Bright And Sunny Day
Today started off rather cloudy and gloomy, but it didn't last. By nine AM, the clouds had, for the most part dissipated, and other than a few small, dark clouds offering their substance to the flowers from time to time, it was a clear day. By noon, the sun was out and it actually warmed up enough that I put on the fan.
Out in the garden, my petra vines have begun sprouting a new set of leaves, so they are finally growing, and the cashew trees are also putting out new leaves. I was beginning to wonder if they had stopped growing for some reason, but apparently not. The lawn is starting to show its transition to the rainy season bog sedge, a bit early, and so I may be forced to fertilize the lawn, much as I don't want to spend the money on doing it as it is so large. But I don't want it to degrade into a muddy mess, either. So on my next trip to Tilaran, I think I'll pick up a couple of bags of ammonium sulfate and go to work on it. I also need to start getting some sand put down in an area under the tropical almond tree, where the soil is such heavy clay that the grass does not seem to much want to grow there. That should help that area as well.
The bunch of bananas that I harvested a week and a half ago, have already ripened out, and the fruit quality is as good as I have had from my garden. I should have given half the bunch to my gardener, as I doubt I will be able to eat them all before they start getting over-ripe. As it is, I am eating eight or ten a day, but an entire bunch - fifty pounds or so - is a lot to try to wolf down. And I am starting to not enjoy them as much as I have in the past - in other words, I've eaten bananas till I am getting rather tired of them. Morning, noon and night, bananas. If my pineapples would just fruit out, I could then make a fruit salad at least. But so far, no cigar.
One of my Tico neighbors came by this morning to borrow a wrench. I didn't have what he needed, but he settled for some slip-joint pliers, and when he came back, he showed me what he had been working on - his new (somewhat used, acutally) bicycle. He prefers that to a car, because it doesn't cost much to operate, and he can get anywhere in town on it just fine, including to work. With gasoline now at $2.99 per gallon locally, I can't say as I blame him. I certainly don't drive as much as I used to. Nevertheless, with the rainy season intensifying, he's going to find getting to work to be rather miserable.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: More interesting revelations are coming out of Britain: it seems that not only were the British aware that Junior's "intelligence was being fixed around the policy" in the lead up to the war on Iraq, but some of Blair's policy advisers were trying to warn him that the Iraq war was likely to be disastrous in its long-term consequences, and that the decision to go to war was made as early as April, 2002, when Blair met with Junior at Junior's ranch in Texas. And as it turns out, the London bombing suspect captured in Rome has come out and said during his interrogation that the Iraq war was what inspired the conspiracy. Why can't the conservatives admit that Osama had a point: "Bomb our cities, and we'll bomb yours," he said. Why is that such a surprise when it happens?
Speaking of what goes around comes around - seems that yet another Supreme Court justice is facing his property being siezed by imminent domain, so it can be taken and given to another private party. This time it is Justice Steven Breyer, who owns a 167-acre property in Plainfield, New Hampshire. The Libertarians want to get it seized for the purpose of creating a private park, with monuments to lost liberty.
From the If We Ignore Global Warming Long Enough, Maybe It Will Go Away department, comes news that the ice pack in the Arctic Ocean was at the lowest level ever recorded by June this year - a full two months ahead of the end of the arctic ice melt season. Residents of the Canadian arctic have also noticed that the winters are milder with less snow, and are being warned to take certain precautions against such things as shoreline erosion, polar bear intrusions into settled areas, changes in wildlife migration patterns on which they depend, etc.
You've heard of "mission creep" - the notion that an assignment tends to grow from the original into something more comprehensive? Well, now comes "slogan creep." The "War on Terror" has now morphed into a "war on violent extremeism." This signals a mission creep as well - it is not just terrorists who will find themselves labeled "enemy combatants," it is anyone the administration thinks needs to be "preemptively" stopped. And they're already starting the disinformation campaign to stamp out dissent, in the name of fighting the war on terror. Thomas Friedman, that ever-loyal media whore for the Bush neo-cons, in an editorial comment in the New York Times, has actually called for - and no, I am not making this up - creation of blacklists, by the State Department, of people opposed to the war. That, of course, would be the majority of the American population. Does this have the foul odor of a fascist agit-prop campaign, or is it just me?
Speaking of media whores, Judith Miller, the New York Times stenographer, oops, reporter who is now in jail for her involvement in the Plame affair, has an interesting history as a "reporter." She is so deeply in bed with high ranking administration officials, that she sought and got a position as an embedded reporter with the special units looking for WMDs in Iraq (which Rumsfeld personally signed off for her) after "mission accomplished" and the end of the invasion. And she was not one bit bashful about swinging her weight around, either, while she was there. She apparently even gave orders that the troops were forced to obey, and on at least one occasion, countermanded an officer's orders, on pain of Rumsfeld and other high administration officials hearing about it! Her overall effect on the mission was to turn it into a disaster and a public relations farce. Her personal involvement with the unit commander led to her pinning his rank insignia on his chest at the ceremony where he was officially promoted. Isn't this kinda weird for someone calling herself a reporter? Just where was the "liberal biased" New York Times editor in all of this?
Speaking of the military, the Iraq war is bleeding the military so dry, that it is being forced to reduce its presence in Germany from the current 65,000 troops to possibly as low as 20,000. Gee, why do we even need 20,.000 there? Are we still expecting the Red Hordes of the Warsaw Pact to sweep across the Elbe in a midnight blitzkrieg or something?
And speaking of our troops, we hear from Louisiana that the legislature there has approved a bill that would provide for any returning veteran from Iraq the opportunity to be tested for the presence of "depleted" uranium in his body. That the Department of Defense won't do an adequate job of this, and the fact that it is left to the states to do so, says something about Junior's real feelings about and commitment to the troops.
Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied conservative pseudo-pundit kid on MSNBC, has lost such credibility with his audience, and it has dwindled to the point that his show has been moved from prime-time real estate to 11PM Siberia. He's actually upbeat about it, though - because all his competition is running re-runs at that hour. Tucker, me boy, the reason all your competition is running re-runs against you, is because the audience is in bed at that hour. They need their rest to survive the 60 and 70-hour work weeks you conservatives are forcing on them.
From the Scandal Du Jour department we are learning that soldiers at Abu Graib were engaged in child rape and torture of children as young as ten years old. We now have a rather graphic account of those activities (warning - it is very disturbing reading).
The Abu Graib scandal is just the tip of the torture iceberg. We now have the smoking gun that they knew what they were doing was illegal - a three-year old memo, unearthed by Newsweek, which warns that the policy of "extraordinary rendition" of sending prisoners to foreign jails for the purpose of having them tortured, would cause anyone cooperating with such a move to be subject to penalties under American law. That hasn't stopped this administration of course.
A Visit With Friends
Yesterday was gloomy as has been the norm for the week, and there were periods of rain through much of the day. When the gardener arrived around ten, we got to work on getting some red ginger starts planted that was intended to replace some cone ginger that I had been wanting to take out for some time. We got the cone ginger dug out and the red ginger starts cut from the main bush, and then moved to the new holes we had dug. My intent is to plant them along the fence line to create some privacy along that fence so that the yard cannot be seen from the street and from the neighbor's property. When fully grown, they should offer a good deal of privacy, as well as a great deal of beauty from their gorgeous scarlet red flowers.
I needed to head into town for groceries anyway, and so once the gardener had finished up, I packed up my laptop, loaded it in the car with some empty feed bags I needed to return to my friend and headed into town. Quick stop at the bank for some cash, at the gas station for some air in a tire, and it was off to visit my friend who lives east of town.
My first stop was to check on the progress of another friend's cabina under construction, and drove to the top of the hill were his property is located. The crew as all there, and were blocking up the place, and it looked like they pretty much had it up to the square. Looks like it will be a nice place once it is done. One of the workers, it turns out, is a teenager that lives next door. He was laying up block with the best of them, doing a great job, too.
I stopped in to see my friend the woodworker, and return the empty feed bags in which I had hauled some sawdust to my garden a couple of months ago. I told him that the sawdust was working beautifully - makes a great potting soil in which I use one third sawdust, one third sand and one third clay, all carefully mixed together. I brought him a cashew tree seedling, which had been planted in that very mixture, and is now a foot high only three weeks after sprouting. The key to using the sawdust, I have concluded, is to let the mixture sit for about a month to get the composting process started before trying to use the mixture. But it seems to be working out very well.
I enjoyed the visit with my friend and his wife. While there, I plugged his computer monitor into my laptop to see if the display problems are a function of the display itself or the video driver electronics. Turns out that an external monitor works beautifully, so I am relieved of the need to buy a new computer soon - I can get a monitor and plug it into my computer's monitor port, and the computer will work just fine. But I will need to free up some disk space, however. I am getting perilously low.
Back at the house, it had started to rain again, so I sat down with the papers I bought in town, and read all the latest. Not much new here of interest, Costa Rica has settled back into its comfortable quiet. Muy tranquilo. Just the way I like things.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: If you have any doubts about the seriousness of the rapid erosion of civil rights in the United States, this should disabuse you of such illusions. The Bush administration is strong-arming its own conservative Republican senators to block them from imposing even the most modest, mild restraints on Junior's power to use torture anywhere and everywhere and at any time he chooses. This is no exaggeration - things have gone that far. This president is apparently determined to implement nothing short of a full-on dictatorship in which he and he alone determines the rules by which he will live. Combine this lack of restraint on the use of torture, with other clear police state tactics, and you have the makings of a brutal fascist dictatorship, all the while he is emasculating the power of Congress to stop him. He's even gotten so arrogant as to third-finger the media when they try to ask him even the most mildly embarrassing questions. Scary stuff - and important reading!
Especially scary when you consider what is turning up about the background of Michael Ledeen. Remember him? It was reported in this space last week that he was the author of the forged Niger yellowcake documents at the heart of the Plame-gate scandal. Turns out he has been on loan to Karl Rove where he serves as the full-time foreign policy adviser to Bush's brain. And it also turns out that he proclaimed in 1972, "the rightness of the fascist cause." Curious position to take, considering he is a radically pro-Zionist Israeli Jew. No wonder some are beginning to question the man's sanity.
Now that it is too late to stop it, word about what is actually in the CAFTA "free trade" agreement with Central America, is finally coming out. It would, for example, allow Harken Energy, the Bush family's latest energy company, to sue Costa Rica for $58 billion - a bit of a problem for a country whose entire GDP is only $37 billiion. It would mean that any government purchase of more than $117,000, that foreign corporations would be allowed to bid - meaning that many small companies in Central America that depend on government contracts would face competition from Halliburton and other such multinational corporations. What chance would they have? What CAFTA is really all about is the right of multinational corporations to do entirely as they please in Central America, with no ability to stop it.
Demonstrating just how much they respect other nations' right to self determination, the Bush Administration has announced that it has created a post for "transition coordination" for a post-Castro Cuba. That would be kinda like Castro appointing a "transition coordinator" for the U.S.'s transition to communism - and would be about as welcome. Imagine how this looks to the Cubans!
Not that you'll read much about it in "liberal biased" Washington Post. That paper has been caught red-handed whoring for the White House press office, complying with an Administration request not to allow Democrats the opportunity to state why Judge John Roberts should be required to hand over documents requested by the Senate committee looking into his nomination as a Surpeme Court judge.
For the third time, Maine voters will be asked go to the polls to uphold their earlier decision to impose a state ban on discrimination against gay people in areas of employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit. The Talibaptists just won't have it that they have been turned down twice already.
If the ever-widening Plame-gate scandal has you a bit confused as to what everyone knew, and when did they know it, the Scandal Du Jour department has turned up this handy little scorecard. There is increasing evidence, though, that Condoleezza Rice is at the center of it.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes word that a radical anti-abortion activist linked with abortion-clinic violence, John Bert, 67, has been jailed on charges of child molestation, after his 18-year sentence was upheld. Of course, he is not the first. Some controversy erupted in San Diego recently, when local news there reported that a violent anti-abortion activist leading anti-abortion demonstrations there was wanted in Florida on a charge of failure to register as a sex offender, the result of a conviction on child rape. What is it with these Talibaptists and their child molestation, anyway?
A Break In The Rain
After the usual rains during the night, the dawn this morning brought a thin overcast and lots of wind - more than I have seen in some time. No rain this morning, though as the day progresses, the clouds are thickening, and it looks like rain will happen later this afternoon.
With the cessation in the rain, I got out in the garden to see how things are doing. One of the coconut palms had lost a frond during the night, and I had to pull it down the rest of the way, and haul it off to the compost pile, along with a raceme that did not have any coconuts on it, but was old and rotting, and had fallen off the tree, too.
While out in the yard, two tourist buses went by, and up the hill to the marina on the other side. Both were nearly full. It would appear that the tourist traffic is improving again, having been rather slow since May, when the American season ended and the European season began. There has been remarkably few lost tourists past my house of late, and I am not sure why. I suspect that the German Bakery must be giving out directions or maps; most of the lost tourists seem to have stopped there first before they show up here. The lady out at the crossroads has had an effect as well - during the height of the American season, I can always tell when she is not there - that's when the lost tourists show up on my street.
Out wandering around on the street, seeing how things are, I noticed that there is very little sand in my driveway culvert, and I haven't cleaned it out in quite some time, so I can only assume that most of the sand that was washing down the street from the construction up there is finally washed downhill and past my culvert. Glad for that, and hope it stays that way - I was getting mighty tired of cleaning it out after every big rain.
My neighbor's house construction has slowed down rather considerably. I don't know what has happened, but I am wondering if the money is running low or something, as the activity has slowed down considerably. The beams at the top of the walls have all been poured, but I don't see the roof trusses going up. Could just be that the crews are busy elsewhere - this is not an uncommon situation here.
CNN is reporting on a "moving Madonna" figure that has all the believers in Spain all abuzz. It is surprising to me that such things don't seem to be much of a phenomenon here. The rapidly declining level of faith and trust in the Catholic church here may well be the reason, though. I read in the paper last week that for the first time, fewer than half of all Costa Ricans now claim to be faithful Catholics. The protestant denominations are clearly picking up some of the difference, but agnosticism is clearly growing too, as people seem to be noticing that there seems to be no real difference in their lives if they quit praying. Of course, a lot of the Catholic church's problems in Latin America are of its own making - the priest-pedophilia scandals have been as frequent and serious here as anywhere, and the church's coddling of them just as blatant.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: The reconstruction of Baghdad is apparently going backwards, in spite of $2 billion spent - or more accurately squandered - so far. Power outages are becoming more frequent and prolonged, the city's water pipes leak so much that more than half of the water that goes into the city's potable water system never reaches the city's homes, and the city's undersized sewage pipes continue to crumble unabated, leaking sewage into the city's potable water system. This is leading the Baghdadis to quip that "thank God the air we breathe isn't in the hands of the occupation, or it would be cut off for four hours a day."
Adding to the anger is the fact that a battalion of California National Guard has been caught red-handed extorting protection money from Iraqi shopkeepers. Apparently as much as $30,000 had been paid in U.S. currency. Beacon of freedom and liberty and the rule of law indeed.
In an effort to increase its success in recruiting, the military is finally cleaning up the abuses of recruits in its boot camps. Letters home, warning off brothers and friends was having an effect, apparently, and the military has been trying to fix that. Of course it will be too little, too late to fix the recruiting problems, but it is a start. How about bringing them home from Iraq? Then there wouldn't be a problem at all.
In spite of the obvious failures and problems in Iraq, the buildup for the coming war in Iran continues unabated. In spite of half-hearted denials, there is clear evidence that the Bush administration is gearing up for a major attack, if not invasion, of Iran. Such an event, of course, would harden world opinion against the United States, if not lead to sanctions against the United States outright.
