a record for the fewest number of days worked — 218 between the House and Senate combined. [Link]

2. The Senate voted down a measure that urged the administration to start a phased redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2006. [Link]

3. Congress failed to raise the minimum wage, leaving it at its lowest inflation-adjusted level since 1955. [Link]

4. Congress gave itself a two percent pay raise. [Link]

5. There were 15,832 earmarks totaling $71 billion in 2006. (In 1994, there were 4,155 earmarks totaling $29 billion.) [Link]

6. Congress turned the tragic Terri Schiavo affair into a national spectacle because, according to one memo, it was “a great political issue” that got “the pro-life base…excited.” [Link]

7. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works thinks global warming is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” [Link]

8. The House leadership held open a vote for 50 minutes to twist arms and pass a bill that helped line the pockets of energy company executives. [Link]

9. Congress fired the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the lone effective federal watchdog for Iraq spending, effective Oct. 1, 2007. [Link]

10. The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee thinks the Internet is “a series of tubes.” [Link]

11. Congress established the pay-to-play K Street corruption system which rewarded lobbyists who made campaign contributions in return for political favors doled out by conservatives. [Link]

12. The lobbying reform bill Congress passed was a total sham. [Link]

13. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) shamefully attacked Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) on the House floor, telling him that “cowards cut and run, Marines never do.” [Link]

14. Congress passed budgets that resulted in deficits of $318 billion and $250 billion. [Link]

15. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said Donald Rumsfeld “is the best thing that’s happened to the Pentagon in 25 years.” [Link]

16. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) baselessly announced that “we have found the WMD in Iraq.” [Link]

17. Congress passed a special-interest, corporate-friendly Central American trade deal (CAFTA) after holding the vote open for one hour and 45 minutes to switch the vote of Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC). [Link]

18. Senate conservatives threatened to use the “nuclear option” to block members of the Senate from filibustering President Bush’s judicial nominees. [Link]

19. Congress stuck in $750 million in appropriations bills “for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills.” [Link]

20. The typical Congressional work week is late Tuesday to noon on Thursday. [Link]

21. Congress has issued zero subpoenas to the Bush administration. [Link]

22. Congress eliminated the Perkins college loan program and cut Pell Grants by $4.6 billion. [Link]

23. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that he stranged his 29-year-old mistress. [Link]

24. Congress decreased the number of cops on the streets by cutting nearly $300 million in funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. [Link]

25. In a debate last year over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee abruptly cut off the microphones when Democrats began discussing the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. [Link]

26. Just two out of 11 spending bills have made it out of Congress this year. [Link]

27. 1,502 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since Congress convened. [Link]

28. The House Ethics Committee is “broken,” according to the Justice Department. [Link]

29. The FBI continues to investigate Rep. Curt Weldon’s (R-PA) willingness to trade his political influence for lucrative lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter. [Link]

30. Congress failed to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas to logging and road building by repealing the Roadless Rule. [Link]

31. Congress spent weeks debating a repeal of the estate tax (aka the Paris Hilton Tax), which affects a miniscule fraction of the wealthiest Americans. [Link]

32. The percentage of Americans without health insurance hit a record-high, as Congress did nothing to address the health care crisis. [Link]

33. Both the House and Senate voted to open up our coasts to more oil drilling, “by far the slowest, dirtiest, most expensive way to meet our energy needs.” [Link]

34. Congress stripped detainees of the right of habeas corpus. [Link]

35. The House fell 51 votes short of overriding President Bush’s veto on expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. [Link]

36. Only 16 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. [Link]

37. Congress confirmed far-right activist Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. [Link]

38. Congress spent days debating a constitutional amendment that would criminalize desecration of the U.S. flag, the first time in 214 years that the Bill of Rights would have been restricted by a constitutional amendment. [Link]

39. Congress raised the debt limit by $800 billion, to $9 trillion. [Link]

40. Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) earmarked $11.4 million for a highway to increase the property values in a rural area where he owned land. [Link]

