Great Great Grandpa Hairy

Edward Uriah Plant

A photo of my earliest verifiable ancestor on the Plant family side: Edward Uriah Plant, born in 1851 in Cork, Ireland, raised in London, and an emigrant to Canada in the 1880s.

Hugo Chavez, Stop Attacking Yourself!

From NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscast this morning at 8am Pacific, correspondent Frank Browning reports from Paris on efforts to negotiate the release of Ingrid Bettancourt, who’s been held for six years by Colombian rebels.

[French Foreign Minister Bernard] Kouchner faces one of the trickiest challenges since becoming France’s chief diplomat. Bettancourt is only one of many political figures held by the FARC, while the FARC has many of its operatives held in the jails of Colombia’s government.

Earlier efforts by Colombian President Hugo Chavez to free hostages held by the FARC ended after the FARC’s chief negotiator was killed in a raid by Colombian forces in Ecuador.

I know that people have accused Chavez of wanting to become president-for-life, I hadn’t realized that he’d already taken over a country other than Venezuela!

What’s Important to John McCain

The question of the day is: “What does John McCain think of rebuilding New Orleans?” And the answer is, uhhh, he still isn’t really sure, even after more than two-and-a-half years.

Through the miracles of the Internets, we can travel back in time and see what kinds of public pronouncements McCain’s made in the past about The City That the Corps of Engineers Drowned.

On 16 September 2005, a couple of weeks after the storm and the failure of the levees, Congress was debating a disaster relief bill that equalled five or six months’ spending in Iraq. McCain was among the many Republicans concerned about busting the budget:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said he believed that providing rapid and extensive help overrode the need to cut spending elsewhere. “I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of,” Mr. Reid said. “And I’m not into finding where we can cut yet.”

That mindset is troubling to other lawmakers who fear that in addition to a reborn Gulf Coast, something else will rise from the storm: record federal deficits.

“We know this is a huge bill,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “We don’t want to lay it on future generations.”

No, we wouldn’t want to have to spend money to stay in New Orleans for 100 or 1,000 years or anything.

The next day, after President Bush’s had said that rebuilding the Gulf Coast would “cost whatever it costs,” McCain was quoted as being among those who wished he’d been a bit more moderate in tone:

Even before the hurricane struck, budget analysts on Capitol Hill were bracing for rising deficits as a result of financial burdens including the war in Iraq and the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. On Friday, Congressional deficit hawks said they were pleased by the president’s call for efforts to compensate for the burgeoning cost of the storm recovery, though they would have preferred that he had included it in his New Orleans speech.

“I think there are plenty of places to go to work, starting with Congressional earmarks,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, referring to pet projects lawmakers place in bills like the transportation measure, which included a $250 million bridge to a small Alaskan island that has 50 residents.

Not, of course, anything in Iraq.

Then, a week later, he again fretted that alll this relief would cost too much, and put a hurt on the all-important Iraq war:

As Mr. Bush spoke in downtown Washington, some of his aides and members of Congress were speculating that the cost of responding to Hurricane Katrina would almost certainly affect the war in Iraq.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has been critical of the administration’s war policy, emerged Tuesday from a meeting with administration officials saying that the White House had not been specific about how it would offset the costs of the federal storm relief.

But inside the administration, a senior diplomat involved in the Iraq effort, who would not allow his name to be used because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that it was hard for him to imagine “Congress spending more on rebuilding schools in Iraq before they rebuild schools in New Orleans.”

Heavens to Betsy. What if they’d been forced to pull out of Iraq to pay for the reconstruction of New Orleans?

Waffling Wu

LoadedOrygun points to Willamette Week’s story about First District Congressman David Wu endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama that also mentions he might change his mind if his district voted heavily in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

It’s funny, because he was just quoted this morning in an NPR story on superdelegates:

Still, some superdelegates prefer being holdouts. Oregon House Democrat David Wu, whose state holds its primary May 20, says he’d just as soon see Clinton and Obama keep battling for votes, including his.

“I will decide at a reasonable time,” Wu said. “I have very little intention of stretching it out till the convention, but I just have not had a reason to declare up till now.”

I guess the “reasonable time” was sometime between yesterday when the NPR interview was presumably conducted and today.