At home, things aren't looking up much, either. Turns out that consumer confidence has taken an unexpected three-percent dip in June, mostly over concerns about jobs - after the word was out that a long list of corporations have together announced more than 110,000 jobs are going overseas or being abolished outright, even though most of those companies are reporting good, if not record profits. This news comes as we also learn that personal bankruptcies have surged 12% over last year, even as the economy continues to expand modestly. Analysts attribute much of that to the new law that will go into effect in August that will make personal bankruptcy almost impossible to get, but much of the rise reflects falling personal income. Well, someday the conservatives will actually figure out that you can't sell something to someone with no money.
New Yorkers are also miffed that as the temperatures soar along with the dependence on air conditioning, so does the price of electricity. Of course, the deregulation of the electricity grid might have something to do with it. Soaring prices? Duh! Does the phrase, "captive market" have any meaning for the people who voted for this deregulation nonsense?
From the Scandal Du Jour department, we learn that the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case is now "casting a wider net" which may end up drawing in a lot more administration figures than just Karl Rove, "Scooter" Libby, and Dick Cheney. Maybe the White House's decision to hire independent counsel to defend the president, as reported in this space some time back, may have been a wise one.
It appears that Clear Channel Communications, because it leases a facility from the Florida State Fair Authority, is now claiming the sovereign immunity of the state - in effect, it is claiming that it is part of the government of the State of Florida! No, I am not making this up - this arrogant owner of most of the country's radio stations now feels it is entitled to immunity from local law because it leases a property from the State of Florida!
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes the news that the corruption in the Iraq reconstruction has gotten so bad that the Bush administration can't even hide it even by using a hand-picked, pro-Bush auditor who had once served as Bush's aide. The administration has tried to rein him in by curbing the independence of his office, but he is speaking out anyway. Well, at least there is at least one principled, morally responsible conservative out there, even if he's so rare that his existence is newsworthy.
From the same desk, we also learn the Republicans in Florida have started a smear campaign against the incumbent Democratic senator, Bill Nelson. The sleaze campaign is based on charges obviously made up out of whole cloth, for which there is not a shred of evidence, while they complain about Democratic comments about the sleaze of their candidate, Kathleen Harris, against whom charges of campaign fraud in the 2000 election have been proven to the satisfaction of a court of law. As Florida Secretary of State and George Bush's Florida campaign co-chair (can we say "conflict of interest," boys and girls?), she systematically and fraudulently disenfranchised more than 100,000 Florida voters using the felon disenfranchisement law, but of whom more than 90% were guilty only of being registered Democrats. Gore would have won in 2000 by about 24,000 votes if the voter registration had been honest. She was sued and the plaintiffs won. But that didn't stop her from doing the very same thing all over again in 2002. And of course this scandal was ignored by the "liberal biased press" in the States even though it was front-page news for a week in Europe.
We are also learning that the Bush administration is breaking with all previous precedent with Supreme Court nominees, and is now refusing to release the tax returns of Judge John Roberts, its nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O'Conner. Which begs the question of just exactly what is in them that they are intent on hiding. And that's not all. Citing "privacy" and "precedent," they are not releasing memos and other documents either, from when he worked in the King George I administration. Well, I for one, find their new-found concerns over privacy to be very touching. Not very convincing, of course, but very touching. Now, will they please explain why they weren't concerned about my privacy?
Rain, Rain and More Rain
The dry season continues to fade into memory as the weather gets continually more gloomy. Yesterday started off as an overcast day with periods of rain, clearing only for an hour or so in the early afternoon. Occasional periods of light rain happened all day, and the rain became continuous during the night, resulting in the muddy streets that are such a feature of life in rural Costa Rica during the rainy season. This morning saw even more rain, with dawn thunderstorms which gave way to just a heavy overcast and periods of moderate rainfall this morning. Looks like the rainy season is here. The locals walking up and down the streets are uniformly carrying umbrellas now, so that means that they figure the rain is a done deal for most of the day.
That has meant that gardening activity has pretty much ground to a halt, and I'm stuck indoors for the duration. So it's on with the TV and watching the launch of the Space Shuttle. I see they have added some rocketcams to provide views of the shuttle from the main fuel tank during the launch. Really neat to watch - I never get tired of watching rocketcams. It is almost like you´re sitting on a balcony that is being lifted into space. Glad to see they have safely made it to orbit. But once it is in orbit, that's about it for interesting viewing on BBC and CNN. So its back to channel surfing.
As usual, though, even with thirty-odd channels to choose from, there's nothing much worth watching other than the news, and once you've seen the half-hour summary, there isn't much else new to watch on the news for the rest of the day. CNN En Espanol is worthwhile for watching, and my Spanish is now good enough that I am able now to follow much of what is being said, so I find it enjoyable to watch, and learn what is happening in Latin America. The editing is more honest than on the English version, so one sees a different worldview on that channel than on the English-language channel. It is different enough to be like having an entirely different news channel to watch. Nevertheless, I suspect I'll need to get some books imported from Amazon to keep myself entertained this "winter." It's gonna be a long rainy season. But sitting on the front porch with a steaming cup of coffee and a good book is a mighty satisfying way to spend the time. Out of the rain, the weather is not unpleasant - it is delightfully warm.
Ducking out during breaks in the rain, I checked on my nursery stock, and it appears that another petra vine may have germinated and sprouted, so I'll have another of those, too. The two cashew tree seeds that germinated yesterday now have sprouts an inch and a half high, and the leaves are unfurling, so it looks like all nine will be doing well. One of my readers here in town has spoken for one of them, so I'll have eight to find homes for. I didn't get a chance to look at much more, as the rain started right up again, and I got wet just getting back to the house. Dashing out again during another break, I went for a look at the other end of the garden. One of my bunches of bananas has been stolen - again - and that doesn't surprise me. I think that I am going to move all the offshoots to the North Forty where they are less noticeable from the street and harder to get to. The guanabana (soursop) tree that I planted last year is doing really well, and is now over my head and growing rapidly. And the avocado I planted at the same time is now eye level, and is continuing its rapid growth. Something I am sure glad to see, as it took forever to get established but it is doing beautifully now.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States; Some great news for a change. As a result of a quirk in the law, the United States government is going to have to explain to a court of law why the Bay of Pigs invasion was an act of state-sponsored terror. They're going to have to do it in order to keep one of their own terrorists, Luis Posada Cariles, from having to face justice in Venezuela for the role he played in bombing a Cubana Airlines plane in 1973, with the loss of 73 lives. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we use state-sponsored terrorism to fight what we perceive to be state-sponsored terrorism.
The Bush administration, against the advice of the State Department, Congressional oversight committees, and outside experts, apparently ran an off-the-books program to rig the Iraqi elections. That they did so is not news, it has been reported in this space in the past, but the fact that they did it while subverting the oversight functions specified in law is new information. Not only that, but the people who ran it were many of the Iran-Contra felons from the Reagan era. I think that Bush must like felons. That is why he surrounds himself with so many of them.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing the American people $700 billion by the time they are all said and done. Deficit financing of this amount will add to the number, but just that amount alone works out to well over $2000 for every man, woman and child in America. Would have been a lot cheaper just to write a check to Halliburton and be done with it.
As to whether it was worth it, the Iraqis themselves are openly expressing their misgivings, given all the extreme repression that the occupation and its quisling government are engaging in. Many Iraqis are expressing the attitude that their government and the occupation are no better than the insurgents.
That the quisling Iraqi government's police would deteriorate to this level is hardly surprising, given that criminals and even insurgents planning attacks are being recruited into the Iraqi police, because of poor, or even nonexistent vetting procedures.
It is not just the Iraqis, either. Yesterday there was a demonstration outside Bagram AFB in Afghanistan by about a thousand Afghans angry about the continued U.S. military presence, and its heavy-handed behavior in their country. Betcha didn't see that reported on Fox - or CNN, for that matter.
CNN has actually reported that the U.S. military has been caught using boilerplate for their press releases. Press releases regarding two separate incidents included almost identical wording.
A group of U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would outlaw the use of torture or coercive tactics by military interrogators if those tactics are not allowed by the Army Field Manual. The administration is opposed and is fighting hard against the legislation. Would someone please ask them why they're so scared of it?
The "liberal biased media" continue to surprise us with their quisling attitudes toward this administration. We find out that the International Herald Tribune, an international edition of the New York Times, omitted John Bolton's name from a headline on Plame-gate that had first appeared in the New York Times, and deleted "two-tone John's" name as well as the last five paragraphs from the article itself which discussed his involvement in the Plame scandal. Those curious enough to want to read what was edited out, can click here.
From the Scandal Du Jour department comes word that a public health study has concluded that veterans of Gulf War I who were exposed to chemical munitions at Khamisiyah, Iraq, were twice as likely to die of brain cancer as their unexposed colleagues. So it isn't just "depleted" uranium that kills G.I.s, it is ordinary chemical weapons, too.
From the same department we hear that the Food and Drug Administration has conspired with manufacturers of vaccines to cover up damning results of health studies regarding the use of thimerosol, a mercury-based compound used as a preservative in vaccines. The studies, which conclude that the rapidly increasing autism rates in the U.S. are at least partially the result of the use of the compound, were actually taken out of the FDA's offices and given to a private company, where they would not be subject to disclosure as the result of Freedom of Information Act requests. In spite of the now-known health hazard, thimerosol continues to be used, and children continue to be poisoned by it. Your tax dollars working to protect you.
A Walk To The Neighbor's
The day dawned gray and gloomy, and I feared it was going to be a rainy day, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, by about eight it cleared off, and was blue skies for the most part, till late in the afternoon, when it began to cloud over again, threatening rain but not delivering, Instead, a little distant thunder, and not much more.
It was a pleasant enough day, that I decided to risk the chance of rain and go for a brief walk to visit my neighbor's place, the one that is under construction. He has built out a walk-around porch, which looks like it will make for a very pleasant, attractive place, and I quite like the layout, though part of it faces a rather steep hillside, which doesn't make much sense unless he builds a pila in that side. I think I would have not bothered on that side of the house. The rest, however, will have nice views, particularly over my pond and garden, and it will be quite pleasant. Whoever ends up buying the place, if he decides to sell, will have a delightful place to live. That neighbor came by yesterday, and we enjoyed a nice little chat. We talked about politics in the States a bit, and the effects that gringos are having on Central America in general and Costa Rica in particular. Good old down-home kinda stuff. Very friendly neighbor, and I am glad he is here - for as long as he stays.
This afternoon, I also walked up to the lot owned by a gringo friend in the States, who bought the lot last winter, and has asked me to keep an eye on it. So I strolled up there to have a look, and it appears that for the most part, all is in order. There is a break in the fence, however, and that is of concern, because it may be evidence of squatting, which is a serious problem if it is happening. I'll notify him by email and let him know this is an issue he should look into.
Things are looking good in the garden. The thin overcast days, with occasional rain has been perfect growing weather for some of the smaller things, and with the fertilizer they got recently, most of my smaller flowers that had been needing fertilizer are showing new growth. There are two more cashew trees that have sprouted, and that makes for a total of nine and one more that looks imminent. I am going to have lots of cashew trees to find homes for. I have a couple of places picked out now, but I am trying to figure where they will all go, even on the North Forty. I want to leave room for other stuff, like a breadfruit tree and a castana tree among other things.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: The United States Department of the Army wants access to your bank records! No, I am not kidding, they actually want access to all of your bank records, on all your accounts, including loans, and inactive accounts, from your bank, your co-op accounts, mortgage lenders, etc. The stated purpose is for "law enforcement" purposes, but domestic law enforcement by the U.S. military is specifically and categorically prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act. Is this part of preparations being made to gut posse comitatus and bring the military to patrolling America's streets? Just what are they preparing for? Shouldn't someone, somewhere be asking questions?
Congressman Henry Waxman has pointed out that the Plame affair is bigger than just Karl Rove leaking Valerie Plame's identity. Turns out that her identity was leaked on at least 11 separate occasions - a fact that makes it obvious that there was a clear, undeniable intent to leak the identity in spite of all of Karl Rove's protestations to the contrary.
And Junior is now trying to cast doubt on the fact that the CIA had raised doubts about the Niger yellowcake story before Junior addressed the nation with it, claiming that the doubts were raised only after the State of the Union address, a claim that directly contradicts his own aides. I think you're developing that famous "credibility gap," Junior.
All of this is a distraction, of course, from the question that matters most, to most Americans - jobs and the economy. Word is out today that many of the leaders of major corporations are privately worried that the good times are over and a recession lies ahead, in spite of Alan Greenspan's cheerful optimism before congress recently. More than 110,000 job layoffs have been announced by major corporations in the last few weeks, in spite of the summer's otherwise cheerily optimistic economic numbers.
Proving that there is no limit to the Dr. Strangelove madness in this administration, it has leaked (perhaps even deliberately) that the United States is preparing plans for a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran. Dick Cheney has tasked the United States Strategic Command with drawing up plans to strike major strategic targets within Iran with nuclear weapons, as some of them are too hardened to take out with conventional devices. First it was a bad '50's Cold War movie, now it may happen for real.
Continuing the nuclear theme, we are hearing that falsified research intended to support the construction of a permanent high-level nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, has led to a House subpoena to find out who falsified the information and why. Good luck fellas. Hope you find out. And if it turns out to be Bush's quislings, will you tell us?
In more environmental news, we learn that Americans generally have a significant burden of pesticides and herbicides in their bodies that include many substances known to have adverse effects on health. Some of them are pesticides that have been banned for decades, including DDT and Chlordane. Yet they continue to circulate in the environment and enter the American food chain on imported fruits and vegetables that are poorly checked at the border, if checked at all, by agricultural inspectors. Yet this same inspection service has time to grill international air passengers about who their business meetings were with and what was talked about, as happened to me.
Turns out the Bush folks have been deliberately rewriting scientific data on the effects of grazing on the public lands in the western U.S. The scientist involved said that they changed his data "180 degrees." So what did you expect from this administration? Real science?
The Environmental Protection Agency was asked two and a half years ago to provide data on the effects of pharmaceutical contamination of waterways in the northeastern states, and after two and a half years of stalling, the data is partially in and it isn't looking good. Contamination is serious enough that physiological changes in fish and other organisms are being seen, and there is serious concern about what the effects may be on human health.
Proving that we shouldn't, when Bush says we can trust him with our civil liberties, we are hearing that the Transportation Safety Administration has kept personal information files on 250,000 Americans in direct violation of the law. So who is going to prosecute? Mr. "Geneva Conventions are quaint" Gonzales, the new attorney general? Good luck.
It appears we can also trust Bush to conform to the rule of law when it comes to compliance with court orders: The word is out that the Department of Defense has simply refused to comply with a court order requiring it to release photographs of the Abu Graib torture and abuse. Again, who is going to prosecute?
More news you didn't see on the "liberal biased media" in the United States - on Wednesday, two Israeli settlers near Nablus in the West Bank stabbed a 12-year old Palestinian child twelve times, killing him, apparently in cold blood. As is usual in such cases, there has been no arrest of the perpetrators. And of course, no mention on CNN.
The "Abandoned" Car Gets Unabandoned
It looks like the weather is settling into the intensely rainy part of the rainy season. It was cloudy and overcast all day from dawn to dusk, with only a few moments of sunshine. The weather was fairly dry, no rain to speak of other than the odd sprinkle now and again, and that suits me just fine. I got my yard and garden fertilized yesterday, and there was just enough rain last night to wash it in, but not wash it away. So if the rain is light for the next few days, I'll be in fat city - the fertilizer will have been applied under ideal conditions and should do a lot of good. There are a lot of things in the garden that are showing the need for it, particularly the citrus.
The gardener showed up late today, and I was a bit late getting into town as well, and got the last copy of La Nacion, the only serious Spanish-language paper in the country. I had a lot of business to take care of in town, and that meant I was late getting back to the house. I was half expecting the gardener to have already finished up and have gone home, but he was still here. I pointed out my new cashew trees, and that prompted a discussion of where to put them. He says they need lots of sun - they're not a suitable understory tree, so most will probably end up on the North Forty. He tells me they grow quite slowly, and never get much bigger than about twenty feet high, so that means they will be a good fill-in tree for some of the gaps in the forest over there.
