No More Budget Behemonths!
Posted on 03.23.18 by Danny Glover @ 5:58 pm

President Donald Trump reached his fiscal breaking point today when Congress sent him a $1.3 trillion spending bill only hours after passing it — and without lawmakers having had time to read the 2,200-page bill before they voted on it.

Earlier in the day, Trump suggested by tweet that he might veto the bill. Then after reluctantly agreeing to sign it, he warned Congress, “I will never sign another bill like this again.”

As a nation, we’ve been here before. Thirty years, ago, President Ronald Reagan threw down the budgetary gauntlet in his last State of the Union address to Congress. Trump’s confrontation came after two government shutdowns since January and the potential for a third. Reagan’s came during another era of broken budgets.

Here’s an excerpt of his speech:

It’s also time for some plain talk about the most immediate obstacle to controlling federal deficits. The simple but frustrating problem of making expenses match revenues — something American families do and the federal government can’t — has caused crisis after crisis in this city. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, I will say to you tonight what I have said before and will continue to say: The budget process has broken down; it needs a drastic overhaul.

With each ensuing year, the spectacle before the American people is the same as it was this Christmas: budget deadlines delayed or missed completely, monstrous continuing resolutions that pack hundreds of billions of dollars worth of spending into one bill, and a federal government on the brink of default.

I know I’m echoing what you here in the Congress have said because you suffered so directly. But let’s recall that in seven years, of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by a certain date, only 10 made it on time. Last year, of the 13 appropriations bills due by October 1, none of them made it. Instead, we had four continuing resolutions lasting 41 days, then 36 days, and two days, and three days, respectively.

All that was the buildup to a climactic, theatrical moment, where the Great Communicator masterfully used props to drive home his point:

And then, along came these behemoths. This is the conference report — 1,053 pages, report weighing 14 pounds. Then this — a reconciliation bill 6 months late that was 1,186 pages long, weighing 15 pounds. And the long-term continuing resolution — this one was 2 months late, and it’s 1,057 pages long, weighing 14 pounds.

That was a total of 43 pounds of paper and ink. You had three hours — yes, three hours — to consider each, and it took 300 people at my Office of Management and Budget just to read the bill so the government wouldn’t shut down.

Congress shouldn’t send another one of these. No, and if you do, I will not sign it.

Watch the clip for the full effect:


Filed under: Government and History and News & Politics and People and Video
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The W.Va. Teachers’ Strike On Wikipedia
Posted on 03.05.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:44 pm

The teachers’ strike dominating headlines in West Virginia for the past week has been a relatively peaceful affair by historical standards in the Mountain State. Teachers and their allies are making a lot of noise inside and around the state Capitol, and so far they haven’t faced any crackdowns for it. The clashes have been verbal in nature rather than physical, and the rhetoric has been pointed without getting ugly.

It was a different story on Wikipedia over the weekend. Anyone can edit content at the online encyclopedia, and a few mischievous users decided to abuse that editing privilege by vandalizing the entries of at least two key West Virginia senators. Wikipedia restricted access to those pages because of the troublemakers.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who also holds the title of lieutenant governor, was the primary target. His Wikipedia page was altered repeatedly on Saturday.

Several of the edits were so childishly ornery that you had to chuckle at them. The editors accused Blair of hating pepperoni rolls, the official state food, and being either a “closet” or “verified” fan of Pitt, the much-maligned rival of West Virginia University. He also was dubbed the “Son of Voldemort,” a reference to the evil villain in the “Harry Potter” books and movies.

But other revisions to Blair’s Wikipedia page, such as changing the office he holds to “Smug Ignoramus” and his college degree to “Bachelor of Being a Big Ahole” and “Bachelor of Being a Jerk,” were downright nasty. Here are some of the other edits that were quickly stricken:

  • “He is known to hate all teachers and public employees.”
  • “He can only laugh when children cry.”
  • “Hobbies include kicking puppies and making babies cry.”
  • “His life goal is to stop all celebrations of holidays.”
  • “He is perhaps best known for his theme song, ‘Move Mitch, Get Out Da Way,’” an allusion to a vulgar song by the rapper Ludacris.

The ad hominem vandalism aimed at Sen. Ryan Ferns, on both his Wikipedia page and Carmichael’s page, was even worse. The edits mocked Ferns as being a “favorite puppet” and “in a relationship with” Carmichael and the rest of the Republican-controlled Senate.

