Monday, March 31, 2008

I Canoe, Can U? And Then There's Kayaking Too

Though I will probably never have that little place on the lake that I dream of, I seem to be putting together a little flotilla of water toys. We have a 20 yo little boat with just enough oomph to pull me on skis, a sailboat that I ought to turtle one day soon just to get over the fear of it, and now I'm thinking of a kayak (or two, so the whole family can go). My parents have a pontoon boat and a jetski and a canoe. I love them all.

I was a canoe instructor at summer camp ages ago. Any of you who were camp counselors in that era probably know that my qualifications for the post were that I could swim and hold a paddle. In today's climate I doubt you can call yourself an instructor without having 40 hours of class time under your pfd. In fact, the canoe that my folks have is a leftover from the same summer camp. I often wonder if it's the same one that girl peed in because she couldn't wait to get to shore, or the one I, close to drowning from exhaustion, made the most rapid and acrobatic water entry into after a really large fish touched my foot. (A good story for another day).

Those canoes are awful. I'm amazed we never lost a camper because if you lift a cheek to fart you've nearly swamped. Ben hates that canoe and so does the 4 yo. Me and the 7 yo are good paddling partners. That's why we are thinking it might be fun to have kayaks. She could go out under her own power. How cool would that be? A solo trip for me might be more fun in a kayak than a canoe. It's no fun in left-over-camp-canoe.

Fortunately, there's a great canoe and kayak store in Madison. We stopped there yesterday for some advice and I've begun asking people that I know for their thoughts. I can take a class when the weather gets warmer to see if I actually like the sport. (It dawned on me last night that I haven't got the first idea of what kayaking is like. Ben's aunt, who canoes the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota told me she doesn't like to kayak at all. The reason? Kayaking is paddling left-right-left-right-left-right. Canoeing is left, left, left, left then switch with your partner. You are afforded a little rest on your weak side). 7yo can take a class too, as long as we lie and say she's eight. She's as tall as a 9 yo so no problems there.

Here's what I know: a 10 foot kayak should be okay for my daughter. There are kids' kayaks, but do I want that? I should not get anything less than a 12' kayak. Would I want an inflatable? Are certain materials worth the extra price tag if I'll only be a casual user? (Something called duralite comes to mind. Sounds like a condom.)

Any one have any ideas?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mother Jones on Torture

Follow this link to an interactive chart about torture at Abu Ghraib. Two things: One, the content is phenomenal and incredibly comprehensive. Two, it's a great example of how news can be best covered on-line.

For bonus points, go through the list of people responsible and see how many have been investigated. For my (tax) money, far too many have skated.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Splotchy, S. Frog and the Monkey

All the kids are doing it:
Splotchy, Monkey and Samurai Frog.


What I like about Spring Break

Well, today is the last day of spring break for my kids. First grade and preschool. Thank goodness they give the preschoolers a little spring break, what with all the stress of not having potty accidents at school, of bringing acceptable yet mildly healthy snacks that dodge the thirty-eight allergy criteria, of finding your special square on the group rug. I think she's looking well rested and ready to return to the rat race.

It just dawned on me that what I like about spring break is that I have had zero contact with any other parents for two full weeks. DCup is my icon, my moral compass in the navigational sea chart of dealing with other parents. Her attitude, I believe, is to mostly avoid other parents if at all possible.

I am on the board of directors at my daughter's preschool with an UberMom (not Milf - there can be only one!). Her daughter also has ballet with my daughter so we spend a good deal of time around each other.

Once we had a chat about discussing politics with people you don't know that well. I said that personally, I am a very political person but I NEVER begin a political conversation with anyone. I am frequently engaged in political conversations by other people who know my leanings and I don't really mind that. (Essentially, I would never sit in an airport lobby and tell whoever was seating nearby that George W. Bush is a dry drunk delusional poop stain and that Dick Cheney is evil incarnate, even if 78% of the country now agrees with me.)

She said that she felt the same, but then gave up the ghost on her own leanings when she told me that a co-worker of hers was acting downright silly the day after Bush was given a second term. 'I mean, really,' she said. 'That lady thought the world would go to hell in a handbasket'. I wanted to say 'hasn't it?' but I did not.