I met my neighbor at the bank today, the one whose building the house, and I mentioned the house and how nicely it is coming along. He tells me now that he is thinking of selling. This would be a good time - we're right at the height of a real estate bubble right now, and he would doubtless get a good price. But I hate to see someone else move in. He has been a good neighbor and I hate to see him go. But at the price he is likely to get right now, it would doubtless be a gringo who buys it, and it might be kinda fun to have a gringo neighbor with whom to pass the time of day.
While I was at the bank, the lady who runs the local recycling program happened in, and I asked her if there was an abandoned-car program as part of it. Unfortunately, no, the abandoned car in front of my house is a bit of a problem. I would have to go to the police, have them inspect it, declare it abandoned, and then I can haul it off to a scrap yard (at my own expense, of course). The lady asked around the other people in the bank if they knew who it belonged to. And just about then, the teenaged son of my other neighbor happened in, and he said that it belongs to some people up the street, the ones that run the "speed shop" up the hill. Well, that was interesting, and now I know for certain what I had suspected all along. Well, I figured that just noising this around would make the determination as to whether anyone wanted to keep it - the owners would doubtless hear about my inquiries, and come and get the car if they really wanted to keep it.
Sure enough, after I got home and put the groceries away, I was fixing lunch when I heard a car being started. When I went out for a peek, it was the abandoned car, newly un-abandoned by the teens from up the street who apparently own it. They had come by and had gotten it started, and backed it up the hill, totally bald and completely flat tires flopping on the rims over the big rocks in the street as they went. That's the end of that, and I am sure glad to see it gone. And I have concluded that this small-town gossip`thing can certainly be a useful tool.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Well, CNN International has set about discrediting itself and demonstrating to all who would doubt that the CNN organization is censoring its programs on the basis of their politics. Proving that the "liberal biased media" are certainly biased, but hardly towards the liberals, CNN began its usual Daily Show Global Edition broadcast, produced by Comedy Central, this Friday evening at the usual time of 7:30 PM Eastern Daylight time, but eight minutes into the broadcast, broke in with "breaking news" about a bombing in Egypt. The news was hardly breaking - they had already been reporting that story for most of the afternoon. When they returned to "regular" programming, they did not return to the Global Edition. Rather, they broadcast, from the start, "Design 360," a fluff program about "design" and "fashion" and "architecture" (what that fluff has to do with news, I am not quite sure). What was John Stuart's sin that required Daily Show Global Edition being pulled off the air during its broadcast? Seems that Daily Show Global Edition was doing a piece on Plame-gate, and demonstrating quite clearly (and saying so) that Karl Rove had lied, and that the administration officials and Republican party officials, as reported in this space previously, had also lied in their cover-up of Rove's lies, and had intimidated journalists into not reporting that fact. To get back out gracefully from Design 360 which had been started 12 minutes late, they broke back in at two minutes to the hour with another breaking news "update," and then went back to the programming they had scheduled originally just after the hour - after the scheduled end of the Daily Show.
The editor at CNN International would be well-advised to be careful about such ham-fisted censorship. His audience is primarily international - and they have other choices besides CNN, and most of those viewers also have plenty of Internet sources for news. Unlike most Americans, international audiences are well aware of what is happening in the Plame-gate scandal, and when they see blatant efforts such as this one, to censor the reporting of this information, they will know that they are being propagandized. That means that CNN will find itself joining the ranks of the Voice Of America Worldvision, TV Marti, Radio Moscow, China Central Television and other organs of state propaganda that are well-funded and widely available, but rarely trusted, and as a result, rarely watched seriously. Of course, this raises the question of just why CNN made the decision it did. Being rolled by Junior for his hatred of dissent is the obvious reason. And obsequious self-censorship in favor of an intolerant politician sounds like incipient totalitarianism to me.
The atmosphere that spawned this censorship is becoming of increasing concern to serious journalists themselves. William Saffire, a well-known columnist has testified before congress that a "chilling" atmosphere is setting in among the press corps as a result of the recent court decision jailing Judith Miller. He notes he has even noticed his own self censorship. Good news for the neo-conservatives - that's exactly what they had in mind. Bad news for democracy, of course, if anyone cares about democracy anymore.
In news from the Middle East that you haven't seen on CNN, it appears that U.S. troops have been firing on Syrian troops along the Iraq-Syrian border, but inside Syria. This will only exacerbate the Syrian-U.S. tensions, heightened by Condi Rice's snub of Damascus today - she avoided a Damascus stop on her tour of the Middle East capitals.
Speaking of snubs, it comes out today that during the recent visit of the Indian prime minister to Washington, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came right out and told the National Press Club that the invasion of Iraq was a "mistake." For a head of state to say such a thing on the soil of country he is criticizing, is an act of very strong criticism in diplomatic language. The South Asians have to live with the results of Junior's hubris, and they're not liking it.
It is becoming evident that the war in Afghanistan is not going well, either. The situation there has deteriorated to "barely managed chaos," and it is not improving, but deteriorating, mostly because it has been militarized rather than policed.
Coming up with all the soldiers needed to keep all this warmongering going, the military has resorted to all manner of skulduggery in trying to force soldiers to re-enlist. Parents are beginning to report that their sons are practically being tortured to force them to re-enlist. They are being deprived of sleep, being continually sent on very unpleasant duties, etc., until they finally agree to re-up. Their families are justifiably getting quite upset and are starting to agitate congress. I suppose that we'll soon hear of dragoon squads wandering the docks of America's ports, just like two hundred years ago.
To keep us civilian folks in line, the Defense Department has come up with a new crowd control weapon - a high-powered microwave transmitter "ray gun" that will heat up skin to the point where the heat becomes unbearable, forcing the victim to break out of the crowd to avoid the beam. But the device is not without its problems - the high-powered microwave energy it uses is known to cause cataracts, and is believed to possibly cause cancer as well, but that doesn't seem to bother the Bushies, who apparently think that irretrievably ruining someone's health in the process of controlling them in a riot is a worthwhile cause. Don'tcha just love how these conservatives are so concerned about human rights?
From the Scandal Du Jour department comes word that both Karl Rove and Tricky Dick Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, are both being investigated by a grand jury for perjury. We know they lied (unless, of course, we only watched CNN) but most of the rest of us know that the evidence is overwhelming, and from various sources, this one none other than Bloomberg, that bastion of pro-Bush conservatism itself. Sure glad to see that Dick has brought us that high standard of "honor and decency" to the White House he promised us five years ago.
Speaking of honor and decency, the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk reports that Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Pa., has admitted to a five-year long affair, but he denies the charges leveled against him by his little flame that he abused her. We are hearing of this from Fox News. Well, I guess when faced with a choice between a salacious, sensational, audience-grabbing story, and supporting and protecting one of their own, they'll happily exploit one of their own - as long as he's not Bush. Honor among conservatives.
Gray And Gloomy Day
Today has been continually cloudy and gloomy all day, with brief periods of rain. Gloom is something I'd best be getting used to, because the full-on rainy season will be here in a month, and it won't quit raining till the end of November. So I guess I just as well resign myself to it.
Not a lot happening around the place. The neighbor's house is coming along more slowly than it has been, and the top beams ("corona" as it is called here) have been poured. They have begun some of the roof truss work, so he should have the roof on it fairly quickly.
This morning I noted that two more of the cashew seeds I planted in nursery bags have shown evidence of germination, so it looks like I will have even more cashew trees to deal with. Have no idea where I am going to put them all - maybe one in the water garden, and another near the pond, and the rest scattered around the North Forty is my current thinking. In a couple of years I should have all the cashews and cashew fruit I can eat.
Some of the new bougainvilleas I planted along the fence are in bloom now, too, so I can see what color I have got - they're a bit more purple than the ones in front of the house. They'll look really nice once they have filled in. But I don't expect much color till the dry season starts in February.
The lantanas that I thought were just about done for seem to be resprouting, too. One of them is a variable-colored with blossoms that start yellow, fade to a light blue, and become red as they drop off. Really a remarkable flower, those lantanas. My variegated ginger also has a new sprout, the third - still tiny, but it appears that the ginger is not as dead as I had thought. Looks like it may slowly recover from last January's inundation. And my lemon tree is yellowing in its new growth flushes. I really need to get out there and get some nitrogen on it, but it is too rainy today. Hopefully tomorrow I can get things fertilized. Should have done it yesterday, but I wasn't feeling up to much.
Well, my sore throat is mostly better now, and I am not having the allergy attacks I was, so my health is on the mend. Glad for that - I was getting rather tired of being rather tired and miserable.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Well, it appears that not only has the occupation in Iraq succeeded in replacing Saddam's brutal butchery with its own brutal butchery, but it has even started hiring Saddam's torturers. The incredibly brutal torture that America's death squads engaged in two decades ago in El Salvador has now been brought to Iraq. I am sure that the mothers whose sons have died in Iraq will be pleased to know what they died for. And it appears that not only have they died for American torture, but if and when Iraq becomes truly sovereign, the new constitution being drafted will sharply curtail the rights of women. Doesn't it just somehow make you proud?
If you're one of those people who, like me, have received email propaganda about how the media isn't telling the whole story in Iraq, and things there are really a lot better than portrayed, you should read this letter from a Knight-Ridder correspondent based in Baghdad. He read it too - it apparently originated with an editorial writer on his own paper, and he sets the record straight.
Of course, when the correspondent files a story with pictures, the pictures are almost never used, if they show either servicemen or Westerners killed or wounded. A study by the L.A. times shows a shocking pro-war bias on the part of the "liberal biased media" in how graphics are used.
In spite of the "liberal biased" media's failure to tell the whole truth, the picture from Iraq still has seeped into the American consciousness to the point that the military is finding recruitment almost impossible. So they're doing what desperate despots everywhere have always done - they're lowering their standards for recruitment. If you wanna go to Iraq but think you're too old, you may be wrong - they'll now take you now right up to the age of forty two!
The military, when faced with providing health care and rehabilitation for wounded vets, simply tries to get rid of them, as was reported in this space previously. Now, a new veterans group, OpTruth.org, has taken out a full page ad in the Washington Post, saying how veterans are being abused and mistreated. Their slogan: "Support the troops. Listen to them." Well, that won't last long. The Bushies will put the kabosh on that one real quick. Just watch.
Not that folks have much choice but to join the military. The creation of jobs in the U.S. has been a spectacular failure, in spite of the allegedly booming economy. Just have a look at the latest numbers. Employers are getting so bald-faced about wanting to drive down American wages, they are going so far as to advertise that only foreigners with H-1B visas need apply - in other words, if you aren't willing to take an engineering job for less than $20 k per year, forget it. They'll hire a foreigner instead. Now there is some real America frirst conservative patriotism for you!
The London bombing plot was apparently known to Israeli intelligence in advance, in spite of their denials, and now the truth is coming out that the British were warned, but did nothing about it. Could it be that they let it happen to justify the passage of the new anti-terror legislation that was submitted to parliament just yesterday? Far be it from me to suggest such a thing...
America's loss of prestige and influence in the world as the result of the neo-con insanity prevailing in the White House these days, is now starting to cost the United States in very real terms. India and China are now challenging, with increasing success, American boycotts of "rogue" states which have significant oil resources, and are now openly dealing with them to purchase oil. This means America will find it increasingly difficult to control such countries as Iran, Libya and Sudan, as well as deal with India and China themselves.
From the Scandal Du Jour department, we've finally learned who wrote the famous forged document about Saddam's alleged purchase of African uranium that featured so prominently in Junior's State of the Union address prior to the war, a document about which the Republicans have been curiously non-curious. Well, it turns out that the document was written by none other than Michael Ledeen, a neo-con PNACer who was fired by Reagan for his involvement in Iran-Contra, but who now serves as the "Freedom Analyst" (whatever that is) for the American Enterprise Institute. We are also learning that the involvement of Tricky Dick Cheney in circulating the misinformation, to get it into the State of the Union speech, and the continued efforts of the White House and the Republicans in congress to cover up his involvement. Oh, what a tangled web Dick weaves! And it looks increasingly likely he is going to get caught up in it.
I've been opposed to the Central America Free Trade Agreement, not because I oppose free trade, but because of what this particular agreement would do to Central America, where I happen to live. But now it appears that even the right-wingers are realizing how much it would curtail their freedom back in the U.S., as it would make the Codex Alimentarius the law of the land, not just for Central America, but for the U.S. as well, and that means that nutritional supplements would be banned in the U.S. Take vitamins or herbal suppliments? If CAFTA passes, you'd better stock up, because you won't be able to buy them much longer.
Enjoy surfing the Internet, unhindered by artificial barriers imposed for the purpose of restricting what you can access? Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won't last for long. A recent Supreme Court decision, National Cable and Telecommunications Association vs. Brand X Internet Services, has ensured that both cable modem providers, and their principal competition, the ADSL service offerings by the phone companies, can both monopolize the services offered over their wires, and are also free to censor the content carried by their wires. This means they are also free to offer what the NCTA has internally called the "Walled Garden" type of internet access, where you will no longer be able to access sites and services they don't want you to access, and where Google will provide only the results they want Google to provide. The golden era of freedom of speech on the Internet is almost over in the United States. Imagine an internet controlled by Fox News. Horrible as that thought is, it's about to become reality for millions of Americans. Freedom of speech on the Internet was just too good to last, so it won't.
Speaking of free speech, did you know that there is more support for the impeachment of George W. Bush than there ever was for the impeachment of Bill Clinton? The results of a continuing series of Zogby polls shows there is - but that the "liberal biased media" are burying that fact and not reporting it to you.
Remember the controversy about all the airline put options bought in the stock market the day before 9/11? We now know who done it. It was none other, apparently, than the late George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is apparently looking into why there was a sudden 5:1 put ratio on American Airlines stock the day before 9/11, with volume way in excess of normal. This raises all kinds of intriguing questions - if he knew, just why was the plot allowed to go forward? If he knew, who else knew?
We also hear today that the official scapegoat for 9/11 has changed from Iraq to Iran. Hmmm... Are we going to have to give all those Iraqis their money back?
Demonstrating just how serious it is about stamping out sex crimes, the Alabama legislature has passed a bill that calls for the immediate re-arrest for any sex offender who gets released from jail, without providing a verifiable address where he will be living. Well, that's a new one. I have never heard of being released from jail as being a crime, but apparently it now is in Alabama.
From the If We Ignore Global Warming Long Enough Maybe It Will Go Away department comes word that the temperatures in Phoenix this summer are setting new records - it is so hot that even Arizonans are complaining - and that is saying something. On Sunday, Phoenix beat its old record for the date by two degrees - it was 116, getting down to a lovely 91 low overnight. In Bullhead City, where it hit 124, a Baskin-Robbins store owner put an ice cream cup out on the sidewalk to see how fast it would melt - it was totally liquid in eight seconds flat.
On The Mend - Slowly
Getting up this morning, I was greeted with a thin overcast, light breezes and warm weather, and some wet lawn and sidewalks, indicating an overnight rain, which was needed. Things had been getting a bit dry, and so I was not disappointed to see the moisture. The air is a bit damp this morning, and even as I write this, early in the morning, there are cumulus clouds building on the eastern horizon, promising possible rain later in the day. Yesterday there had been a light drizzle most of the morning, but not enough to really water things, so last night's rain was certainly welcome.
I went on my morning tour of the garden fairly early this morning and had a good look around to see how things are doing. My avocado tree, planted last year, has a new growth flush going on its terminal bud, and it seems to have finally adapted to its new home and is taking off, growing quickly as I am told they usually do. Hopefully I will get a crop next year, and possibly even this, if I am lucky.
