Snow-loha!

You just can’t make this stuff up:

Delegates from 17 countries are in Honolulu this week to begin negotiating an international treaty to combat global warming.

The final treaty, expected in 2009, would limit the emission of greenhouse gases all over the world. …The historical meeting here in Hawaii represents the world’s best hope for international cooperation in dealing with the perils of global warming.

Meanwhile, just up the road:

A rare rush of snow and ice closed the road to the summit of Mauna Kea, the tallest volcano on the island of Hawaii, and bad weather was expected for the rest of the week, forecasters said Monday.

An unusual snowstorm over the weekend prompted officials to close the popular tourist destination for the first time this winter season.

…A blanket of snow forced everyone to evacuate, including park rangers, Mauna Kea Observatories Support Services said.

…The heavy snowfall was a rare sight, even for those who are up there almost every day.

(H/T – Big45Iron)

China White

Al Gore’s Current Media filed for $100 Million IPO today. No doubt Gorezilla will be using the profits to combat the scourge known as Global Warming by buying carbon credits for his 10,000 square foot mansion. Meanwhile back on earth:

BEIJING, Jan. 29 — Unremitting harsh weather across large parts of the nation has pushed up the human and economic toll as traffic snarls continued ahead of the major holiday.

Snowfall, the worst in five decades in many places, has affected 77.86 million people in 14 provinces in northern, central, eastern and southern China by 2 pm yesterday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

At least 24 people were killed in accidents over two weeks due to snow, sleet and freezing cold, it said, adding that direct economic losses have totaled 22.09 billion yuan ($3.06 billion).

The extreme weather has forced the evacuation of 827,000 people to safer places, damaged 4.22 million hectares of crops, toppled 107,000 houses and damaged 399,000 homes.

In hardest-hit Hunan, 29.15 million people have been affected, including 10 who died. The direct economic loss has exceeded 10.7 billion yuan ($1.48 billion), accounting for nearly half of the country’s total.

Many highways, railways and airports were paralyzed, especially in the east.

The bad weather since Jan 12 has disrupted travel plans of tens of millions heading home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, starting on Feb 7 this year.

Update: Global Warming Causes Bus Plunge!

GUANGZHOU, China — Some of the worst winter weather to hit southern China in decades took 25 more lives Tuesday when a bus plunged off an icy road, adding to the chaos the snow storms have caused during the nation’s peak travel season.

Bush to Get Fiscally Conservative … Next Year

According to the Wall Street Journal President Bush will sign an executive order eliminating much of the earmarks in the budget…the FY 2009 budget:

We’re told he will tell Congress that he will veto any fiscal 2009 spending bill that doesn’t cut earmarks in half from 2008 levels. He will also report that he is issuing a Presidential order informing executive departments that from now on they should refuse to fund earmarks that aren’t explicitly mentioned in statutory language. This is progress, though frankly less than we had hoped because Mr. Bush’s executive order will not apply to the fiscal 2008 spending bills that passed late last year. Congress endorsed 11,735 special-interest earmarks worth $16.9 billion in fiscal 2008, yet thousands of these weren’t even written into the actual budget bills. Instead, they were “air-dropped” at the last minute into nonbinding conference reports that serve as advice to federal departments about where to allocate funds. This ruse means that earmarks are able to avoid scrutiny from spending hawks on the House and Senate floor.

We argued in December that Mr. Bush had the legal authority to refuse to fund those this year as well. But in the end we hear he acceded to the argument from Capitol Hill that because he hadn’t made a specific earmark veto pledge last year, he would be sandbagging Congress after the fact and courting its wrath.

The President had, however, said the following last year: “even worse, over 90% of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate — they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn’t vote them into law. I didn’t sign them into law. Yet they’re treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice.” Members in both parties whooped and hollered in approval, even as they could barely contain their self-knowing grins.

Is this part of that “legacy thing”? Ya know, Mr. Bush, had you done this oh, I don’t know, seven years ago, your legacy may have been guaranteed. You could still have a Republcian Congress and be setting up the next Republican nominee for a sure fire win in November. Instead, we are in all likliehood looking at a liberal president.