Then one day we were talking about enrollment at our children's elementary schools. She was complaining about having to check the box that indicates her children's race. "Why do they have to know that?" she wondered. I said that it helps in a myriad of ways, particularly now that we have NCLB and so on. I did not mention that my children are enrolled as hispanic, easily forgettable since I am as pasty white as they come. Her daughter's school has about five non-caucasian non-christian children. My daughter's school (same school district) is about 40% minority.

Then she launched into a racist screed. I won't even go into details here, it was just banal, empty-headed, they are not like us thinking. I felt like the top of my head was going to roll back like a sardine can and my brain would just plop out. The things she was saying were not quite overt. Think of the scene between Mame and the Upsons in the film 'Auntie Mame' and you know what I mean. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.

You know what the problem is? I must not look liberal enough. If any of you have some cast-off hippy togs (preferably that reek of pot smoke, hemp and patchouli) send them my way. I might need to knit up a Cesar Chavez handbag. I could use a Kucinich pin if anyone has one of those.

Hurry though, the next dance class is Tuesday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wiccans Jailed for Child Abuse

WESTON, Wis. —
An 11-year-old girl died after her parents used incantations for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

"She got sicker and sicker until she was dead," he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl's parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to "choosing the wrong spell," the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing "was it was better to expand the Coven's circle . Call more people to help produce the proper magic," he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.


The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

The siblings are being immediately removed from the home due to abuse.

Okay that's not really the story. The above story is true but the religion in question is Christianity. Here's the real story.

WESTON, Wis. —
An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

"She got sicker and sicker until she was dead," he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl's parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to "apparently they didn't have enough faith," the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing "was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray," he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

Telephone messages left at the Neumann home by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

The family does not attend an organized church or participate in an organized religion, Vergin said. "They have a little Bible study of a few people."

The parents told investigators their daughter last saw a doctor when she was 3 to get some shots, Vergin said. The girl had attended public school during the first semester but didn't return for the second semester.

Officers went to the home after one of the girl's relatives in California called police to check on her, Vergin said. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The relative was fearful the girl was "extremely ill, dire," Vergin said.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

"They are still in the home," he said. "There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see."

The girl's death remains under investigation and the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney to review for possible charges, the chief said.

The family operates a coffee shop in Weston, which is a suburb of Wausau, Vergin said.

I apologize to any Wiccans I may have offended. I also think that if the girl were muslim we'd have seen an outcry to remove the other children from the home, or to at least get social services involved.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wundrun's Kitchen Nightmares

A local radio station is having a 'kitchen nightmare' contest. The winner gets a free trip to Los Angeles and a $250.00 gift certificate for dinner at Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant. Ramsay hosts "Hells Kitchen", a show I have never watched. That would be like cheating on 'Top Chef', something I will not do.

I have a kitchen nightmare story. This morning as I listened to the contest details, I thought "Hey, I have a kitchen nightmare story, and I can write it up and win, because I am a blogger. That's what I do. I write!" Gaining considerable enthusiasm I began to think that I could be like that lady in the Prizewinner of Cala-somethin' somethin' County! I was driving my kids up to the in-laws, where they will be hiding out for the week, so I had plenty of time to compose my winning entry in my head on the drive.

Man, that was a great entry I came up with. Unfortunately, when I sat down at my computer I pretty much forgot all those pithy things I wanted to say with precision, wit, and timing. Ah, hell. Then I remembered one other thing. I don't write so good neither. But I wrote it anyway and since it was writ, I sent it in.

Here it is. (Oh, and every word of it is true. Even the longer parts I left out and the ones I forgot somewhere around Baraboo).

When I was in college my friends and I took a summer sublet apartment. It was the upper of a dubious old house. Not much worked right, to say the least. I think that we were all waitresses or bartenders. Being around restaurants and it being the summer, none of us used much in the kitchen except maybe the microwave, and obviously the refrigerator (beer, natch).

One night I thought I would impress my boyfriend by cooking him a home-made meal. At the time my specialty was spaghetti and meatballs. Boil noodles, heat can of sauce with frozen meatballs. Serve. Expanding my horizons, I also planned to make one of those frozen loaves of french bread. Pre-garlic-buttered, of course.

I started the noodles and sauce on the stove top and turned on the gas oven to preheat. Five minutes later I opened the oven door to check if it was hot enough yet. Think about how you open your oven door, when it's one of those free-standing models: You open door, bend down, look in.

