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Showing posts from 2010

USA! USA!

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Tough to Find, But Definitely Worth It!

A tool made in the USA! And at a Big Box store (Home Depot) to boot.



In these times when it's harder and harder to find that "Made
in U.S.A." note - especially on tools - this was a great find. And it's
a great tool. Super stripper, bolt trimmer, etc.Klein Tools.


The default store for tools, "Harbor Freight" is the big chain that is basically a Chinese manufacturing outlet. I challenge you to find "Made in U.S.A." there.


I think I'm becoming a protectionist. Horrors.
Pretty soon, I will propose a boycott of S. Korean cars.
But I'll wait 'til I research it a bit more.

Just The Facts

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...About Climate Change

If you are casting a dragnet for clarifying info on the (apparently to some) confusing facts about the REALLY BIG MESS we are heading into with our dosing the atmosphere with our carbon refuse, try this site. Like weekly.

It's on my new favorite web site, Architecture 2030. Give it a shot.

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101

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...Years Old! My Mom. Today.


This is that sweet girl at 17. And she still looks good.

Not many dudes my age can still go see their moms in person.

Happy birthday, Jimmie Duff.

love,

scooter

Cut Money for Cops, Cancer, Students and Firefighters

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Here Come the Republicans!

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Republicans’ pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal budget next year would slash spending for education, cancer research and aid to local police and firefighters.


A 21 percent cut in Pell Grants would take almost $5 billion from student tuition.

A 21 percent cut across the board would take about $15 billion from education.

A 21 percent cut at the National Institutes of Health would take about $6 billion from health research.

A 21 percent cut would take $400 million from police.

I could go on, but it makes me cry, and you don't want a sobbing blogger. Especially when letting the tax cuts for those making over a quarter million bucks a year expire would save all that and have about the same impact as those cruel cuts on the budget.

You know I don't think the Democrats are always right, but I agree with their statement about all this cutting into the hearts of our citizens: “It will have a serious impact on real pe…

Graphics from The Whitehouse

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YEA GRAPHICS!!!

Not since Ross Perot has a major politico used graphics to "draw" the facts.

Finally, Austan Goolsbee gives it a shot. 'Tain't perfect, but it's pretty good.


[ NOT Austan Goolsbee ]

Check it out.

I reiterate my many-times-recommended-to-Prez-Obama plea: "Use graphics; Use video; Use stills; USE VISUALS to make your points.

The Biggest News on Earth

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Geometric Growth!

"Modern science is advancing at an unprecedented rate, and the amount of scientific data is doubling every year."


And that's the biggest story I can find anywhere. The quote is from the 27 August issue of Science Magazine, but their reference is back to a 2005 paper. If you Google (or any other search engine) "Scientific data doubles every year" you'll see what I mean.
It's enough to make you optimistic.
Pix credit: http://www.maricopacomputer.com/

Papa of Propaganda

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Ever Heard of Edward Bernays?

Forget about (well, you know...) Hitler's guy Joseph Goebbels or Stalin's guy Molotov. They just gave propaganda a bad name. But Bernays basically invented it.

CHAPTER I
From his 1925 book ORGANIZING CHAOS, the first paragraph:

THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

Bernay's first task was to drag the screaming isolationist U.S.A. into World War I.
... with stuff like this:



Then he parlayed his techniques into a big P.R. business. His first biggy account was a ciggy account - Chesterfield. This dude convinced women is was cool and sexy to smoke.

... with stuff like this: All rights reserved by Christian Montone

But Propaganda wasn't "bad" until the Nazis and the Commies used it to brainwash their pop…

Deficits Be Hanged (Temporarily) - STIMULATE NOW!

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An Arrow Through the Throat of the Deficit Hawks (Who will eat our livers if we don't get them first.)
Bloomberg.com is a hard core financial news site. No wishy-washy ideology-driven spins on the money news. Here are some excerpts from today's issue:

Are the "Bond Vigilantes" Going to Punish Obama?
Instead of punishing the Obama administration for running up a budget deficit ..., bond investors are pouring money into fixed-income assets as inflation slows and equity markets stumble. That’s a turnaround from 16 years ago, when Bill Clinton was forced to abandon stimulus plans after his advisers said the bond market would punish him with higher borrowing costs if it sensed swelling deficits. “The deficit concerns are on the back burner,” said Andy Richman, who oversees $10 billion as a strategist in Palm Beach, Florida for SunTrust Bank’s private wealth management division. “The bigger concerns are on the deflationary mode and seeing growth slowing in the second …

Are We Nuts or What?

