I said "Take the Keys Away"

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 12:00 AM

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Earl George, 92, is back behind the wheel of his Cadillac in Edmonds after driving 12,000 miles to Panama and back — by himself.


A transit sticker on Earl George's windshield serves as a reminder of his adventure to Central America.

Doing 92 from Edmonds to Panama

By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter

Imagine you're driving through El Salvador, hit a pothole and blow out two tires on your 2002 Cadillac.

You don't speak Spanish, have just one working eye and, by the way, you're 92 years old.

Earl George, who found himself in just that pickle, did what he often did on his 12,000-mile drive to and from Panama. He talked to himself. After all, this was a solo trip.

"OK, George, you wanted an adventure," he said to himself. "Well, George, this is an adventure."

George just got back from his five-week trip, where he visited a nephew.

"Since my wife passed away, there was no one to tell me, 'You're too stupid, you're a lousy driver and I won't go with you. You can't speak Spanish and you can't make it,' " said George, who was able to navigate through eight countries knowing just three words of Spanish: mañana, muchacha and sí.

So when he found out that his nephew in Panama was ill, he pulled out a map.

"I could drive there," the Edmonds resident told himself.

"People climb mountains for adventure," he said. "My knees hurt, so I can't climb mountains, but I needed an adventure. People kept telling me how stupid the idea was. 'What if banditos get you?' I found there's banditos in Seattle."

Raised in Kansas, George moved to Seattle with the Navy and never left. He lost one of his eyes in a kamikaze attack on his warship during World War II.

"You only need one eye," said George, adding that it's never affected his ability to renew his driver's license.

George's adventure took him through Texas to Mexico where, lost in Mexico City, he saw a sign to Acapulco, took the road and was able to find the Pan American Highway.

He drove through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before arriving in Panama, where he spent a week with his ill nephew before heading home.

While many of the roads were good, there were the ones in Costa Rica with potholes the size of manholes.

"If the roads in Costa Rica were improved 100 percent, they would still be lousy," said George, who lost a tire in that country.

But the worst was when he blew those two tires in El Salvador. As he was sitting by his car, unsure what to do, three people on horseback rode up. One pulled out a cellphone and called a local tire shop, where the owner sent a taxi to get George. He piled himself and his flat tires into the cab, got new tires and went back to the car, where George changed the flats himself.

He used to own a gas station, George explained, and it was in his blood. He said he once changed the tire on a Model T Ford — when Model T's were new.

The next blowout was in Costa Rica, where George ended up spending the night in his car, eating two-day-old pizza. After being told the closest town was about 3 miles away, he drove there on his flattened tires.

The shop didn't have any tires for his Cadillac but promised to drive him to a place that did — for $80 American. After weaving through coconut plantations, he ended up at a duty-free shop on the Panama border where he bought the tires.

George, who said he loves to drive, clocked about 400 miles a day and figures he spent about $6,000 on his adventure. And he says he has no regrets.

He said while his friends warned him against going, his two sons, who are in their 50s and 60s, were supportive. "They both thought it was wonderful," George said.

His next trip? Maybe he'll drive to Alaska.

"But I'm open to suggestions."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

I'm tired

Yes, I'm tired.

I need a nap.

I'd like a cup of coffee.

But, I need to do laundry and I need to eat dinner.

One day, I will be able to summon dinner and have someone else do my laundry.

Until then, I need to get off my ass and get something done.


I'm sleepy.

Busy day for me...did you see me?

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2006 (202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888



Good afternoon, everyone. This is a critical time for two different institutions that both play vital roles in the life of our nation: the Supreme Court, which interprets the Constitution and laws, and our intelligence agencies, which strive to protect us from terrorists and other threats to our national security. The Court is in transition as the Senate considers Judge Alito's nomination to be an Associate Justice, and our nation's dedicated intelligence professionals are watching closely the debates over reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and over the National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program. These topics are of course very important to me, and so I look forward to your questions.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Hey everyone, I'm here and I'm ready! Al called me in to help tie up the loose ends of his conversation, and add in any key details that may have been forgotten.

Attorney General Gonzales, Can you explain how the Patriot Act protects our nation from terrorist threats? Thank you.

I'm happy to do so, Laura. The USA PATRIOT Act helps us protect Americans from terrorist attacks in several ways. First and foremost, the Act helped break down the so-called "wall" that prevented our national security investigators and law enforcement personnel from working together to "connect the dots" to prevent further terrorist attacks. Second, the Act updated some of our laws to reflect changes in technology. And third, the Act provided national security investigators - who pursue terrorists and spies - more of the same tools that were already available for criminal investigators - who pursue drug dealers and mobsters. It has been my experience in the more than four years since the horrific attacks of September 11 that the USA PATRIOT Act has been critical to our efforts to prevent another attack.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: I don't know if I would say the UPA or Umpa-Lumpa I've heard it called, has helped to prevent another attack. I know that it has help to slow the spread of democracy within our country, by instilling fear into those who seek to speak out against the president and his policies. Remember, that guy Josh? The UPA helped to pin him for setting fire and vandalizing some cars...oh wait....he didn't do it. And, you had to publicly apologize for it. Effective...I think the jury's still out on that one.

