Benny's World

Friday, November 26, 2004

Dolphins Protect New Zealand Swimmers from Sharks

When I was younger, I used to contemplate Far East cultures, such as those in India. Did I believe in reincarnation?

Thus, I believed that if I were to reincarnated, I'd want to be a dolphin. Why:

1) Not big prediators nor are there many prediators of them
2) Great communication skills
3) Great sex
4) Flipper!

Part of the AP story:

A pod of dolphins circled protectively round a group of New Zealand swimmers to fend off an attack by a great white shark, media reported on Tuesday.

Lifesavers Rob Howes, his 15-year-old daughter Niccy, Karina Cooper and Helen Slade were swimming 300 feet off Ocean Beach near Whangarei on New Zealand's North Island when the dolphins herded them -- apparently to protect them from a shark.
"They started to herd us up, they pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us," Howes told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).
Howes tried to drift away from the group, but two of the bigger dolphins herded him back just as he spotted a nine-foot great white shark swimming toward the group.
"I just recoiled. It was only about 2 m away from me, the water was crystal clear and it was as clear as the nose on my face," Howes said, referring to a distance of 6 feet.
"They had corralled us up to protect us," he said.

The article referenced just proves these early observations for reincarnation. Click the title of this post to read all of the story.

Viewing the Big Picture Another Way

From Rambler 65 Lady, posted on another blog:

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yeah," said the son. "So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."

Isn't perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would
happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying
about what we don't have. ---Rambler 65 Lady

I think I have to agree with her.

One of my siblings is concerned about today and what she has now, but is considering going out on her own instead of keeping her family together. We all have our days. Just think of JRE and Elizabeth, getting 2 sets of bad news in one day, yet, they know what they are thankful for. So do I. Good friends, no major illiness, my mother, my spouse, and my animals. I have another sibling is well-heeled. I'm well-heeled in a different way: helping others, having great technology at my fingertips, and my house is good.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did.

How British Are You?

I found this charming quiz through It's fun to do, especially if you're an Anglephile as I am.
After I submitted my answers, this was what I was told:

I am 90% British, just like
HRH Prince Charles
Though you'll never be king you certainly know where your castle is.

Take the Brit Quiz at

Quiz written by Daz

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Giving is More Fulfilling than Receiving

Some of my readers may recall that HR and I had a toy drive for the kids whose families were affected by the hurricanes in Florida. The toy drive lasted for a couple of weeks.

Cindy Kelly, my HR director and I made the decision to send the toys after hurricane season. Recently, Alexis Daniel made some calls on the library's behalf to the Salvation Army to see if they were still taking toys for children. They were no longer a distributor for toys, so from the United Way, Alexis found out a non-profit organization in Florida needed our toys. The organization is Christmas Kids and it is based in Port. St. Lucie, FL, on the east coast. It's been around since 1946. HR did all of the packing of the toys, and they are being shipped to this organization.

I was asked by the organization to talk about our toy drive on the radio station that has adopted it for their community service work. So this morning, I called about 10:15 local time, and I was patched in to the Greg and Carol Christmas Kids program on WPSL (1590 AM), which was being broadcast live from a bank. I spoke for a couple of moments about how we did this, the kinds of toys and other things being sent. They asked me to tell you "thank you" from them and the over 2000 children who will use our toys and other gifts they are receiving. They also said we were the most remote (in distance) donor of toys. They mentioned my place of employment 3 times while we were on the air and thanked us for our generosity, especially since they were hard hit by 2 hurricanes, Frances and Jeanine.

You can see their web site at and on the left, click Christmas Kids. Thank you's go out to my colleagues for participating in such a worthwhile endeavor; a special thank you goes to HR for doing the leg work. And the kids benefit from our donation, about 9 boxes worth!