That's what I did. That's why the fireball that exploded out of the oven caught me right in the face.

At the hospital they wanted to know if I'd been playing with fireworks, because it was the 5th of July. I said I hadn't. Besides, it wasn't just my face that was burned. On the back of my head were charred little balls of melted hair globs. I think my face was probably in the blue part of the flame and the orange part sort of wrapped around my head. My boyfriend - I do think I impressed him - said the flame came out about four feet. It burned off my eyebrows, my eyelashes and my bangs. You know for a white girl I was looking quite a bit like Whoopi Goldberg. Aside from a lot of unwanted hair removal - meaning I didn't want the hair removed - my skin was mostly okay. Except that my nose was one big watery blister. The doctor peeled the skin off my nose. I went home looking like a sad, ratty-wigged, alopecia-suffering Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Strangely, the expensive restaurant that I worked at didn't want me to cocktail waitress for a while. At least not until I got the skin back on my nose.

My landlord? He stopped by to tell me that I didn't really look all that bad. And since he tried to fix the oven himself we just went on not using it.

Oddly enough, the entire house burnt down eight months later. We didn't live there by then and no one was home. It was spring break.

UPDATE: Huzzah! They are going to read my entry on the air Thursday morning! I have won an apron (I need a new one. Yay) and a cookbook (Can you ever have enough? No. You cannot!). Now I have a 1 in 5 shot at winning the whole deal. The trip winner will be announced on Tuesday.

I told my mom about it and she threatened to write her own tale: A tenant in one of their apartments tried to kill himself by sticking his head in the oven. It was electric. Ha!

Cross your fingers for me. If you do, I'll send you a postcard from L.A. (Gotta go now, I'm having a little dream sequence.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Posts that write themselves.

Seriously, weren't we supposed to have saved the world through 'journaling' by now?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pardon me while I unbutton my pants

Halfway between Madison and Milwaukee is a truck stop called "The Pine Cone". Since I was passing that way near dinner time I pulled in. It's one of my favorite places. I ordered the turkey special. Actual, not processed, turkey with my choice of three sides. I chose soup (chicken dumpling), salad, and mashed potatos (from potatos that still had their skins on them yesterday morning). On the side is served a dinner roll. At the Pine Cone "dinner roll" is a euphemism for small loaf of bread. It's dimensions are four inches wide by six inches tall.

The tab?

$5.75 for dinner. $1.65 for diet pepsi. $2.50 tip. (Can you tell I used to waitress?)

I could make dinner for my family of four with the turkey and potatos I brought home. If it didn't cost me $15 in gas to get there, the Pine Cone would be my recession plan for feeding my family.

I love truck stops.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Best Post I Saw Today.

m. yu's The Jade Gate brings us the chiaroscuro that is our hope for life liberty and the pursuit of happiness v. what it means to everyone else.

What a mirror to hold up, Mr. Yu.

Here's the link.

Here's a preview:

I am sorry.

It's been five years.

Five years ago I knew that this war was wrong. The IAEA said there were no weapons. The inspectors did not believe that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear program. The chemical weapons were not being found. They had already been destroyed. I knew this because it was being openly reported in the news. If one bothered to look.

I did not know about the memo that said that "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy". But I didn't need to.

What did I do?

Nothing. Not really.

I've protested and I've marched and I've held up signs. I've worked on elections to get the bastards out. But what is this?

Nothing. Not really.

I am sorry. I am sorry that I didn't fight harder. I am sorry that I continue to expect less from my elected officials than to stop this. That I still don't raise my voice loud enough.

I'm sorry.

Our soldiers deserve better than this.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just a Quick (bank) Note

From Reuters, via Boing Boing:
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar's value is dropping so fast against the euro that small currency outlets in Amsterdam are turning away tourists seeking to sell their dollars for local money while on vacation in the Netherlands.

"Our dollar is worth maybe zero over here," said Mary Kelly, an American tourist from Indianapolis, Indiana, in front of the Anne Frank house. "It's hard to find a place to exchange. We have to go downtown, to the central station or post office."

That's because the smaller currency exchanges -- despite buy/sell spreads that make it easier for them to make money by exchanging small amounts of currency -- don't want to be caught holding dollars that could be worth less by the time they can sell them.