Mr. Attorney General, is the patriot act, in any way, in violation of the laws and liberties we are ensured in this country?

Gregory, I appreciate the opportunity to answer that question, which is crucial to the debate over the USA PATRIOT Act. We at the Department of Justice must be fully comfortable that the answer is "no," or we could not in good conscience support the Act. When I became the Attorney General, I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and it is an oath that I take very seriously. I believe that the USA PATRIOT Act is fully consistent with the Constitution and laws, helping us protect both Americans and the values that we cherish. In my view, many of the concerns about the USA PATRIOT Act are based on either misunderstandings or misinformation. When you look at the Act, you can see that there is extensive judicial and congressional oversight of the tools provided by the Act - not to mention the rigorous protections provided by the Justice Department's own binding procedures and policies. Over the past year, the Act has been the subject of more oversight and debate than any bill in recent memory - and all of the hearings, testimony, briefings, and meetings demonstrated that there has not been a single verified abuse of any of the provisions. That's a record that I'm proud of.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Al, could you pass the water. Something seems to be caught in my throat.

Mr. Gonzales, Why is Mr. Alito the best choice for the Supreme Court?
I appreciate that question, Joel. Judge Alito is a superb pick for the Supreme Court. He is the most experienced nominee in 70 years, having served 15 years as a federal appeals Judge. He has issued approximately 5,000 rulings in cases spanning all of federal law. He has developed a modest and measured approach to judging, making sure to take seriously the arguments of all sides, to keep an open mind until all arguments have been made, and to approach each case by on its own facts and law. Judge Alito has spent his entire career in his nation's service, and he exemplifies the very best of public service. I was gratified yesterday to see the Senate Judiciary Committee report out Judge Alito's nomination to the full Senate with a positive recommendation, and I am sure the Senate will move quickly to approve the nomination of this extremely qualified nominee.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: You forgot to add the part of "We couldn't think of anyone else"

Do you expect the Patriot Act to be renewed? I agree with you Mr. Attorney General and the President that the Patriot Act and the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program are vital against terrorists. Thank you.

Tom, your question is obviously a timely one. Sixteen provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, including critical provisions that helped break down the "wall" between national security investigators and law enforcement personnel, are set to expire on February 3, 2006. The majority of Americans support renewing the USA PATRIOT Act, and this Administration does, too. Over the past year, there has been extensive debate over reauthorization and that debate demonstrated two things: the USA PATRIOT Act has been critical to our efforts to protect Americans, and there has not been a single verified abuse of the provisions of the Act. The House has already passed a reauthorization bill that the President and I support. This bill reauthorizes all of the expiring provisions of the Act and - though there have been no verified abuses - adds more than 30 new civil liberties safeguards. This reauthorization bill also has the support of a majority of Senators. Unfortunately, a minority of Senators have filibustered the bill - refusing to allow an up-or-down vote. The President has urged these Senators to abandon their delaying tactics, and I join in that call. Notwithstanding the recent delay, I am optimistic that the USA PATRIOT Act will be renewed.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: As he said, no verified abuses. All those people seem to have turned up missing.

I Want to get this national spying probelm straight. At that time the N.S.A was spying on known terrorist connections making international calls. it was not by any means affecting the typical american right?

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Wait a minute Sean..."typical american" "TYPICAL AMERICAN" The typical american doesn't vote, pays taxes, sends their kid to school, doesn't participate in local politics. So the typical american wouldn't know if they are being spyed on, and wouldn't know if they are being impacted. It's a slippery slope, it's okay to spy here and there - today. But a year from now...spying could be a socially acceptable activity. Then, what's the use of the Bill of Rights?

Sean, thanks for your question. I'm glad you asked this question -- it is a very important question about an issue that has a lot of people confused, in part because of incomplete or inaccurate media reports. First, let me be very clear -- the terrorist surveillance program described by the President is focused solely on international communications where professional intelligence experts have reason to believe that at least one party is a member or agent of al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist group. As this description demonstrates, the terrorist surveillance program described by the President is very narrow. Because it is focused on international calls of individuals linked to al Qaeda, it is overwhelmingly unlikely that the terrorist surveillance program would ever affect an ordinary American. And if this ever were to happen, the information would be destroyed as quickly as possible. The President authorized this program specifically to protect ordinary Americans from the type of outrageous attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, and you can rest assured that the federal government is fully committed to protecting you and other Americans - both your safety and your civil liberties.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Sean and Al, let's step back a moment and talk about how an organization is defined as a "terrorist organization".