Other changes called out Ferns for his drunken-driving arrest in 2012 and his party switch from Democrat to Republican in 2013. Here are two of the more extensive changes that were deleted:

  • “After realizing he made a horrible mistake, both by driving drunk and being elected as a Democrat, he quickly decided to mend his ways and become an ego-maniacal yes man to Mitch Carmichael. Little did he know his biggest accomplishment would be to hold the entire state of WV hostage while stroking his bosses ‘ego’ and breaking every rule of parliamentary law that WV has to offer because of a dumb bunny mistake they made.”
  • “Ryan Ferns not only looks like Sam Hunt but also has a ‘Body like a Back Road.’ He enjoys doing Cross Fit at his gym (that his rich family bought him). Ryan also is the first senator in the history of West Virginia to have two DUIs!” (I couldn’t find any news of a second DUI.)

The editing history of both pages shows that a more responsible editor protected them in reaction to “persistent disruptive editing.” If this is a sign of labor strikes to come, Wikipedia may become the picket line of the digital age.


Filed under: Education and Government and Media and Music and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
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A Honey Of A Tale About Bees And The FAA
Posted on 01.25.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:17 pm

A “Designated Survivor” episode that aired in December included a Federal Aviation Administration character and a story line about honeybees and aircraft surveillance radar. I told my wife as we watched that I should write a story about it. I did.

I never imagined that as a writer for the FAA, I’d be interviewing actors. But this is now the third story idea I’ve found via Hollywood. One of those pieces focused on the air traffic controller portrayed in the Tom Hanks movie “Sully.”

For the feature about bees, I just wish I’d had a reason to interview Beth Littleford about her role as the beekeeper’s wife on “Designated Survivor.” I loved her as the mom on “Dog With A Blog”! Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Forget that fantastical story line on ABC’s “Designated Survivor.” Bee buffs and aviation radar experts agree — electromagnetic waves can’t kill entire colonies of honeybees.

Hollywood’s creative minds wrote that theory into the Dec. 6 episode of the conspiratorial, Washington-based drama. The show’s writers debunked the idea by the end of the episode, but considering the lighthearted plot featured an FAA character, FocusFAA decided to make a few calls — to a radar specialist, a bee scientist and two actors in the episode, among others.

They all chuckled at the idea of aircraft surveillance radar disorienting honeybees to the point of starvation. “Unless [the hives] are by some gigantic radar facility sitting across the fence, I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Jerry Bromenshenk, a research scientist who heads the Online Beekeeping Certificate Program at the University of Montana.

Read the rest of it at Medium.


Filed under: Aviation and Culture and Government and Movies and People and Wildlife
Comments: None

The Hunt For Disabled Hillbillies
Posted on 10.07.17 by Danny Glover @ 6:34 pm

Every now and then, journalists in the big city get the urge to head for the hills of West Virginia and hunt stereotypes. They always find their prey. Then they tell stories that misrepresent the reality of life for most West Virginians.

You can call it Hatfields-and-McCoys journalism because the tradition is at least that old. The latest installment comes courtesy of The Washington Post, which sent a reporter hunting for hillbillies as part of the paper’s series on Social Security Disability Insurance.

I have no gripe with the topic. It’s worthwhile to shine a light on the Supplemental Security Income system because of its cost and susceptibility to fraud and abuse. I also have no problem with West Virginia being part of the story because 4 percent of West Virginians get SSI benefits — more than any other state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. One in five working-age residents in Logan County, which the Post visited, are among them.

What galls me are the predictably cliched portrayals of country folk, and they start with the opening anecdote about digging roots from the hills for money: “For the people of the hollow, opportunity begins where the road ends.”

The implication is that the anecdote represents the norm — not just in that hollow but in all of Logan County and the entire state. Poverty reporter Terence McCoy made that point clear a few paragraphs later when he added, “In West Virginia, getting by means digging roots in the mountains.”

No, it doesn’t! Maybe it’s OK to spout that kind of nonsense when writing the script for a reality television show like “Appalachian Outlaws,” but it’s bad journalism.

I spent most of my first 24 years in the Mountain State and still visit regularly, and the only person I ever knew who dug roots was my paternal grandfather. And he did it as much for the thrill of hunting ginseng, a rare find in his part of the state, as for the money.

Most West Virginians who fall on hard times don’t dig roots to “get by”; they turn to family for support. That’s a bit harder to do when multiple family members are on the government dole and/or are estranged from each other. The Post found a family like that not because it’s the norm but because it fit the false image that urban elites have of the state.

That’s also why the Post repeatedly called attention to the fact that Donna Jean Dempsey, the main character in its tale, lives in a rundown shack without running water. It’s mentioned twice in the story and in two separate photo captions.