41. Congress passed an energy bill that showered $6 billion in subsidies on polluting oil and gas firms while doing little to curb energy demand or invest in renewable energy industries. [Link]

42. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) used his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to steer earmarks towards to one of his closest friends and major campaign contributor. [Link]

43. Congress passed a strict bankruptcy bill making it harder for average people to recover from financial misfortune by declaring bankruptcy, even if they are victims of identity theft, suffering from debilitating illness, or serving in the military. [Link]

44. The House passed a bill through committee that that would “essentially replace” the 1973 Endangered Species Act with something “far friendlier to mining, lumber and other big extraction interests that find the original act annoying.” [Link]

45. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) earmarked funds to increase the property value of lands that he later sold for a profit. [Link]

46. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) distributed a memo urging colleagues to exploit 9/11 to defend Bush’s Iraq policy. [Link]

47. Congress repeatedly failed to pass port security provisions that would require 100 percent scanning of containers bound for the United States. [Link]

48. Ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) declared an “ongoing victory” in his effort to cut spending, and said “there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.” [Link]

49. Congress allowed Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) stay in Congress for a month after pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff investigation. [Link]

50. Congress didn’t investigate Tom DeLay and let him stay in Congress as long as he wanted. [Link]

51. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the Senate Majority Leader’s sale of HCA stock a month before its value fell by nine percent. [Link]

52. Congressional conservatives pressured the Director of National Intelligence to make public documents found in Iraq that included instructions to build a nuclear bomb. [Link]

53. Conservatives repeatedly tried to privatize Social Security, a change that would lead to sharp cuts in guaranteed benefits. [Link]

54. Congress is trying to destroy net neutrality. [Link]

55. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) accepted contributions from disgraced lobbyist Mitchell Wade and MZM, Inc., her largest campaign contributor, in return for a defense earmark. [Link]

56. Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) was sentenced to eight years federal prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for lucrative defense contracts, among other crimes. [Link]

57. Congress passed a $286 billion highway bill in 2005 stuffed with 6,000 pork projects. [Link]

58. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) abused his power and suspended a Democratic staffer in an act of retribution. [Link]

59. Congress failed to offer legal protections to states that divest from the Sudan. [Link]

60. The Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) tried to earmark $223 million to build a bridge to nowhere. [Link]

61. Congress spent days debating an anti-gay constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. [Link]

62. Congress isn’t doing anything significant to reverse catastrophic climate change. [Link]

63. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) secured a federal earmark to increase the property value of his land and reap at least $1.5 million in profits. [Link]

64. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) used a video tape “diagnosis” to declare that Terri Schiavo, who was later found to be blind, “certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.” [Link]

65. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned in disgrace after ABC News revealed explicit instant messages exchanges between Foley and former congressional pages. [Link]

66. Half of all Americans believe most members of Congress are corrupt. [Link]

67. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) said that gay marriage “is the most important issue that we face today.” [Link]

68. The House voted against issuing a subpoena seeking all reconstruction contract communications between Cheney’s office and Halliburton. [Link]

69. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) told a Virginia-based volunteer firefighting team they had done a “piss-poor job” in fighting wildfires in Montana. [Link]

70. The House voted against amendments prohibiting monopoly contracts and requiring congressional notification for Department of Defense contracts worth more than $1 million. [Link]

71. Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. [Link]

72. During a floor debate on embryonic stem cell research, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) held up a picture of an embryo drawn by a 7-year-old girl. Brownback explained that one of the embryos in the picture was asking, “Are you going to kill me?” [Link]

73. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) used the slur “macaca” to describe an opposing campaign staffer of Indian descent, and has been repeatedly accused by former associates of using racial epithets to refer to African-Americans. [Link]

74. Congress refused to swear in oil executives testifying about high prices. [Link]

75. Against congressional rules, ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) accepted expensive foreign trips funded by Jack Abramoff. [Link]

76. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went on the House floor to unveil a fence that he “designed” for the southern border. King constructed a model of the fence as he said, “We do this with livestock all the time.” [Link]

77. Ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) threatened the judges who ruled in the Terri Schiavo case, saying the “time will come” for them “to answer for their behavior.” [Link]

78. Congressional conservatives wanted to investigate Sandy Berger, but not the Iraq war. [Link]

79. Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) engaged in crooked land deals with campaign donors. [Link]

80. Not a single non-appropriations bill was open to amendment in the second session of the Congress. [Link]

81. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) claimed that supporters of Bush’s Iraq policy “show the same steely resolve” as did the passengers on United 93. [Link]

82. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appeared with prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying opponents of Bush’s judicial nominees as “against people of faith.” [Link]

83. Under the guise of “tort reform,” Congress passed legislation that would “undermine incentives for safety” and make it “harder for some patients with legitimate but difficult claims to find legal representation.” [Link]

84. Despite multiple accidents in West Virginia and elsewhere, Congress passed legislation that failed to adequately protect mine workers. [Link]

85. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said “if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two children, you don’t pay any taxes,” even though it isn’t true. [Link]

86. Monthly Medicare Part B premiums have almost doubled since 2000, from $45.50 in 2000 to $88.50 in 2006. [Link]

87. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) inserted a provision in the Defense Appropriations bill that granted vaccine manufactures near-total immunity for injuries or deaths, even in cases of “gross negligence.” [Link]

88. Congress appropriated $700 million for a “railroad to nowhere, but just $173 million to stop the genocide in Darfur. [Link]

89. Congress included a $500 million giveaway to defense giant Northup Grumman in a bill that was supposed to provide “emergency” funding for Iraq, even though the Navy opposed the payment. [Link]

90. Ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who has since pled guilty to talking bribes, was put it charge briefing new lawmakers “on congressional ethics.” [Link]

91. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) can’t tell the difference between the Voting Rights Act and the Stamp Act. [Link]

92. Three days before Veterans Day — House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) announced that for the first time in at least 55 years, “veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.” [Link]

93. Members were caught pimping out their offices with $5,700 plasma-screen televisions, $823 ionic air fresheners, $975 window blinds, and $623 popcorn machines. [Link]

94. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) skipped a vote on Katrina relief to attend a fundraiser. [Link]

95. Congress made toughening horse slaughtering rules the centerpiece of its agenda after returning from summer recess this year. [Link]

96. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wants to send 20,000 more troops into the middle of a civil war in Iraq. [Link]

97. Katrina victims were forced to take out ad space to “plead[] with Congress to pay for stronger levees.” [Link]

98. Congress passed the REAL ID Act, “a national ID law that will drive immigrants underground, while imposing massive new burdens on everyone else.” [Link]

99. Congress extended tax cuts that provided an average of $20 relief but an average of nearly $42,000 to those earning over $1 million a year. [Link]

100. Congress received a “dismal” report card from the 9/11 Commission — five F’s, 12 D’s, nine C’s, and only one A-minus — for failing to enact the commission’s recommendations. [Link]

101. Congress won’t let the government negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs for peo
ple on Medicare. [Link]

102. Congress has left America’s chemical plants vulnerable to terrorist attack. [Link]

103. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) “threw the senatorial version of a hissy fit” when he threatened to resign unless the Senate approved funding for his bridge to nowhere. [Link]

104. Congress didn’t simplify the tax code. [Link]

105. Seventy-five percent voters can’t name one thing Congress has accomplished. [Link]

106. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), has “raised campaign contributions at a rate of about $10,000 a day since February, surpassing the pace set by former Representative Tom DeLay.” [Link]

107. Congress failed to ensure Government Accountability Office oversight of Hurricane Katrina relief funds, resulting in high levels of waste, fraud, and abuse. [Link]

108. When a reporter asked Rep. Don Young (R-AK) if he would redirect spending on his bridge projects to Katrina victim housing, Young said, “They can kiss my ear!” [Link]

109. There were just 12 hours of hearings on Abu Ghraib. (There were more than 100 hours of hearings on alleged misuse of the Clinton Christmas card list.) [Link]

How many more reasons do you need? After years of failed policies, scandals, and shameless abuses of power, it's time to end the Republican control of the House and the Senate.