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Why Do We Make Dangerous Decisions?
(Like deciding climate change "isn't real")


Fiddling while the Arctic Melts
It amazes me that whole swaths of humanity ignore facts, refute the irrefutable and get all conspiracy-ish when issues arise that they don't like or that make them uncomfortable.Two unrelated (except they were both in the NY Times) columns offered nice, tight nuggets of insight into why some of us human beans lock our mental steering wheels and drive ourselves into major crashes.



Here's an excerpt from an Op-Ed on our dismal climate fate, the author Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada.Climate policy is gridlocked, and there’s virtually no chance of a breakthrough. Many factors have conspired to produce this situation. Human beings are notoriously poor at responding to problems that develop incrementally. And most of us aren’t eager to change our lifestyles by sharply redu…

READ THIS BOOK, TOO!

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And Understand America a Little Better


The Big Short by Michael Lewis.

I'm a little late, since it's been the top biz book on the NYTimes list (still up there close). It's been praised and berated with vigor.

But, MAN, it's a killer book. When you read it, not only will you understand the causes of the Great Recession better than you did before, but you will have an insight into us human folk with another layer of delusion ripped away.

And it's a hoot to boot, a fun book to read. The characters are great (notwithstanding that they are real), and the narrative plays at full throttle. Imagine, a page-turner about synthetic CDOs and that ilk!

It'll put a different light on Tuesday's headline from the Christian Science Monitor, "How Wall Street uses your money to lobby against you."

Enjoy.

Reboot America! Manifesto

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More Stimulus NOW

The deficit hawks are dangerous to America. He said conservatively, in quiet understatement.

Nothing is as important as getting our army of unemployed back to work. Cutting the deficit can and should be done, but not now. Not with the gnawing cancer of mass unemployment claiming more lives daily. There are so many extremely productive places to spend more stimulus money. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system is in tatters and a whole new category of American industry is just waiting to be stimulated by the right laws and the right government funding - clean energy, efficient homes and buildings, and efficient transportation. (CEEHABET, acronym fans). Oh, and there is the little fringe benefit of saving ourselves from climate change and freeing ourselves from dependence on malign foreigner's oil.

So I'm signing on wholeheartedly to... [[ drum roll, bugles ]]

Reboot America - Manifesto

... started by The Daily Beast, a darn good on-line news org…

Belief So Extreme

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...They're not even willing to check it out.

Now that's sad, ain't it?

I've had the experience many times that a "discussion" of differing opinions ends up with categorical rejection of any idea that runs contrary to what a person believes. "That's just not so," said a pal in response to what I saw as irrefutable evidence that it is so.

Then I ran across an article in Science News about how mathematics is being used to fight terrorism. It's brilliant. It's effective and getting moreso fast. It puts to powerful use all those billions of bucks worth of intelligence we are buying. However, the very idea is running smack into the "belief so extreme" that it "just can't work" that some important intelligence types won't even see for themselves. Here's the paragraph that caught my eye.

ARGHHHHH.

Now that makes me mad. Sure, when I can't get someone to consider one of my ideas, it's frustrating. But w…

READ THIS BOOK!

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You will LOVE it, if...

... You like great writing. (I don't use "great" with "writing" very often, but Spiller deserves it.)

... You think war is a fascinating subject.

... You think PTSD is a new thing.

... You think this makes the book sound worthwhile:

Enjoy.

The warmest year worldwide in human history

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... That Would Be 2009

Woe is us. The predictions keep getting worse, while the denialists keep getting louder. Something completely human about that, no?In case you missed the latest blast from the future from the National Academy of Sciences, here is the L.A. Times piece on it (from a month ago - thanks, Digg, for reviving it).












Always check your sources, boys and girls. Know what the N.A.S. is?

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is an honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. The NAS was signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War.


Do you believe the NAS or the latest Climate Denialist/Birther/Creationist whackjob? Up to you, of course.

In short, the big, Congressional-mandated study by all those distinguished scholars says things are URGENT, we should get on the stick and cut c…

News That Makes Me Crazy (-er)

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IT'S ONLY MONEY



More than 1 in 5 (U.S.) kids live in poverty (U.S.A. Today)









Now that is just unacceptable. Remember that the top 1% in American wealth have more money than the bottom 80%.


Then there's: A new Gallup poll finds the national debt tied with terrorism as voters' biggest worry. Health-care costs, unemployment, immigration, and global warming all lag. http://bit.ly/9sbXafOh, great, the "deficit hawks" are about to eat our livers again. Quoting that rich old liberal George Soros:

"June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor George Soros said “we have just entered Act II” of the crisis as Europe’s fiscal woes worsen and governments are pressured to curb budget deficits that may push the global economy back into recession. "





The "pressuring" comes from deficit hawks who - in my humble opinion - just don't understand that getting the economy going again with LOTS of jobs is the only way to start reducing the national debt. Cut…

(Another) Letter to the Editor

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THE JOY OF PUBLICATION II

I said it before; I'll say it again. There is something special about seeing one's letter in a paper.