The photos further reinforce the ridiculous perceptions that prim-and-proper journalists tend to have of West Virginians. The portraits include: a woman who wears the same filthy flannel and blue jeans for a week; a shirtless, bushy-bearded Bubba sitting on a porch; and a gaunt mountain man who relies on oxygen after five heart attacks and two strokes.

Then there is the closing anecdote. Having survived to another SSI payday, Dempsey treated herself to three six-packs of beer at the local dollar stores. McCoy milked that development for all it was worth, characterizing it as “the best moment of the month” for Dempsey.

“She lit a cigarette, stretched out her legs and opened a beer,” he wrote. And then a few sentences later: “She looked down at her beer and thumbed its lid. She took a sip. The moment could last a while longer, she decided.”

Save for a trip to the still and Dempsey sipping from a moonshine jug, he couldn’t have asked for a better redneck ending to this chapter of yellow journalism about West Virginia.


Filed under: Government and History and Human Interest and Media and People and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
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John E. Kenna Was No Robert E. Lee
Posted on 08.27.17 by Danny Glover @ 2:57 pm

West Virginia doesn’t have a “Confederate statue” inside the U.S. Capitol, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the reports of historically ignorant journalists in Washington.

In their rush to pile onto the growing pile of maligned Confederate statues, the media recently set their sights on the National Statuary Hall Collection. What better place to prop up more straw men for knocking down than in a building with 100 famous statues?

This particular angle to the debate over the Confederacy piqued my interest when I first saw it in The Washington Post because the disparity appeared egregiously unjust at face value. “The U.S. Capitol has at least three times as many statues of Confederate figures as it does of black people,” blared the ridiculously long but seemingly fact-based headline.

The problem is that readers can’t take anything the media report these days at face value, especially when it involves an explosive topic like race. Many journalists are hard-wired to assume that racism exists whenever outrage about it grows loud enough. And they have no interest in digging deep into a story line if their research might undermine their assumptions.

So it is with the attack on “Confederate statues.”

The contempt implied in the loaded phrase may make sense when the focus is on prominent rebels like Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens and Gen. Robert E. Lee. But as a native of West Virginia, I grew suspicious of the coverage when I saw in the Post a map of states with supposedly Confederate statues.


A state riven by war
Anyone who actually knows history knows that West Virginia became a state when the North illegally ripped 50 counties from Virginia’s boundaries during the Civil War. West Virginia created five more counties after the war, naming two of them after President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, heroes of the Union.

I didn’t immediately reject the idea that elected leaders in West Virginia could have chosen to memorialize a Confederate with one of its two monuments at the Capitol. After all, 18,000 West Virginians fought for the Confederacy.

West Virginia’s Capitol also is home to a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. At the statue’s dedication in 1910, the United Daughters of the Confederacy called Jackson “the greatest and most illustrious man ever born on the soil of West Virginia, a typical soldier, patriot and Christian.”

Union troops, on the other hand, weren’t recognized with the Mountaineer Soldier statue for two more years, and a prominent memorial to Lincoln didn’t appear until 1974.

But it still seemed odd that a state formed in the Civil War would have recognized a Confederate leader in the U.S. Capitol. With that history in mind, I turned to a remarkable storehouse of information called the Internet for answers.
(more…)


Filed under: Government and History and Media and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

Tracking The Trout Truck
Posted on 05.03.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:57 pm

I had no idea that some of my fellow West Virginians track trout trucks to game the fish-stocking process, let alone that the problem is severe enough to warrant regulation for safety reasons:

It is not uncommon for [hatchery] personnel to arrive at a stream to deposit fish and have 15 to 20 people sitting there and waiting on the stock truck. The advancement of the smart phone and rapid communication along with social media is also fueling what has been a longtime problem. … It has been so bad, they’ve been struck in the face by flying lures and treble hooks.

These “fishermen” are like “hunters” who bait game. They’re lazy, and they give enlightened rednecks a bad name.


Filed under: Fishing and Government and News & Politics and Redneck Hall Of Shame and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

Katherine Johnson: A W.Va. Success Story
Posted on 01.17.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:13 pm

My wife and I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” over the weekend, and the best part was discovering that one of the three main characters, Katherine Johnson, is a West Virginia native.

Here’s what WVU Magazine had to say in a story about Johnson and other “Barrier Breakers“:

You’ve likely heard about the new biographical drama film ‘Hidden Figures,’ about a team of three black female mathematicians who helped calculate flight trajectories for groundbreaking space projects, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The leader of the group was White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., native Katherine Johnson, also the first black woman to desegregate graduate studies at WVU in 1938. At the time, she was one of three black students, and the only female, to attend graduate studies at WVU following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required public universities to accept black graduate students if similar courses weren’t available at black colleges.

