Monthly Archives: June 2010

Sincerity is getting tired

There’s a stunning amount of misinformation surrounding the oil spill, the responses, the dangers, the facts on the ground, the consequences . . . because, as usual and with the exception of PBS and the BBC, almost no actual reporting can be found on TV broadcast or cable channels, which is where most people get their news.

CNN has been talking to a very angry head of a Louisiana parish for almost two months and almost every day.  His way of life and that of his constituents is threatened and he is justifiably frightened and angry. But however authentic this guy is,  he is not the story.

Even tonight there is CNN as usual, speculating about whether the Jones Act is preventing the use of foreign skimmer vessels in the Gulf.  While Wolfe and Anderson grimly discuss this with people who have no idea and no data but do have opinions, McClatchy – one of the last remaining genuine journalistic enterprises we have – did the reporting.

There are dozens of stories at their site, including the one to which I just linked. From that story:

“It’s a little shocking to me that a president that has such a multinational orientation as this president didn’t immediately see the benefits of waiving the Jones Act and allowing all of these resources to come in,” former House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, said in remarks to, a conservative website.

Armey and the other Republican critics are wrong. Maritime law experts, government officials and independent researchers say that the claim is false. The Jones Act isn’t an impediment at all, they say, and it hasn’t blocked anything.

“Totally not true,” said Mark Ruge, counsel to the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, a coalition of U.S. shipbuilders, operators and labor unions. “It is simply an urban myth that the Jones Act is the problem.”

Kinda love that daring definitive language – you know, where they say things like “is” and “isn’t”. Bold stuff.

And they’re not even The-Most-Trusted-Name-In-News.

(But still, it’s too bad they couldn’t get Donna Brasile or Ann Coulter to chime in. I guess they’re not really ready for the big time.)


Better put the shades on

It is annual feel-good day for the house. The stalwart Ken – thorough and hard working as always – has been pressure cleaning it for nearly four hours and has a distance to go. Mine is a small house and it has an old-time concrete tile roof. It’s a good roof to have in hurricane country – it weighs a ton. But it’s white. Or supposed to be. So the down side of having this otherwise fine roof is the slow loss over the year, of  its, well, its white. Which is why Ken will spend so long on the job.

While the forces of water and muscle and bleach are at work outside, I am plowing through files inside. My recycle bin tomorrow morning will be heavy with discarded paper, some of it three-year old email exchanges I printed because they seemed important. I look at them now and am embarassed that I ever thought so.

The Thurgood Marshall hearing

Dana Millbank listened to the Kagan hearings so I didn’t have to: 

He noted that the late Justice Thurgood Marshall – for whom Elena Kagan clerked when she was younger, and whom she admired – appeared to be on trial at yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearings. 

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the panel, branded Marshall a “well-known activist.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Marshall’s legal view “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.” 
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) pronounced Marshall “a judicial activist” with a “judicial philosophy that concerns me.”  

 . . . .

I really don’t think Cornyn has much to worry about. Marshall died in 1993, 17 years ago. Died. Passed. Kicked the bucket. Met his maker. Slipped into the long sleep. Said bye-bye. Stopped messing with the Constitution for good. 

The Senator from Texas has never shown himself to be among the leading intellectual lights of the world’s greatest deliberative body. But he has great hair.

Dear Brian

I know you’re the journamalism pro, Mr. Williams, but please allow me to offer this small suggestion. Stop dipping paper towels in the water in New Orleans. Especially please stop doing it from a small dingy so we think you got out there by yourself. I swear, oars are next.

So . . .  enough with the paper towels, okay?

I think it’s about Kennedy

Listening off and on to the Kagan confirmation hearings. Everything I hear (except from the old misogynist Jeff Sessions) reinforces the portrait of a consensus builder, a master negotiator. 

I’m beginning to think that Obama named her to target Kennedy who has become the swing vote since O’Connor’s retirement. He’s more conservative than she was, but he’s traveled around the spectrum quite a lot since he was appointed. For instance, that conservative bugo-a-boo, horror of teh foreign law – Kennedy expresses a deep understanding of that in recent years. 

Got an eye on you Mr. Justice Kennedy

 Kagan for Kennedy? Makes sense to me. A reliable liberal most of the time installed to turn someone else into a sympathetic vote more of the time.

He thinks he’s a presidential candidate

Andrew Sullivan’s Hewitt Award Nominee of the day:

Obama is detached from the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of its people,” – Rick Santorum.

And neither George Washington nor Thomas Jefferson were aristocrats. Also.