This one is in the April 21, 2010 The Independent one of our East Mountain weeklies. The publisher Wally Gordon interviewed three of the local "Tea Party" organizers after a small rally. He used "Passion" in his headline. It was a good piece, quite fair, and used many quotes from the three ladies. One of them, a Mrs. Cooper, said she "didn't believe in health insurance, didn't have it and wouldn't use it if she did." She also said "death panels" were in the health care reform law.
I was moved to write a letter. (You probably have to click it to read it.)
I even got a "fan" call from a guy happy to see another liberal in the East Mountains.

Does Government Aide Help Businesses? You Betcha!

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Singapore Moving to Dominate the Water Biz

There's wind power (China & Germany in the lead), geothermal (Iceland in the lead), Ocean wave power (Britain, Australia & Scotland in the lead), solar power (China & Germany leading) ... WAIT! Where's the U.S.A. in this renewable energy list?

In what is clearly a big part of the future of the world energy budget, we are slow getting off the starting line. We invent and innovate and engineer really well, but when it comes to actually manufacturing in this field, we simply are not living up to our own (and the world's) expectations.

Then there's WATER. Some say it will soon be more valuable than oil. Potable water is already one of the great shortages in the world. Even in rich America, fresh water is in precipitous decline. So another big part of the future is processing water. "Treating" water: Cleaning it up, desalinizing it, recycling it. Again, the leading countries in this vital field are NOT t…

Investment Banks - Gamblers All

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I Admit It… I’VE TRADED OPTIONS
Therefore I’m the worst kind of gambler.





Now, before I get into excessive breast beating and teeth gnashing, let’s face it, EVERYONE WHO “INVESTS” IN STOCKS is gambling.That money you put in General Electric or General Motors or General Mills, etc. does NOT go to those companies.It goes to whoever sold that stock, plus a slice of it goes to the brokerages involved.Typically, not a penny goes to the company on the stock certificate.The companies don’t do more R&D, buy more equipment or hire more people because you “invested” in them.
So you are not investing in American industry, you are just gambling that some other sucker will pay you more for your stock than you paid.Or – more rarely – that the company represented by the stock will dole out some of its profits as dividends to you as a stockholder.
We all believe that buying stock is better than playing roulette because we make more informed bets than “black or red,” etc.And it’s just more respectable …

Good News Turns to Bad

Wrongo, Coast Guard


See below, "Some Good News" where I blithely accepted a Friday Coast Guard evaluation that there was no more leakage from the big BP rig that blew up, burned an sank in The Gulf.


That's what I get for being such an optimist. Here's the current state of things from the A.P.


By CAIN BURDEAU The Associated Press
Sunday, April 25, 2010; 9:43 PM NEW ORLEANS -- It could take hours or it could take months to stop a 42,000-gallon-a-day oil leak polluting the Gulf of Mexico at the site of a wrecked drilling platform. Whether the environmental threat grows many times bigger depends on whether the oil company can turn the well completely off. Crews are using robot submarines to activate valves at the well head in hopes of cutting off the leak, which threatens the Gulf Coast's fragile ecosystem of shrimp, fish, birds and coral. If the effort fails, they'll have to start drilling again. Dang.

Some Good News!

State Decision Blocks Drilling for Gas in Catskills

The danger to the NYC water supply from "fracking" is greatly reduced. Common sense wins! Story in the NYTimes.

"No Crude" Leaking from Sunken Oil Rig
Coast Guard Commander Tells CBS No Signs of New Leakage


Oh, that could have been the most terrifying and destructive spill yet.

(And, hey, maybe it will raise the alarm level for all offshore drill-baby-drilling. Maybe.)

The "British Obama" Sells Banking Regulation

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Heard About Nick Clegg?




















In a surprise bigger that Obama winning Iowa in the Democratic primary, this guy Clegg has shot onto the scene in Great Britain, suddenly taking his Liberal Democratic party from 16% to 34% in a week. Talk about a successful appearance on a debate! By the way, it was the first televised PM debate in British history.

So I checked out some of his speeches on YouTube. Here's one that I find astonishingly appropriate to United States politics. It's about reforming the financial system. He is as on-the-money as I can imagine.

See if you agree and at the same time, take a look at the "British Obama."