Two more cashew sprouts have come up in my nursery bags, making a total of seven that are up and doing fine, and one more is showing evidence of sprouting. The newest has grown two inches in just one night! I should have lots of small trees to plant when they are hardened and have set roots. Now I have got to find places to put them all. Another petra vine has sprouted, too, so I should have lots of petra vines to plant out on the end of the pond, to grow up in the madera negra trees, to add a little color to that end of the property - in a spot that badly needs it. Some of the bougainvilleas I planted out there are starting to really flourish now, too, and a few are in bloom, so that will also add to the display. I think the result will be a pleasant addition to a spot that is rather unattractive at the moment. The bougainvilleas along the fence line adjacent to the North Forty have finally sprouted, and are also doing fine, and so it appears that I'll have lots of flowers along there, too. Once the remainder is planted and the gaps filled in, it will be quite a show during the dry season, as the bougainvilleas are in full bloom and there is a continuous show of color for about six hundred feet.
The sore throat I have been nursing since I got back from Granada is slowly getting better, and I am no longer sneezing and sniffling as I did Sunday and much of yesterday. It appears my immune system is getting on top of it, so I am inclined to leave things alone and build up as much natural immunity as I can. The trip to Tilaran for antibiotics is off for now.
I do need to go to town today or tomorrow to get some boric acid to make up some ant poison. I have an infestation of tiny little ants in my kitchen that are just driving me nuts, and I have been told that a teaspoon full of boric acid powder mixed in a small jar of peanut butter will act as a bait poison that they'll really go for. So I am going to give it a try. Spraying the nests has been only modestly effective - it will knock down the infestation for a few days, but they will soon reappear from elsewhere. And I am hoping that the boric acid trick will finally kill the little blighters once and for all.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Displaying what has become an increasingly ominous tone of fear and intimidation reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, went on television on Sunday to warn Democrats to lay off Rove. Adopting a clearly fascist tone towards freedom of speech, he warned journalists that they had darned-well better "apologize" for "slandering" Rove. No, I am not making this up. He actually said that on national television! Never mind that he is saying that Rove didn't reveal the name of Valerie Plame - technically true - but Rove did reveal her identity, and later lied about having done so to the FBI. And it is revealing an identity - not necessarily a name - that is against the law, as well as lying to the FBI. So the Democrats are right to continue their discussion about this, whether Mr. Mehlman is unhappy about that or not.
Demonstrating once again that the United States is the beacon of freedom, liberty, jand ustice for all, especially the concept of self-determination to the peoples of the world, we hear today that the U.S., in its efforts to build democracy in Iraq, had secretly funneled large amounts of money to the political candidates it favored in the recent Iraqi elections. Why am I not surprised?
On the subject of Iraq, we now have a leaked letter showing just how pernicious was the lying and deceit intended to get the Americans and the British to buy into the war. This letter, from the British ambassador to the United States, shows just how egregious the deception was. It makes the Downing Street Memos look tame by comparison. Fascinating reading.
Speaking of the mess-in-potamia, it seems that the "Salvador Option" paramilitaries set up by John Negroponte during his recent stint in Iraq, are raising tensions on the ground there to the point where both sides are now engaging in frequent retaliatory actions. The result is that Iraq has been pushed right to the brink of civil war. A worse outcome for getting American troops out of Iraq could hardly be imagined, but that is what America has done. What goes around, comes around, so Americans, just remember that the next time a major terrorist incident happens in the U.S. - and where those terrorists got their training.
The U.S. Navy has worn out its welcome in Sardinia, as that island does not want to see itself become a target for terrorist attacks as has London. The regional president of Sardinia, Renato Saru, has publicly called for the base to be removed, saying that while Americans as a people are still heartily welcomed, the American military, with its nuclear weapons, is not.
Perhaps that is because the Sardinians know instinctively what Chatham House, the prestigious Royal Institute for International Affairs has finally come forward and said publicly - being associated with American foreign policy has made Britain more vulnerable to terrorism, not less, and has been counterproductive to the war on terrorism. Of course, that only confirms in a polite, academically acceptable way, what Al Qaeda is saying quite bluntly to the European governments - get out of Iraq by August 15, or suffer the consequences. Will you hear about this on Fox News? Not likely.
Another thing you're not likely to hear about on Fox News is that the United States has apparently put together a plan to invade Venezuela, an operation code-named "Operation Balboa." Speaking before an Independence Day crowd on July 5, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has declared that his intelligence agencies have uncovered evidence of the plan. The U.S. government has said that the claim is "preposterous" just as they said the same about the CIA involvement in the coup against Chavez two years ago, which was subsequently proven to have been true.
Snooping on political opponents to the Bush regime goes on unabated, and even the most mild-mannered groups have been astonished at the recent revelations as to the volume of files being amassed on them by the FBI. Many of these groups have absolutely nothing to do with anything that could even remotely be associated with terrorism or state security issues - so why is the FBI amassing huge files on them?
Continuing the civil liberties theme, it seems that the Senate now has legislation pending that would exempt gun manufacturers from civil liability lawsuits. Great news. Now they can sell all the $10 Saturday-night specials they want and no one can sue them for the deaths and injuries that result. Nice to know that at least the Second Amendment is still being honored, even if in a rather perverted way.
From the If We Ignore Global Warming Long Enough Maybe It Will Go Away department comes news that the waters off the west coast of the United States have warmed up - with alarming speed, and to an unprecedented degree. With it has come a cessation of the upwelling that normally brings nutrient-rich deep water to the surface, causing the plankton blooms on which west coast fisheries depend. Surface temperatures are as much as six degrees Celsius above normal, resulting in a complete failure of the growth of krill, on which most west-coast fisheries are crucially dependent. The salmon fishery off Oregon has completely collapsed, and many of the sea birds in the San Francisco Bay area are in trouble, including several endangered species. Herring and sardines are still doing well - for now - and the salmon in northern California have largely switched to these from their usual diet of krill, avoiding a collapse of the salmon fishery there. The problem has been traced to unusually warm weather in Alaska, and it appears that situation is permanent - a feature of global warming. Look for the price of wild-caught salmon, rockfish and other cold-water Pacific seafood to skyrocket - and remain permanently high.
And speaking of global warming, we are hearing from Svalbard, the most northerly permanent habitation on the planet, that temperatures there are skyrocketing, too. They have broken the old record for the highest temperature ever recorded on the island - by an astonishing 1.5 degrees Celcius! Temperatures have reached close to 20 degrees Celsius - and the inhabitants of this high-arctic island north of even the tundra line, are walking around in T-shirts. Scientists stationed there indicated that the glaciers on the island are losing ice at the rate of 4.5 cubic kilometers per year, adding directly to the sea level rise. Pack ice is reliably setting a new record each summer - for how little of it there is.
From the Scandal Du Jour department comes evidence that the Prince of Political Vendettas, Karl Rove, broke the very same law that sent Martha Stuart to jail for six months. He lied to the FBI. We now know this, because of information revealed by the emails submitted to the prosecutors by Matt Cooper, the Time Magazine reporter. So, will Karl be indicted on this felony charge? Will Junior say he made a "mistake" in Iraq? Will Dick Cheney say that Halliburton needs to be held accountable for the taxpayer's money it is spending? Will Karl Rove ever explain to the virulently homophobic, fundamentalist Christians out there, why he is still single, lives alone, has never been married and never seems to date any women? Stay tuned, this could get interesting...
Sore Throat Hangs On
Bright sunny day this morning when I woke up, no clouds to speak of, but it didn't last long. By ten, the weather had clouded over, with a thin, but uniform overcast. Overspill from Emily? No, the satellite pictures indicate this is part of the leading edge of a tropical wave unrelated to Emily, so I suspect we'll have rain for a couple of rains. Emily appears to be scheduled for a direct hit on Cancun as a category three storm, and if that happens, it will make quite a mess of that place. That is one of the things I really like about Costa Rica - it is far enough south that we are pretty much below the hurricane belt. We get our share of bad weather, but at least it doesn't tear the place up.
My sore throat seems to have worsened slightly yesterday, and again this morning. I have a slight fever as I write this, am sneezing a lot, and have a headache as well, so if it doesn't improve overnight, I'll head for Tilaran in the morning for a course of erythromycin. Feels like strep throat, with which I have had a great deal of experience.
Today is laundry day, too. I have a huge pile of dirty laundry left over from the trip, and I need to get it washed up and hung to dry. The process was started as soon as I was up, but I have a long way to go before it is done. Three loads on the line and more to go.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: We learn today that the insurgency which is in its last throes, is killing people so fast that the Iraqis are running out of coffins. They can't make them fast enough to keep up with demand. In Baghdad, they're dying at the rate of more than one an hour.
Of course, all this means that the Busies have to start young to get all those teenaged boys ready for a career in the military. So they're doing that, and they have a well-formulated plan to turn your kid into cannon fodder. They start young - in church. Don't it somehow make you proud to be a Christian American? Wave those flags. Chant that pledge. And throw a buck in the collection plate.
Of course, the military is but one component of what can only be described as a new Gestapo, carefully formulated to ensure the durability of the nascent one-party state to which Americans will soon come to be accustomed. All the essential elements of a brutal, military dictatorship are all in place. Hope you folks up there enjoy it.
Not only are they working on the elements of a Gestapo, they are working to make them permanent. That way, no matter what happens in the "war on terror," the domestic terror will continue. No need to dissent, the thinking has been done for you.
The nation's state governors are beginning to worry about the inability to recruit soldiers for the National Guard. The governors rely on the Guard for emergency work, and a seriously undermanned Guard will mean that they won't have the manpower they need when faced with a crisis. One of the recruiting problems they face, is the lack of jobs for Guard troops returning from duty in Iraq. It seems that young men who already have jobs don't want to jeopardize them by a stint in the Guard, active duty or even basic training. Surprise, surprise.
On this same theme of the consequences of the Iraq war, we find out today that none other than Douglas Feith, one of the architects of Junior's Iraq policy, is now distancing himself from the very policy that he helped design. Proving that there is no honor among neo-cons (though there is certainly plenty of the nihilism they find so abhorrent), he is departing a rapidly sinking ship, claiming that he really didn't mean to say that the WMD justification was true. Interesting that he would say that, after having worked so hard to get us into war. He claims that there were plenty of justifications, it's just that WMD's wasn't one of them. Why didn't he say so at the time?
Of course, that rusty ship is sinking so fast that even Junior's own people are looking for ways to get off of it. Don't you call this an "exit strategy," now, but it appears that plans are being laid to get out before the failure becomes an obvious, naked rout. Not the least of the reasons being that even the Iraqi quisling government is getting restive and is talking to that arch-enemy, Iran, a fact that horrifies Junior. But we're gonna stay the course, remember? We'll stay the course until it starts costing the Republicans seats in Congress next year.
One of the ways the American government is staying the course, is to do what it has always done. The "Salvador Option" death squads that John Negroponte was in town setting up a few months back, have been busy little bees, stirring up all the hatred, violence and inter-tribal rivalry that is making the mess so much worse. The death squads have even learned well their lessons in extortion and corruption. Great work John. You've taught Iraq well and helped shorten the war. It sure is intimidating all those foreign fighters, too, inspiring them to give up their war and go home. Now, John, go home yourself and do the same in the States with your new National Security Service secret police.
From the Scandal Du Jour department: It appears that the Rove scandal is widening, and may engulf both the current and former Bush Administration attorney generals. This should not surprise you - after all, both of Ronnie Reagan's attorney generals were also engulfed in scandals.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes word of an attempted bribe by a Republican consulting firm to an election official in Franklin County, Ohio, trying to bribe him to buy Diebold voting machines for his districts. Why Diebold? Could it be that the convenience of voters is worth the attempted $10,000 bribe? Wasn't Franklin County one of those Ohio counties that was statistically anomalous last year - in favor of Junior? Far be it from me, however, to dare suggest there might be a connection...
Recovering From The Trip
Today was starting out to be rather gloomy, but it quickly cleared off and ended up being a brilliant morning. The gardener arrived a bit late, and set about doing some weed clearance and pruning the giant ginger, which it badly needed. He re-planted a finger banana plant which had gotten into a rather precarious state, and needed to be reset, or it would have died. And another huge bunch of bananas, of export quality, needed to be cut before it was stolen, so he cut that down and I hauled it to the front port for the sap bleeding to stop. When it finally did, I got some wire and hung it up in the kitchen to ripen.
I made my weekly trip into town for groceries and newspapers, and was glad to be back, settled down to rest. The trip had left me tired, but this time more so than most, as I think the liver problem I am dealing with, is getting somewhat worse, and sapping my strength. In any event, I spent the afternoon sleeping and sitting on the porch reading the papers, alternatively. Nothing much new in the papers, other than the aftermath of a huge hospital fire in San Jose, in which 19 people died and more were injured. It appears to have been arson. I saw a brief blurb on CNN wihile in Granada, but only once. Costa Rican news doesn't get much play in the international media.
Speaking of health, I woke up with a sore throat this morning. I suspect I got it from the chicken plate I ate at the border yesterday, and I hope it doesn't get particularly bad. If it does, I will need to make a run to Tilaran for some antibiotics, as they are not available in Arenal. Hope it doesn't come to that.
I went out for a good tour of the garden to see how things had fared in my absence. I was delighted to note that more of the petra vines have sprouted, and I now have five for sure, and possibly a sixth, though that sprout is still too small to be sure what it is. And the cashew tree seedlings are doing nicely, too. Two have leafed out and are growing rapidly, and two more have germinated and are starting to sprout. And there are still three more that are showing evidence of sprouting. I may be giving away cashew trees to the neighbors. In any event, I am going to have to decide where to plant them, as it won't be too long before they will be pot-bound at the rate they are growing. I suspect I will need to get them in the ground as soon as the new leaves have hardened.
Fortunately, all the growth flushes on the citrus have hardened sufficiently that the aphids cannot get to them, and the trees are all doing well. I am pleased to see that. My gardener is pushing me to prune one of them, a lemon tree, but I think not, as it is still a small tree and not yet ready for serious pruning. He tends to over-prune things anyway.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: It appears that the Japanese have done a study of the American beef industry, which shows that U.S. food safety regulators have probably missed as many as nine cases of mad-cow disease in U.S. beef cattle. Comforting news that it is the foreign regulators that are giving us better information about American food safety than the FDA.
The issue with the CIA engaging in kidnappings on foreign soil without the permission of the sovereign government there, is becoming a serious irritant to the Italians, who are still miffed about the CIA snatching people of their streets. Silvio Berlusconi, Junior's strongest ally in the war on terror and himself a hard-core, ambitious rightwinger nutcase, is personally miffed about this and about the lack of answers he is getting. Hey, it's all about honor among thugs, Silvio.
From the Scandals Du Jour department comes some really intriguing information that leads one to conclude that perhaps that master-manipulator, chief con-man and overall sleazeball Karl Rove, was a victim of his own sleaze. It is beginning to appear that he was set up by some of the neo-cons on Cheney's staff, and his predictable vengance-seeking was used against him to set him up for the fall on Plame-gate. If so, it is interesting - and important news. It would widen the scandal significantly.
And it appears that the scandal is widening to include Robert Novak - a man whose whoring for the administration well and truly deserves to get him sucked in, too.
Heading Home Again
O-dark-thirty came early, and that meant getting up, getting showered and out of the hotel in a state of half sleep. I had not slept particularly well, and was awake in plenty of time, so the shower was leisurely, and I was out the door in plenty of time. I had been concerned about getting a cab, but not a problem - had no more poked my head out the door than a cab came by and I hailed it for the ride to the bus terminal.
When I arrived at the bus terminal, I was amazed at how many people were already there. The steps were already occupied by people sitting and waiting for the bus, and it was difficult to find a place to sit. The bus arrived more or less on time, and once on board, I was settled in next to a young lady from Scotland who, with several travel companions, were "doing" Central America. She was delightful company.
Formalities on the Nicaraguan side were pretty quick, since we did not have to do a customs inspection as we were exiting the country. Within twenty minutes, we were on our way.
We arrived at the Costa Rican side of the border just after 8 AM. The immigration office was not yet open, and so I was forced to wait for about fifteen minutes, but was among the first group admitted to the lobby when the booths finally opened for business.