I was told I was beaming like a woman expecting children after that vite phone call. Well, I've not given birth, but it really is more fun to give than to receive.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Rats and Slop

When I was about 7, I read a delightful book by E.B. White entitled Charlotte's Web. It was about a runt pig that a farm family considered sending to the slaughterhouse, but the daughter, Fern wanted to save it. Fern got her wish, and at first took great interest in her pet, Wilbur. Eventually, Wilbur is moved to her uncle's farm. Wilbur makes some acquaintances with the other barn animals, but they were too worried about their own futures. Wilbur is told why he's been fattened up: to still be killed next winter. A spider named Charlotte makes friends with Wilbur, and the story is full of her writing to promote Wilbur, such as "Some Pig".

At the climax of the story, Charlotte and Wilbur are at the State Fair, where Wilbur wins a blue ribbon. Charlotte is dying from old age and needs to give Wilbur her sack full of babies for him to carry and hatch as she is too weak to move. An opportunist rat, Templeton, is the only animal around who can reach Charlotte's web in the crate. Wilbur makes a deal with Templeton to give him first dibbs at the trough where Wilbur receives nice scraps, milk, etc. Templeton agrees, and rescues the sac. Charlotte passes away, but leaves her legacy with Wilbur.

There is a priceless picture of Templeton, who has gotten so fat from Wilbur's trough. And so what is called pork that was doled out on the $388 seems to be like slops that the rats in Congress got for themselves (info below found by Rox63):

A longer list of the pork in this bill, from USA Today:

Special projects The $388 billion spending bill that cleared
Congress on Saturday and will head to President Bush for his signature has
11,772 earmarked special projects totaling $15.8 billion, according to the
watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Among them: •$25,000 for the study of mariachi music in
Nevada's Clark County School District.

•$225,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation in South
Carolina. •$1 million for the Missouri Pork Producers Federation to convert
animal waste into energy.

•$75,000 for renovating the Merry Go Round Playhouse in
Auburn, N.Y. •$100,000 for a weather museum in Punxsutawney, Pa.

•$800,000 for “soybean rust research” in Ames, Iowa.

•$75,000 for “hides and leather research” in Wyndmoor, Pa.
• $1,593 for potato storage in Madison, Wis. •$1 million for a
world birding center in Texas.

•$150,000 to pay for beaver management and damage in

•$200,000 for the American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas.

•$100,000 for a swimming pool in Ottawa, Kansas.

•$70,000 for a “Paper Industry International Hall of Fame” in
Appleton, Wis.

•$1.5 million for the Rep. Richard Gephardt Archive at the
Missouri Historical Society.

•$2 million for the government to buy back the presidential
yacht USS Sequoia, sold in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter to demonstrate

The only morsel I endorse is the 1.5 million for the Gephardt Archive, but that could have come out of the IMLS funds instead of trading women's right to abortion as now doctors can refuse to perform the service for any reason or HMOs can say no.

I would say I smell Templetons in the barnyard instead of Wilburs. The Wilburs voted no, as they didn't support getting us further into debt and giving away our precious rights. So yes, PJ O'Roarke said it well by giving one of his books the title, Hill Rats.

And here's a picture of the king who allows the slop to happen on the animal farm.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Edwards' future a hot topic

Anyone who heard Sen. John Edwards make his concession speech in Boston earlier this month might have thought he was launching, not shutting down, his campaign.

"This fight has just begun," Edwards told the party faithful at Faneuil Hall as he and Sen. John Kerry accepted electoral defeat. "This campaign may end today. But the battle for you and the hardworking Americans who built this country rages on."

The first stump speech of 2008, perhaps? In some political circles, Edwards is considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination next go-round. He may be unemployed and even homeless in Washington --- the North Carolinian didn't seek re-election to his Senate seat, and he's selling his swanky Georgetown home --- but Edwards is hardly going away."No question about it, he is in great shape for another run," said Dan Coen, an expert on the vice presidency who followed Edwards closely during the 2004 campaign. "There's a great advantage to not being employed. He's got all the time in the world to run for president."And not being on the Hill could end up an advantage for Edwards, too, Coen said.