Picture Credit

Source of The Healthcare Lies

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Fox News Made Me Think It

People who are "madder'n hell" over the health reform law are quick and copious with their inaccuracies. When honest Tea Partiers state an inaccuracy, you can bet they picked it up from a LIE. For instance, "Refuse the insurance mandate and GO TO JAIL."


No surprise, perhaps, that the main perpetrator of health reform lies is Fox News. (And right wing magazines like The Freeman.) It gets really slimey when Fox News lies about lying.

Bill O'Reilly did it a few nights ago, denying that Fox News ever said anything about going to jail for bucking the mandate - or even for not paying the fine. ( The reform law expressly prohibits the government from jailing anyone who fails to either obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Check it out.)

But Bill said: “We researched on Fox News if anybody had ever said you're going to jail if you don't buy health insurance. Nobody's ever said it.” He researched it! If you're …

Monster in the PVC

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The mind's eye runs rampant (again).


Three -Eyed Giant Blue Insectile











Found this beastie in a piece of broken PVC, stained by the glue and cleaner.

Looks like an alien bug to me. Hey.

See "Faces in the Rocks"

Hooray for Graphics!

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The Guardian Gives GoodGraphics














"CA" is China; "JA" Japan, etc.

I was palavering with a pal on the huge U.S. Defense budget recently and came up with a pie chart. This is better.

If we just took the red part, not covered by other nations' expenditures, and spent it on, say, education, we'd be the best educated country in the world (again).


Graphic 1 credit

Always Blame the Other Guy

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He Who Screams Loudest



A competitor walks into your store and pees on the floor. Then he immediately screams, "There's pee on your floor! You people are filthy! This store is a scumbag place! I'm calling the Board of Health!"


That is precisely the tactic being used by Republicans like Eric Cantor who are trying to blame the crazed verbal and physical violence from right wingnuts on the Democrats. Or the national debt on everyone but George W.

Fee FiFo Fum; I smell the stink of hypocrisy-dumb.

Or is that a wafting draft of Big Lie propaganda technique?




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The Climate Change Denial Industry

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... And Who's Paying for It

Koch Industries, that's who.

Guess who blew the whistle? Good old Greenpeace! Whatever you think of their war on whalers (I love it), you've got to admire their courage.
Greenpeace's latest attack is on one of the most powerful, secretive, and rich companies in the world. In an admirable piece of investigative work, they have documented who pays the (huge) tab on denying climate change. And guess what, they are oil men! Surprise!

Here are the boys running Koch Industries:



Koch is a huge, privately-owned company that has nearly a hundred billion a year in revenue. Since it's a private company, they can keep a very low profile. And under that low profile, they outspend ExxonMobile by three-to-one trying to debunk the truth of climate change. (And you thought Exxon was the bad guy.)

So if you ever wonder how such loony-tunes stuff keeps popping up from climate change denialists, it's because these guys are pumping millions and million…

Another Big Climate Change Study

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THE SECOND SCARIEST STUFF ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

The FIRST scariest is the incessant bleating of the "deniers," egged on by the hydrocarbon industry. I read in the Washington Post a Heritage Foundation denialist called climate change "the greatest non-crisis facing mankind." That's high level denying.That's scary.

That SECOND scariest part is the truth itself. Here's an excerpt from a report in Science Daily:

"A new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wyoming predicts that by the year 2100, many of today's familiar climates will be replaced by climates unknown in today's world, if current rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions continue. The new global climate models for the next century forecast the complete disappearance of several existing climates currently found in tropical highlands and regions near the poles, while large swaths of the tropics and subtropics m…

Hey (Fellow) White Folks!

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Are We More Gullible?

As an addicted poll reader, I note that (some) polls say that white people are much less likely to say that the health care reform law will help them personally than say people of differing shades.

One question: Have you never run afoul of your insurance company? Would you like those parasites to still have the power to cancel your insurance when you need it most? Would you like to be unable to buy health insurance if you change - or worse, lose your job - because of a "pre-existing condition?" That happened to me, because I had (treatable, controlled) hypertension. Do you like your premiums going up at two or three times the rate of inflation? Blue Cross just popped my wife's premiums 29% - no recourse, no appeals, no changing insurance companies because she has a - guess what? - pre-existing condition! Do you like having to haggle with some insurance company clerk for legitimate claims? Do you oldies just love the "donut hole?" If…

Why Healthcare Costs Are Out of Control

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Ten Times Retail Markup?!?

Healthcare costs are skyrocketing. Why, Lord, why?

