Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sophie Is Home!

About 8:30 this morning, found by a neighbor who saw her sitting in the grassy median of the very busy 11-E highway. Sure glad it was a Saturday and traffic was light!

Off to the vet with her now, but she seems to be in good health - dehydrated, hungry and scratched up and shivering.

More details later.

I cannot help but think all the voices added yesterday to ours of "Please, Universe, bring Sophie back!" were most valuable. Thanks to all.

UPDATE: The vet says Sophie, the now most popular dog in Talbott, TN and across the internets, only suffered some scrapes and some heavy stress on her system. She is home on the couch snoring now, having had some deeee-lcious food (just a little until her system gets back to normal) and that is as fine a thing as I hoped for today.

All of you who expressed such concern have my deep appreciation and thanks.

Once I have gathered my wits, I'll put up some pics of the safe-at-home Sophie.

The word for today is -- Woot!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Single Strand of Hope

In a few short hours today my world drove straight down deep into a pocket of hell.

And I am still in this pocket, with perhaps one or two bits of light streaming down into it. I don't even know if I want to explain it or post it but I am likely to be absent for a few days until this situation changes.

Between 3:30 and 6:15, I was out of the house doing a brief job, which I'll call tech support. When I got home, the dog was gone -- which means some unknown person had to come inside, let the dog out onto the back deck apparently, and the dog, dear Sophie she is to one and all, who is terrified of thunderstorms, was put outside during a thunderstorm, and clawed her way through the railings and she was off and gone and she is not here.

It's a weird locked room mystery - nothing in the house missing save dear Sophie. Did some demon tormentor attempt the theft of the dog and she simply escaped on her own? So it appears.

Gone, gone and all my fault because I was not here. I am not seeking pity on this. Its just the way I feel, and for the next few days each ounce of energy I have is going to searching for Sophie.

I'll be back when I've taken hold of Sophie in my chubby hands and until then all I want to do is search. Writing sucks and leaves ashes in my mouth and my view of all humankind is beyond bleak, as some human attempted to hurt the animal who is kind enough to let me share her home.

It's after one a.m. and I won't sleep much tonight. I don't give two diddly-shits how indulgent it is to have a pet who spends most of her time sleeping on the couch or on my bed snoring and watching TV. Causing harm to Sophie is the same as causing harm to any of my human family and my pacifism evaporates. My affinity for dogs has been expressed in these pages before.

Again, none of this post is meant to elicit your pity or sympathy, but I do feel compelled to explain that this blog is interrupted until I've seen the single strand of hope lead to some exit from this particular corner of ugly.

UPDATE: I cannot say how much I deeply appreciate all the readers and bloggers who've been adding us to their own list of hopes, prayers and good vibes. In fact, I just learned some positive info from a neighbor I talked to so your efforts have had some results -- a neighbor saw her running down a street close to our house, Ronald Drive. So now we know she did escape -- no idea how she got out though - and was running fult tilt during the thuderstorm yesterday about 5:30 or 6 p.m..

But now I know a direction.

She is about a 7 to 8 year old pit bull, all white with a brindle spot on top of her head and on her butt, wears a purple harness and I've added a picture of her. I live on the edge of Jefferson and Hamblen county and she was running in the direction of Jefferson.

She is a very people-friendly dog, but very terrified of thunder and rain, so the past 24 hours has made her scared and shy and she is likely hiding out. She will respond kindly to food and treats and here is a full set of the dear pup on The Editor's Flickr page and you can see what a lovable creature she is, somewhat spoiled and deeply loved by the Editor and me and all our family.

If I do get new info I will add it a new post.

And all of your good will is making a difference in finding her, bringing her home and making me think better of humanity in general. I have called many local officials and friends old and new and they all are doing whatever they can to help. Thank you all very, very much.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Manualist Virtuoso Plays One of a Kind Music

I have no woirds to describe the talents and feats of stunning musical achievement this guy has documented via some 37 videos on YouTube. He does jazz, heavy metal, classical, pop, and blues songs with such intense concentration and effort that I am speechless.

According to his page on MySpace, he has been a "manualist" for 37 years, is married, lives in Michigan and is a gun shop owner. To millions of viewers on YouTube, he is simply, Gunecologist.

Selecting just one of his performances to offer here, I had to go with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. WARNING: repeated viewings could lead to insane laughter and imprint his songs in your brain permanently.