Vote. Vote. Vote.

This is my last subtle reminder to everyone out there that reads this blog:


And since election fraud, voter suppression and harassment, and campaign deception are in full swing this year, let me offer the following reminders:
  • The election is Tuesday, November 7th. There are no "additional voting dates" for one party.
  • Automatic phone calls can be made from anywhere and anyone. It is not necessarily the candidate named in the phone call.
  • Your voting place does not change 24 hours before the election. Vote where you normally do.
  • Bring your voting guide with you. Do not assume a volunteer at the polls is telling you the truth when they offer "our party's guide to the election."

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Why I'm Voting (Part III)

I'm voting because all I have to do is go to the polls. This guy? He has to work within a system he cannot speak against. I hate what this administration has done to our brave military.

Why I'm Voting (Part II)

Enjoy this montage of the past six years of the Bush administration. Then vote.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Why I'm Voting

Thank you, Molly Ivins, for the best succinct explanation of what this election is about...
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, unprecedented presidential powers, unmatched incompetence, unparalleled corruption, unwarranted eavesdropping, Katrina, Enron, Halliburton, global warming, Cheney's secret energy task force, record oil company profits, $3 gasoline, FEMA, the Supreme Court, Diebold, Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004, Terri Schiavo, stem cell research, golden parachutes, shrunken pensions, unavailable and expensive health care, habeas corpus, no weapons of mass destruction, sacrificed soldiers and Iraqi civilians, wasted billions, Taliban resurgence, expiration of the assault weapons ban, North Korea, Iran, intelligent design, swift boat hit squads, and on and on.

Buffalo Alley 10k - Camp Pendleton

Today was race day, for the third Saturday in a row! This time, I was back at Camp Pendleton for the Buffalo Alley 10k, an "all hill, dirt road, go go go" race through Camp Horno. The race was originally a loop course, but for some reason this morning they had changed it to an out-and-back course. The first mile was up the hill - straight up, it seemed - and it was really tough. I had planned to run all the way, but there was no chance for me. Parts of the hill were steep enough that I was able to walk faster than I could run.

Just past mile 1, the course changed to a gentle downhill for the next two miles, to the turnaround. Unfortunately, the two miles downhill were now two miles uphill, and they were tough. But after that, it was a very, very fast sprint down the last mile. I felt like I was flying all the way down! My overall time was 70:10, and I'm happy with that.

Here is the course, by the way. Remember, it was an out-and-back, so we ran to 3.1 miles, turned around, and came back the same way.

Here we are before the race, still clean and feeling great.

And this is the Start/Finish line, along with a view up the hill in the background.

And here is a quick video of the event, featuring Austin and Joe!

Friday, November 3, 2006

I can't even keep up.

The right wing scandals are rolling out faster than I can keep up with them. In the last twenty-four hours, all of these "Front Page News, Big Story" stories have come out.
  • The Bush administration caved to demands from the Iraq Prime Minister that the US abandon its checkpoints, set up to find our missing soldier. There is no other way to describe this - the US abandoned one of our own.
  • Evangelical Pastor Ted Haggard, a leader amongst anti-gay Republicans, was accused of soliciting sex from a male prostitute and of using crystal meth. Last night he was quoted as saying, "I've never had a gay relationship with anybody. ... I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife. I don't know if this is election-year politics or if this has to do with the marriage amendment or what it is," Haggard said. This morning, though, the church official who temporarily has assumed Haggard's post said that there has been "some admission of guilt," but not to all of the allegations. (Update: Before I can even get this published, more details emerge. Now Haggard admits buying meth and receiving a massage from the male prostitute, but says nothing more happened. Okay. Right.)
  • Congressional Republicans had demanded that the US publish captured documents from Saddam's regime. The National Intelligence Director objected. The President ordered it done anyway. Concerns were raised about the site. But it wasn't until ABC News ran their story that the government acted on concerns that it said way too much about designing a nuclear weapon.
  • Republican Representative John Sweeney has been accused of abusing his wife, after she made a 911 call claiming he had "grabbed her by the throat and was "knocking her around the house."
Yes, folks, it's the party of values. Keep your scorecards out, because this is only getting better and better.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

They just don't get it.