The dollar hovered near record lows on Monday, with one euro worth around $1.58 versus $1.47 a month ago

Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein Returns from the Supermarket

I can't wait for the next Cooking With Dr. Monkey segment!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Who Is Today's Saint?

Oh, sure go ahead, pat yourself on the back for knowing that today is the feast day of Saint....Gertrude of Nivelles. According to my Saint A Day Guide, St. Gertrude died in 659. She is teh patrn saynt of teh kittehs, or cats if you will; also gardeners and travelers. She is invoked against mice.

Saint A Day says:
In sacred art Gertrude is portrayed so rapt in prayer that she is unaware of a mouse scampering up her pastoral staff. Therefore, in her native Belgium this kindly nun is still invoked against infestations of rodents, and cakes baked in her convent's kitchen are believed to repel vermin [blogger's note - hey! my cooking repels vermin and little children!!] In her lifetime she was celebrated for her hospitality--Belgians still call a drink for the road Saint Gertrude's cup, and some believe that the souls of the departed spend their first night of the afterlife in Saint Gertrude's care.

Other sources say that the mice are a Catholic representation of lost souls in purgatory, but this doesn't really help out the hospitality angle does it? Mice, drunks driving home with Gertrude's cup between their knees and hospitality straight out of purgatory? If Gertrude were alive today she wouldn't be a saint she'd be Leona Helmsley. Except Leona is dead too.

But wait, you say. Isn't today the feast day of another, more famous saint? Why yes, yes it is. Today we also celebrate the feast day of....Saint Joseph of Arimathea. Listen up all ye Da Vinci code fans! St. Joe's tale leads directly to the round table and from there to Tom Hanks weakest performance ever.

According to my Saint A Day Guide:

In all four Gospels it is related that Jesus was buried in the tomb of this wealthy disciple. According to one pious legend, Joseph was Jesus' uncle and a tin miner. After his nephew's Resurrection and Ascension, Joseph accompanied Mary Magdalene to France. Then, alone, he made his way to Britain, bringing with him the chalice drunk from at the Last Supper, which became an ornament of the church he established at Glastonbury, Somerset. And that is how the Holy Grail ended up in England, and why King Arthur, who built his own castle at Glastonbury, was so concerned with it. For a millennium and a half it was believed that Joseph of Arimathea's staff, which had grown into a large hawthorn tree, flowered every Christmas Eve. This was the sort of papist superstition the Puritans scorned--but just to be on the safe side, they cut it down.
If Joseph of Arimathea were alive today he would not be a saint, he would be David Beckham.

Oh, and there is another obscure Welsh Italian saint whose feast day we celebrate today. This saint, named Succat, is the patron saint of Nigeria. In Benin he is identified with the serpent-god Da because of his close association with snakes. Of course, you know this saint as Patrick, also the patron saint of Ireland.

If Patrick were alive today he wouldn't be a saint, he'd be nearly dead drunk what with all the shots of Irish Whisky and green beer you'd be trying to buy him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beware the Ides of March

Careful out there today, kids.

Seven Things You May Not Know

Dr. Zaius must be cleaning out the meme closet on his unfurnished home, because he's been handing those memes out like craaaazy. Dean Wormer gave me the seven things meme too, so though I probably should do fourteen, I'll only bore you with seven.

The seven things meme is where I lay seven little secrets on the line for you. Okay, maybe not secrets just things I haven't gotten around to blogging about yet. I have alluded to both my stints in jail and at the United Nations, so since you might know about those, I'll put them in the 'to do' pile and not list them here.

The rules:
List seven random things about yourself that people may not know.

Link the person who sent this to you, and leave a comment on their blog so that their readers can visit yours.

Post the rules on your blog.

Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, linking their blog. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Without further ado:

1. I was once a certified PADI scuba diver. I probably never went diving more than a half a dozen times, but I still have all the gear in the basement. I don't like diving in lakes here in Wisconsin because there are thermoclines, layers of very cold water as you go deeper. When you cross one it's like going from a warm room into a walk-in freezer. Brrrr. Plus it tends to be dark. The darkness and the cold bring on claustrophobia for me, a sensation I never experience otherwise. I liked in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean but those places are a tad hard to get to on a given Saturday.