- Is it all those scans prescribed by the docs who own the scanners?
- Is it all those CYA tests to protect the docs from lawsuits?
- Is it the meds that cost 300% more in the U.S.A. than anywhere else in the world?
- Is it the weak regulations on keeping our food safe?
- Is it the $500 a minute specialist fees?

YES! All that and insane overcharges for everything from the famous dollar-per-aspirin some hospitals charge to things like THIS...

THE STORY

A close pal breaks her ankle. She goes to a podiatrist. The Physician gives her a simple, off-the-shelf ankle brace for temporary support. The bills trickle in.
Cost for that brace? $490!

Whoa, we say. So we look up the cost of this device. Check it out:




= $490 charged by the Podiatrist















= $49.95 charged by Smart+Medical











Identical product. Identical manufacturer. Identical reimbursement code.

Keep in mind #49.95 is a retail price, available to you and me. There is …

HALLELUJAH!

Way to Go, House
Not finished, but partially irreversible, health care reform cleared a giant hurdle.
To the brave men and women in Congress who voted for US, even in the face of intimidation, I thank you.
To those who fought this bill as though what its detractors in the insurance business and their surrogates said was actually true, take a deep breath and see what this really means to you, your fellow citizens and American small business in general, then see if you're still mad.
I am grateful, in the prayerful sense.

The Worst Kind of News

Another Leadership Stumble

Just another slap in the face from Reality. This morning's NY Times whacked me with this:

China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S.

Oh, darn. Not just (almost all) our manufacturing base, but now our innovation base.

The story is about how Applied Materials, a VITAL part of our technological manufacturing base, is moving much of its R&D to China.

So what's wrong with us? Is it our laws? (Yep. "Free trade" = "OK, move out.") Are our taxes too high (Yep, for the corporations which don't give a flip for anything but their bottom lines.) Are we running short of good engineers? (Yep, our decaying education system) Does a good part of our population sound like idiots? (I shouldn't say.)


I'm feeling grouchy.

Is America Losing the Biggest Races?

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Those Darn Socialist Europeans

If you've been paying attention to what the Right has to say negatively about almost anything we're trying to get done in American, you have heard the word "Socialist" about a thousand times. The Stimulus, health reform, energy independence, environmental progress, education... on and on ... it's ALL Socialism!Just like Europe!

Well, in area after area, those darn Socialists are kicking our butts.

Take a look:

VAST SOLAR PROJECT IN THE SAHARA DESERT TO PUMP ELECTRICITY TO EUROPE







This huge project linking solar power from the Sahara to energy users in Europe and North Africa could create 240,000 German jobs and generate 2 trillion euros ($2,822 billion) worth of power by 2050,executives from blue chip companies such as Siemens, E.ON, RWE and Switzerland's ABB along with firms from southern Europe and northern Africa will be at the inaugural meeting.

Energy groups plan for European 'super-grid'




An ambitious plan for an electric…

Letter to Hormel

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I actually felt pretty good about Hormel before now, even though I'm no fan of processed food. Pretty good corporate citizen, I thought.


Now I hear Sean Hannity crowing that Hormel is a new sponsor. Dang! I wrote this letter to Hormel:

"Your decision to become a sponsor for Sean Hannity leads me to the decision to cease buying any Hormel product.

Hannity - in my opinion - is a propagandist of the worst sort, dealing in half truths. He is bad for America."

I think he's almost as bad as Limbaugh for stretching, bending, distorting and downright avoiding the truth. He's welcome to his opinions, but I get really grouchy when people knowingly lie for political motives.

Sorry, Hormel, I'm just saying.....

But hey, they answered promptly with:
March 05, 2010


Mr Duff,
Thank you for contacting us regarding the radio advertisement.I will forward your message to our marketing area responsible for this.Nancy

Consumer Response Specialist
(I bet Mr. Marketing is a …

My Very Own Ice Dam!

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....Or a Mini Glacier, Maybe

I have long been fascinated – what would you expect from a sci-fi fan? – with the megafloods .Catastrophic floods have carved canyons, rivers, lakes and even seas.Imagine the spectacle of billions of gallons of water, acre feet per second, thundering across the landscape with inconceivable force, making tsunamis seem tame.These colossal events have happened at the end of every ice age when giant lakes of melt water are unleashed by the failure of the large ice dams that created them.











That is some scientist’s conception of what the ice dam looked like that released the flood that created the Western Washington badlands.Big deal flood.Not as big as the one that created the Mediterranean or the huge one that flushed out the Great Lakes, but pretty darn big.
Anyway, fascinating, no?Biblical at least.
Now I have my very own ice dam.







Hard to photograph, at least for me.But after over 70 inches of snow over two months, the melt/re-freeze process on my roo…