23 September 2007

Autumn equinox

It's the autumnal equinox, one of my favorite days each year. Day and night hours equal each other. And why does this thrill me? Because it means now the days get shorter and shorter, moving toward the dark of winter. I love the quiet drama of it. And I love autumn more than any other season.

Normally, I'm at work on this day, far too busy to pay attention to the world outside my office. But this year, I'm not working. I have plenty of time on my hands. So for the first time ever, I spent the fall equinox day by enjoying what I usually only wish I had time for.

For northern California, this one is an auspicious equinox. The day started with rain, a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence in September. Normally it's around 94 degrees, humidity is about 10 percent, the sky is like featureless, boiled milk and your Wren is desperately looking for signs of fall because oh my god, it's the end of September and it just can't still be this totally outrageously hot, can it? Can it?

It can. But this year, I woke up at 6 a.m. to rain. Cool, refreshing rain.

I had planned to go for a walk this morning, which requires a 15-minute drive down mountain to Placerville, where the El Dorado Trailhead at Mosquito Road begins. I walk two to four miles each day along the trail. But this morning it was raining.

Any of you who've been reading this blog very long know that Wren loves rain. Wren loves cool weather. Wren lives for glowing, snapping fires in the woodstove and the smell of rain, or even snow, streaming in through cracked windows.

Wren also especially loves listening to the rain patter on the paths and leaves around the house, and loves to hear it drum low on the roof while sitting inside in a warm robe and slippers, her hands wrapped around a nice, hot cup of coffee. I always feel like I'm getting away with something, and perhaps right now, I am. With no job, I'm not rushing around trying to get ready for work, too busy to pay attention to such things as the sound of rain on the sour gum leaves, which are just starting to turn scarlet 'round the edges.

No, my mornings are no longer stressful. There I was at 6:10, breathing in the scent of fresh-brewed coffee while the cat lapped his morning faucet water in the bathroom, the dog gobbled down his bowl of chow and all around, the rain fell, the sun rose and the mists floated low along the earth.

This morning I got away with living slowly.

By mid-morning the rain had stopped, though the sky remained gray and the air cool. By early afternoon, I was ready to get out and take the walk I'd missed in the early morning. So I pulled on Mr. Wren's rain-jacket (I don't have one of my own—I'll have to get one), slung the camera around my neck, grabbed $5 in quarters from the Egg Money jar so I could treat myself to a coffee in town on my way back, and like Bilbo Baggins, trotted off in search of Adventure.

What I've discovered, at least on the trail, is that if I walk at a decent pace for a half an hour, I cover about a mile and a half. I know, I'm still pretty slow. But I'm not trying to break records – only to just be out there, breathing the fresh air, moving my body, using my muscles, feeling good. I was delighted to discover just the other night that beneath the soft flabbiness that comes from years of sitting behind a desk exercising only my brain, there are now actually hard muscles in my thighs! Wow!

So I thought OK, I'll walk for a half hour or so, take some pictures of My Little Town, and then turn around and walk home, where more coffee waited for my return.

Camino, California is a village of about 3,000 souls. It nestles into the Sierras right at the snowline, just about 3,100 feet above sea level. If you keep heading east from here, you start doing some serious climbing, reaching Echo Summit on Highway 50 at about 7,400 feet. Then you head back down a thousand feet or so into the Tahoe basin.

Local fruit growers gave the whole area around Camino the marketing name "Apple Hill" back in the early 1960s, when they were trying desperately to recover from pear blight that had decimated the local pear orchards. They replaced them with apples, peaches and cherries, talked the womenfolk into baking apple pies for visitors and started what would become a fall tradition of visiting here for thousands of people all over California.

The draw? Fall color (give us another month), locally grown apples, picturesque old barns and old-fashioned crates full of fruit, homemade apple pies, strudels, and ciders, chilled noses and a truly beautiful, old-time American countryside. People drive hundreds of miles just to wander the back roads here, visiting the farms, fruit stands, crafters and bakeries, and later in the season, the Christmas tree farms.