Little Wonder

I had some doubts about Sen. Ron Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act when it was first proposed and when an ad came out that seemed as if it vastly overpromised any likely benefits it had, I was even more skeptical.

People kept telling me that it had support from a dozen senators (of both parties!) as if that was some major endorsement. Then, yesterday, I saw this story in The Hill:

Congressional Democrats are backing away from healthcare reform promises made by their two presidential candidates, saying that even if their party controls the White House and Congress, sweeping change will be difficult.

. . .

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a member of Senate Democratic leadership and a key Hillary Clinton ally who also sits on the Finance Committee, said he is “not sure we have the big plan on healthcare.”

“Healthcare I feel strongly about, but I am not sure that we’re ready for a major national healthcare plan,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he would focus “on prevention above all and cost cutting until we can get a national healthcare plan.”

Wondering if Schumer or Sen. Jay Rockefeller (quoted with similar comments in the article) were among the senators signed on to Wyden’s bill, I found out that at least they weren’t double-dealing by supporting a major health care overhaul and simultaneously saying there was no way to do it. No, here’s the list of thirteen senators supporting the bill (twelve plus Wyden) with the Democrats in bold.

  • Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR]
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN]
  • Sen. Robert Bennett [R, UT]
  • Sen. Thomas Carper [D, DE]
  • Sen. Norm Coleman [R, MN]
  • Sen. Michael Crapo [R, ID]
  • Sen. Charles Grassley [R, IA]
  • Sen. Judd Gregg [R, NH]
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA]
  • Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
  • Sen. Trent Lott [R, MS]
  • Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL]
  • Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI]

None of the three presidential candidates (all senators). Joe Lieberman. Norm Coleman. Trent Lott. LAMAR! Only four of Wyden’s supporters are Democrats, and those aren’t exactly the rootinest, tootinest names in the Senate: Carper, Landrieu, Bill Nelson, Stabenow. Does someone want to explain to me what about this bill makes it credible as a piece of progressive legislation?

3,338 Days

No, it’s not a new Morgan Spurlock show (although I’m eager to see the latest season of 30 Days and his movie).

Three thousand, three hundred and thirty-eight days is the length of time the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan. From their invasion on 27 December 1979 to the day the Red Army limped out on 15 February 1989, just over nine years of extremely ugly warfare took place. A million Afghans died, several millions were displaced, more than a million were disabled. The damage to Afghanistan’s infrastructure was profound. The Soviets claimed they lost about 14,000 troops, although outside estimates claim up to three times that.

By the time the next president of the United States has been sworn in, we will have occupied Afghanistan for 2,662 days. The length of the US/NATO occupation of that country will match the time the Soviets were there on 27 November 2010, a little more than a year and a half into the new administration. I can’t see Clinton, McCain, or Obama getting us out of there by the end of 2010, can you?

The war in Afghanistan drained the Soviet Union, which was already overextended in its committments to spread the revolution. In Afghanistan, it couldn’t even manage to maintain the Communist government on its own border.

And just about three years after they finally pulled back from Afghanistan, the Soviet Union collapsed. Phffft. The Supreme Soviet dissolved itself the day after Christmas 1991, one day short of the twelfth anniversary of the invasion.

For us, that would be 6 October 2013.

Obama & Fitch


This is a still from Barack Obama’s Tuesday night post-Pennsylvania speech, he was speaking in Evansville, Indiana.

I’m not sure whether it was just some Obama fan groupthink, a well-executed guerrilla marketing campaign, or a product placement plan, but take a look at the three guys standing behind Obama. You’ve got a guy on the left in a black tee with the word “Fitch” running vertically, a gray tee with “A & F,” and a dark tee reading “A. Fitch.” They’re all shirts branded for preppie-porn clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

Now, personally, I don’t really buy into the whole “Obama’s an elitist” craziness, but really, someone’s got to have some say about who’s standing behind the candidate for something like a nationally-televised speech after one of the most closely-watched primaries of the season, and having something that looks like a coordinated group pushing $30 tee shirts…well….


According to STREETSBLOG, where I saw this video (via First Draft), this automated bicycle garage in Tokyo costs about $1 (¥100) for a single use and ¥1,800 for a monthly pass. It has space for 9,400 bicycles.

Recumbents, hi-wheelers, trailers, and others might not fit very well.