Kyl on Kagan

‘Results-oriented’ jurist. What happened to ‘activist judge’?

Writing the platform and running for office on CSpan 3!


Here is the very definition of the word.

From Byrd’s March 13 speech just before the Iraq war:
“ If the United States leads the charge to war in the Persian Gulf, we may get lucky and achieve a rapid victory. But then we will face a second war: a war to win the peace in Iraq. This war will last many years and will surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars. In light of this enormous task, it would be a great mistake to expect that this will be a replay of the 1991 war. The stakes are much higher in this conflict.[62]

And six days later, after Bush ordered the invasion:
“ Today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination.[63]

Wonder if the troops in Afghanistan remember all that. Actually, they’re probably too busy fighting on this 263rd day of the ninth year of their war.

The 20th century man

Robert Byrd was a man of his times and as the times changed so did he. Byrd experienced and contributed to the entire canvas that was 20th century America.

As a young man he was a member of the Klu Klux Klan and carried his Southern racism into the Senate. In 1964 he voted against the Civil Rights Act. That was Robert Byrd.

But he moved on; he grew with the century and with the country (his attitude toward race parallels a journey taken by my own father).

Here is Robert Byrd’s journey from 1944 to 2003:


I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side… Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
— Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), 1944, [8][12


In the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People‘s (NAACP)[59] Congressional Report Card for the 108th Congress (spanning the 2003–2004 congressional session), Byrd was awarded with an approval rating of 100 percent for favoring the NAACP’s position in all 33 bills presented to the United States Senate regarding issues of their concern.

He served way too long in the Senate of course but that guaranteed his place in the history books by virtue of longevity alone.

Byrd was known as the parliamentarian of the Senate, an unofficial title conferred because no one knew the arcane convoluted rules of that body better than he did. And long before Newt Gingrich turned it into a political gimmick, Byrd carried his copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket and consulted it often while on the floor of the Senate.

He gave one of the most honorable speeches of his career in 2003 – a very underreported speech. His voice echoed around a nearly empty chamber as he – a man who’d lived through two world wars  – appealed to President Bush to tamp down his zeal for a war of aggression.

He’d overstayed his time certainly and we still need his voice.

The 2003 speech:

No competition really

There’s a certain serenity that comes at a certain age that I don’t believe is even possible when one is younger. It’s something that generations hide for themselves. We don’t all get there right away, but it’s not elusive – it’s just waiting for us.

Friend Elaine, following a dialogue about brothers (and other males) defined it:

“I was on the back porch looking for new blooms when 4 count them 4 goldfinch landed on a spidery plant and rode the swaying thin stems like a swing, then one of the male hummingbirds that make my backyard a regular haunt stopped by to feed on the dontknowthename purple flowers they like so much while the baby chipmonk foraged around the plants.

“Screw the men, I have a garden. “

Laugh or cry: I report, you choose

I don’t know how to grab video from the Daily Show – this youtube clip from CNN however has the relevant portion. It begins around 2:40.

Why I love Balloon Juice

Becasue John Cole can tell a story.

Open Thread

by John Cole

There is nothing quite like waking up and going to the bathroom and stepping, with your bare foot, with all your weight, into a pile of dog shit. The way it squishes between your toes and you start to slide on the tile as you react in horror in the dark, without any glasses on and wearing your pj’s, because even though you are blind and vulnerable and it is the middle of the night, you know exactly what has just happened.

That is all.

Thank you Elvis

It is raining. Glory be to Bruce, it is raining!

Must be why my parents only lasted 68 years

That’s right – my parental units were married for 68 years. Unfortunately the honeymoon ended when a gay couple entered their lives with their damned 40 years of gay coupleness.

Which is why I’m so glad that at least someone – in this case, the GOP in the great state of Texas – is standing up to this dangerous threat to traditional marriage. I’d hate to see my parents’ tragedy repeated elsewhere.

The Texas Republican Party gives a whole new meaning to the word conservative.

The GOP there has voted on a platform that would ban oral and anal sex. It also would give jail sentences to anyone who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple (even though such licenses are already invalid in the state).

“We oppose the legalization of sodomy,” the platform says. “We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.”

The Lone Star state initially passed a law barring sodomy in 1860. Violators faced anywhere from five to 15 years in prison. The ban was overturned in 2003.

In addition, the platform says that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit and leads to the spread of dangerous communicable diseases.”

It also states that homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in public schools and “family” should not be redefined to include homosexual couples.