In the last decade or so, this area has also become popular or vineyards and wineries, too. It's like the Napa Valley used to be before it turned into big business and a huge, bustling tourist trap.

Camino has some old neighborhoods clustered on either side of the main road. I live in one of them. A walk of barely a quarter mile puts me right downtown. There's not much there – just the Camino Food Center, a realty, the post office, a rather nice restaurant called The Forester that serves fresh game along with the usual steaks and pasta, the Camino Coffee House, the Camino Veterinary Clinic and the Pine Cone CafĂ©. Blink and you'll miss it.

I walked through town and kept going, turning right at the coffee house, which was once where the cable trolley reversed direction on a manual turntable. The trolley transported logs from the mountains down into town, where the lumber mill waited to turn them into boards and sawdust.

Camino grew up around the Blue Diamond Lumber Mill here, now Sierra Pacific. The mill still runs day and night, and it's common to see semi-trucks loaded down with freshly cut trees headed for the mill, then leaving it later loaded with pallets of shrinkwrapped two-by-fours. A lot of the houses in the older parts of town were originally built as housing for mill workers – they're barely more than cottages.

The cable trolley turntable is gone now – you'd never know it was there.

The walk felt fine. I was enjoying the day. It hadn't started raining again, and it was quiet. While there was a little traffic on road, it wasn't too bad. It's early in the Apple Hill season, yet. In a few weeks, traffic will be bumper-to-bumper everywhere in this little valley.

The main problem with walking or riding a bike around here is that there are no shoulders to the roads, which are very narrow two-laners, and twisty to boot. That's why I drive five miles down mountain to Placerville each morning to walk – there isn't enough space on the Camino roads for me and the logging trucks, and they're a lot bigger than I am.

Anyway, I walked as far as Rainbow Orchards, stopped in to smell the fruit and the scent of baking pies in the old barn, and mingle a little with the small crowd of tourists, all of them in line for that pie. The line was too long to wait through for a cup of coffee, so I started back. I'd covered my mile and a half.

After nearly getting creamed by a couple of SUVs, I climbed up off the road and walked along a graveled path bordering a new vineyard, which climbed steeply up a hillside. It's just early enough in the autumn that the new grapevines haven't figured out yet that they're supposed to turn color and drop their leaves, but they will soon.

A little further along I came to Primus Vineyards, which I'd passed on the way out. This time I decided to stop, needing the loo and, since their tasting room was open, figuring I'd take a little liquid rejuvenation. Primus's vines are more mature and, as I discovered as I got closer, I could see they were heavy with clusters of dark, purple wine grapes. The vineyard owners tend and harvest the fruit by hand, producing a small, exclusive variety of high quality wines.

While sweating lightly under Mr. Wren's rain-jacket and glad for an excuse to stop walking for a while, I tasted this season's offering at Primus: a nice blended red called "Duo I"; the '05 Zinfandel, which was delicious and fruity; the '06 Zin right from the barrel, which was much lighter tasting, almost buttery. Then there were two Syrahs, an '04 and an '05. I liked the '04 better myself, but then I love the peppery, spicy flavor of the local syrahs and, while I don't have a truly educated palate, the '04 was just ... nicer. Then came a lovely dry merlot, and finally, a sweet, fruity port that tasted just like autumn.

By the time I finished tasting all those delicious wines, I was yucking it up with Primus's sales manager and events coordinator Theresa, who was pouring them for me. We couldn't have been more different – there she was, looking elegant and put together in black with a lovely scarf to accent; and there was me, in jeans, a rain-jacket several sizes too large and an all-weather fedora, red-faced from walking. She didn't miss a beat, and now I know what I want Mr. Wren to get me for my birthday.

If you're interested in learning more about Camino's Primus Vineyards, go visit www.PrimusVineyards.com and tell them Camino blogger Blue Wren sent you.

The rest of the walk went rather easily, as I was grinning like a fool and quite well fortified. So I wouldn't have to risk my life walking along the narrow road anymore, which was getting busier as the afternoon wore on, I took a shortcut through the old neighborhoods toward the middle of town. I love the old houses. Almost all of them are small, cottagey and unpretentious, leftovers from another era. Some are kept up nicely, some aren't, but they all have their appeal.