There'll be no voting record for the Republicans to attack, as they did so effectively with 20-year Senate veteran Kerry.Edwards, still young at 51 and a relative political newcomer, lost in the primaries and lost again with Kerry. But in the process, he won the respect of party bigwigs.

Many Democrats agree the senator with the good looks, Southern drawl and rags-to-riches biography has emerged as prime-time material. Edwards' biggest challenge, now that he is no longer in public office, will be to figure out how to keep the spotlight on himself.Edwards himself has kept mum about his political aspirations since the election. His wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with breast cancer the day he and Kerry conceded."Right now, Senator Edwards and his wife are totally focused on that," said Ed Turlington, a Raleigh lawyer who was chairman of Edwards' presidential campaign.

But Turlington is confident that Edwards' career is far from finished."John Edwards is my friend, and if he wants to run for office, I will be as involved as I can," he said. "I think he showed very well he is capable of national leadership."One possibility is the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, a post being vacated by Terry McAuliffe. That job would keep Edwards politically relevant, said Democratic consultant Brad Crone. But it would also leave Edwards with little time to prepare for another campaign.

Besides, said Turlington, Edwards has not expressed interest in the post.For the moment, Edwards, a multimillionaire, plans to finish his Senate term in January and return to North Carolina. The Edwardses purchased 100 acres near Chapel Hill and told People magazine that they want to build there. In a farewell speech to the Senate on Friday, Edwards said he cherished "God's gift" of more time to be with his family. The couple has two young children, Emma Claire, 6, and Jack, 4, and an older daughter, Cate, 22.

But again, he left the door open for the future. "It is bittersweet knowing what we've accomplished and what's been left unfinished," Edwards told his fellow lawmakers.Edwards could return to a successful career as a personal injury lawyer. He's more likely, however, to lead a policy think tank or political action committee, appear on television talk shows and travel as much as he can.

Democrats expect him to remain active in the party, raise money and continue building a higher profile."I think Americans have a snapshot of Edwards, but he has a long way to go in communicating his values and why he should be considered for a run in four years," Crone said.Being the No. 2 guy in the 2004 campaign was both help and hindrance for Edwards, said Crone. It gave him exposure, but he was forced to promote Kerry instead of himself. Edwards electrified audiences, but his populist message of two Americas divided by wealth was eclipsed by the Iraq war and other Kerry campaign issues --- a mistake, some say, on Kerry's part.

Early polls show Edwards way behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Kerry in popularity as potential 2008 contenders.A Gallup poll released Tuesday showed that a quarter of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters preferred Clinton. Kerry finished second, with 15 percent, and Edwards came in a distant third with 7 percent.The numbers are telling but premature, Crone said.

"You could write those polls on Charmin and get better use for them," he said. "All this makes for good hyperbole, but it is just way too early to begin discussing this."Still, they are indicative of how much work lies ahead for Edwards if he wants to emerge as a Democratic front-runner.When he announced his bid for the White House in September 2003, Edwards' name was hardly a blip on the mainstream radar. He fought hard to snuff perceptions that he was little more than a charming guy and an eloquent speaker.But voters got a good look at the man who sold himself as working America's candidate. He surprised everyone with a second-place finish in Iowa.

The future brightened rapidly for Edwards.On the trail, he constantly pointed to his Southern heritage, reminding people that he grew up the son of a Carolina mill worker and asserting that he was the only Democrat in the pack who could win below the Mason-Dixon line."This guy is one of us," said Irma Merrill as she watched Edwards in Memphis last February. "We are excited to have someone so real in the race."But Edwards couldn't muster enough traction. When the Democrats were duking it out in the primaries, he didn't win anywhere save South Carolina, the state where he was born.

Southern losses for Edwards --- particularly in Georgia on March 2 --- forced him to bow out, though North Carolina gave him a symbolic win well after the nomination had been settled."It's not enough to be a Southerner anymore to win the South," said Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program for Southern Politics, Media and Public Life at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "The last time that happened was when Jimmy Carter won. What's important for a Southerner --- more than winning in the South --- is being tested in the cauldron of Southern politics."That's what made Bill Clinton a winner, and Edwards will have to learn some of those same lessons, Guillory said."Because he was a Southerner, because he practiced centrist, moderate politics and because he learned from surviving in Southern politics, Clinton became a stronger national candidate," Guillory said. "Both the message and the messenger are important. Edwards has a good message. But he didn't win. He will have to adapt it to the temperature of the times."