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Okay, maybe we can talk about it next time.

I was just wondering sir, with it now known that the NSA has been listening in on phone calls made in the US by al-qaida operatives, are there any safeguards in place to ensure that ONLY thos phone calls are monitored?

That's an important question, Marc. As I explained in responding to Sean in Michigan, the terrorist surveillance program described by the President is focused on international communications into or out of the United States where there is reason to believe that at least one party to the communication is a member or agent of al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist group. This is not about intercepting communications between people in America, it's about the "hot pursuit" of international communications involving someone we reasonably believe is associated with al Qaeda, where one of the parties to the communication is already in the United States. The NSA has processes in place to make sure that only these types of communication are picked up by the program. If the NSA were to discover that a domestic-to-domestic communication inadvertently had been picked up, it would be destroyed as quickly as possible. We are vigilant in ensuring that Americans' civil liberties are protected. My Department - the Department of Justice - has carefully reviewed this program for legality, and approximately every 45 days the President determines whether to reauthorize the program. In addition, the Inspector General and General Counsel of the NSA review the program to make sure that it complies with law and that your civil liberties are protected. In short, there are a lot of safeguards in place to protect the rights of ordinary Americans.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Hot pursuit - sounds like Smokey and the Bandit. I wonder if the President likes Burt Reynolds.

I know the NSA has to stay super secret, and even its oversight has to be limited in some ways. What kinds of oversight does the congress have over the NSA? Thanks.

A very good question, Jim. As the President has frequently mentioned, the Administration has conducted over a dozen briefings on the operational details of the NSA's terrorist surveillance program with Congressional members from both sides of the aisle. Our decision to restrict these briefings to a select group of members of Congress is in keeping with longstanding tradition when dealing with matters of extreme sensitivity such as the terrorist surveillance program - and it's perfectly legal. We believe it is an important obligation of ours to keep Congress informed of the status of this program and will therefore continue to conduct Congressional briefings in a manner that is appropriate and consistent with the law.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: I feel a cough coming on again. Man, the NSA has a bureacracy like none others. You can tell the American public all you want about how there's oversight here, oversight there. Oversight is aftersight.

Dear Attorney general Gonzales,the only thing about this issue that remains unclear to me is why the current FISA system of approval of wire taps is too slow. You are able to wire tap instantly, and deal with clearance or approval or warrants later, right? So, again, what is too slow? I really want to know the answer to this. Thanks, Daniel.

I appreciate your question, Daniel, as you raise an important point that I would like to clarify. You are referring to a widely discussed and often misunderstood provision in FISA that allows for so-called "emergency authorizations" of surveillance for 72 hours without a court order. But in order to initiate surveillance even under a FISA emergency authorization, it is not enough to rely on the best judgment of our intelligence officers alone. Those intelligence officers have to get the sign-off of lawyers at the NSA that all provisions of FISA have been satisfied, then lawyers in the Department of Justice would have to be similarly satisfied, and finally as Attorney General I have to be satisfied that the search meets FISA's requirements. All of this must happen before I can authorize even an emergency wiretap under FISA. And then we would have to be prepared to follow up with a full FISA application within the 72 hours - a cumbersome task. As you can see, FISA emergency applications are not so easily secured as some have implied: even for emergency applications, this extensive review process takes precious time. In order to fight the war on terror effectively, sometimes we must be able to take instantaneous action. I want to end by pointing out that although the NSA program may be faster, the FISA system has been a very important and useful tool in the war on terror particularly with respect to long term surveillance.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Al, can you tell me how this has helped with the war on terror? I'm a little confused, if this is something that has helped with long term surveillance, why would you need "emergency authorization" if you know you are going to spy for a longer term?

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Does my mic work? Hello? Hello?

Thank you very much for these probing and insightful questions. I'm gratified to have had the opportunity to share my views, and I wish you all well.

GINNY-MARIE CASE: Hey, you know I have a blog! Take a look.


I love Honolulu

I was fresh out of a good meeting this afternoon with prospective clients. I was suddenly remembering part of our conversation discussed how cutthroat the parking enforcement had become. I thought they were joking.

I'm waiting out there for my cab, when all of the sudden a police officer pulls up with lights and sirens. I thought, COOL, where's the action!

The action was 4 parked cars. All Mercedes Benz cars! And, they were 2 minutes over the time. And, ALL FOUR CARS WERE GETTING TICKETS. Oh, it was awesome. 2 Minutes!!!

The last car, a silver new new new mercedes convertible. The police officer didn't ticket this one. He called the tow-truck, which pulled up pretty quick, and TOWED HIS ASS. Oh...it was awesome. The tow truck moved so fast, he just scooped up this nice car. Plucked it from the world of parked cars, to take it to the scummy impound lot.