I came around a corner, meandering now as I was looking for a way to get a photo of the valley below the houses without having to trespass in someone's back yard, when a young man said, "Can I help you, ma'am?" I turned, and there was an El Dorado County Sheriff's deputy, dressed all in swat team black.

I must have looked a little surprised, because a moment later two more deputies joined him, also dressed like ninjas.

"Do you live here?" he asked, indicating a house a few doors up from the one I'd been wandering past.

"No," I said. "I live here in town, but I'm just out walking and taking photos. Um..." the journalist in me took over. I couldn't help it. "What's up, guys?"

"Oh, nothing to worry about," he smiled. He's dressed like a commando but there's nothing to worry about. Riiiight. "We were answering a 911 call that came from this address, but there's no one here."

Dang. All dressed up and nowhere to go. I know just how they felt.

"It's been quite a while since the call," another deputy said. They started walking along with me, back toward their cars.

"Did you take a picture of us?" the first guy asked.

"Nope," I grinned. "You want me to?"

"Uh, not really," he laughed. I left them climbing into their cars and walked the rest the of the way home.

And now, according to my handy-dandy pedometer: I took 9,208 steps, walked 3.92 miles, and burned 509.6 calories. I figure I drank the calories back while I was tasting the wine, but that's OK. I made a little more room for dinner, my muscles got a nice workout, and I almost got to be in the middle of manly swat team action with a camera. Not bad for an afternoon's wander, eh?

19 September 2007

Orcs vs. Pollyannas

More betrayals of America by Congress today. I understand that august body is down to an whopping 11 percent approval rating, which isn’t a surprise given the greed and nastiness of the Republicans and the equally greedy but spineless hand-flapping of the Democrats.

And what did they rub our noses in today, you ask?

First, the Republicans filibustered legislation that would have returned habeas corpus to the American justice system, thus scotch-taping some of the shredded Constitution back together. In case you don’t remember, habeas corpus is the right of any accused person to a fair trial, as spelled out in the Magna Carta and adhered to by nearly all western democracies. Except ... us. In November of last year, Congress voted to excise that sticky little ... irritant ... from the law of the land. It made it too hard, they argued, for the president to detain people indefinitely, a necessity in these scary days of terror attacks.

Honestly. I remember terror attacks both here and in Europe for years before Sept. 11, and they never made me feel that we needed to exclude the right to a fair trial in order to stop them. Humans that we are, there’s always a chance that people can be arrested by mistake, or on false, trumped up charges.

Sure, my Pollyanna side doesn’t want to believe that happens. But holy hell, after nearly seven years of Bush/Cheney, my Pollyanna side now wears her dresses cut to here, "forgets" her underwear and smokes like a chimney. I no longer believe in inherent good.

The other thing that happened when Congress was in session today was that a noble piece of legislation by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, freshman from W. Va., which mandated that soldiers be given the same amount of “dwell time” at home as they spend deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, was ignored in favor of legislation introduced at the last moment by Republican Sen. John Warner, also of W. Va., which was in every way the same as Webb’s legislation except that instead of making the legislation into law, it merely expressed the Congresses’ opinion about how the soldiers should get to stay home for as long as they had to be deployed.

Wow. I think I just wrote the longest sentence I’ve ever written yet.

Ahem. Anyway, it means our soldiers will still serve multiple, 15-month deployments to the war zone with maybe 6 months of rest between tours, if they're lucky. Now, convince me that the Republicans aren’t evil, hypocritical orcs. Go ahead, try. I won’t believe you. Even if your rank-and-file, everyday Republican isn’t actually an orc, he or she supports the orc-leaders wholeheartedly and with mindless gusto. And all their happy crappy about supporting the troops is just that, because you don’t support the successful mission of your soldiers by sending them repeatedly into horror, where they must face the prospect of death or maiming, without so much as a decent rest. And particularly in this situation, when the best reason we can come up with for them to risk their lives is that we need to “fight the enemy there so we won’t have to fight him here.”