Although her stay at WVU was brief – she spent just one summer here – Johnson was awarded an honorary degree from the university in 2016 and is widely acclaimed as an American space pioneer. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the president. Following a historic career with NASA, Johnson, now 98, lives in Newport News, Va.”

I love learning the stories of famous West Virginians, especially those whose successes shatter the stereotypes of the great Mountain State as the land of hillbillies, rednecks and rubes. You can learn more about Johnson via NASA, which ended its story about her by saying, “Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia.”

Here’s what President Obama had to say about Johnson when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the text of the award citation:

Growing up in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson counted everything. She counted steps. She counted dishes. She counted the distance to the church. By 10 years old, she was in high school. By 18, she had graduated from college with degrees in math and French. As an African-American woman, job options were limited — but she was eventually hired as one of several female mathematicians for the agency that would become NASA.

Katherine calculated the flight path for America’s first mission in space, and the path that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. She was even asked to double-check the computer’s math on John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth. So if you think your job is pressure-packed, hers meant that forgetting to carry the one might send somebody floating off into the Solar System. In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars.

Citation: With her razor-sharp mathematical mind, Katherine G. Johnson helped broaden the scope of space travel, charting new frontiers for humanity’s exploration of space, and creating new possibilities for all humankind. From sending the first American to space to the first moon landing, she played a critical role in many of NASA’s most important milestones. Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.


Filed under: Government and History and Movies and People and Technology and Video and West Virginia
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The Ungolden Rule Is Worth 300,000 Pennies
Posted on 01.12.17 by Danny Glover @ 5:10 pm

If you ever need an anecdote to illustrate the opposite of the Golden Rule in action, this story from Virginia should do the trick nicely:

After carting the fifth and final wheelbarrow of pennies into the Lebanon Department of Motor Vehicles Wednesday, Nick Stafford could feel the burn in his arms. Winded, Stafford took a smoke break in the DMV’s parking lot. “I’m not used to lifting,” Stafford said. “These are heavy.”

Heavy, indeed. The 300,000 pennies the Cedar Bluff, Virginia man took to the DMV Wednesday morning to pay sales tax on two new cars weighed in at 1,600 pounds. A mature Holstein cow weighs about 1,500 pounds.

See, Stafford had a bone to pick with the DMV. It wasn’t about agonizingly long lines or a bad picture on his driver’s license: It came down to 10 phone numbers. And Stafford ended up filing three lawsuits and spending at least $1,005 to give the DMV his 2 cents.

The story even comes with a quote that is the antithesis of the Golden Rule: “If they were going to inconvenience me, then I was going to inconvenience them.”

Stafford was legally in the right and the Virginia DMV officials were in the wrong, but talk about biting off your nose to spite your face! Stafford went to great trouble and expense all so he could say, “I think I proved my point here.”

Sure, I chuckled at the thought of bureaucrats being forced to count 300,000 pennies as the consequence for having denied a taxpayer basic information he was entitled to get. Many of us are tempted to seek revenge after such aggravating experiences — and sometimes we do, though probably to a far lesser degree.

But what struck me about this story was the depth of Stafford’s bitterness. He undoubtedly had many nights to examine his own attitude and reconsider his course of vindictiveness, yet Stafford woke up every morning determined to be a bigger jerk than the DMV officials.

Filing a freedom-of-information request to get the one telephone number he needed was a reasonable response to bureaucratic stonewalling. Picking a court over phone numbers he didn’t need was petty. Hiring people to bash open rolls of pennies, buying wheelbarrows to haul those pennies into a government office, and watching gleefully for hours as public servants satisfied his spiteful demand was downright cruel.

The man who thinks he is the hero of this story actually is the villain.


Filed under: Culture and Government and Human Interest and News & Politics and People and Religion
Comments: None

‘Sully’: The Air Traffic Controller’s Story
Posted on 10.07.16 by Danny Glover @ 9:01 pm

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium.
By K. Daniel Glover

A few eventful minutes at work on Jan. 15, 2009, left an indelible mark in New York air traffic controller Patrick Harten’s mind. He constantly replayed those terrifying moments in his head in the weeks that followed, and although they ultimately ended with the inspiring tale known as “The Miracle on the Hudson,” Harten kept imagining the tragedy that might have been.