A full list of his performances is here. The amount of time, devotion and effort for all that music makes me wonder what his wife thinks. Perhaps his dexterity won her over. Or maybe she stays at her sister's a lot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Smokin', Fishin' and of course, Zombies

Even though the smoking ban in public places in Tennessee does not go into full effect until October 1st, a woman who lit up a cigarette in an East Tennessee eatery found herself threatened with arrest. Though as best as I could discern, the law states an offending smoker is to be fined only.

WATE-TV filed a report on the story out of Newport. Two officers needed to arrest her? Perhaps she should be happy they didn't call out a SWAT team.


On a competing Knox TV station, WBIR, the story they felt compelled to tell was about a group of gals who fish for catfish with their bare hands. Thre's even a DVD for it, called "Girls Gone Grabblin'". You have to admire (well, I do anyway) the ad copy, which says: "
Be one of the first to watch & be amazed as 35 Southern Women bring you the thrill of catching catfish weighing up to 44lbs. with their hands and wrestling them to the bank."

Everyone say Yee-haw! A person would have to wrestle me to the ground if they ever expected me to eat catfish, no matter who catches it. Well, maybe Scarlett Johansson could, as long as she's willing to wrestle me to the ground first


Speaking of news and women (and fishin'), it was the mighty newswoman, known as Newscoma, who clued me in last week to a zombie movie I had no knowledge of, a Lucio Fulci movie which boasts a scene of a zombie attacking a shark. Bets are the shark fired his agent shortly after this was made.


Meanwhile, from up north, Ms. McGee points out that a manical shambling half-body zombie is available for purchase. There is a video on the website.

On The Senate's Debate About Iraq and War

As I write this, the U.S. Senate is voting on whether or not they will vote on the Levin-Reed amendment, which demands overall changes to the way war is waged in Iraq. With 60 yes votes needed in order to proceed, it fell short, with 52 votes.

After watching much of the debates, here are some thoughts I'd like to share.

There are sound reasons for the Senate in Washington to debate the policies and issues regarding not only the war in Iraq but also the 'so-called' Global War on Terror. While I heard some senators, such as John McCain, Mitch McConnell and others complain the debate is a 'waste of time' or 'usurping the president's authority', where else but in a vote on the funding mechanisms of the war should elected officials publicly debate the policies involved? It was with wisdom the founders of the nation gave different branches of government different responsibilities when it comes to waging war and creating policy in general.

The majority of the nation is debating the war policies and has been for many many months. The reason the GOP lost their majority in Congress is because voters wanted a new approach, new debate, new consideration of how best to succeed. It was a clear signal that the public demands challenges to the President's policies, even if it is a certainty that the U.S. Senate cannot alter the course of the Bush/Cheney war policy.

Serious debate on our policies is an indication of the strength of the nation, not a sign of weakness, Weakness is to abandon legislative oversight and debate. There were many veterans groups in Washington yesterday to call for a 'staying of the course' and many were there to challenge such a plan and call for change.

The elected officials in Iraq are the ones who need to exert the maximum effort to control their own country, to be responsible for securing safety and charting the course for their own future. The U.S. attention needs to be focused on terror threats that have been increasing their capabilities.

I watched many hours of the debate in the Senate last night and this morning, and did not find it a stunt or a manufactured drama. It was one of the few times I heard serious debate about how best to find success, as the current course has not brought success. I heard some of the logic (or lack of it) from members of both sides of the Senate on what has happened and what should or could happen. Media coverage mocking the discussions misses the point of the debate entirely.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana spoke most forcefully last night on the fact that the current policy has abandoned an earnest effort to capture or kill bin Laden and his top leaders. She also rebuked the senior senator from Tennessee in her speech. You can hear and see her speech via this link.

She also introduced legislation as well, making the destruction of al-Qaeda our top priority:

Introduced as an amendment to H.R. 1585, the Defense Authorization Bill, the proposal states that "it shall be the policy of the United States Government that the foremost objective of the United States in the Global War on Terrorism is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other leaders of al Qaeda, and to dismantle the al Qaeda network."

The Landrieu plan repositions U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to root out and combat al Qaeda forces, authorizes $3.6 billion for counter-terror programs in the region and reestablishes Alec Station, the CIA mission to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.

The mission had been aborted last year after the Bush Administration determined that bin Laden no longer posed a threat to the United States. An intelligence report due out today, however, is expected to describe al Qaeda's strength as having returned to pre-9/11 levels.