2. I jumped out of an airplane twice. Both were static line jumps, where they hook a long line from your parachute to the plane. As you jump when the line becomes taut the parachute pulls out of the pack and Wheeeee! you are on your way. I have a slight fear of heights, but when you parachute you are already falling so there's no need to be afraid. On the first jump I sang "Fly me to the moon" at the top of my lungs during my descent. I hope the two way radio wasn't on! The radio was there to communicate with a guy on the ground who would tell you to 'toggle left' or 'toggle right' to change your direction to get you to the landing zone. Because there was a busy highway and powerlines to the north of the landing zone, you listened very carefully to his instructions. The last instruction they give you is "Flair!" which does not mean to land with great showmanship or aplomb, it means to pull straight down on the toggles which breaks your speed for a soft landing. On my second jump I didn't 'flair' straight down but I pulled the toggles like you would on a weight training machine, without bending my elbows. When I hit the ground I was only about 3/4's of the way through, so hit much harder than I should have. Whoops. I would never do a tandem jump where you go strapped to the belly of an experienced sky diver. Though you get to go up much higher (static jumps are from about 3000 feet, tandems can be 10,000) the landings are more dangerous because people tend to stick their feet out on the landing, breaking legs and ankles.

Though this isn't about me, I thought I'd mention that the first time my sister flew in a plane was when she went skydiving. The first time she flew on a commercial flight she mentioned to the lady sitting next to her that though she'd flown before, she'd never landed.

3. The first time I ever flew in an airplane was when I was 20. I went with Model Organization of the American States to the Assembly in Washington. I didn't tell anyone that I'd never flown before until after we'd gotten there. One of the guys said if he'd have known he'd have given me his window seat. Since then, I always want the window. No matter how often I fly I never get tired of looking down on the planet.

4. I have never been to an opera, or to a ballet, unless you count events in the basement of the library or recitals that include 3 year old dancers. I am a rube. The first show I saw on Broadway was "Les Miserables". My parents were visiting me when I was interning at the UN so I took them. In those days you did not go into Times Square after dark! About ten minutes into Les Mis, dad asked when they were going to stop singing and start talking. I guess he thought it would be like Oklahoma or something. I saw Lion King in its first season. Benjamin Netanyahu and his family were three rows behind us. I sat in the first row center for The Full Monty and got to chat with the orchestra conductor before the show. I was hoping that I might get a sneak peek at the 'montys' in the last scene-sort of an up and under view, but no dice. The last show I saw on Broadway was 'Rent'. Personally, I thought it sucked. Maybe because it had already been made into a movie and had all kinds of hype around it. Maybe because it was in its gazillionth season by then it was a little stale. There was one American Idol chick in it, though.

5. My husband keeps a picture of a Jamaican prostitute licking my nipple under his desk blotter. Though it was hot girl on girl action, I think I can say that I am not now nor have I ever been gay. The nipple licking (enjoyable, btw) occurred the night before we got married in Negril. A friend of ours purchased the services of the prostitute for me as a bachelorette kind of thing, which is how I wound up getting licked by her. I wonder if this precludes me from elected office? I think I'll post the rest of that story on our anniversary.

6. I graduated in the lowest quartile of my high school class. I had a C-/D+ average because I wouldn't do my homework. Thanks to the CLEP tests and high ACT scores, I got to skip most of my college 100 level courses and I was frequently on the Dean's list in college. Though I hate homework, I loved to write papers and I loved to cram for tests. I had three majors: International Studies, Journalism and Political Science. I never did anything with any of them.

7. I taught myself crochet a few months ago. I'm working on an afghan for my mother. It's straight halfdouble chain in stripes. The colors are garish.

There, that was fun. I'm not officially tagging anyone, but have at it if you feel the urge.

D Cup at PoliTits tagged me with the six word meme a week ago, and here I am getting around to it.

Those rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

My memoir?

I wish I was wrong sometimes

Okay, I cribbed that off the coaster that my coffee cup is sitting on right now. But I think it works. Now I've plagiarized my own biography. That's pretty telling too!

Again, not tagging. See above.