Now he is reliving those remarkable moments all over again — on the big screen via actor Patch Darragh, who plays Harten in the movie “Sully.” “I thought they did a great job capturing what it felt like to be there that day,” Harten said. “I’ve heard from some of the passengers, and they thought so, too. … Parts of it were tough to watch.”

The movie is based on the actual events surrounding the forced emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. It happened on a cold winter afternoon a few minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York. A flock of Canada geese flew into the Airbus A320, taking out both engines at a low altitude.

Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger chose to land on the water after concluding that he didn’t have enough time to return to LaGuardia or to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Harten is the air traffic controller who talked to Sullenberger that day from the terminal radar approach control facility for several airports in the New York area. The Federal Aviation Administration’s TRACONs manage the airspace near airports, and New York TRACON is one of the busiest.

Harten, who first publicly shared his account of the incident in dramatic testimony to Congress, started his shift in the LaGuardia sector of the TRACON minutes before Flight 1549 took off. But soon after he issued a routine heading for the flight, Sullenberger reported the bird strike and double-engine loss. He headed back toward LaGuardia for an emergency landing.

Harten quickly arranged runway access there and communicated the details to Sullenberger. But 35 seconds after first reporting the emergency, the pilot uttered these ominous words: “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.

Sullenberger predicted that fate more definitively about a minute later, after Harten suggested a runway at Teterboro instead. “We can’t do it. … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”

“I’m sorry, say again,” Harten responded. He then lost radar contact with Flight 1549.

“I thought I was part of one of the worst aviation incidents in modern history at the time,” Harten recounted. He imagined the plane clipping a wing on the water, cartwheeling and breaking into pieces. Even if it landed smoothly, he figured most people on board would drown or succumb to hypothermia. “I was expecting there to maybe be a handful of survivors.”

Read the rest of the story at Medium.


Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Movies and News & Politics and People and Video
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A National Anthem Prophecy Fulfilled
Posted on 09.22.16 by Danny Glover @ 10:48 pm

To hear many Americans tell it today, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been a cherished anthem of national pride almost since the day Francis Scott Key penned it in 1814. But the government-sanctioned reverence the song enjoys in the 21st century actually didn’t take root until the start of the 20th century — and not everyone thought it was a good idea then.

The song gained plenty of attention, particularly in the military, after Scott wrote it to celebrate the American victory over the British at Fort McHenry in Maryland. But even the military didn’t start incorporating “The Star-Spangled Banner” into its flag-raising ceremonies until 1889. It took another 27 years for Woodrow Wilson to give the tune the stamp of presidential approval in an executive order.

The song’s evolution from battle hymn to national anthem still wasn’t complete, though, and the final hurdle on Capitol Hill wasn’t easy to clear. As the National Park Service noted in its history of the national anthem, 11 lawmakers tried to push 15 different bills and resolutions through Congress between 1910 and 1917, and all of them stalled.

Even after a determined Rep. J. Charles Linthicum, D-Md., adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his personal cause in 1918, he had a years-long fight ahead of him. Congress didn’t clear the bill to President Herbert Hoover until March 3, 1931, a day before adjournment would have killed the idea yet again.

That brings us to a surprising editorial that the Baltimore Evening Sun published the day after Hoover signed the bill. With the amateur poet Key being a favorite son of the city, the newspaper had good reason to celebrate the patriotic development. But it saw cause for concern instead:

It must be pleasing to all Marylanders to have a Maryland song thus honored, and yet the occasion is not yet quite one for unreserved joy. Unofficially, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has long been recognized as the national anthem, so nothing much is added to its dignity by this act of Congress.

On the other hand, now that it has official standing, we formally prophesy that not six months will pass before someone comes forward with a proposal to inflict pains and penalties upon those who do not accord the song what the proposer regards as a proper measure of respect.

That is to say, “The Star-Spangled Banner” will now become another excuse for badgering people who do not conform to the patrioteers’ idea of decorum; and this seems a somewhat unfortunate prospect for a fine old Free State song.

Eighty-five years later, the paper’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The new country that repelled the British in the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 is now embroiled in a tense debate about police shootings of black Americans, and the anthem that united us then divides us now.

It’s not enough that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at memorial holidays, military ceremonies and athletic contests across the country, or that the vast majority of the nation’s 324 million people (including me) solemnly stand for it, sing it and revere the symbolism behind it. Every single American must embrace that norm or be reviled as an un-American outcast who should shut up or leave the country.

This, indeed, is an unfortunate fate for a fine song written in a Free State, for a free country.


Filed under: Government and History and Holidays and Media and Military and News & Politics and People
Comments: None

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