H/T – Captain’s Quarters

Promote vs. Provide

Promote: verb: contribute to the progress or growth of

Provide: verb: supply means of subsistence; earn a living; provide what is desired or needed, especially support, food or sustenance

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

After reading the above definitions, the Preamble to our Constitution makes clear the intent of our Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, such clarity has been lost over time, as forces within the country’s political framework have figured out how to buy votes by taking advantage of one of the basest human characteristics: laziness, or sloth. It is notable that “sloth” is one of the seven deadly sins, and it could very well prove to be the death of our country if we citizens do not wake up and take action.

Our government is ordained to do the tasks listed in the Preamble. Ordained invest with ministerial or priestly authority; order by virtue of superior authority; decree

The way I see it, “ordination” in this case and following these definitions implies that the Founding Fathers saw this cause as something higher than, “Gee, this would be a good thing to do!” Their lives, and the life of the country to which they were giving birth, were on the line. This was not a time for looseness of terms. Semantics mean something. The duties were specific and the methods were definite. Specifically, the government was to PROVIDE for the common defense and to PROMOTE the general welfare. Two different words were used, with two different meanings. This seems to have been overlooked, forgotten, or intentionally ignored by today’s liberals, especially the welfare part.

Promoting the general welfare never meant “pay the poor to be poor”. It never meant “give tax breaks to those who haven’t paid taxes”. It doesn’t mean “punish the providers and reward those who will not take care of themselves”.

Let’s look at promoting the general welfare by boosting the economy in ways that are effective. For example, cutting governmental spending. The less the government spends, the less it requires in taxes. That doesn’t mean it still won’t want to suck the last penny out of your pocket as you suck your last living breath – or even after. It’s merely a start.

Let’s see if the general welfare can be promoted by limiting welfare to those who truly cannot work or care for themselves. Are you able-bodied? Get a job. Can’t find a job? Set up an agency to help people start up their own businesses. Train them in how to handle money, market their services, and deal with customers. Give the Small Business Administration more money for small business start-up loans. Some of these need only be micro-loans. And don’t just get them started. Hold their hands for the first year or two, since these people may just have a hard time getting out of bed consistently for a while. Hopefully, this will break the cycle of poverty.

Promote the general welfare by encouraging teenagers to help out with the family businesses, if available, and if they are not involved with extracurricular school activities. Kids with jobs learn responsibility, how to deal with people, and how to handle money. And while they are working, they are not taking, selling, or sharing drugs. Ideally, anyway. Teach classes in school as to how money REALLY works, not just how the liberals think the economy should run. Maybe classes on problem-solving – not mathematical equations, but critical thinking skills, such as: “Bad weather has prevented you from working outside this week, which means you will only earn 30% of what you usually bring home. How do you handle this setback and still pay your bills?” The parents aren’t teaching these skills, but maybe a volunteer from a local business will. My hope is that eventually these classes can be removed from the curriculum, because society itself will be infused with these skills, and they can be absorbed and learned just like learning English from infancy. Yes, I can dream, can’t I?

These are just a few ideas, but the difference here is that the government, and hopefully society, will PROMOTE an atmosphere that will encourage the general welfare to improve. We were never guaranteed equal outcomes, only decreed to have equal opportunities. Our government was never meant to ensure that people of unequal talents and motivation would receive the same rewards, but we can work towards the goal of ensuring that each unequal person can strive to achieve their personal best. While real life may never achieve the written word, we can work towards the lofty goals put down in ink by brave men.

By the Thinnest of Threads

It has always amazed me at the thin threads that tie us to each other. How do we meet? How are our connections made? How is our existence even possible? My husband and I are one such example of “thin threads”.

Dear Hubby and I did not meet until my 11th year of high school. My greatest achievement was surviving life as the seventh of twelve children. I was not the most popular girl in my grade. I was not the most accomplished. Although I was a very good alto sax player, I did not have the panache of say, someone in the jazz band who could improvise instead of read sheet music. I consider myself intelligent, but I was not nearly the smartest kid in my class. Although I graduated in the top 10% of my class, I was put in my place on a regular basis by those with higher IQs. I had a set of friends – usually not in my grade, but that is another story. While not ugly, I was not beauty pageant material, like the flute player that had a budding career as a model. I did not even hang out with the girls who were chosen as homecoming queen wannabees. I just was not in the “in” group.