It didn't take me long to get stamped in, and I had plenty of time to wait for the bus. There was no food in the restaurant, so I bought a plate of chicken and plantains from a sidewalk vendor, against my better judgement, but not having had anything for breakfast, I was quite hungry. So after eating the breakfast, I got my bag, got it inspected by customs, and got back on the bus. Within minutes, it was loaded, and we were on our way.
Just out of La Cruz, we were stopped by the Costa Rican police, and our passports were inspected, They seemed to be checking only the gringos - I am still not sure why. Mine got a good deal of scrutiny, while most just got no more than a glance, including my Scottish seatmate. I suspect they are watching for someone from the States.
By 11 AM, the bus had arrived in Canas, and I got off, grabbed a cab (again a gypsy - the legal cabs seem to be increasingly rare). At the bus stop, I was informed that the next bus to Tilaran would not be till half-past noon. After waiting through a thundering downpour, the bus finally showed, a few minutes late, but with plenty of seats, so I got on board and we quickly were weaving and swaying our way to Tilaran.
I was afraid that I would miss the noon bus from Tilaran to Arenal, and would have to wait for the 2:30 bus. But when we pulled into Tilaran, the San Carlos bus, which goes through Arenal, was just leaving, so I signaled to the driver to wait, and he did. I got off the Canas bus, onto the San Carlos bus, and off we went. By a quarter to two, I was home, opened up the house, which was not disturbed in my absence, and was sitting in my rocking chair enjoying a fresco. Long, hard trip, but I made it home from Granada in record time - seven hours including the two-hour border crossing. But it sure was good to be home. I enjoy the trips to Granada, but I enjoy being home even more. I was really tired, and spent most of the afternoon relaxing and napping from time to time.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Ever searching for more ways to make the United States the beacon of Freedom, Liberty and Justice For All, we have learned today that all those techniques of torture that horrified the world last year in Abu Graib, Iraq, were tried out first in Guantanamo. So Private England will go to jail, happy in the knowledge that she was no pioneer.
The case against thimerosol, a mercury-based compound used to preserve vaccines, as implicated in the increasing incidence of autism spectrum disorder, is becoming so compelling that even the Republicans are getting concerned. After all, even their kids, morally superior though they may be, still have to get vaccinated too. So now even they are pushing for some accountability on this issue. But of course, the Bushies are dragging their feet as usual. So there could end up being a confrontation within the Republican congressional leadership.
Last Full Day In Granada
The weather this morning was hot and muggy - last night's rains had left the air laden with muggy heat, and even though the streets were clean and fresh, the heat was a bit much. Clouds promised an early afternoon rain which was not to materialize, but at least they shaded the city from the brutally hot tropical sun.
Back over to Kathy's Waffles for breakfast. I was joined by the same fellow as yesterday, plus one more - a fellow I had met before on a previous trip. The guy owns a farm in Puriscal, and is involved in getting set up to do a co-generation thing to generate and sell electricity to the ICE monopoly here in Costa Rica, under the new co-generation law. It was an interesting conversation. I was greeted by Kathy, the owner of the place, who is getting to know me. She is a very sweet young Nicaraguan lady, tiny little thing, and wonderfully friendly and sociable.
As is my usual practice, once done with breakfast, I headed back over to Maverick for some local gossip and conversation with the locals. My priority for this trip was to get a feel for the level of social tension that is the result of the political crisis that is currently happening in Nicaragua. The caudillos (ruling families) are fighting over control of the machinery of government, and as usual, when the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. So the people are hoping and praying that this doesn't break out into open conflict. My sense of it is that the people are very much opposed to conflict; they don't want to see a repeat of the Contra War, and they just want to get on with their lives. So the mode of protest against all this fighting among the caudillos is to fly the Nicaraguan flag from the car radio antenna - and you see the flags everywhere now. It is the people telling the caudillos to cool their jets, because none of the sides will gain the support of the people in this struggle.
So far, the tensions are high, as has been pointed out in the progressive press, but mostly because of fear of what could happen, not out of passion for the support for one side or another.. There is no passionate support for conflict, like there was a quarter-century ago. People just want to get on with their lives and build their businesses and their personal lives. That is a good sign. It means that in spite of all the meddling from up north - and as usual, there has been a lot of it - the people themselves have no taste for war.
I did lunch at the internet cafe, as they have a chicken-burger I quite like, and while there, I did my email, read the news on the net and then headed back to the hotel.
Quick shower, and a nap, then a cup of gelato from the lobby. This time, it was a scoop of cashew, and a scoop of another local nut, whose name I do not recall. Both flavors were really good, and well worth the rather high price. But it is hand made, and of exceptionally good quality.
When dinner time rolled around, I headed up the street, and stopped at one of my usual haunts for a chili-dog and a papaya milk shake. I didn't want a lot, as I was still not particularly hungry from a large lunch. On the way back, I heard my name called out, and it was one of the fellows from breakfast this morning, the fellow with the farm in Puriscal. He was sitting down to a pizza at a sidewalk pizzeria, a couple of blocks from my hotel. I went over and sat down, and had a long and satisfying chat with the man, as he was handing out his pizza to the street kids, one slice at a time. By the time he was done, he'd eaten only about three or four slices for himself.
Back at the hotel, it was early to bed. Tomorrow, I have to meet a bus at six thirty - and with Nicaragua's daylight saving time, that meant O-dark-thirty.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: It is not just political opponents, such as myself, who feel the wrath of the Bush Administration. Now it is people who simply oppose its policies. The word is out that Junior's thugs are now going after scientists who dare to say that global warming is real, and that there are some serious issues concerning it, including the so-called "hockey stick" profile of how fast the planet is warming. The Bushies have sent ominous letters to intimidate the originator of the "hockey stick" study and he is not having it, but fighting back. Good for him - wish there were more like him.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes word that two associates of Jack Abramoff, a top Republican lobbyist, who is facing one grand jury investigation and two Senate investigations over his ripoffs of several Indian tribes, have now fled the country.
Sam Hook and his wife Shana Tesler are beginning new lives in Israel, I am sure motivated by their love of their Jewish heritage and their desire to help build a homeland for their people, not just to avoid facing the subpoena that has been served on Hook. I am sure that the fact of their associate, Abramoff, is now facing an indictment, and they're up to their necks in their involvement has nothing to do with it, either.
Visiting With Old Friends
The weather in Granada was what it always is at this time of year - hot, muggy, and buggy, even early in the morning. It is the one feature of life in Granada I don't much care for.
But the compensation is the friendly and welcoming expat community in that town. Breakfast was at Kathy's Waffle House, a breakfast-lunch place that is where the expat community tends to congregate in the mornings. I had my usual breakfast there, and was joined by a man who has lived in Central America for many years. His war stories were entertaining to say the least. We spent a couple of hours there, chatting and comparing notes.
Breakfast over, I headed to the Maverick Book Store, a block north of the central park, which is a local hangout for the intellectuals among the expats in Granada. It is one of the few sources of English-language books and foreign newspapers in Granada, and so it is a magnet for intellectuals. I always enjoy the discussions out on the conversation patio. Today there were tourists from Canada, several local expats, and one of the several former Peace Corps workers who has retired in Granada and still does charity work there.
I chatted with the locals till almost two in the afternoon, and headed over to a local Nicaraguan restaurant for lunch. A huge lunch it was, too, all I could eat. And when I was done, the bill came to a whopping $2.50.
I walked back to the hotel, stopping on the way at an internet cafe to get caught up on my email and read the news I cannot get on television or in the papers. By the time I was done, it was pouring down rain, and I had to dash between awnings and overhangs on the buildings to make my way back to the hotel.
The rain was persistent. Would not let up, so by the time I was hungry enough for dinner, I was faced with a problem. I inquired about a restaurant nearby, and the one recommended by the desk clerk was four blocks away - a cab ride in this rain. Well, I happened to have a an umbrella, but it was old and not working well, so I broke it out to see what I could do with it. Turns out that I was able to get it into a reasonably serviceable condition, and I set off into the evening rain. I walked to the recommended restaurant, and while it looked really good, the prices were a bit on the fancy side, so I shined that one on, and headed for another I had passed along the way. Its prices were OK, but the menu options didn't particularly do anything for me, so I stopped at a funky little place whose name translates to "son of corn." They had pizzas made up on a crust of corn bread, and it looked kinda good, so I went in and ordered dinner. The pizza was a disappointment - no cheese, and not enough tomato sauce, but the concept looked pretty good. If done right, I think it would be a hit. It was served with fresh-squeezed mango juice, which itself was a treat.
It rained most of the night, and I was glad for that. Granada needed the rain, and it helped wash the soil, horse manure and trash from the streets. Tomorrow promised to be a lovely day.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Condi Rice, America's secretary of state, is now having to face the music. Rather, she is avoiding facing the music. Rather than attend the ASEAN summit, madam secretary will create the first American absence from that summit in many years, rather than have to deal with the administration's mishandling of issues like the Chinese government's blocked attempts to buy Unocal, the American oil giant, the abandonment of Taiwan, the nukes in North Korea, the growing resentment of the presence of large numbers of American troops in Japan, the mismanagement of the Pacific Islands Trust Territories, among other issues.
The Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy is reaching new heights, with their classifying as "secret" more than two documents per second. Even an obsequious paper like the New York Times is now beginning to question whether all this secrecy is a good thing for democracy, or whether it is really just to keep the bodies buried.
Stranded - Maybe
The weather in Liberia this morning is a delight. Cool and pleasant after the overnight rains, but not unbearably muggy. Looked like good traveling weather - overcast, but not raining.
The bus was not due till nine, so I was up fairly late. Breakfast at the hotel restaurant - the only place for breakfast within walking distance, not particularly great food and a bit pricey, but hey, it's breakfast. Afterwards, I enjoyed a walk around the block on which the hotel is located, and got some fresh air and exercise. Afterward, a brief rest in the hotel room, and gathering my things and checking out, I waited for the bus at the tables in the front of the restaurant. There were several tourists waiting there, and I took advantage of the wait to introduce myself and get to know them. They were from Ireland, and had recently traveled to Thailand, so I took advantage of their experience to gain a little insight about living in that country as an expatriate. Turns out that the cost of living there is amazingly low - they indicated they never spent more than $10 for a hotel room, and meals were rarely more than 50 cents. This confirms what I had been hearing elsewhere. If things get bad here in Central America, I am going to have a look at moving to Thailand.
The trip to the border was uneventful and short - less than an hour. At the border, I quickly exited the bus and got in line, to avoid the extended wait behind all the other passengers waiting to stamp out of Costa Rica. In half an hour, I was in the door, got my passport stamped, and came back out - to find the bus was gone.
When I asked some of the other passengers in the line where the bus had gone, they indicated that it had headed towards the Nicaragua border post. Well, with no other option, I started walking that direction. Since the border posts are about a kilometer apart, it was going to be a bit of a hike, but I was not carrying luggage, as it was still on the bus. Once I arrived at the border, the Costa Rican police checked that I was stamped out, and the Nicaraguan police confirmed that, and indicated that the bus was probably waiting at the customs terminal. I had not much more than gotten past the Nicaraguan police shack when I was spotted by a trametista (formalities expediter), and he offered his services in finding the bus, getting me stamped into Nicaragua, and getting me back on the bus. Well, I figured if it cost me a couple of bucks for the tip, it would be worth it. So I accepted. He walked me over to the Nicaraguan immigration line, got me stamped in without waiting (explaining that I had to catch the bus), and then he found the driver of a different bus from the same bus company, and asked him about my bus. That driver got out his cell phone, called the other driver, who informed us that he was still on the Costa Rican side, but would be on the Nica side in about a half hour. While I was waiting, three other passengers showed up. They had not had the benefit of the trametista, so they went to the immigration office to explain their story and see what could be done. The immigration officer inside confiscated their passports, and told them that they would be returned by the immigration officer who would be handing out passports to the passengers getting back on the bus. Needless to say, they were a bit shaken. I was concerned that the immigration officer handing out passports would want to know how I came to already have mine, already stamped in, when it was not collected by the bus conductor.
Sure enough when due, the bus pulled into the lot, I retrieved my bag, took it to the customs line, and got it inspected. When the Nicaraguan immigration official returned to the bus with the passengers' passports, I figured I would have some explaining to do, but no - all he wanted to see before letting me back on the bus was my entry stamp. Didn't even look at the title page. No problem, and I was back on the bus. My fellow passengers got their passports back with the rest of the passengers. All was well. After two hours at the border, we were on our way.
The bus ride from the border to Granada was uneventful, if a bit warm. The air conditioning on the bus did not quite keep up with the blazing tropical noon-day sun, and it was a bit warm to say the least - and added to it, was the movie being shown - a remake of Flight Of The Phoenix, with all those scenes of people barely hanging on for the thirst. Just as the movie was coming to the climax, we arrived in Granada, at about three PM local time, and I got off the bus. I went straight into the ticket office and got my reservation for the return trip. The cab ride to the hotel cost me ten cordobas - twice the price it has in the past, as Nicaragua is facing a foreign exchange crisis related to the high price of oil,. and so cab and bus fares have gone up considerably. Hopefully it would not be a general increase in prices.
The hotel's rates were the same as always, however. I checked in, settled into my room, and had a quick shower to wash off all the sweat and dirt from the border crossing. The hotel, run by an Italian, sells gelato in the lobby, so I had a double scoop of passion-fruit gelato, and settled into my room, catching up on the news, and enjoying some really wonderful gelato. Life is good on a Monday afternoon in Granada.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Proving just how much those who sacrifice for their country really mean to Bush And Company, we are now starting to hear stories of soldiers, critically injured in battle in Iraq, are now being forced to accept a discharge from the military, even before their battle wounds have healed, so the military won't have to pay for their care. And it is apparently becoming a common practice. Such moral people, those conservatives. And to make sure that the soldiers that remain reflect the views of the Bushies, we're finding out how the evangelicals are bullying out other religions from the military's Chaplain Corps. It's not just the Air Force Academy anymore, as was reported here last week.
Of course, the result is predictable - an increase in hatred, fearmongering and bigotry that are the stock-in-trade of evangelical religions. That is having its effect in the military, and now, predictably, a scandal has erupted in the California National Guard over an Islam-bashing poster than has appeared there.
And in keeping with this military malfeasance theme, we are now hearing that the administration's POW-MIA director has been accused of abusive management practices. Just what you would expect from yet another Compassionate Conservative.
Playing the Americans for the suckers they always are, the Israelis are getting ready to hand the bill to the Americans for their illegal settlements in Gaza. Get out your checkbook - the settlements that they are abandoning are going to cost $2.2 billion to replace - and you Americans will be expected to pay the bill.
On The Road Again
Up early, facing some intermittent light rain, but can't concern myself with that. I had to get breakfast out of the way to get house closed up so I can head for Liberia. Going to Granada again tomorrow and I need to get to Liberia today.
The weather looks to be reasonably cooperative, though occasional dark clouds threaten rain, but so far, so good. Once I had breakfast out of the way, and got the house closed up, I sat in the front porch rocking chair, waiting for the time to call a cab. As I was waiting, I took a quick walking tour of the garden to see how things are doing. The avocado tree I planted last year has a new growth flush this morning, so I am pleased to see that it is doing well and continuing to grow rapidly. This is really good news after the long period of its doing nothing after it was planted. I am hoping that I will have some fruit next year or the year after - it should be big enough by then. It bloomed this spring, but did not set fruit - I am sure it was still just too small.
I was delighted to discover that two of the fifteen petra vine seeds I planted in nursery bags seem to have germinated, and are sprouting nicely. That means that the effort to acquire the seeds and get them planted will bear fruit - or more accurately, flowers. If I get several, I am planning to plant them along the west end of the lake, and let them grow up into the trees there - which should offer quite a show when they are in bloom. I also discovered that two of the cashew seeds I planted have also germinated, and it looks like I should have some cashew trees too. Still not sure where I am going to plant them - probably on the North Forty.