Uh-huh. Our soldiers can fight them “over there” with courage and integrity, but that’s not going to stop terrorists from attacking America on American soil if they decide to. Why? You haven’t been paying attention? Because terrorism cannot be fought by conventional military means. It can only be stopped through diplomacy that attempts to address the underlying issues causing the acts of terror, and careful, plodding, preventive, investigative police work.

Anyway. I’m ranting again, huh. I’m starting to wonder why I don’t just give it up. Walk away. Join the majority of my American brothers and sisters and just live for American Idol and low, low prices at Wally World. Be numb. Believe everything I’m told by the voices coming from my TV set. Eat my dinner, every bite of which is laden with hidden sugar, corn syrup and preservatives that are making me fatter by the day and diabetic to boot, hardening my arteries and clogging my veins with cholesterol. Someone has to pay those insurance premiums, though, and what would the drug companies do without corn syrup? And once I’m sick and miserable and probably dying, my medical insurance provider can drop me as a bad risk, laughing all the way to the bank with his big oil and big pharma buddies.

Whooooa Wren. Stop already.

Go take a walk.

P.S.: Wasn't Pollyanna a cute little dickens?

16 September 2007

Pug bowling

I nearly wet my pants.

WMD? Heheh, just joshin'.

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

--Alan Greenspan in his just-released book,
The Age of Turbulence

You don’t say.

12 September 2007

10 September 2007

Alternate universe

Donald Rumsfeld, in yet another delightfully dark, Dr. Strangelovian turn, has called Afghanistan a “big success.”

The ex-Secretary of Defense was being interviewed for the October issue of GQ magazine.

"In Afghanistan, 28 million people are free. They have their own president, they have their own parliament. Improved a lot on the streets," Rumsfeld says.

While "that's been a big success," he said, the Baghdad regime "has not been able to ... create an environment hospitable to whatever one wants to call their evolving way of life, a democracy or a representative system, or a freer system. And it's going to take some time and some effort."

So I guess we can classify Afghanistan a “big success” in spite of the fact that the country’s production and export of opium has grown to unprecedented levels since its liberation from Taleban rule; in spite of the fact that suicide bombings are increasing exponentially; in spite of the fact that the Taleban itself is undergoing a successful resurgence there; that poor President Hamad Karzai presides over a government so shaky and underfunded that it could rattle to pieces just about any time and that Afghan warlords pretty much run the place outside of Kabul. Wow.

Rumsfeld’s “big success” seemingly includes the fact that the architect of 9/11 is still holed up somewhere in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden must have found the fountain of youth under all those tons of rock, because in the video he released just a few days ago, he was looking fine and healthy, his graying beard jet black again, his skin glowing with baleful exhuberance as he threatened more fire and brimstone.

And not only that. Why, if things aren’t quite as hunky-dory as we’d like them to be, don’t forget that the Department of Defense and the U.S. military are not responsible for any failures in Iraq or in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said.

"In a very real sense, the American military cannot lose a battle, they cannot lose a war," he tells the magazine. "On the other hand, they can't win the struggle themselves. It requires diplomacy, it requires economic assistance, it requires a range of things that are well beyond the purview of the Department of Defense."

Zat so, sir? Um ... knowing that as you do ... why ... did we launch a war against Iraq?

Yet that “range of things” needed to “win the struggle” is not beyond the purview of America, Mr. Rumsfeld, sir. After all, the American people were told that we would be handling the diplomacy and much of the economic assistance Afghanistan and Iraq would need after we created more rubble in their countries. In Iraq, their oil would pay most of the bill. That didn’t really pan out. So far, we’ve spent some $450 billion in American treasure on the Iraq war alone. And once Gen. Petraeus tells us later today what a bang-up big success the “surge” has been, and Congress rolls onto its back and wee-wees all over itself with joy, Commander Codpiece is planning to tell them that he wants $50 billion more.

And they’ll give it to him.

Do you ever get the feeling that the whole world has somehow shifted into some Star-Trekian alternate universe? I keep looking for the Evil Cap’n Kirk to stick his manic head around the corner and flibble his tongue at me. Honestly.