Thanks, DCup, Dean, and Dr. Zaius for the tags!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It was the smurf's that got Spitzer

US News and World Report has answered the question of how Eliot Spitzer became embroiled in an investigation for wire transfers to a prostitution ring. It seems there was a bit of sloppy reporting (*what?!?*) combined with little understood rules for how banks work since the onslaught of the "Wars On_________________" (drugs, terror, citizens)

Here's the story:
With all the salacious allegations surrounding New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, it's easy to overlook the bland figures that reportedly triggered his downfall. Lost in all the chatter about high-priced hookers are the plain-vanilla bankers—at North Fork Bank, a unit of Capital One—who reportedly tipped off federal investigators to a suspicious bank transaction involving Spitzer's account. It was that transaction that eventually linked the now disgraced Spitzer to the prostitution ring that ended his high-profile political career.

That's right, private-sector bankers can and do work with the federal government to flag and, if necessary, investigate account holders who make certain transactions. And you don't have to be Eliot Spitzer to show up on their radar screen. Here's how it works.

$10,000 moves: All U.S. banks are required to file paperwork—known as currency transaction reports—with the Treasury Department anytime an account holder makes a cash deposit or withdrawal of $10,000 or more. But since banks oversee numerous transactions of this size every day, currency transaction reports are not particularly alarming. If you run a retail business that operates in cash—like a restaurant or a dry cleaner—or you've
ever sold your car, it's possible the Treasury Department has a currency transaction report on file with your name on it.

Smurfing: But people intending to use their cash for illicit purposes—say, drug
dealers—want to avoid drawing attention to their finances. So, they sometimes try to stay under the $10,000 trip wire by breaking up a large deposit into several smaller portions. That scheme is known as structuring, or smurfing (named after the tiny, blue 1980s cartoon characters). "Structuring itself is a crime because [it] is an effort to circumvent the currency transaction report," says Bruce Zagaris, partner with Berliner Corcoran & Rowe, a Washington, D.C., law firm.

But over the years, bank officials have enhanced their ability to sniff out structuring. "Banks are very sensitized to structuring activity—they have special [computer] programs that are designed to detect it," says Peter Djinis, a former head of regulatory programs at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

According to the Washington Post, bank officials first became suspicious of Spitzer because he appeared to be structuring his transactions to avoid the $10,000 tripwire. "The huge irony here is that probably if he had not engaged in structuring activity, the call-girl enterprise never would have been discovered or prosecuted," Djinis says.

Suspicious activity: When bank officials spot something fishy going on in an account, such as structuring, they are required to file a second report—known as a suspicious-activity report—with the Treasury Department. "The government is essentially telling the banks, 'If there is something odd about a transaction that you can't explain, we want you to report it,' " says Robert Rowe, a senior regulatory counsel at the trade group Independent Community Bankers of America.

Database: The suspicious-activity reports are then sent to the Internal Revenue Service's computing center in Detroit, where the information is entered into a database maintained by the Treasury Department. More than 40 percent of suspicious-activity reports are filed on account of structuring, according to Steve Hudak, a spokesman for the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The G-men: Once the information is entered in the database, it can be used by government investigators. "The information there is made available to federal and state law enforcement that have jurisdiction to investigate financial crime," Djinis says. "By rule they have to have an investigative purpose—they can't just go on a fishing expedition—but there is no need for a subpoena or anything of that nature."

I'm glad there's an explanation. It doesn't mean that I think it's right. Consider that our government has already assumed these powers to spy on our spending habits and so forth, yet still complains that its hands are tied and needs MORE spying powers.

Crank up the heat on those frogs you're cooking in the sauce pan, they're ready to boil now

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

There's something wrong with the Spitzer investigation

Let me say up front that I despise Eliot Spitzer's hypocrisy the same way that I despise that of the myriad republicans caught in their torrid sex scandals. I would also like to add that the behavior of republicans at this point outshines Spitzer's own hypocrisy by several degrees. The pearl clutchers at National Review Online are aghast at the sheer numbers of democratic governors who have been caught in these sex scandals, pretending that they are piling up like cordwood behind the barn. Of course they are referring to Spitzer and to New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, whose scandal is now approaching four years old, for a grand total of two. They fail to mention David Vitter. Or Larry Craig. Or Mark Foley. Or even the DC Madame. They've failed to call for the resignation of Vitter. But I digress.

There is something that doesn't add up about this investigation. Look up at my title bar. You are at a blog called "I was just wondering" because I have more questions than I have answers and this is definately one of those times. If you have any answers, by all means post them in comments.