As I sat waiting to call the cab, I had a visit from a howler monkey - he was simply sauntering casually through the yard near the house, and when he saw me, didn't seem to be overly concerned. He wandered off across the lawn, out into the street, and into the weeds of the pasture across the street, where I lost track of him. This is the first time I have ever seen a howler monkey on my property - they're a constant feature of the jungle across the road, but I have never seen them venture here.
The cabbies never answered the phone when I finally called, so I had to get in the car, drive down to the taxi stand, and have one follow me back. I explained to them that my car has problems, and so I can't drive it far - that way, I discourage car theft while I am gone, while hiding my intent to be out of town for several days.
I got to the bus stop just in time to catch the bus to Tilaran. As the busses have been lately, it was crammed full and I had to stand until someone got off, and I could grab a seat. This is the first time I have had to stand - but as traffic loading increases, the bus companies are not adding additional busses. I suspect it is because the regulatory authority is not giving them increased fares to compensate for the rising fuel prices here. I have also noticed that it is harder to find a cab, too. There is seldom a cab parked at the taxi stand anymore, and there used to be a whole row of them. I suspect that it is not as profitable as it used to be, so the cabbies are getting out of the business.
The trip to Tilaran was uneventful, if slow. The packed bus meant that stops are slower, as people have to work their way past the people standing in the aisle. So when we got to Tilaran, the bus to Canas had long-since left. That meant a wait of an hour and a half for the next one. I had visions of a second long wait in Canas, waiting for the bus to Liberia.
Well, the bus to Canas showed on time, and once on board, made its way swiftly to Canas. It is a trip I always enjoy. The gradually thinning jungle, giving way first to savanna, and finally to open rolling plains is a beautiful drive, one of the most beautiful in the country.
On arrival in Canas, the driver announced a bus for Liberia that was waiting at our stop, so I quickly got off the bus and onto the Liberia bus. In seconds, we were on our way.
During the rainy season, when the Guanacaste plains are lush and green and full of flowers, I never tire of the trip. Vast sweeps of savanna, broken by well-manicured cattle ranches and occasional patches of dry tropical forest unique to Guanacaste, line the route. On a comfortable bus, it makes for an enjoyable experience.
Once in Liberia, I got my usual room at the usual hotel and settled in, watching a few channels on the cable television that are not available on my DirecTV system. Off to bed early, because tomorrow was to be a long day, and I knew it.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: The economy is booming. If you don't believe it, ask the Bush Administration, and I am sure they'll be glad to quote you the numbers. One number they won't quote you, though, is just how much profits are up, while job creation is down. In Silicon Valley, the situation has gotten so dire that some are beginning to call into question the very survival of America's technology center.
Well, Dennis is out of the Caribbean, and its way out is strewn with death and destruction, at least 20 dead in Cuba, a nation that really has hurricane preparation down pat. It is now headed for the Gulf Coast of the U.S., and will probably come ashore around Mobile Bay. Down here, the weather is still in its severely sunny mode, and has been cloudless and hot all day long. Just like yesterday, and with a thunderstorm brewing, just like yesterday. I suspect we'll get an afternoon cloudburst again today, too. Not a bad deal, as the hot sun dries things out rapidly, and by the end of the day, plants around the garden are starting to need water again.
The gardener showed up today, after having taken a trip to Nicaragua this week. He tells me it was really hot up there. Not surprised, given all the bright sun. The Nicaraguan lowlands, on the Pacific side at least, are always hot, or at least have been every time I have been there.
The bougainvilleas the gardener and I planted a couple of months back are growing well now, and are almost two feet high. But the stakes planted two weeks ago have not sprouted. I suspect that it has been too hot and not wet enough for them to really get going. We'll see what happens. Still no evidence of the petra vines or cashew trees I planted in nursery bags in the garden, either.
The neighbor's house construction hasn't seen much activity today. He has been over there cleaning up the work site a bit, but I have not been over there to chat. Ought to go do that.
Sorry, but this will be the last entry in this blog for a few days; I am going on a brief vacation, and will be back in about a week. See you then.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: In an effort to make sure that the balance on National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service are properly skewed in the right direction (meaning adequately slanted to the right-wing point of view), the president of the governmental financing arm, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, commissioned a study at taxpayer's expense, to see if there were enough right-wingers on the public airwaves. That is not an exaggeration - he was concerned that it was not conservative enough, and he wanted to evidence to prove it. He hired a fellow virtually unknown to just about everyone - Fred Mann, a guy with no credentials whatever in journalism, media, broadcasting or statistical analysis, but possessing the one credential that Tomlinson wanted - he was a conservative activist. The $14,000+ study Mann was to undertake was to determine the political leanings of everyone appearing on a PBS or NPR program, particularly programs with a perceived "liberal bias" such as Now, With Bill Moyers and the Diane Rheim Showand then determine the overall slant. When Tomlinson got his report, rather than trumpeting it to all the conservative media outlets as he had planned, as evidence of the long-touted "liberal bias" in NPR and PBS programs, he promptly buried it.
An NPR reporter got wind of it and, curious, dug it up to see why. Turns out it was so full of methodological errors, obvious mistakes in analysis and even just plain old typos and misspellings, that it was an embarrassment, to say the least. It was such an obvious hatchet job that even the conservatives would have looked bad by citing it. Good work, Tomlinson. Maybe you should hire an actual, professional media expert next time and quit wasting the taxpayers' money.
Speaking of broadcasters, we now know where Fox News' lead anchor's thoughts lie in this time of sorrow and crisis in London. We know because he told us so: "My first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'" (Fox News Channel, 7/7/05). Now that's compassionate conservatism at its best! Of course, that's not all the compassionate conservatism we heard from Fox News that day. This, from Stuart Varney the same day: ""It takes global warming off the front burner. It takes African aid off the front burner. It sticks terrorism and the fight on the war on terror, right up front all over again." Of course it never occurs to them that if we actually addressed some of these other issues, there wouldn't be a war on terror.
Speaking of the war on terror, it seems that the Iraqi government has now confessed that it is now using many of the same terror tactics that were used by Saddam. So, besides creating a vast open-air school for terrorists, our sacrifices have only succeeded in replacing one terror regime with another. I am sure that the mothers whose sons have died in Iraq will find that news comforting.
From the All Human Life Is Sacred department comes the news that the conservatives are angry, because the courts aren't 86-ing convicts quite fast enough. So it seems that they have introduced the "Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005", which, among other things, would block habeas corpus appeals - an important legal safeguard of civil rights, and which is the basis upon which fully 40% of all successful appeals of state convictions overturned in federal courts occur. Life sure is sacred, all right, but not if you're an innocent man about to hang. To conservatives, it seems that the old Soviet standard of justice applies: You're obviously guilty or you wouldn't have been arrested in the first place.
Also from the same Life Is Sacred department, there's word that the Christians are quietly working behind the scenes to block the release of two vaccines for human papilloma virus, a very widespread, sexually transmitted infection that causes 70% of all cervical cancer cases. What possible reason could they have to oppose introduction of the vaccines that could prevent so much suffering? Because if young people were immunized against HPV, and were therefore incapable of harboring or spreading the infection, it would undermine the Christians' case against condoms - HPV has the distinction of being the only sexually transmitted infection that is not preventable by using a condom, and horror stories about HPV and graphic photos of cervical cancer are a staple of the no-choice-but-abstinence education programs, based on scare tactics, that the Christian right is so fond of. Sex now or death later? Well, of course they'll unhesitatingly choose a gruesome, painful death later! It isn't about condoms or the sanctity of human life, and certainly not about the prevention of suffering, it is about keeping women in their place and under control, no matter how much death and suffering they have to cause to do it. Another example of just how sacred they really consider human life to be.
In an effort to uphold freedom of religion - as long as it is Jeb Bush's religion - the Florida Department of Education has embraced something it calls the All Pro Dads program, a Christian-based parenting education program whose public school involvement is funded by and run under the auspices of the FDOE. Bryan Davis, the program's director, said, "If you haven't cracked open a Bible in a while, start." Well, maybe he should try cracking open the state constitution and reading what it says about direct or indirect state financing of religious indoctrination.
Hunkering Down For Dennis
The weather this morning has been absolutely gorgeous - just the kind of weather that the Tourism Institute loves to brag about. And yesterday, for most of the afternoon, it was similarly lovely. But just when you thought it was safe to go outside, comes news from the Meteorological Institute that we should expect to get a backlash from Dennis over the weekend which should dump a lot of rain on Costa Rica. I am not sure why - Dennis is moving away from us, just as it has been predicted to do. But if it is growing faster than it is moving - and apparently it is - it could end up covering much of the Caribbean and all the way to the Costa Rica coastline. As I write this, it is already up to Category Four.
Last night, we got some rain - just enough to water the garden nicely, but so far today, not even a hint. Clear, blue skies, and a very light breeze out of the east. If a storm is coming, there isn't a hint of it so far. And that is something I have noticed - whenever there is a hurricane out in the eastern Caribbean, the weather here in Arenal is flawless.
My neighbor's house is coming along with incredible speed. The roof trusses, made of wood from the trees he took down, are now pretty much complete, and it looks like the roof will be going on in a day or two. I am truly amazed at how fast that house has been built - faster, even, than the tract builders in the States can do it. And from what I have seen so far, the quality of construction looks just fine - good materials and adequate construction techniques, though I still think I would use steel perlins rather than wood for the trusses.
The man who runs the dairy cows around here was putting up a fence around the pasture across the street from me yesterday. I went out to talk to him, and tripped and fell, skinning my knee like a little kid, and even this morning, it still hurts - huge scab an inch and a half across. Sprained my ankle a tiny bit, too. Last Sunday, some of his cows got out, and I noticed them wandering down the street, and he was out there pretty fast to get them rounded up and re-pastured. Apparently, the owner of the land is not interested in fixing the fence, and so is leaving it to the dairy herder to do it. Well, I guess that's just as well - payment for pasturing his cattle, I suppose.
I also noticed a field about 300 yards west of the house that looks like it has been bulldozed. Well, I asked the diary herder guy about that, and he said that they are just refurbishing the field, getting ready to plant vegetables in it. It's been pasture for long enough that the ground is pretty much exhausted, so they are turning it and adding some volcanic ash to restore the fertility. I was concerned that the bare soil I saw was overburden from the plantel (building site) for yet another house going in, but thankfully, that is not the case. It's far enough away that it wouldn't really be much of a bother, but hey, I don't want any more neighbors than I have now. If I could afford to buy the land across the street, I would do it - and the lot next door to it as well. Then I would always have a rural environment.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Remember the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth"? Those guys that weren't swift boat veterans at all and were so respectful of the truth that they were remarkably economical with it? Well, it turns out that very same group of civic-minded seekers of the truth is reconvening to gather its forces together to push for a radical right-winger for the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O'Conner. Same names, same faces. And the main face among them is none other than C. Borden Gray, heir to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco fortune, and long-time associate of the Bush family, and who served as legal counsel for King George the First during his presidency. Having helped ram NAFTA through congress, he also represented Microsoft in the anti-trust lawsuit it faced, and has so many money trails running through his office that sourcewatch.org calls it "bewildering."
Knowing that at least one Supreme Court justice replacement would be coming up soon, the Prince of Darkness, Karl Rove, asked Gray, after he had been recruited by Senator Trent Lott, to set up what has become known as the Committee For Justice, and just in the last few weeks, the Judicial Confirmation Network, a website and post office box traced back to Campaign Solutions, a public relations firm that handled Junior's presidential campaign in 2004, and which was implicated in the Swift Boat Veterans campaign scandal. What does this mean for you? Watch for a huge smear campaign to begin against anyone who dares to oppose Bush's choice for the Supreme Court justice. It will be like someone pushed the "Play" button on last year's presidential campaign.
When the JCN group was put together, the Associated Press' very own Deb Riechmann wrote and ran the press release as if it were a news story. It said, "The newly formed Judicial Confirmation Network distributes information through... conservative groups, including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, Family Research Council and the Americans for Limited Government. The network has operations, manned by paid staff, up and running in Virginia, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska and Colorado... 'We've been saving our quarters,' said [Wendy] Long, a...mother of two who took a leave from her job as a partner in a New York law firm to help coordinate the effort. 'We're roughly budgeting a few million for ads for the Supreme Court fight.'" Yeah, saving the quarters, huh? Wish I had "a few million" of those quarters myself. And Wendy Long? Not just a "mother of two," she also just coincidentally happened to be the law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, but I guess that's not worth mentioning as much as the fact that she's a mom.
Those investigating this fine, upstanding bunch have discovered something very interesting. Borden Gray, Karl Rove and Junior apparently had a long-standing plan to capture control of both the legislature and the judiciary of the State of Texas (which, with Junior as governor, would have given them control of the state), as well as the U.S. Congress. And this plan wasn't limited to Texas. There were national interests involved, too. So this cabal goes back a long way. Same faces, same names, same money trails. But it wasn't a vast, right-wing conspiracy. And that's an order, soldier.
In case you haven't figured it out already, the options are running out in Iraq. It is becoming obvious to the troops on the ground there that their sacrifice is going to be for naught (one reason why suicides and desertions are up so dramatically) - because at minimum, to stay the course will mean a commitment of years, even a decade or more. To make matters worse, it appears that the Islamic religious extremists are gaining ground, and even if the insurgency is put down, a stable, secular Iraq will simply not happen. We hear news that acid attacks against women that the militants consider to be immodestly dressed, are increasing, and it appears that the Shiite radicals allied to Iran are gaining the upper hand in the oil port of Basra, and are setting up a radical theocracy there. Can we say "Islamic Republic of Iraq," boys and girls? As if that weren't bad enough, it appears that the GIs fighting in Iraq are suffering from genetic damage caused by the radiation from the so-called "depleted" uranium (which is still 60% as radioactive as the natural stuff) used in the armor-piercing ammunition they are using. Their children are being born with horrible birth defects, and Washington still denies that there is any connection. What they can't deny is that genetic damage is for all time - these babies and their babies, and their babies after that are at risk for these horrible birth defects. All to make Halliburton richer. Makes one proud to be an American, doesn't it?
Speaking of Halliburton, it just got handed yet another $5 billion no-bid contract by the Army. The Army didn't say anything about it initially. When asked why, a spokesman for the Army simply said that they didn't deem the information to be newsworthy. C'mon! You've just obligated every single man, woman and child in America to the tune of $20, and that's not newsworthy? Excuse me?
That's not the only scandal brewing in the military, either. Turns out that, just like the Catholic Church's priesthood, it is facing an epidemic of pedophilia, and is unable to stem the tide. It is warning soldiers, through an article in the Stars And Stripes, that it could get them in a lot of trouble, and there isn't a treatment for pedophilia. Really?
Turns out that while they're not telling you what they're doing with your money and hiding the pedophiles, they're also spying on you. Or at least the National Guard is. And the anti-war protesters they have been spying on have mixed feelings about a federal investigation. If it happens, the evidence may be spirited away to be buried in the bowels of the U.S. government, never to be seen again, and the perpetrators will not be held accountable in state courts for lack of evidence.
Of course, all this spying on you is surely making you safer, isn't it? Terror incidents throughout the world are up significantly, to a total of 3200 during 2004. And of course, that doesn't even include that place where the "war on terrorism" has broken out into an all-out shooting war - Iraq.
Junior's claim that his looting of the federal treasury for the benefit of his rich buddies is making the economy better, has been challenged by a group of Nobel laureate economists. Not only is it not making the country richer, it is greatly endangering the long-term health of the country. Well, it doesn't take rocket scientists to figure that one out. Anyone who ever had to balance a checkbook or face the consequences can understand that.