Crone said Hillary Clinton has already staked out the left in the Democratic Party. But she is also seen as a polarizing figure who Edwards' supporters say would fail to broaden the party's geographic appeal.If Edwards claims the middle ground, Crone said he will have a chance to draw Southern votes. GOP gains in the region's governorships and congressional delegations have depleted the "bench" for the Democrats."There are so few, and Edwards is still there," Guillory said. "That keeps him in the game."If Edwards decides to try again, look for him to begin making appearances in the months ahead.

In the last election, Edwards was spotted in the first caucus state of Iowa as early as March 2001, not too long after President Bush had taken the oath of office."If I were him, I'd hang out, make a lot of money and have a good time," Crone said. "Oh --- and go to Iowa and New Hampshire every week." (source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

$388b spending bill OK'd

WASHINGTON -- Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through Congress yesterday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.

The House approved the measure by a bipartisan margin, 344 to 51, while Senate passage was by 65 to 30. Senate approval took longer because of disputes over provisions dealing with abortions and access to income tax returns by members of Congress. Leaders agreed not to send the spending package to President Bush for his signature until later this month, when they expect the tax-returns issue to be resolved in a separate bill.

From its tight domestic spending to the Democrat-backed provisions on overtime and other issues that were dropped, the bill is a monument to the GOP's raw power controlling the White House and Congress. An imposing monument, too: The bill and explanatory report, completed near midnight Friday, were about 14 inches thick, leaving many legislators baffled about its precise contents.

''I'm very proud . . . we held the line and made Congress make choices and set priorities because it follows our philosophy," majority leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, said in House debate.

Even Bush's initiatives were not immune to cuts as the bill's GOP chief authors heeded his demands to control spending. His request for development of new nuclear weapons was rejected; his budget for the AmeriCorps volunteer program was sliced by 12 percent; and the $2.5 billion he wanted to aid countries adopting democratic practices was slashed by $1 billion.
Passage would crown the lame-duck session of Congress, which began Tuesday. Legislators hoped to leave town for the year last night, but Senate delays on the spending bill and the collapse of bargaining over a measure reorganizing US intelligence agencies left timing in doubt.
Also enacted during the postelection session was an $800 billion increase in the government's borrowing limit. The measure was yet another testament to record annual deficits, which reached $413 billion last year and are expected to climb indefinitely.

While the spending bill was among the most austere in years, it had something for everybody, including thousands of home-district projects worth several billion dollars:

$335,000 to protect sunflowers in North Dakota from blackbird damage.

$60 million for a new courthouse in Las Cruces, N.M.

$225,000 to study catfish genomes at Auburn University.

$2 million for the government to try buying back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, and its current owners say the yacht is not for sale.

Despite protests that the bill was stingy, most Democrats supported it. They included many projects for themselves. They knew that the alternative -- holding spending to last year's levels -- would be $4 billion tighter.

''It is totally inadequate to meet the nation's needs in education, health care, and the environment," said Representative David Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin. ''It falls so far from meeting our investment obligations for the future that it could only be brought to the floor by the majority party after the election."

The measure was a compendium of nine bills that Republicans found too contentious to complete before the Nov. 2 elections. Overall, the nine bills were 2 percent larger than last year's versions. When foreign aid and defense spending are omitted, the remaining domestic programs grew by about 1 percent. To stay within the spending constraints Bush demanded, all programs in the bill eventually will be cut by at least 0.8 percent.

I cannot find any evidence that the abortion amendment was taken out, and several women senators still voted Yea for the bill, including Hilliary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, and the senator from Maryland. Senators Kerry and Edwards stayed true to their word of being more fiscally responsible: they voted no.