What the hell is wrong with this President and his merry band of idiots? No matter how many times it is explained to them, they still don't get it. They can continue to accuse Democrats of being soft on terrorists. They can mischaracterize the things that Democrats say. They can continue to distort the truth. But they still won't be right.

Let's go through the charges one at a time, shall we?

"When it comes to trying terrorists, what's the Democrats answer? Just say no."
- George Bush
Trying terrorists? Actually, Democrats completely support trials for accused terrorists. But it was the Bush administration who imprisoned and tortured US citizen Jose Padilla, denying him his rights of due process and protection under the law. And the only reason this man is receiving a trial is because the US Supreme Court ruled that he was entitled to one. Make no mistake - if the man is convicted of plotting terrorist activities in this country, then he should be imprisoned for life in an isolated, remote cell. But he is an American citizen and is entitled to a trial by jury. That is the Democratic position.
"When it came time to vote on whether the NSA should continue to monitor terrorist communications through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, almost 90 percent of the House Democrats voted against it."
- George Bush
No, they didn't. They voted against a bill that would allow the government to spy on its own citizens without a court order. And don't give me the "we need to be able to move immediately, not wait on a court order" crap. Because the FISA legislation allows for the monitoring agency to request a warrant up to 3 days after the contact is intercepted. There is no reason to bypass the FISA courts. In fact, the FISA court approved nearly every warrant requested.
"When it comes to questioning terrorists, what's the Democrat answer? Just say no."
- George Bush
Democrats are not opposed to questioning terrorists. Democrats are opposed to torturing suspects. And we oppose it for two reasons. One, because it is inhumane. It is, in fact, the very lowest of human behavior. For this country to rely on torture as a weapon in a war against terrorists is to become the terrorists ourselves. Two, we oppose it because it does not work. A tortured suspect will say and do anything to make the abuse stop. The intelligence gathered as a result of torture is suspect at best and most often useless.
"However they put it, the Democrats' approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses."
- George Bush
Is he even serious? The accusation here is that the Democrats support the terrorists over our own nation. And this coming from an administration that has given us an Iraq policy that is actually fueling the global war on terror. Democrats do not want the terrorists to win. That is absurd. What Democrats want is an intelligent, comprehensive, effective plan to fight the global war on terror. That means more than just "stay the course" in Iraq, or whatever the administration's phrase-du-jour is.
I understand that there are terrorists in the world who wish harm to me, my family, and my country. I know that. But what is required is more than flippant comments, reckless bravado, and the facade of compentence. I hear over and over that our nation is fighting a war unlike any we have ever faced. True. But, as a Marine Corps veteran, I can't help but think that, had Bush and his closest advisors ever experienced actual combat, they might be handling this current fight quite differently.

The bottom line? The Republicans can say that Democrats propose a different solution to the Iraq problem and a different strategy for fighting the war on terror. They can even say that their plans are superior, though to do so with a straight face would require more denial than I can imagine. But what they cannot say is that Democrats want the terrorists to win.

What Democrats want is to make this nation truly safe. What we do not want is to just pretend to do ot, at the cost of liberty, freedom, and security.