Scared of paying well over three bucks a gallon for gasoline? Get ready, it's pretty much a done deal. After years of pumping oil like there was no tomorrow, the Saudis are apparently (surprise!) running out of oil, and can't increase their production to meet demand. And of course, Junior is doing nothing to help America wean itself off of Saudi oil.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk: Proving once again (if additional proof is needed) that deception is a cardinal Republican Family Value, we now have word that yet a third conservative political columnist has been caught selling his soul, not to mention his credibility to Junior for a mess of pottage. That begs the question, of course, of how many more there are. Knowing how greedy conservatives are for money, I'll be willing to bet it is a lot. Enough that Junior had to instruct his staff not to hire them anymore. The real irony in all of this is that the latest culprit turns out to be none other than Michael McManus, who writes a column on ethics and religion of all things, and it appears in 50 newspapers, no less. Well, we now know what his ethical principles are - and I can't help but wonder if all those editors are ethical enough to cancel his column.
From the Scandals Du Jour Department (yeah, I had to hire more staff to cover them all) we hear that the Prince of Darkness himself, Karl Rove, might actually be held accountable for his vendetta against Valerie Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, for blowing Junior's cover on the Niger uranium lie. Karl may actually be indicted! It may happen as early as next week, according to the rumor floating around the internet, apparently leaked from the prosecutor who is seeking his indictment. Good luck, fellas, I'll be really surprised. But apparently, the White House is taking the matter seriously - enough so, that apparently it has hired some pretty high-powered outside legal counsel to represent Junior. Hmmm.... makes one very curious about what Junior might be worried about, doesn't it? Could Junior and Company actually be getting ready for a scandal big enough that Fox News couldn't avoid covering it? Is there a god in heaven after all? Pop that popcorn and break out the chips and soda boys and girls, 'cause this could be fun to watch!
Terrific Lightning Storm - With Fog
The weather yesterday turned abruptly from the sunny, hot weather that I have been enjoying, to the cool, rainy weather more characteristic of the rainy season. The meteorological office had said this was likely - today and especially tomorrow, we are due for some heavy rain. Tropical depression David, just south of Jamaica as I write this, is bringing down moist, warm air into the eastern Caribbean, where it is coming onshore to make our weather hotter and wetter.
Last night about eight, a huge thunderstorm developed over Tilaran to the south of me, and the lightning put on quite a show. It was enjoyable to sit on the front porch and watch. But as it dissipated and moved away, the weather suddenly got cool and then fog moved in, resulting in one of those nights that would make London proud. I enjoyed the cool of the evening, though the humidity was a bit much, of course.
At about bed time, I heard the rumblings of thunder, so I unplugged the computer modem and shut down the computer and unplugged it. The thunder got louder, and the lightning more intense, so I finally pulled the main disconnect. I sat on the front porch as I often do, and watched the show.
The lightning continued to intensify and the thunder got louder, until a huge lightning stroke very close by produced a thunderclap so loud that it rattled the windows with such intensity I was surprised they did not break. It left my ears ringing, and the time delay between the lightning and the thunder was very short, a small fraction of a second, so it had to have hit somewhere very close by.
It went on and on - for hours, moderating very slowly. Finally, I gave up and went to bed, and woke up about midnight, with the storm sufficiently abated that I could turn the power back on. Quite a storm - strongest of the season so far.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Seems that Tony Blair's chickens have come home to roost. By his knee-jerk support for the war in Iraq, in spite of what he knew to be the lies justifying it, has made Britain a major target for terrorism, as the events of today have made clear. Thirty five innocent Londoners have paid with their lives, and countless more have been maimed for Tony's sins, and, of course, the root cause, George W. Bush, as usual, is oblivious as to why. He did, however, make a comment to the effect that the legitimate complaints that are causing terrorism need to be addressed to prevent it. Well, howdy do, Junior. Glad you're finally figuring that one out, about four years too late, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Of course that won't change policy, because in his heart of hearts, Junior doesn't really care how many people get killed by terrorists, because it gives him an excuse for his continued repression.
Speaking of repression, we hear this morning that the United States Army has been given authority to police demonstrations and dissent in the United States, which, I should point out, is in direct violation of the intent, if not the wording, of the Posse Comitatus Act. But of course, obeying the law is not something that Junior worries about, believing as he does, that if he does it, it's either legal or he figures it damned well ought to be.
While Junior is sending out the Army to keep you in line, he is scrambling behind the scenes to prevent his brain, Karl Rove, from the spectacle of having to do a perp walk out of the White House for his involvement in the Valerie Plame affair. I wonder what would happen to the country if Junior had to do his own thinking for a change, rather than having Uncle Karl around to do it for him. Well, couldn't be worse than it is. Not surprising that Uncle Karl is doing everything he can to avoid answering any embarrassing questions. But it turns out that before this blew up in his face, Uncle Karl had been talking to a few other folks, too, not just the New York Times and Times Magazine reporters. It seems he was fired by King George the First back in 1992 for smearing someone he didn't like during that man's re-election campaign. The man seems to have a bad habit of smearing people to wreak revenge. I love how these conservatives are so respectful of free speech.
It appears that people have grown so disgusted with the disaster in Iraq that four in ten now approve of his impeachment, on the condition that it is proven (which it has been) that he lied to get us into the war. Well, the "liberal biased media" don't seem to be reporting that statistic. I wonder why?
Another brewing scandal that is related to the Plame affair, mostly because many of the same actors are involved, is the Israeli espionage affair. It seems that Steven Rosen, the policy director of the American-Israel Political Action Committee, the most powerful lobby in Washington, is facing a perp walk of his own - for spying. The same neo-cons that eagerly conspired to leak Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent all over the media (estimates are that at least ten of her contacts have been murdered as a result of their vendetta), are now caught up in a brewing scandal over their theft of classified information and documents fresh from the vaults of the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The information went to Israel, via the good offices of Mr. Rosen. And it appears that the AIPAC president Howard Kohr is involved, and there is even an implication of the involvement of Naor Gilon, chief political officer at the Israeli embassy. It just gets bigger and bigger, and more and more embarrassing for this administration - or at least it would be, if the "liberal biased media" were actually covering it.
If you were as curious as I was, why Junior's "compassionate conservative" administration got all dewy-eyed about all those millions of black-skinned babies dying in Darfur last year, when it never saw a starving child in America it gave a damn about, we now have an explanation. According to John Danforth, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, it was that small minority of evangelical Christians who actually care about starving children were pushing the administration to do something. So for purely political reasons - the run-up to last year's presidential elections - it did what wouldn't cost the rich any money: Junior got all dewy-eyed about the genocide and actually called it what it is - genocide. But the words would never be backed up by action, of course, because those babies are being pushed out for a reason - to make room for - you guessed it - oil companies who are interested in exploring western Sudan for possible oil production, and who don't want farms and villages getting in the way.
While the American economy expands, the rate of layoffs is the highest in a year and a half - as jobs continue to be moved offshore in record numbers. Hey, the economy's improving, isn't it? So what's your gripe about not having a job?
The Haliburton ripoffs of the American taxpayers (and the Iraqi interim government) continues unabated. We now have word from Corporate Watch, that "Halliburton has overcharged or presented questionable bills for close on $1.5 billion, almost four times the previous amount disclosed, lost 12 giant pre-fabricated bases worth over $75 million destined for the troops. The bases could have housed as many as 6,600 soldiers. They have billed $152,000 to provide a movie library for 2,500 soldiers, and billed inconsistently across the board. Their charges included Video cassette players, for example, were said to cost $300.00 in some instances, and $1000 in others. Likewise, the company charged $2.31 for towels on one occasion and $5 for the same units on another." One fuel delivery contractor complains that he can't get past a border post manned by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, mostly because he is delivering fuel for one-seventh what Halliburton had been charging, even though his routes are much more dangerous now than when Halliburton had the contract. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
From the I'm Embarrassed To Present My Passport These Days desk comes word that China and Russia, traditionally enemies, have come together to issue a veiled threat to American conservatives - give up your obsession with world dominance, or face the consequences. This isn't the first condemnation of U.S. foreign policy by a foreign power, but it is certainly one of the most ominous - especially considering who it is coming from. One has over six thousand nukes that could be used to wreak death and destruction over the entire U.S., and the other holds more than $700 billion in U.S. debt instruments - which could easily be used to nuke the American economy and end the dollar's hugely profitable privileges as a reserve currency. Not only that, but one has the resources, the other has the business skills and labor force to turn the U.S. into an economic piker, if their alliance holds together.
And from the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk: We learn that Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who is currently the Speaker of the House and the most influential Republican in Congress, has been openly peddling his influence. He didn't even discreetly hint around about it, he just came right out and named a price and told the victim where to send the check. Sure enough, once the check was received, the provision the company, Westar Energy of Wichita, Kansas, had wanted showed up in legislation - only to disappear back off the legislative agenda when a Texas grand jury started looking into it. Betcha you won't hear a word about this on Fox News or even the "Liberal Biased Media." And I'll betcha those highly moral conservatives on the House Ethics Committee will be ignoring this little indiscretion, too. Just watch: this one will get quietly buried along with the other Republican ethical indiscretions.
Quick Trip To San Jose
The weather continues its "little summer," leading up to the serious rains that are coming. Sunny, warm mornings, dark, overcast afternoons with light rain now and again, and it is the kind of weather I find to be my favorite of the year. Of course, we're going to pay for it in a couple of months, when the rainy season intensifies to its absolute rainiest, and we'll be experiencing rain for days at a time, with thunderstorms that can dump a couple of inches in an hour. But for now at least, it couldn't be lovelier - it is just about the kind of weather one would design if one were designing paradise. The temperatures have been just about ideal, and between rainstorms, it has been dry enough to prevent serious mold problems from developing.
Yesterday, the time had come to do a quick trip to San Jose to take care of business I could not put off any longer. I was up early, got breakfast out of the way, and got on the road. To my amazement, there are still no significant potholes developing in the newly-repaired
Arenal-Tilaran highway. There were maybe a half dozen small ones that didn't even require dodging. As a result, I made record time, getting to Tilaran in only 34 minutes, exceeding even the time I made driving the route while being chased by armed robbers. And I wasn't even driving particularly fast.
The bus did not leave Tilaran on time, but pulled out about ten minutes late. Not like them to do that, this bus company is usually pretty punctual, but not this morning. When it pulled into its first stop, just in front of the ICE office in Tilaran, a huge number got on, and filled all the remaining seats, with a half dozen or so, standing in the aisles. And at each succeeding stop, even more got on, until the center aisle was totally packed with passengers standing, including women with little children. This meant that at each stop where people wished to get off, the departing passengers were forced to work their way through the crowd in the aisle, which meant that the stops themselves were time-consuming, adding to the lateness of the bus.
In the past, the 7AM bus from Tilaran would arrive in San Jose by 10:30, disgorging its passengers in front of the Children's Hospital on 2nd. Avenue. I would hop a cab to my destinations, and usually be done with plenty of time for lunch before getting on the bus to come home. But this time, the bus would not stop in front of the Children's Hospital, but it took a new route around the hospital, crossing 2nd Avenue and going to a new terminal before the passengers were let off. This meant that, with the slowness of the trip, I arrived with only an hour and 15 minutes to take care of my business before I had to get on the bus to return to Tilaran. It was a tight squeeze, barely getting my business done in time to make it back to the bus terminal for the return trip, and not a chance to even get a bag of chips. So hungry as I was, I found myself at the terminal just barely in time to get a ticket and get on the bus.
The return bus was just as packed as the trip out. It had a few seats as it left the terminal, but at the first stop in Uruca, a huge number got on, and there were people standing in the aisles again. This group also included a woman with a nasty, wheezy and persistent cough, and I was concerned for my own health enough that I opened the window and breathed outside air, in case her problem is tuberculosis or something as serious. With the decline in the quality of health care here, brought on by the insistence of Washington on not spending so much on social programs, tuberculosis is beginning to make a comeback, as is malaria and dengue fever, the latter being twice as prevalent this year as last. It is sad, but that is the price Costa Rica is paying for Washington's meddling. Which brings me to this:
More Reasons I Am Glad I Left The States: CNN International is reporting this morning, that the Bushies are making a mess of emergency medicine in Iraq, just like everything else. There are 40 ambulances on the streets of Baghdad, but only one has a two-way radio in it. Which makes the rest relatively useless as emergency vehicles. The quisling Iraqi administration has allocated over a billion dollars for public health, but the Occupation is making sure it isn't being spent effectively. As reported here on Monday, there is increasing evidence that the chaos in Iraq is not as much a result of incompetence as it appears - it may well be part of a calculated plan to force the Iraqis to accept American liquidation of Iraq's oil reserves. Makes me proud to be an American.
Speaking of Iraq, it appears that in order to qualify as a fatality in Iraq and show up in the numbers, soldiers who die there have to meet a long list of qualifications. They have to be U.S. citizens (not Green-card aliens enlisted in the military, they have to have been killed by known enemy combatants (friendly fire, unknown sources of fire, etc., do not count), suicides do not count, and they have to have died while on the ground in Iraq - if they croak even seconds after the evacuation flight lifts off from Baghdad airport, they don't count. Does that sound like they're fudging the books to you? Seems that they've expanded Arlington National Cemetery by 26,000 grave sites, just to accommodate all those who don't seem to count.
The "War On Terror" could just as well be described as a war on human rights, if a new article in this week's New Yorker is correct. It says that the methods developed and used by the U.S. military in the Korean War to help American soldiers resist enemy torture in that conflict have been reverse engineered, to inflict torture on detainees at Gitmo and the rest of Junior's offshore Gulag. The purpose is to exact as much pain as the human body can endure in an effort to make the detainees say what the captors want to hear. I must say I sure am impressed by Junior's respect for human rights.
And speaking of wars, the "War on Drugs" (which, in case you haven't noticed, isn't a war and isn't about drugs) doesn't seem to be producing results. Surprise, surprise. As reported in this space last week, cocaine is as available and cheap on American streets as it ever was. And now comes word that crystalline methamphetamine has overtaken cocaine as America's number one drug problem. And they can't blame this one on dark-skinned foreigners sneaking across America's borders - this one is cooked up right at home, in all those rural "red" states. Looks like all those conservative policies out there in the rural hinterlands of America are really generating some results.
Proving that impunity for conservatives and only conservatives is a god-given right, while journalists who cooperate in their crimes should be the ones to actually go to jail, the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case is demanding that the journalists who worked with Karl Rove, to expose Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, should be sent to jail, even after they have turned over their notes. Junior's brain, Karl Rove, the actual source of the information? My bet still stands that he'll never even be charged, and if he should, through some miracle, actually go to trial, the jury will be locked up longer than he will. That's the rule of law in Junior's America.
Proving how well the conservative policies towards Cuba are working, we hear this morning that the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, James Cason, has pronounced that the regime of Fidel Castro is "on its last legs." Speaking on July 4 in his farewell speech to his colleagues in the mission, he castigated Castro for his alleged human rights abuses, and denied U.S. involvement in fomenting trouble in Cuba. All of that has the same convincing ring as Dick Cheney's recent assurances that the insurgency in Iraq is in its last throes.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes word of how two very influential Republicans, credited with together cementing Washington D.C.'s status as a one-party town, conspired with leading Republicans in efforts to shake down Indian tribes attempting to secure influence in Washington. And we hear that it wasn't just Indian tribes, either, it was alsothe government of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. Pacific Trust Territory seeking a review of its relationship with the U.S. government. And as it turns out, Tom DeLay, that Texas Republican poster child for ethical circumspection, was also involved. These two men, Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist, have been involved in Washington political influence-peddling since their days in the College Republicans. Such fine, upstanding conservatives. Gentlemen, your respect for democracy and the rule of law is an inspiration to us all.
The weather is unusual today - it's windy. Very windy - not common this time of the year, as we usually have gentle trade winds this time of year. But not today - although the weather has been sunny this morning (overcast as I write this, however), the wind has been something else. There is a hurricane brewing in the Caribbean, but it is off the coast of the Yucatan, and so it should not be affecting us here. Otherwise, I have no idea why the unseasonable high winds.