Ahhh... So glad that it wasn't me, but it was funny to watch.

That's it, no more

You know who's never late for their flight - people going to Hawaii.

Although it's not international, the airline tells you to be here at least two hours before your flight. But, why? If my flight leaves at 8:30, this means I'm at the airport at 6:30 in the morning.

What am I supposed to do for two hours? And, the even funnier thing about it is that my laptop battery won't even last that long. And, ha ha, the only plug in available looks a little shady, and I don't think Jason would appreciate me plugging my laptop cord into any available socket.

I don't even have internet access. My shoes are with some unknown person, who works for the airport. My four purses...prized purses are with that same unknown airport person. The airport is causing me great stress.

I hope my purses make the trip. :-)

Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom. I'm going to Hawaii. Until Saturday, I'll be qualifying, asking questions, seeing the sights, pick up some macadamia nuts, and lead 8 hours of product training.

And, I have talking points to read.

I am the envy of every 29 year old, and maybe even a couple of co-workers.

Off to find an internet hook-up.

Chatty Cathy...

For tonight's blog entry - let's talk about the train.

When on the train there are kids that run up and down the aisle, there are people who chat quietly on the phone. There are folks who sleep on the train. But, I can't stand the girl who sits in the back of the train and is spilling out the personal contents of her life.

It's this one long story that she's been on since Lake Avenue - and now we are in Highland Park, and she's announced that she's not quite proud of the life she's led. It's amazing. Does she even know the person she's talking to? You have to wonder.

Does the person she's talking to even care? Again, you have to wonder.

Ohhhh....I like the days when there are screaming children running up and down the aisle. At least then you can scowl at the parents. How can you scowl at the girl who has a father who's got stage 4 cancer, a step-mother who's about the same age as her, and a 21 year old younger sister, and so and so who was supposed to be a designated driver.

Ohhh, please can't you live close to Southwest Museum? Please please please. I'd like to have the trip home in some peace.

Here's to thinking about wild children running loose on the Gold Line.

Oh - now she's talking about how her sister has fainted twice because of stress. "First 24 hours...."

I need to stop typing about it, because I'm starting to actually get interested in the story.


In the past day I've gotten over 500 emails from Postmaster and Mailer Daemon - it's obvious that my domain name is being included in a good deal of spoofing. So, if you get an email with X@ginnycase.com - just know that I don''t sell Adobe, Microsoft, or anything.

G is for Ginny and Garbage Trucks

Today's walk to the bus stop was interesting. As I was coming up 6th street a garbage truck had entered a parking lot, cut through, and was looking to cross 6th to another parking lot. Since 6th street is one-way, the driver was looking up the street - not down the street where all the pedestrians were.

Most of the pedestrians kept walking, even though it was clear (by the inching forward of the truck) that the truck driver didn't see us. I yelled up to the driver, but he just couldn't hear me. He kept inching forward, when there were no obvious signs that a break in traffic would allow for him to dart across the street to the other alley.

I finally started waving my hands around, and thought to myself - well...if I get hit today, I'm really SOL because I left my cell phone on the dresser, and I'm planning on dropping off the rent check on my way home from work. I wasn't really thinking about the fact that the look on the driver's face made me feel when the truck was going to go forward, it was going forward ... balls out.

So, I stepped in front of the truck. At the same time traffic magically cleared. And, holy crap....that truck has quite a horn, and the driver yelled - HEY WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING!!!

Me? Me?

Bye Bye Kevin

From: Kevin Hummer
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 7:06 AM
To: Kevin Hummer

This is like one of those potentially creepy videos you get from a Lawyer once someone dies. In fact if you have received this e-mail I have done just that . I did just mention that this could be a little weird. This however shouldn't come as a shock considering how crazy I am/was. I'm sure I'll mess up tenses here and there. Yes, it is true I have moved on to ________ (you choose my destination and fill in here).

I am sending this to my friends and loved ones who have given me support and compassion throughout my fight with cancer; although I really do/did hate that phrase, it's right up there with "everybody's cancer is different." Bloody hell it is, it pretty much sucks big time for everyone it touches. Oops, that sounds a bit rough; I really had no bitterness about the experience. It was just one of those random things. I have been truly lucky to have had a most resplendent life with no wants or regrets, along with some terrific people who have helped me along the way.

So, cheers to all my friends that I love and have had the fortune of sharing good times together. I hope that you will raise a glass and remember me with fond memories (still a little lingering ego). You know that I will most certainly miss my cocktails.

Now to end my note with a favorite poem (if one can have a favorite poem about death) from a much-lauded bent Englishman, entitled "Funeral Blues." For those of you who don't fancy poetry you might recall it from the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-- W.H. Auden

Okay it's Kleenex time! I love you lots!!!