"Our brave soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen, answered the duty call of 9/11," Sen. Landrieu said. "But our nation's focus has been misdirected, allowing al Qaeda to flourish while the White House pursues a flawed strategy in Iraq. Nearly six years after orchestrating the deaths of 2,997 people, Osama bin Laden remains at large, rebuilding his network to strike again. Holding him and the other perpetrators of that horrible day to account can be no less than our foremost priority. We must redouble our efforts to deliver justice where it is due, root out evil where it hides and destroy al Qaeda's capacity to act out its desire to destroy America."

Consistent with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, the Landrieu proposal boosts support for Afghan Security Forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan and for increased security cooperation inside Pakistan. It also adds funding for translators and translation technologies, drug interdiction and counter-drug activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and operations to secure the Pakistani and Iranian borders.

As the U.S. draws down combat forces in Iraq, the Landrieu amendment would limit the mission of remaining combat troops to protecting U.S. and Coalition personnel and infrastructure; training, equipping and providing logistical support for the Iraqi Security Forces; and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Combat resources could then be repositioned as needed to support the bolstered mission of Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Under the Landrieu plan, every unit deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan would be required to meet the baseline C-1 readiness standard. Units would not be permitted to deploy without the proper training and full complement of equipment required for their specific mission.

"Where al Qaeda and other terrorist groups exist in Iraq, this plan would continue to empower our forces to strike, and strike hard," Sen. Landrieu said. "But a fish rots from the head, and we've spent too much time chasing the tail. We must make sure our skilled men and women in combat have the clear mission and full resources they need to focus their fight at the top, where it belongs."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Strategy of Confusion

There are as many confusing and conflicting opinions about the war in Iraq and the 'war on terror' as there are stars in the sky. The dim light of these distant objects are somehow the basis of mystical interpretations, indicating signs and wonders of what may be or may not be. I'm surprised we aren't getting cable news updates from outside the cave of the Oracle of Delphi.

Within the last week we have been told that Al Qaeda is weaker, Al Qaeda is stronger, Al Qaeda is coming, Al Qaeda is here, and that we are fighting them in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them here except, somehow, maybe, they’ve found there way to our shores. Add to this Homeland Security Chief Chertoff’s “gut feeling” that we will be attacked even though there is no credible evidence. (via TPM)

Then today comes another assessment, which has been three-years in the making, that America is facing a persistent threat, but it's worse in Europe.

Maybe these claims and warnings are all just Weapons of Mass Confusion, driven by the idea that the nation's leaders should never be specific about success or failure in order to confuse The Enemy. But my 'gut feeling' is that the leadership is some seriously sad disarray.

For sheer obscenity, however, nothing tops this company which is selling fake boobs to support the troops.

We have no need of fake boobs, there is enough boobishness already.

UPDATE: Also see this post from R. Neal. I saw the 'press briefing' he mentioned and it was hardly informative but was quite confusing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

North Carolina Scandals Outshine Tennessee

It is not just the Tennessee legislature which has been troubled with ethics violations and bad behavior from elected officials. I think one North Carolina official may have just earned the prize for Worst Legislator of the Year.

While the Tennessee Waltz sting, uncovering bribery, saw two more legislators, Crutchfield and Bowers, enter guilty pleas, the hallways of the state capitol in North Carolina were abuzz with some mighty strange and deranged behavior from a two-term GOP state representative, David Almond.

He resigned late last week in the wake of allegations from a female staffer who says Almond exposed himself to her and chased her about the office uttering some pretty vile stuff. Even more ugly is the fact that Almond was vice-chair on a state committee for children, youth and families.

At least he resigned pretty much immediately, avoiding a legislative investigation. And though Crutchfield and Bowers have been charged with accepting a few thousand dollars in bribe money, the scandals (yes, plural) in the N.C. legislature involve bribes of half a million dollars, and the bad news just keeps arriving.

So I guess the good news is, some states have it worse than Tennessee. In Alaska, for another example, elected officials now have to undergo 'ethics training.' Tennessee's efforts to create an 'ethical environment', sadly, are not faring well either.

I'm A Lefty?

I suppose it's official now -- I'm a 'left-leaner' in the political landscape. At least Michael thinks so, and adds that I'm on his regular blog-reading list, and I am much appreciative of the mention.