Let's start with this statement:
"Gov. Eliot Spitzer's role in a prostitution scandal grew out of a public corruption inquiry triggered by his movement of large amounts of cash from several bank accounts to one that operated by a call-girl ring, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Spitzer was the initial target of the investigation and was tracked using court-ordered wiretaps that appear to have recorded him arranging for a prostitute to meet him at a Washington hotel in mid-February, the official said.

But that doesn't jibe with these reports:
"When discussing how the payments would be arranged, Client 9 told Lewis: "Yup, same as in the past, no question about it" —- suggesting Client 9 had done this before.

And how did the Governor pay in the past, 'same as before'? Cash.

Here's the report:
"On February 11, 2008, at approximately 10:53 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a the defendant, sent a text message to Cecil Suwal, a/k/a the defendant. ... In the text message, Lewis wrote: 'Pls let me know if (Client-9's) 'package' (believed to be a reference to a deposit of money sent by mail) arrives 2mrw. Appt wd b on Wed." (Call 3728C). Suwal sent a text message back to Lewis, stating: 'K.'"

The following day, Lewis called a prostitute whom Emperors Club marketed as "Kristen." The women then discussed the time Kristen would take the train from New York to Washington. Lewis confirmed Client-9 would be paying for everything — train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, minibar or room service, travel time, and hotel. Lewis also wasn't sure if the man's deposit had arrived because Client-9 would not do traditional wire transferring. In a subsequent text message that night, Lewis wrote to Kristen: "If D.C. appt. happens u will need 2 leaveNYC at 4:45pm. Is that possible?"

Kristen wrote back: "Yes."

Certainly I must be off-base. I mean, the federal government would never wire-tap its enemies. At least not without probable cause.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Alert the "Bong Hits for Jesus" Kid

This is about legislation in Oklahoma. Good luck getting into good colleges, young Okies. (And by "Good" I do not mean Bob Jones or Liberty.)

From the Edmond Sun:

The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.

Cuba Libre

Has anyone else been struck by the irony inherent in two George Bush news stories from late last week?

In one story, he laments that nations haven't stood up to the government of Cuba nor properly condemned its human rights abuses.

In the other story he vetoed a bill that would force him to stop the torture of prisoners. Many of whom are being held in ... Cuba.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Red Seat has Turned Blue

Did you know that Dennis Hastert's district just put a democrat in his old seat? Physicist Bill Foster defeated republican dairy owner Jim Oberweis. The republicans say this is not a bellwether for how things will go in the fall. But then, they have to say that.

Tangentially, I did not know that Oberweis dairy was owned by a republican. I used to buy their super-overpriced milk because it comes in returnable bottles, and the dairy farmers pledge to be rbgh free. Ben will be happy to know that I won't bother buying that anymore.

Friday, March 7, 2008


My daughter thinks the word "week-end" is actually "week-AND". Like you slog through the week then there's the "AND" that comes after.

Happy AND, my friends.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

There is something seriously wrong here

Now if you watch this and don't get what the problem is, let me slightly revise the dialogue:

“You don't believe that Senator Obama's a Jew?” Kroft asked Sen. Clinton.

“Of course not. I mean, that, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that,” she replied.

“You said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not…a Jew. You don't believe that he's…,” Kroft said.

“No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know,” she said.

Makes my skin crawl. For the record, Kroft's sort of smarmy sneer at the word 'muslim' is probably the worst moment for me. Hillary Clinton, if she were Bill Clinton, would've given Kroft the smack down for incipient bigotry. Rather she plays into it.


Dangummit. But we was prayin'.

I Guess McCain is the Republican Nominee

The I (heart) Huckabee crowd is noticeably upset.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Made in the USA Update

So, we've been at the Made in the USA challenge for about six weeks now. We've been trying to buy only products that have been made in the USA with the exceptions of some things that were never made here-like coffee and bananas. We've also exempted wine. Other cheats are that we can buy anything second-hand.

At first this was pretty depressing and I was willing to give up the whole thing. One day I was in a department store and there was a 70% off clearance sale on shoes. I'm not even that much of a shoe freak, but suddenly, and probably because I couldn't have something, I really, really wanted to go crazy buying shoes.