While I choose to gloss over the details, there were reasons for me to wait for the pay phone to come available during my lunch period. This fact alone dates me, as obviously today there would be no wait for a pay phone, as today’s cellular spoiled teenagers may not even know what a “pay phone” would be. They are all wondering “Why in the world would she wait for a phone? Just take it out of your pocket!” Anyway, I digress. I was waiting for the pay phone, which was unavailable because another girl refused to give it up. I sat down on the floor to wait. This happened several days in a row, and on the third day, as my buttocks were beginning to callous, “Alice” came and sat down next to me. I was surprised when she began talking to me, since Alice was one grade above me and one of the prettiest girls in school. Fortunately, she was not one of the stuck-up pretty girls, and thus began a most unexpected friendship.

Every day during lunch, we’d meet at the pay phone and see if one or both of us could use it. Every day during lunch, we’d talk. I discovered that her drafting class was next door to my English class, both of which were right after lunch. I took to extending our conversations as long as possible by walking her to her classroom, then walking next door to mine. This went on for a few weeks, and then one day I was at my floor level locker and heard Alice’s voice. Looking up, I saw her blonde hair, and then this big-shouldered, bright smile standing next to her. Alice introduced us, but I didn’t get the name of this really good-looking guy, so I nudged her with my elbow as we walked down the hall to his locker, and she re-introduced us again. After retrieving his books, we all walked to class. Handsome guy began meeting us at our lockers and in general hanging out as much as possible. He asked me out a week later. Alice became Homecoming Queen that year. So the average girl married her high school sweetheart after being introduced by the Homecoming Queen. Go figure.

And years later, I keep thinking – what would have happened if I had gotten impatient and left the pay phone? What if Dear Hubby had not transferred to my high school (which he did to be available to help a friend out with some transportation issues)? What if Alice had not taken the time to talk to me? What if Alice walked me to my class first, then walked alone to her door? What if Dear Hubby had not shared her drafting class, and so had not seen me at the door? What if Dear Hubby had not acquired the courage to ask Alice to introduce us (which he denies, but Alice confirms, by the way). What if I had been dating someone else at the time? What if Alice’s boyfriend was not available by phone at lunch?

I feel the same wonderment at the story of my paternal grandfather. The story is that he accompanied his cousin who was courting a young lady in Beaumont. While waiting for said young lady at her house, my grandfather noticed a picture of said young lady’s sister. He declared, “THAT is the woman I’m going to marry!” Which he promptly set about doing. Which then begs the question: What if he had decided NOT to accompany his cousin on this trip? What if he had chores that precluded his going to Beaumont? What if his courtship had failed? What if there had been no picture on the piano? What if my grandmother had already acquired a beau? What if his family never even immigrated to America? Would I even exist?

My maternal ancestors had a similar story. Natives of two different German villages, almost a stone’s throw apart (one a hill, one in the valley next to the hill), one arrived in the U.S. through New York, the other through Galveston. The New York arrival traveled halfway across the country before he met his life partner in New Braunfels. The “what ifs” on this relationship boggle my petite little mind!

Would I have Lovely Daughter if I had a headache on the night of conception? Would Handsome Son exist if Dear Hubby and I had decided on a late night movie instead of, well, you know?

So, I exist because of two tenuous threads of travel and romance. My children exist because a non-snotty homecoming queen chose to be my friend and I was patient enough to wait for it to happen. My existence rests on a house of cards built of human emotion and whim. On what slender threads will the existence of my grandchildren rest? And what would have happened should any of the previous events failed to happen?

We exist by the slenderest of ties, the slightest of whims, and the barest of possibilities.

But Wait

 The choice was made,
The date was set.
The mother at the door was met.
She was laid down
Upon the bed
The mist before her eyes was red.

The babe inside
Knew not just yet
That fate was death this moment met.
He sucked his thumb
And then he felt
Death it was the hand was dealt.