The 25-page proposal, presented last week as a guide for the state GOP over the next two years, includes other measures including outlawing “sexually oriented businesses” like strip clubs and banning “all pornography.”

Is it really Friday?

Before I head off to an afternoon of paperwork – here’s the Friday Oldie.

More of this please

Exactly right.

from something called DemRapidResponse (part of DNC?).

We win – something at least.

Following up on my earlier post, this morning Washington Monthly gives us a nice summary of the outcome. (clipped from the NY Times story – link in the clip):

MARATHON SESSION LEADS TO BREAKTHROUGH ON WALL STREET REFORM…. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t pretty, but seemingly-endless negotiations have produced a sweeping Wall Street reform package ready to be approved by both chambers.

Nearly two years after the American financial system teetered on the verge of collapse, Congressional negotiators reached agreement early Friday morning to reconcile competing versions of the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression.

A 20-hour marathon by members of a House-Senate conference committee to complete work on toughened financial regulations culminated at 5:39 a.m. Friday in agreements on the two most contentious parts of the financial regulatory overhaul and a host of other provisions. Along party lines, the House conferees voted 20 to 11 to approve the bill; the Senate conferees voted 7 to 5 to approve.

Members of the conference committee approved proposals to restrict trading by banks for their own benefit and requiring banks and their parent companies to segregate much of their derivatives activities into a separately capitalized subsidiary.

Treat thyself, patient


Hideous medical stories of death and destruction abound and did especially take flight during the health care debate. In fact, I expect everyone can name someone who had a terrible encounter with the medical-industrial complex. Most of them are epic or at least end up causing great harm.

But for me, the real problems are quietly embedded in everyday treatment. Two stories and both probably arise from fears of legal liability (yup, I’m a  liberal who favors malpractice reform as do many of my tribe – though not in the form of caps):

Story number one happened to me. I did something stupid to myself at 11pm Friday night, causing a grievous though not threatening injury to myself. A good deal of blood was involved and I wasnt able to clean or bandage it by myself. So what do you do at 11pm? You get in the car and head to the Emergency Room.

A puzzlement? (Not really.)

Upon arrival, I found that my information was still in their computers from a similar visit about eight years ago. This impressed me mightily. I was shown to a cubicle/room and a clerk came in with clipboard and paperwork and began to ask for my info. I politely pointed out that we’d just pulled it all up on their computers down the hall. Didn’t matter. The clerk was required to take it all again to be sure I was me. (cuz people everywhere wound themselves so they can go to the emergency room in the middle of the night.) Okay. I went along with it.

Next, a very nice young man with a big x-ray machine came in. I said you must have the wrong room – I certainly don’t need any x-rays,  just help with some bandaging actually. This very nice young man leaned down, looked and said yeah, I can see that. But. But. But the doctor wants the x-rays and well, that’s pretty much that. It’s clear that if I reject the x-ray (which you can) your ‘treatment’ will take a wholly different and not particularly friendly turn. So we x-ray which by the way produces the first and worst pain I’ve yet had in this episode.

And now . . . drum roll . . . comes the doctor. Very nice. I ask why the x-ray. He solemnly says it’s better to be sure. He looks at wound. He does not touch. He says nurse will be right in. She comes some time later. Doesn’t look. Doesn’t touch. Has more paperwork. Asks if I have a living will (this actually takes my breath away). Insists upon info re who to call  in emergency. I’m still bleeding, though it’s slowed a bit, and I’m losing patience. Nurse leaves.

Finally, an ‘aide’ arrives with bottles of solutions and bandaging stuff. And she irrigates, and she fiddles a bit, and she bandages. And then she starts to put a special orthotic shoe on my foot. And here we go again “I don’t need that” and  ‘doctor says’. I’m out of my league here.

The best part is walking long corridors to exit the hospital and long parking lot to get back to my car. You know what actually would have been appreciated? A lift in a wheelchair would have been appreciated.

The entire matter could have been handled by the aide in 15 minutes. After all, she was the only one who actually treated me.

Story the second: My sister is in Ireland. She had a question re some prescription med she has with her and emailed me Wednesday night asking me to get an email address for her dermatologist. She didn’t want to screw up the prescription. I called them next day.  They absolutely would not give out an email address. They were firm about that. Even when you’re out of  the country – no email address. Sorry.

So I went about just trying to get her questions answered. Hah. Couldn’t speak with the doctor – even tho the clerk was going back and forth between me and him. Final word – they will not give me any info about her or her treatment without a signed release form. (they were fully aware I was her sister – I”m also a patient) I actually said to the woman on the phone at one point, “well, I’ll email my sister in Ireland and let her know that there’s no help from here.” That got her attention and she went back to the doctor but returned with the same message. Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do.