06 September 2007

Only sadness ...

A reader sent me an e-mail regarding my post, “On Bush’s bloody hands ...” below.

“I just came across your blog tonight and read what you had to say. My heart aches for you as you seem to be filled with so much hate and bitterness. I will pray for you as I pray for the families of the fallen. My son proudly serves in the Navy and is currently deployed to Iraq.”

I’ve left the writer’s name out as she clearly didn’t wish to be identified. But I’ve decided to respond publicly.

Really, I'm not full of hate or bitterness, though this president and the war in Iraq, and the threat of another war in Iran surely combine to make me feel both for the first time in my life.

As I wrote the post, though, I was feeling only sadness and anger for the mostly very young Americans who've lost their lives in Iraq, 83 in August alone.

I wrote the post to recognize that the soldiers who died in Iraq last month have real names and had real lives, like the more than 3,500 others who died before them. I wanted to honor them. I wanted to try to make them real for my readers rather than simply, angrily rattle off more disembodied numbers.

We can’t cry for numbers. We can only cry for people.

I'm also very sad for the many thousands of soldiers, those brave men and women, who've come home from Iraq alive but missing limbs. And I’m sad for those who are now blind or perhaps brain damaged, or who are suffering post traumatic stress disorder, all of this suffering because of our president's madness in attacking and occupying another country. Their wounds didn’t disappear with their discharge from military service. Most of them are under 35 years old, and they’ll continue to face physical disability and mental pain, financial disaster, poverty and emotional distress for the rest of their lives.

Why were they asked to make this sacrifice? What was the compelling reason? Honestly – I’d like to know. I really would. I’m sure they would, too.

Finally, I'm terribly sad for the Iraqi people. They’ve borne the brunt of America's shock and rage over being attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The 19 young, fanantical terrorists who hijacked those jetliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania cornfield were nearly all Saudis. Yet Saudi Arabia is a country America still considers a friend. In fact, President Bush literally holds hands with Saudi leaders when they visit.

Gentle reader, not one of those Sept. 11 jihadists was from Iraq. And yet, more than a million Iraqi moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, grandparents, kids and grandkids have suffered violent deaths as a result of George W. Bush’s terrible war, which was built on the hot air of lies, hubris, greed, convenience and vanity.

Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11, nor did Saddam Hussein. Certainly, the innocent Iraqi civilians who’ve died violently since America launched its war had nothing to do with it either.

Just for the record, none of the other reasons we’ve been given for attacking Iraq have proved true, either. There were no WMD; Saddam was no threat to America. And truly, democracy cannot be advocated at gunpoint.

I'm a Cold War Air Force veteran and I worked closely as a civilian with the U.S. Army in Germany. I'm an American patriot, too, but I'm not religious and I don't pray. I admire your son for his courage and integrity in choosing to serve his country as a sailor in the U.S. Navy. You and he both have reason to be proud – taking that oath is something only a small percentage of Americans are willing to do for their country. Now I can only hope that he's able to come home from Iraq to you soon. I hope he arrives on your doorstep safe and sound, in spite of Bush’s bloody plans for him and his fellow service members.

And I hope that if there IS a god, he'll open the eyes of good people like you and let you see the horror, the utter disaster and catastrophe this president and his enablers have caused for America, for Iraq, and for the world. Working together, perhaps we can stop them before more innocents die for no good reason.

Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma

Luciano Pavarotti died as dawn broke this morning at his home in Modena, in northern Italy. Pavarotti fought a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old. One of the greatest tenors the world has ever known, for 40 years his magnificent voice and expressive, beautiful face have moved the world to joy and tears.

RIP, Maestro.

Nessun Dorma

No one's sleeping! No one's sleeping!
This evening, icy princess
perhaps in your cold chambers,
watch all the bright stars
that tremble both with loving
and with desire
I keep my secret locked inside.
No one shall ever know my name!
No, no! When our two mouths
touch, she'll learn it,
when the morning light shines forth!
And then my kisses will dissolve
her silence and she will be mine!
May this night end! May all the stars set!
And may all the stars set!
When dawn breaks, I shall win!