“But wait!” he cried
Tho’ no one heard
His plaintive plea for one more word.
“But wait!” he cried
“Don’t you know?
You will reap what ‘tis you sow!”

“I am the one
To hold you tight
Against the terrors of the night.
The comfort I am
When you are old,
Will not be when I am cold.

“I am the one
Will stay the hand
Of the dreaded robber band
That will attack you
Some night hence
In some moment frightful tense.

“I am the one
To save the earth
When medicine I make of such worth.
“I am the one,”
He sadly said,
“Who will mourn you when you are dead.”

“I am the one
To bring you cheer
When my toothless smile appear.
“I am the one!”
He cried in fright,
“To fight for you against all might!”

“But wait,” he said,
“Don’t you see?
God put us together – you and me.
“I am you
And you are me,
And part of you dies when you kill me.”

“But wait!” he sighed,
In moment his last
An epiphany his mother had, alas,
The choice was made,
The pain so great
And she called out loud “But wait!”

Her unborn son
Made his way home
Greeted by God in Heaven to roam.
“She didn’t want me,”
The babe sadly said,
“I know,” God sighed, “live here instead.”

Regrets

I miss the little hands he had,
Which will never touch my nose.
I miss the tiny feet he had,
And his little baby toes!
And the future we would have had together,
Which I destroyed when in my prime,
If only, if only, if only, if only,
I could turn back the hands of time!

Now my arms are empty
When I know they should be full,
My heart cries out for the love
That I answered in ways cruel,
I have made my bed, though sad it is,
The price I pay is grave,
My child that was and is no more!
To a life of regrets I am slave.

Convenience seemed so logical then,
My desire for freedom so burning,
I lived my life without thought
Of how it might be turning,
Now I look back and see the damage
My decisions have horribly wrought,
All the things I would not have done,
Had I given my life more thought!

Oh, my baby, please forgive me!
Your full life lay ahead!
I never had the chance to love you,
I loved myself instead.
What was it that you would have become?
Before I committed this crime!
If only, if only, if only, if only,
I could turn back the hands of time!

Hear me, please, before you decide
To make decisions dear,
Think more than twice before you commit
An action you should fear!
For once done, ‘tis no return
To undo the havoc that you wreak,
Harken my words, for deep is the sorrow
And horror of which I speak.

Egret Ballet

Sometimes there are moments of grace in your life that just make you stop. I found such a moment of literal grace that made me stop in my tracks.

At times I walk – to get away from my stress, to relax, or to get some exercise. I normally walk the mile to my church and then back to my home. The route is free of unrestrained dogs, and along the way I get to cross a bridge over a bayou and walk the street near the bayou. Fortunately, our bayou is not one of the concreted monstrosities that are seen along certain waterways in our city, but is lined with concrete blocks that allow the grass to grow through. This encourages the local flora and fauna to thrive.

One evening, as I was on the return leg of my journey, I decided to walk along the bayou side of the road and peer over the edge. I stopped in my tracks as I witnessed a moment of real grace in action.

Along the edge of the bayou were three white egrets. These egrets are rather common in our area, and are sometimes called “cowbirds” because they are often found in pastures near cattle. These pure white, long-legged birds were striding slowly and elegantly along the edge of the water. Two of them in front, they set the pace for the one following behind. Their legs moved slowly, almost in unison, and together they dipped their long beaks into the water. Their long, slender necks bent together in a slow cadence, almost like a ballet. After about five feet or so, the back egret would take wing just long enough to leapfrog the others, and would step-step-pause-dip, step-step-pause-dip in the shallow water. Within a few steps, the two front, one back formation would recreate itself, and eventually the back bird would take wing and leapfrog again, landing gracefully, causing nary a ripple. Step-step-pause-dip, step-step-pause-dip. Their long, slender necks bending in unison, standing out in stark contrast to the green grass behind them. Step-step-pause-dip, step-step-pause-dip. The absolute beauty of it all held me in thrall until I could no longer indulge myself and had to tear myself away.

Beauty and grace can be found almost anywhere, as long we keep our eyes open for it. Even along the banks of a rather dirty bayou in the middle of a big city.