And the lies keep coming.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, just yesterday, went to the Brady Briefing Room and told the nation's Press Corps a lie that all national Republicans continue to offer, despite substantial evidence to the contrary.
"You have heard me talk in recent days about how important it is to get people to focus on substantive issues," said Snow to the White House press. "And again, it's striking that in the war on terror -- winning the war on terror, Democrats have decided they're not going to tell you what their plan is. It's the most important issue; why not tell you what the plan is?"
White House reporters, perhaps tiring of being played for chumps and fed the Democrats-don't-have-a-plan line over and over again, immediately called Snow on it.
"You say that you want to see Democrats offer -- engage in a more substantive way on Iraq," pressed one reporter. "And yet when Democrats do that, their ideas are either rejected out of hand, as was the case with Biden's idea of partitioning Iraq, or in the case of Murtha, he had Republican members of Congress effectively accuse him of being a coward and say that the idea doesn't reflect reality. So when you have substantive proposals, redeploying troops is a substantive proposal, partitioning the country is substantive."
In addition to Democrat Jack Murtha learning that bringing an Iraq plan to the Republicans gets you called a coward -- even if you are a decorated combat Veteran who spent 37 years in the U.S. Marines -- the biggest element of Snow's lie is how he willfully ignores that Democrats put forth a major, comprehensive security initiative in the Senate less than two months ago and had it shot down by the GOP leadership.

On September 13, 2006, the Real Security Act of 2006, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), was killed by an almost straight party-line vote in the Senate. The legislation, all 528 pages of it, offered, as its amendment purpose stated, "to provide real national security, restore United States leadership, and implement tough and smart policies to win the war on terror."

That's 528 pages of detailed description of the Democratic plan to secure our domestic infrastructure, end the war in Iraq and bring our military men and women home to their families.

But, just yesterday, in saying that Democrats have never told anyone what their plan is, Tony Snow lied yet again. This is not subject to partisan interpretation -- it is a lie. See for yourself: You can go here to see the legislation, S.AMDT. 4936.

(Original post by Bob Geiger.)

Speaking of apologies

While the nation is shocked - shocked, I say - at John Kerry botching a joke, this direct and intended comment from the number two Republican in the House goes unnoticed.

House Majority Leader John Boehner: Wolf, I understand that, but let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.

Wolf Blitzer: But he's in charge of the military.

House Majority Leader John Boehner: But the fact is the generals on the ground are in charge and he works closely with them and the President.

Well, at least we finally know who to blame for the mess in Iraq. It's not the President, and it's not the Secretary of Defense.

Nope, it's the Generals. Nothing like throwing the troops under the bus, right?

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Office Distraction

Our new office plant maintenance guy - Topiary Technician? Foliage Engineer? - just came in and watered the plants in our office. Wow. This guy is young, maybe 25, but he is way cute.

Finally, a bush supporter I can get behind.

(Okay, is that way too naughty for a blog that is normally rated PG?)

Changes to the Blog

You may notice the new section on the right side of the screen. I have started labeling blog posts, so people can check out the entries that interest them and avoid any of the rest. Some of the topic labels are scuba, politics, friends, etc. So as I continue my march toward the 500th post, you can now filter in only the topics you want to see.

Be patient, though. New entries will be labeled by topic, but it will take a while to go back and update all of the existing entries.

(Of course, you can still choose to read everything. I am sure that my friends, family, and recent web-buds have endless hours to scroll through my blog and read every word. What else are you going to do with your time? Work? Sleep?)

Apologize? Are you kidding?

The right-wing machine, and the "liberal" media in lock-step, are reporting that John Kerry should apologize to the troops for his joke. You know, the joke about the Bush administration being stupid? Funny, but I didn't hear anyone demanding an apology from Bush for this little gem:

Bush searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction

I'm sure every family of every serviceman and woman killed or wounded in the search for these WMDs must have giggled when they saw this. Funny, funny, funny.

Nightmare on 34th Street

Halloween is a big holiday at our house. Each year, our "Haunted House" gets bigger and bigger.

Here we are, waiting for the trick-or-treaters to come by.

And this is some of what is waiting for the kids. There is something - or someone - hiding behind every tombstone.

And this is what it looks like when you are walking up to the house. The smoke machines were pumping like crazy, and it ended up looking really creepy. It was fantastic! If you look carefully, in the middle of the photo, you can see Brooks sitting on the bench. He was quite the surprise as he snuck up behind the kids as they were getting their candy at the door!

Click here to see more photos on Ric's website. (They should be posted later today.)