I have never been a member of any of the political party systems active in America today, and in fact, the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election, I voted for John Anderson. (Yeah, who??) I think I still have a button from his campaign. It wasn't because I agreed with much of his very conservative GOP history, it was more of a vote against the other two candidates.

Over the years, I have rather sadly learned that there is much truth to the fact that the majority of voters cast votes based on who they are against rather than who they are for. These days, I sometimes vote for a Democrat candidate and sometimes a GOP candidate. I try and learn about who the candidate is, what they propose or claim they might do if elected and so my votes seldom if ever hew to a single party.

What does trouble me is that the last decade or so has seen the worth of an Independent voter (and thinker) has been marginalized as merely fodder for one party or the other. Folks seem to perceive their vote and their voice as less than a minor influence.

Here in Hamblen County, we have a Democrat state representative, John Litz, and a GOP state senator, Steve Southerland. If you counted monetary efforts, however, the GOP rules. As for news sources - a single company owns the press and radio - which means a singular viewpoint is the only offering. So be it. If the residents wanted to change it, they would have to battle for it, and they seem not interested in doing so.

Briefly, from the summer of 2001 to the summer of 2005, I hosted a daily live talk-radio show in Hamblen County, until that station was sold (and is now part of the single-owner world). At times I know I came across as a Liberal, sometimes as a Conservative. But I know what ultimately led to the demise of the show was simply that I offered a free and open forum for discussion. Such a forum was viewed as a dangerous thing. Most listeners responded to the show as some sort of Rorschach ink-blot: what they perceived had more to do with them than with what was aired on my show.

Readers here know my penchant for writing endlessly about movies, so that's gotta make me a Liberal Lefty. I even own DVDs with subtitles. so I may even be some kinda Socialist.

Later this month, this blog will start it's third year of existence. And in that time, I expected to see many other blogs from across the counties of the 1st District appear. That really hasn't happened. I know there are some in this county who have MySpace pages, but a daily blog? I see none. And I have only seen a handful appear in any of the other counties. Yet, from Knoxville/Chattanooga and to the west, they are constantly appearing and they are most vocal. The optimist in me thinks the lack of eastern blogs is is more indicative of a lack of internet access than any other cause. The pessimist says folks here in ET play it very close to the vest and seldom speak out publicly, due to lack of ever doing much of it.

For a variety of reasons, I have always held that everyone is entitled to my opinion. And God bless the internets for allowing me to write and publish on a worldwide basis without the need for corporate support or advertising dollars. Yeah, I do this for free. (which may make me more of an idiot than a lefty or a conservative).

As I say in my profile for this blog, you have to come back more than once to read here to learn what I'm about. There are some political thoughts I have been most adamant about, however, and these are just some of them:

-- The current administration in the Oval Office has made one hell of a mess of domestic and foreign issues. For them, the ends justify all means. I often doubt if the nation can resolve the mess in less than a decade.

-- Lobbyists and business and wealth are weighted with greater importance than the individual, and the end result of that is an ever-decreasing sense of individual worth. That could cripple this nation in endless ways and make a mockery of the sacrifices of many.

-- The object of three branches of the federal government are meant to challenge each other, in hopes that the better policy prevails. Phrases like "unitary executive" are counter to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

-- Rabid partisanship is doing more harm to the nation than any other force, deflecting criticism as anti-American is a sign of tremendous and debilitating weakness.

I read blogs to learn about many things other than politics and will write here on many topics other than politics. My goals here have been to improve my own writing skills, to share other sites which exhibit the same, and to sometimes challenge myself and you, dear reader. Often I enjoy offering an idea or a link that just provides amusement and entertainment. It's a big ol' internet and it grows in size every day.

Your views may differ from mine and you are free to express such in the comments here, as long as you don't get nasty just to get nasty. Pointless bullying is and always has been a game of children who are victims of self-loathing.

OK, time to get off this particular topic. as their are some other topics to provide as the day progresses.

Thanks for reading and having a Cup of Joe.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Outsourcing the CIA

"In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed -- and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn't want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.

Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I'm told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) -- the heart, brains and soul of the CIA -- has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon." (Via the Washington Post)

The above story was penned by writer R.J. Hillhouse, who also writes her own blog, The Spy Who Billed Me. She also happens to have a new novel out, titled "Outsourcing", a fictional thriller about the privatization of the intelligence community, and whose sales will likely benefit from her article in the Washington Post.

Her site includes this description of herself:

"Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan.