Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from June 2006

NH-Abramoff bombshell from Department of Justice

June 30th, 2006 · Comments Off on NH-Abramoff bombshell from Department of Justice

Today’s DOJ press release contains what they may not realize is a NH-Abramoff bombshell:

White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA) staff member Leonard Rodriguez … told the OIG that he kept Abramoff aware of information relevant. to Guam, including potential nominees for the U.S. Attorney position. Rodriguez said he did so at the behest of Ken Mehlman, the White House Political Director, who “recommended or suggested that I reach out to “make Jack aware” of issues related to Guam…

On October 23, 2002, Rodriguez sent an e-mail to Abramoff, with a copy to Ken Mehlman, in which Rodriguez stated that he had tried to reach Abramoff by telephone to introduce himself. Rodriguez also stated that he oversaw the U.S. territories for OPA and invited Abramoff to “feel free to contact me directly for any requests from Guam.”

So on

October 23, 2002

Ken Mehlman lets Abramoff know that the White House Office of Public Affairs is handing his Guam sweatshop clients control of the island. A mere five days later, on

October 28, 2002

Abramoff clients started pouring thousands of dollars into the hands of NH Republicans, money that ultimately helped pay for the phone-jamming.

I think this may be what Allen Raymond meant when he told the Boston Globe that the federal government was being “monetized.”

Thanks to
Josh Marshall for flagging the DOJ’s report.

Tags: New Hampshire!

Some wounded veterans have funny ha-ha medals?

June 28th, 2006 · Comments Off on Some wounded veterans have funny ha-ha medals?

My dad never talked about World War II or the Purple Heart he came home with. My mom told me the story, once, so he must have told her.

My dad captained an ship in the Pacific, carting US soldiers around to various islands that were occupied by soldiers from Japan. One day my dad was with his two first officers when shell fragments swept the bridge. The other two men died instantly, my father survived with a tiny wound on his cheek.

My brother Mark was named for one of the men killed by the shell that spared my father.

The shell didn’t leave any physical scar on my father. The military makes no distinction about the severity of a wound when setting the standards for a Purple Heart. If you are wounded in action, you get a Purple Heart.

It’s a way to distinguish people whose service puts their lives at risk.

Before they started sneering at Representative Murtha’s Purple Heart, Republicans mocked John Kerry in 2004 with Purple Heart bandaids, and CNN explained that Purple Hearts like my father’s were fair game for mockery:

Although he was grievously wounded in a later battle, [Senator Bob] Dole wrote in a 1988 biography that the first of his two Purple Hearts was the kind of wound the Army treated “with Mercurochrome and a Purple Heart.”

Maybe the military should add a warning label to Purple Hearts:

Caution: This decoration can and will be used against you by people claiming to “Support Our Troops.”

Tags: Editorial

One second from eek!

June 25th, 2006 · Comments Off on One second from eek!

One second from eek!
From my email outbox:

Hi all–We did the island tour extreme Saturday, including a brisk one mile hike up to a crater lake (El Junco) and a meander through a giant tortoise sanctuary. We saw a bunch of three-week old tortoises, soooo cute. One five-incher managed to tip himself over trying to climb up a stone. I wanted to help put him right side up but of course I’m not allowed to touch him. He soon did it himself.

That was this afternoon. We spent the morning sailing around to some nearby islands–or should I say some nearby rocks–and snorkeling there. Lots of fish, the boobies and frigatebirds won´t go hungry! At Isla Lobos, a bunch of young sea lions came over to play with us. One tickled my foot with his whiskers and another peered into my mask from about an inch away. We´d been told they wouldn’t hurt us, and indeed they didn’t.

Later, after I got out of the water, one moved on from playing around the boat to jumping up onto the back flat part by the engine. I guess my foot must smell better than I knew, because he also wanted to tickle it with his whiskers. Then he hung around until someone shooed him away. Yes, I have photos.

Wish you biologists were here to tell us more about all the plants and birds and animals, and that all of you were here just for the heck of it. Send me email, I miss you!

Love and xxx

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Only one marine iguana even noticed

June 23rd, 2006 · Comments Off on Only one marine iguana even noticed

Swimming with sea lions isn’t like dancing with wolves.

On the human side, you don’t need special zen talents. You do your swimming around and they do theirs, only their side is fast and sleek and splashy. It’s a bit like swimming with big furry powerful toddlers who somehow have learned how to fly around under the water.

Meanwhile, unconcernedly sharing the shallows, a huge brown pelican stood, preening his feathers.

It’s one thing to read in a book that Galapagos animals don’t fear human beings. It’s something different to walk among birds, mammals, and reptiles that hardly spare you a glance as they go about their busy animal business.

Of course, if you get too, too, too close…the magic tranquility shatters. And if the Galapagosian you got too close to is a huge black marine iguana, it will signal discomfort by spurting out salt from the salt glands inside its nose.


Then it’s the human’s turn to be disconcerted.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Galapagos and Galap-blogos:Rapid insular evolution

June 22nd, 2006 · Comments Off on Galapagos and Galap-blogos:Rapid insular evolution

“Rapid insular evolution” was the topic last night of  nature talk about the Galapagos.

Of course, “insular” can stretch beyond its literal “island” origins to refer to any small isolated community developing in isolation.