04 September 2007

On Bush's bloody hands ...

In August, the lives of these 83 brave and honorable volunteer American soldiers were violently wasted by their dishonorable Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, in the war he started in Iraq. That war was launched in March 2003 and continues, day by bloody day, indefinitely.

As of the end of August, an estimate of some 1,028,907 Iraqis had also died due to the U.S. invasion of their country. Unlike the American victims of the war, their names, ages and hometowns are not available for contemplation.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, 30-year-old Specialist 1st Class Travis S. Bachman died in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack in Basra. He was from Garden City, Kansas.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, Lance Corporal Cristian Vasquez died in Al Anbar Province by hostile fire. He was 20 years old and hailed from Coalinga, Calif. Staff Sergeant Fernando Santos, 29, of San Antonio, Texas died in the eastern part of Baghdad in an IED attack. Specialist Cristian Rojas-Gallego, 24, of Loganville, GA and Specialist Eric D. Salinas, 25, of Houston, Texas, also died in the same attack. Master Sergent Julian Ingles Rios, 52, of Anasco, Puerto Rico, died during a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack in western Baghdad.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, Sergeant Dustin S. Wakeman, 25, of Fort Worth, Texas, died in Hawr Rajab – Baghdad in an IED attack. So did Corporal Jason K. Lafleur, 28, of Ignacio, Colo. and Private 1st Class Jaron D. Holliday, 21, of Tulsa, Okl. Specialist Braden J. Long, 19, of Sherman, Texas, died in western Baghdad in an RPG attack, and Private 1st Class Matthew M. Murchison died by IED attack in Baghdad. Murchison was 21 and hailed from Independence, Mo.

On Sunday, Aug. 5, Private Jeremy S. Bohannon, 18, of Bon Aqua, TN and Specialist Justin R. Blackwell, 27, of Paris, TN, were killed in Baghdad by indirect fire. Specialist Charles E. Leonard Jr. died in an RPG attack in Baghdad (eastern part). Leonard was 29 years old. He was from Monroe, LA.

On Monday, Aug. 6, Specialist Christopher T. Neiberger, 22, of Gainsville, Fla. died in an IED attack in Baghdad, Staff Sergeant Jacob M. Thompson, 26, of North Mankato, Minn., Sergeant Nicholas A. Gummersall, 23, of Chubbuck, Idaho, Corporal Juan M. Alcantara, 22, of New York and Specialist Kareem R. Khan, 20, of Manahawkin, NJ, all died in Ba'qubah – Diyala in an IED attack.

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, Sergeant Jon E. Bonnell Jr. died under hostile fire in Al Anbar Province. Bonnell was 22, from Fort Dodge, Iowa.

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, Specialist Donald M. Young died in west Baghdad in an IED attack. Young was very young, just 19, from Helena, Mon.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, Sergeant Michael E. Tayaotao, 27, of Sunnyvale, Calif., died in Al Anbar Province under hostile fire.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, Staff Sergeant William D. Scates, Sergeant Scott L. Kirkpatrick, Sergeant Andrew W. Lancaster, and Specialist Justin O. Penrod all died in Al Jabour – Baghdad in an IED attack. Private 1st Class William L. Edwards died in Baghdad when a sniper shot him. Scates was 31, from Oklahoma City, Ok.; Kilpatrick was 26, of Reston, VA; Lancaster was 23. He was from Stockton, Ill., and Penrod was 24, of Mahomet, Ill.. Edwards was 23, from Houston, Texas.

On Monday, Aug. 13, Staff Sergeant Eric D. Cottrell, 39, of Pittsview, Alaska, Private 1st Class Juan M. Lopez Jr., 23, of San Antonio, Texas and Private 1st Class Paulomarko U. Pacificador, 24, of Shirley, NY all died in Qayyarah – Ninewah in an IED attack. Specialist Alun R. Howells, 20, of Parlin, Colo. died in Baghdad under hostile fire.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Private 1st Class Shawn D. Hensel, 20, of Logansport, Ind. died in western Baghdad by hostile small arms fire. The same day, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Johnson, 31, of Michigan, Chief Warrant Officer Jackie L. McFarlane Jr, 30, of Virginia Beach, VA, Staff Sergeant Sean P. Fisher, 29, of Santee, Calif., Staff Sergeant Stanley B. Reynolds, 37, of Rock, W. Va., and Specialist Steven R. Jewell, 26, of Bridgeton, NC all died in a helicopter crash in the vicinity of Al Taqaddum Air Base in Anbar Province. Authorities claim that the crash was not caused by enemy action.

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, Staff Sergeant Robert R. Pirelli, 29, from Franklin, Mass., died in Diyala Province by small arms fire. Meanwhile, two female soldiers, Sergeant Princess C. Samuels, of Mitchelville, Md. and Specialist Zandra T. Walker, 28, of Greenville, SC, died in Taji – Baghdad by hostile, indirect fire.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, Corporal Willard M. Powell was hit by small arms fire in Tarmiya and died in Balad – Baghdad. Cpl. Powell was from Evansville, Ind. He was 21.

On Friday, Aug. 17, 1st Lieutenant Jonathan W. Edds died in eastern Baghdad during an IED attack and small arms fire by insurgents who attacked his vehicle. Edds was 24, from White Pigeon, Mich.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, Staff Sergeant Sandy R. Britt and Private 1st Class Donovan D. Witham both died in IED attacks. Britt, 30, of Apopka, Fla., died near Baghdad when the bomb exploded near his unit. Witham, who was 21, from Malvern, Ark., died west of Baghdad when the IED detonated near his vehicle.

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, Private 1st Class Edgar E. Cardenas, 34, of Lilburn, Ga. died in Baghdad at Abu Ghraib) in an IED attack. Private 1st Class Omar E. Torres, 20, of Chicago, Ill., also died from an IED attack, but he was west of Baghdad at the time. Also on Aug. 22, the following service members lost their lives when their helicopter crashed at Multaka - At-Ta'mim, apparently not because of hostile fire or enemy action: Sergeant Matthew L. Tallman, 30, of Groveland, Calif.; Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, of Whittsett, NC; Captain Corry Paul Tyler, 29, of Georgia; Specialist Rickey L. Bell, 21, of Caruthersville, Mo.; Corporal Jeremy P. Bouffard, 21, of Middlefield, Mass.; Specialist Tyler R. Seideman, 20, of Lincoln, Ark.; Captain Derek A. Dobogai, 26, of Fon du Lac, Wis.; Staff Sergeant Jason L. Paton, 25, of Poway, Calif.; Sergeant Garrett I. McLead, 23, of Rockport, Texas; Specialist Jessy G. Pollard, 22, of Springfield, Mo.; Corporal Phillip J. Brodnick, 25, of New Lenox, Ill.; Specialist Michael A. Hook, 25, of Altoona, Penn.; Corporal Joshua S. Harmon, 20, of Mentor, Idaho; and Corporal Nathan C. Hubbard, 21, of Clovis, Calif.

On Thursday, Aug. 23, 33-year-old Sergeant 1st Class Michael J. Tully of Falls Creek, Penn. and Sergeant 1st Class Adrian M. Elizalde, 30, of North Bend, Ore. died in an IED attack in Baghdad.

On Friday, Aug. 24, Sergeant 1st Class David A. Heringes died near Tikrit - Salah ad Din in an IED attack. Heringes was 36 years old from Tampa, Fla.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Lance Corporal Matthew S. Medlicott died by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province. He was a 21-year-old from Houston, Texas.

On Sunday, Aug. 26, three American soldiers lost their lives. They were Sergeant Joshua L. Morley and Specialist Tracy C. Willis, who died at Samarra - Salah ad DinHostile by small arms fire; and Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez, who was killed in hostile fire in Al Anbar Province. Morley was 22, from Boise, Idaho; Willis was 21, from Marshall, Texas. Ramirez was from Pasadena, Calif. He was also just 21 years old.