Yesterday, I took a walk over to see how my neighbor's house is coming and investigate all the chainsaw work I have been hearing. Yes, the house is up to the square, and looking good. He is doing cinder block up to the roof line, which is the better way to do it. Looks like it is going to be a typical, small Tico house, two bedrooms in the back, with a kitchen facing the living room/dining room area in front. I like the plan and would find it comfortable myself.
Turns out all the chainsawing is exactly what I thought - the trees that were felled to make room for the house are being cut into lumber, some of it being lumber that would be worth a small fortune in the States - tropical laurel one-by's, as much as eighteen inches wide and fifteen feet long. Check that out at a store near you that sells tropical hardwood for cabinetery - last I checked, tropical laurel was going for $20 per board foot in Arizona. He's got a couple of trees there that, at those prices, would just about pay for his house. I know I am going to be guarding my own laurel trees on the north forty with my life - that stuff is really getting pricey.
Well, today I needed to get ready for a trip to San Jose tomorrow, and that meant going to the bank for some cash, and getting a haircut of which I was in bad need. I got a fairly late start, and so when I got to the bank by about 11, the lines were practically out the door. Rather than wait in that mess, I decided to go get the haircut and then come back in the afternoon, hopefully when the lines are a bit shorter.
When I got to the barber shop, the door was closed, unusual for our town's lady barber. She normally leaves it open, and I was concerned she might be closed. But in walking up to the place, I noticed someone in the yard and asked if she was open. Yes, I was told, I needed to knock. Did that, and she was open for business, with one lady already in the chair, nearly done. She was keeping the door closed because of the wind.
I got a cut - she didn't quite do what I wanted, but then hey, the price is right at $2, so I wasn't about to complain. I'll just have to be a bit more assertive about what I want the next time.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: A popular Texas bumper sticker boasts that "The only mad cow in America is Oprah." Well, it seems that boast is no longer correct. The first beef cow in the U.S. to be officially diagnosed with mad cow disease, it seems, was born in the U.S. and was raised in Texas, and never entered the food chain, according to the official pronouncements. I have to wonder if we would really know about it if it actually had entered the human food chain. It happened because the "feed firewall" against what happened in Britain is as full of holes as was the British prophylaxis - there are all kinds of exceptions to the prohibition on ruminants being fed to ruminants. So expect more diagnoses - a lot more. This is a cover-up that will come back to bite the secretive Bushies as people begin to realize that staffing regulatory agencies with the industry's own, does not produce effective regulation.
Bush's personal physician has resigned. He feels he can't allow himself to be part of the machinery of torture, and to remain as Bush's physician, he feels he would be. Resignation was an act of conscience for him. Says a lot about how those who work for Bush feel about what is happening and their being a part of it. This is not the first such resignation, and I doubt it will be the last.
Well, we now know who it was who revealed the identity of a CIA agent to journalist Matt Cooper, who revealed the identity in a Time Magazine article - leading directly to the death of several people associated with that agent. Turns out to have apparently been none other than Junior's brain, Karl Rove. Matt was given that identity in an act of political vengeance, but Karl doubtless planned on getting his usual impunity. And I am sure he will get it - as is so usual with the criminals associated with this administration, the jury, if there is one, will be locked up longer than Karl will.
While you weren't looking, it seems our boys have committed some war crimes in Iraq. They have destroyed hospitals, even killing one of the patients under treatment in one of them, and have blocked access by civilians to medical treatment, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. Great call, guys. Now you are really winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.
Think gasoline is pricey now? Just wait. The price of crude is likely to hit $100 a barrel by year's end, according to Matt Simmons, a Texas oil analyst who first foretold the huge prices we are seeing now. Demand is headed up, and supply is pretty well tapped out - even drilling rigs are in short supply. So grab ahold of your wallet.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes word that our House Republicans, who are so concerned for the veterans that they have voted cuts in Veterans' Administration funding, has voted themselves a pay raise. Not a really big one, but the fact that they even did it at all after cutting veterans' benefits, speaks volumes about what they really think of the cannon fodder they're sending to the Iraqi abattoir.
Of course, so few people want to go to that abattoir, that the Defense Department is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, drafting people who are on the Individual Ready Reserves list, in one case, calling up a 55-year old woman who is less than five feet tall, and whose M-16 is as big as she is. Some of the nine thousand who have been drafted so far last saw active duty in the 1960's. Now that is desperation! What I fail to understand is why they don't pull out some of the thirty thousand troops in Germany, and eighty thousand in Japan. Fellas, the Cold War is over. I don't think the Warsaw Pact will be over-running the Maginot Line anytime soon. And I think the Japanese people would rather defend themselves than have us continue to make such a mess in Okinawa and elsewhere. I know they would. They keep saying so.
Rockin' And Rollin' Again Last Night
The weather today has been bright and sunny right from sunrise - and that meant hot weather for sure. I turned on the fan in the office as soon as breakfast was over, and it has been running full-tilt all day. As I write this, a bit after 12:30 in the afternoon, some thunderclouds are starting to build, and it looks like we might get some rain later this afternoon. The break from the heat will be welcome if it occurs.
Last night, at 8:17 PM, we had an earthquake. This makes number five I have experienced since I have been here. A check of the U.S. Geological Survey earthquake server revealed that it was a 6.7 magnitude quake, centered about 65 miles south of Managua, off the Nicaraguan coast, under the subduction trench. Classic ring-of-fire, subduction-zone earthquake. There was a similar earthquake near there about a year ago, just after I moved here, and another even bigger one about six months ago. The interesting thing about that is that subduction zone earthquakes often stimulate volcanic activity in volcanos near by, but so far, no word on any new activity in the Nicaraguan or northern Costa Rican volcanos.
I felt the quake here strongly enough that I had to grab for stuff that was being shaken off of the desk, including my laptop computer. Had the shaking gotten any worse, I would have headed straight for the door. No evidence of damage to the house, and I haven't heard of any damage around town, either, but there could well be some in Nicaragua, closer to the epicenter. Guess I'll find out on my next trip up there. At 8:29, I felt a small aftershock, and at 10:12, there was a significant aftershock. Nothing since then. Didn't see anything about the aftershocks on the USGS server this morning, either. This comes on the heels of a significant earthquake in western Panama last week, which I did not feel here.
A check of the garden this morning revealed a massacre took place there during the night. There are gray feathers everywhere underneath one of the mango trees. I have no idea who got killed by whom, but it sure left a mess of feathers behind, if no carcass. Not much new to report from the garden this morning, though it looks as if one of the petra vine seeds is finally germinating. I won't know until it is big enough to discern from a weed sprout, but it looks promising. Nothing from the cashews yet. My variegated ginger re-sprouts are doing nicely, too. Growing slowly, but they are growing. Glad to see that. I think that once they're big enough and established enough, I am going to cut some rhizones and plant them around the garden in a few other spots, so I don't lose them if the disease breaks out again.
More Reasons Why I Left The States In a carefully researched, thoroughly documented and deeply disturbing article, Global Research of Canada has shown how the United States has become what can only be described as a monstrous agent of state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq, through its use of what it has, itself, called the "Salvador Option," a reference to the campaign of state-sponsored death squads which it conducted through the auspices of the government of El Salvador during the civil war in that country in the 1980's. Horrific acts of acts of torture, whose brutality is indescribably barbaric, and ruthless suppression of dissent, including journalistic inquiry into what it is doing, characterize what is happening in Iraq at the hands of that government's interior ministry death squads, which were trained and equipped by the United States government. The acts of brutality are making Saddam's abuses look downright tame by comparison. They are brutally enforcing a weird, nasty globalization, too - they are going so far as to even force farmers to plant GM seeds licensed and purchased from Monsanto, rather than using seeds they already own, saved from traditional varieties from previous harvests. Even some of the Iraqi governments erstwhile allies are being targeted, casting suspicion on the nature of the insurgency itself.
What is even more disturbing than all of that, is that these same people (principally John Negroponte), who were present for the brutalities in El Salvador, and were recently sent to Iraq, apparently to organize the state terror campaign there, have now returned to the United States, where, as reported earlier this week, they have been put in charge of Junior's new secret police, the National Security Service. So what is in store for the American people? If the words of Daniel Ortega (the leader of Nicaragua's Sandinista movement, and president of Nicaragua during America's proxy war in that country) come to pass, it is looking really bad for the U.S. of A. He wrote, "If America ever does at home what it does abroad, it will become the most repressive nation on earth." If what America is doing in Iraq is ever done at home in the U.S., Ortega's words will be proven, if anything, to be an understatement. Read the article and weep for the land of liberty that once was.
America's abuses in Iraq will not remain hidden as the similar abuses did in El Salvador. This is the age of the Internet, and if I have any say in it, and the Internet escapes censorship, the story will be told on this web site as I am sure it will be elsewhere. Fortunately, there are others who are willing to stand up as well and tell the story of what is happening in Iraq, including, apparently, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, whose unarmed, 21-year old cousin was shot dead in an act of apparent cold-blooded murder by a member of the U.S. military. There was no investigation, of course, until the ambassador complained to the press, and now the military says it will "investigate." Well, I'm willing to bet the jury, if there is one, will end up being locked up longer than the perpetrator will.
All of this is not escaping the notice of the Iraqi people, who are signing up for the insurgency in record numbers, and fueling a rebellion that is growing in strength and effectiveness, in spite of Dick Cheney's glib assurances to the contrary. The mismanagement of this insurgency is so horrifically wrong-headed and misguided that it has lead the chief of the Mossad, Israel's CIA, to conclude, publicly, that the United States is going to find itself bogged down in Iraq for at least a generation, and possibly perpetuity, even while the neo-conservatives, such as Bill Kristol, are urging preparations for a possible American occupation of the Palestinian Territories, which if it happens, will end up being a far worse quagmire. Just what the fellas starting their fourth tour of duty in Iraq, and their families, wanted to hear. And the only possible way to provide enough boots in the sand to make all this happen is to re-institute the draft. Just what the parents of all those teenage boys out there wanted to hear, too. All this will greatly stimulate Islamic hostility towards the U.S. - which, to justify the brutal domestic repression they are apparently planning, may very well be exactly what the neo-conservatives have in mind. Scary thought.
The largely overcast weather has continued today, and has been pretty much unbroken, signalling an intensification of the rainy season pattern. Not surprising that it would. My gardener arrived early this morning, and went right to work with the spraying that I asked him to do this week, when he was here last Friday. The weeds were sprayed only about a month ago, but are already getting out of hand with this damp, somewhat rainy and not very sunny weather - ideal growing conditions, much like a greenhouse, so they are doing magnificently. Even the driveway was showing a lot of weed growth, so that was a high priority, along with the weeds along the street, which are getting high enough to interfere with the street drainage.
Of course, he had not much more than finished, when there were some rumbles of thunder out to the west, and it appeared that my newly sprayed weeds would get just what they needed to survive - rain to wash off the herbicide. My gardener says I should not worry - two hours of sun is all that is needed to set the herbicide, but I am not so sure. The herbicide I was using is 2,4,-D, sold as Weed-B-Gone in the States, and as I recall from the labels there, they said it needed a minimum of 12 hours to set. Well, I didn't get that - about two hours after the spraying was finished, the rain started. It wasn't a hard rain, but enough to thoroughly wet everything, and so I am reasonably sure that the herbicide is washed off. Oh well...
Still no evidence of germination from the cashews and petra vines I planted this week, and am still watching closely to see what will develop.
My neighbor's house is coming right along, with speed that is truly amazing by Tico standards. It is all up to the square now, and I expect they will start framing the roof next week. All day long, a chainsaw has been running over there, and I suspect it has been cutting up trees to make lumber for the roof trusses. Combine that noise with my other neighbor's grass cutting, and the noise this morning around here was pretty awful. I chose to get the heck out of here while all that was going on and go to town for my weekly grocery run and to get the morning papers.
A big item in the Tico Times today has been the big Canada Day picnic sponsored by the Canada Club, a group of Canadians who do a lot of charity work here. They put on this picnic every year on July 1, Canada's independence day, and everyone is invited, Canadians, Americans, Ticos, even Bhutanese, as they say, and it is mostly a family affair, with lots of barbecue, with games and pony rides for the kids, etc. There is a small charge (kept small so Tico families can afford it), with additional donations accepted, and the money raised goes to help support their charity work - of which they do quite an amazing amount.
Contrast that with the 4th of July Party, put on by the American Colony Committee ( a most unfortunate name, given Latin American sensitivities). That one is a freebie, paid for by donations from American companies doing business down here. To get in, you have to show a U.S. passport - no "foreigners" (read: Ticos) allowed. I have not been to one, but I am told that it is mostly a business-people networking affair. I think you can guess which one I would rather attend.
More Reasons Why I Am Glad I Left The States: Why does it not surprise me to learn that Junior And The Warmongers have been lying to us about the number of American soldiers being killed in Iraq? Turns out the numbers are far higher than reported, because the official figure only includes those who die while physically located on the ground in Iraq. Those who die in hospitals in Germany or enroute there, are not included in the total! If they even die seconds after the evacuation flight lifts off the runway, they don't count. Turns out the real number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq is closer to 8,000 - as of the first of January this year, U.S. military casualties evacuated from Iraq who died in German hospitals or enroute there, totaled 6,120. The current total is doubtless much higher. Life-threatening injuries requiring evacuation? More than 24,000. So that's the butcher's bill that Junior has really presented to the American public - already, one seventh of the total that died in Vietnam. And counting - or not. Another thing they're not telling you is that at least 5,500 soldiers have deserted, and have escaped to Canada and Europe. That means that of the 158,000 military shipped to Iraq, at least 30,120 have been killed, seriously injured or have gone AWOL - at bare minimum, more than 19% of the total. No wonder the recruiters are having a tough time finding cannon fodder. Another item to write to your local "liberal biased" newspaper about.
Speaking of lies, the word is out, on the far side of the planet at least, that the U.K. government was deliberately misled by the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the Americans' use of MK77 napalm weapons in Iraq (these are listed as restricted-use weapons by the United Nations - as a weapon of mass destruction). So Tony Blair is finding out what being a poodle for Junior can really mean. Now he has to answer for it in the Commons, and he's finding that rather tough to do. He's getting so much heat over his lap-dog support for Junior in spite of Junior's ethical lapses, that there is increasing talk he may finally be on the way out as party leader and therefore prime minister. I sure hope so. It will be a fate he richly deserves.
More news about the Downing Street Memos that you Americans are not reading about in your "liberal biased media." Seems that Tony Blair has finally, publicly admitted that they are authentic. And they still say that the "intelligence was fixed around the policy" in the lead-up to the war. Perhaps you should write your local newspaper or TV news department and ask them why they are not covering the story of this proof that Junior lied to justify taking the nation to war. Hey, if Slick Willy should have gotten impeached for lying about a semen stain on a blue dress, isn't this one even more significant and worthy of impeachment? Why are you conservatives so quiet about this lie? Somehow, might not the word "hypocrisy" be an explanation?
And continuing to speak of lies, this administration's lying has gotten so blatant that even the Congress is embarrassed by it, and has now attempted to rein it in, by banning the use of paid media spokespersons for the purpose of making policy look like news. In other words, they are trying to prevent Junior from "catapulting the propaganda" to use Junior's own phrase. Good luck, fellas. But I am not sure why you even bother - when the news "media" function more like public relations organizations than actual news media, never actually questioning policy, you're gonna get propaganda even when you're not paying for it.
Putting the lie to Junior's contention that Republicans really do care about the boots out there in the sands of Iraq, it turns out that the Senate Republicans are having to scramble to cover up the draconianbudget cuts they made in the Veterans' Administration funding. The funding shortfall is starting to make them look bad with one of their more loyal support bases, so they had to do something, and quick. Of course, actually doing the right thing by the veterans has little to do with it, or the cuts wouldn't have happened in the first place.
From the We Conservatives Are More Moral Than You desk comes this little gem: The chairman of the House ethics committee, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) seems to have failed to file a required report about a trip to Canada last year. His staff says it "must have been lost in the mail." Well, why didn't they just say that the dog ate their homework? I would have been equally convinced.