Check out this list of factors that shaped (biological) diversity here, and see if you aren’t also reminded of the blogosphere:

Founder effects

The interests, qualities, even the personal quirks of the earliest “colonists” had a huge effect on all that came after.

Empty ecological niches

Business-blogging is getting pretty full up these days, but a few years ago a biz-blogger was quite a novelty. 

Multiple isolation

By now, there isn’t just one “blogosphere” where everybody reads everyone else. Even within the English-language bloggers, you can see little communities excited about a story that is unknown outside their circle.

That’s all my blog-geekery for this beautiful morning!

Tags: Metablogging

Soft and sharp photo

June 21st, 2006 · Comments Off on Soft and sharp photo

Long slow cocktail evening on the Galapagos–but my feet got tired, and the Internet beckoned.

Frank and I shared a beach with two physicists and three playful sea lions this afternoon. As we walked along the San Cristobal harbor, other sea lions yapped and frolicked among the little boats floating at anchor. Because the Galapagos had few pre-people predators, animals here are incredibly tame and friendly. I also played eye-tag with several of Darwin’s  finches, but no blue-footed boobies or frigate birds. At least not yet…

My photos will take some time to upload at the glacial Internet speeds here. While you’re waiting, I recommend Jude’s amazing bumble bee on a soft lambs-ear flower.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Solstice on the meridian

June 20th, 2006 · Comments Off on Solstice on the meridian

Earth bulges at the equator–and shows some sympathy for those of us who do likewise. Apparently a scale is one of the big attractions at the equator display, a few kilometers from Quito–because of the bulge, your weight gets measured as less.

I’m glad of this because last night I discovered locro!

Another way to fight bulges might be a squeeze from “the “boa del publico” at the Quito Vivarium.

In sadder news, Ecuador lots today’s match with Germany–but they still move forward to the next stage of the World Cup. So the people in bright yellow T-shirts who populated the early-morning view from my hotel window are still full of bright hope, and so am I.

Tomorrow at 4 a.m., we leave for the Galapagos!.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

2500 m high on Ecuador science and futbol

June 19th, 2006 · Comments Off on 2500 m high on Ecuador science and futbol

Surely it is not* just the thin air at this altitude that inspires enthusiasm! The soccer team of Ecuador has been astounding people at the World Cup with their unexpected success. Frank and I are en route to the Galapagos, a lifelong dream coming true the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile in Quito, our hosts at the University of San Francisco de Quito have created an amazing private university here. Rome may not have been built in a day, but if Cicero and Caesar could see what Santiago, Carlos, and Bruce accomplished in a few months they would bite the corners off their togas with envy.

* Pardon any weird diction because I can not find an apostrophe on this Ecuadorian keyboard!

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Richard M Nixon and the Crystal Cove Shake Shack

June 16th, 2006 · Comments Off on Richard M Nixon and the Crystal Cove Shake Shack

After midnight last night, I got home from Orange County. Donald Segretti* is not on public view these days–and there’s little to feed anybody’s Watergate nostalgia at the Richard M Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

I’d like to write more about the funny web-enabled journey I made there with fellow-NH-blogger Chris Marcum (fix your SQL database, Chris, I want your blog to work again!)

More than the Nixon Museum, I’d have to recommend the Crystal Cove Shake Shack, and hanging out with your fellow-bloggers, wherever you meet them.

I’ll stop there, since we leave for the Galapagos day-after-tomorrow and I haven’t yet (re)packed!

* Orange County is the home of Nixon’s dirty-tricks-meister and Karl Rove’s mentor Donald Segretti. Segretti got jail time and a suspended lawyering license for his role on the dark side of Richard M Nixon’s 1972 campaign. No word on whether or not Segretti is now working for John McCain, as he did in 2000.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

New phone-jamming judge rules, and both sides cheer

June 15th, 2006 · Comments Off on New phone-jamming judge rules, and both sides cheer

MiniElephant: Elephant, labeled "GOP Phone Jammer Follies", crushing telephone. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Phillip Mangones handed down a 31-page ruling on the civil suit growing out of the phone-jamming scandal. NH Republicans had asked Mangones to dismiss the suit.

Mangones dismissed 5 of 8 Democrats’ claims but said the case could go forward on these three claims:

  1. That the Republicans “intentionally and repeatedly interfered with the use of their telephone systems, rendering them essentially useless, apparently over a not-insubstantial period of time on election day 2002.”
  2. That there was a conspiracy to interfere with the telephones.
  3. That the interference may be viewed at trial as malicious, possibly making the Democrats eligible for enhanced compensatory damages.

Mangones neither accepted nor dismissed a Republican counterclaim: that Democrats had filed the suit with no legitimate basis, intending primarily “to harm the Republican Party and/or Republican candidates during the November 2004 general election.” Instead, the judge gave Republicans 30 days to make a case that Democrats abused the system.

Republicans (and the AP) spin this as a Republican victory: “most” counts were dismissed.

Democrats have a different point of view: that Republicans have spent thousands of dollars on lawyers to shut down the Democrats’ investigation, but despite those efforts the case keeps rolling forward. NH attorney Paul Twomey told John DiStaso that the Democrats filed their suit to uncover the truth about those responsible for the phone-jamming. Said Twomey, “We can conduct the same discovery no matter how many counts there are.”

Tags: New Hampshire!