On Tuesday, Aug. 28, Sergeant James S. Collins Jr. died at Kirkuk under hostile fire. He was 35 years old and came from Rochester Hills, Mich.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, Staff Sergeant Andrew P Nelson, 22, of Moorhead, Minn., died in Muqdadiyah – Diyala when insurgents attacked his unit. His death is attributed to hostile fire but the circumstances are under investigation. Specialist Edward L. Brooks, 25, of Dayton, Ohio, died in Ramadi – Anbar in an IED attack. Corporal John C. Tanner, 21, of Columbus, Ga. also died in Al Anbar Province while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. And Captain Erick M. Foster, 29, of Wexford, Penn., was wounded when insurgents attacked his unit in Muqdadiyah – Diyala with an IED. He died in Balad.

On Thursday, Aug. 30, Sergeant 1st Class Daniel E. Scheibner, 40, of Muskegan, Mich., died in an IED attack in Al Noor – Ninawa. On the same day, Staff Sergeant Jason M. Butkus, 34, of West Milford, NJ, lost his life in Baghdad in an RPG attack.

May they all rest in peace, and their grieving families and friends find solace in their selflessness and courage. Their Commander-in-Chief, meanwhile, has no intention of bringing their surviving brothers and sisters in arms home from Iraq, where they’d be safe from IEDs, RPGs and probably even crashing helicopters. Instead, President Bush seems intent on continuing with the killing, wasting a few Americans here and a bunch of Iraqis there, at least until he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009. Then he plans to retire from all the hard work of “presidentin’” and when he’s not cutting brush or riding his mountain bike at the ranch in Crawford, he anticipates raking in lots of money as a sought-after speaker, like his father and other presidents before him.

May he rot in hell.

Stats are from icasualties.org.

01 September 2007

No shame.

Can you believe this guy?

Ted Haggard, the former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., is asking his supporters to send him money so he and his wife can pay for their college courses and living expenses. Haggard is going for his master’s degree in counseling. His wife is studying psychology. Haggard preached against homosexuality and gay marriage.

“It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years,” the e-mail message Haggard sent to his gullible supporters said. “During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won’t need outside support any longer.”

Gag me.

Haggard and his wife apparently have jobs already lined up as counselors at the Phoenix Dream Center in Phoenix, Ariz., a faith-based halfway house. They’re in the process of moving there right now.

Just in case you forgot, Ted Haggard is the (pardon me) stinking, lying hypocrite who was forced to resign his influential position as pastor of the New Life megachurch, which he’d founded, and as head of the National Association of Evangelicals after it came out in 2006 that he’d carried on a clandestine, three-year-long gay relationship with male “escort” Mike Jones of Denver.

Jones alleged that Haggard had also purchased methamphetamine from a third party and used the drug.

Haggard, who’d visited the White House several times and took part in weekly conference calls with other evangelicals and Cmdr. Codpiece (are we surprised?), initially denied Jones’ accusations of homosexual conduct, but later admitted the relationship. He also finally admitted buying meth. But only once, he said, and he swore he hadn’t used it.


Jones said he went public with his allegations because of Haggard's support for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was on the ballot in Colorado. He eventually wrote a book about his experience.

"For someone who is up there preaching that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and he's going behind his wife's back and seeing a gay man for sex -- I felt like I owed it to the gay community to expose the hypocrisy," Jones said after blowing the whistle on Haggard. He said he didn’t know for several years who Haggard really was, as he’d identified himself to Jones only as “Art”. The escort found out Haggard’s real identity two years into the relationship when he recognized him on television.

For the record: Haggard made $115,000 for the first 10 months of 2006, plus an $85,000 “anniversary bonus.” He left the New Life Church with a severance package that included a year’s salary of $138,000. His home, which is up for sale, has a market value of $715,051. If all that isn’t enough, he receives royalties from his books.

Where is his shame?

Update: Just to be clear -- I've no problem with homosexuality, bisexuality, or any other sexuality. Human beings are wonderfully diverse and creative creatures. But I really, really, really am disgusted by these hypocrites of the Christian-type, who have no trouble at all bilking innocent rubes out of their money for personal gain while screeching at them not to succumb to the temptations of the flesh. Haggard and his ilk turn my stomach.