Fairly early on in the challenge I purposely bought an ironing thingamajiggy because the unironed pile of my husband's shirts was getting to me. It was this sort of press-like thing that promised to cut ironing time in half. The manufacturer was ConAir at it was most definately made in China. After I got it home I felt a little guilty, but had lots of neat excuses for cheating. Fortunately for my buying purity, the stupid thing didn't work any better than a plain old iron, and actually took more time to finish a shirt. For the record, it was much smaller in practice than it looked on the box, thanks to loads of styrofoam inside. I took it back. I suppose that was sinful like intending to cheat on your spouse, but not getting the nerve up to check in to the hotel. My bad.

We also needed a new pan. Again, everything at the department store was foreign. My husband found an old-fashioned cast iron pan proudly stamped Made In The USA. We've all gained ten pounds from the amount of fat you need in the pan to keep anything from sticking. I'm rubbing it with oil after every use to "cure" it, and of course you don't use soap on it or that will erase weeks of curing efforts. This past weekend we went to a home show at the local expo center and there were several representatives there selling pots and pans all of which said Made in America. One dealer we talked to represented a company that still produces pans made here in Wisconsin. I am looking forward to getting the information I signed up for. (That kind lady forgot to Always Be Closing because she could have sold me pans on the spot if she'd have tried a little harder).

My daughter went to a birthday party on Saturday. She wanted to go to Toys R Us and ask at the desk for items that were made in the USA. Honestly, I couldn't face it. We went to an educational toy store thinking they'd have lots of American-made products. Nope. We found a boomerang and a kind of a floppy frisbee thing, and about three other products. That was it. I learned that Crayola Crayons are still made here, but most of the rest of the very substantial Crayola line is made in China. Anyway, it took an hour of scouring the store for those toys. Yikes.

With Easter coming and little baskets to be filled, I will need to shop on-line for their toys. In fact, I'm going to need to start thinking ahead for birthdays and Christmas too. Of course, books and movies and cd's tend to be USA made, so they'll probably get more of those.

Greeting cards and other printed things are going overseas though many are still made here. Ben gave me one of those ginormous Valentines (you could turn it over and use it for a tent). I teased that it was a 'guilt card' since he bought it that day, but he says he had to buy it because it was the only one that was marked USA. I suppose that's true of whatever liquor store he bought it at. Hallmark is mostly USA, but there are some China-made cards popping up.

Thinking ahead has been the biggest lesson of this challenge. Which is a good thing because it has absolutely forced me to change my ingrained buying habits. Like overeating or binging on anything, bad shopping habits need to be unlearned even if through some artifice like a Made in the USA challenge. On the other hand, I sometimes get so excited when I find an American made product that I feel like I have to have it, even if I don't really need it.

I was shopping at Cost Plus World Market one day - yes, that's like looking for USA made at Pier One, I know - and I found some really cool cognac glasses that said Made in the USA. Since I haven't sat around drinking warmed cognac since well before I had children, if even then, I did manage to talk myself out of them. I did find an easter basket stuffer there that's one of those pictures of a guy's face with the little magnetic shavings that you move around for hair. I bought that instead.

We have bought clothes for the girls at a local boutique that has great nearly new things, which we can buy because they are second-hand. All the girls dance leotards are made in Chicago, which is great because you don't get a choice about those, for recitals they have to be the ones the school mandates. With summer coming I know that I'm going to need swimsuits for the girls so I'll have to search the internet. I have found a shoe company from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, online so I'll be able to buy my shoes through them. New Balance still makes some of its athletic shoes here, so those will have to be our choice for the girls, too. They are more expensive than what we usually spend, but again it is about thinking ahead. The way our parents used to. And frankly, in the past, the girls had just too many shoes. When they only cost ten bucks you can buy more than you should and not feel bad about throwing them away. Unless of course you start to think about what it means to expect to always find cheap products and what it means to be thoughtless about a disposable society.

Oh, and furniture: At a local store with "Euro Design" in the name, I walked in and asked if anything there was made in the USA. The clerk said all upholstered furniture in the store was still made in either North or South Carolina. Yay!!!

So as we go along it gets a little easier. But forgetting is so common. I came home from the store with canned mandarin oranges one day. Ben looked at me and said "where?" Ack! China. He laughed at me.

"Shouldn't 'mandarin' have been a clue?" he asked.