I then tried ‘how ‘bout I ask you some hypothetical questions about medical treatment, you know, an academic question”? Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do. And I guess we can add Will. Not. Do.

And so it went. Neither situation responsive to the medical situation or the patient’s needs. Responsive to only one thing of course – scared to death of  litigation.

Count up the pennies and time and effort that went into both those episodes.

This stuff makes me wonder if ourf beleaguered troops in Afghanistan have to go through this nonsense when the run into an IED. I wonder because today is the 260th day of the ninth year of the war there.

Cover your eyes

We keep hearing about transparency – I’ve never been clear about how deep into the political process one would have to go before achieving this transparency of which many speak.

Tonight though, while doing much more important things, I kept half an eye on CSpan II, where a conference committee (House and Senate Finance committees meeting together) was in session trying to nail down something they could call legislation.  The metaphor ‘making sausage’ doesn’t do justice to what I saw and heard.  I really think it’s better that we  stop looking and wait to see what comes out the other end.

It was painful to watch and so I stopped. The congress critters however went on because they had to. It’s their job.

As entertainment however, it was teh yuck.

UPDATE: Headline edited in acquiescence to the language known as English.

And we expected them to control an oil well?

Story on the news tonight about a Louisiana charter captain who committed suicide yesterday – entirely spill related according to friends and family. There are always these bonus tragedies when bigger tragedies occur. Nothing new about that, sadly.

But just now I saw one of BP’s feel-good TV commercials. Guess who was in it?

Right on top it, BP is.

A career at last. You betcha!

A brilliant new actress has exploded on TV screens across the nation. Or at least across Alaska. Cue the Emmy committee: Bristol is aboard!

UPDATE: It seems yet another method of embedding videos into WordPress blogs has been snatched away! If you’ve got patience, it’s here.


A nice lady

Sometimes nice things happen. Pure things.

Yesterday, at a local coffee place I stood at the cashier behind another woman who was paying for a tea, a roll and a newspaper. She was having a difficult time with her purse and money – the way we all get clumsy some days when nothing goes right. I wasn’t at all impatient (as I often am). Midway through her struggles, she turned around to me, pointed to my coffee and asked how much is that coffee? And I chuckled a little and told her. “It’s on me” she told the clerk, “I’m buying that coffee.”

For a second,  I thought she meant to add a coffee to her own order. Not so. She was paying for my coffee. I stuttered out something about I didn’t mind waiting for her, I had days like that. And she just smiled and said “But I want to buy your coffee for you.”

And that was that. I thanked her, told her she was a lovely person. She smiled and turned back to the dumbstruck clerk.

A nice lady.

I’m in awe

Atrios is brilliant. He hates the Afghan war as much as I do. And he really loathes Micahel O’Hanlon (like I do), he of the “I think this today – oh wait, it’s tomorrow – I don’t think that anymore” school of punditry.  Today Atrios catches O’Hanlon saying:

At this moment, as we enter into perhaps the most crucial six months of the entire war, I hope and pray that President Obama will decide we cannot afford to be without the leadership of such an amazing American.

The acerbic Atrios gets it entirely right, when he adds: “Eight and a half years later we’re starting “the most crucial six months?”

We’re missing the point

So today everyone – me too – is all agog about Stanley MacArthur. And Obama. And will he? Or won’t he? Should he? Would he? And, omg, what if he doesn’t?? And what if he does??  Rock and hard place, but I stay with my previous post – Stanley must go, or more to the point, Obama must step up to the plate, defend civilian control and fire the general’s ass.

But even as we enjoy ‘the fret’, we’ve once again missed the point.

Why the hell are we still in Afghanistan? We hit the ground there in October of 2001. It is now June of 2010 and exactly what have we accomplished? I cannot name anything.

So on this 237th day of the ninth year of the war, I’d like my president to fire the general and then get the hell  out of Afghanistan.

I will say no, I will say no, I will . . .

The novice retiree’s naiveté. Too many obligations. Not even enough time (see number 4 here) to take care of my personal business like food shopping, library stops etc.

Not so much unbloggy as unavailable. The short term committment wraps up very soon. The theatre is hosting an international festival (theatre companies coming from ALL continents except Antarctica!) and I committed myself heavily. The festival wraps up at the end of this week. Life should get back to normal then.

And between the oil spill and Gen. Stanley MacArthur, I look forward to reading and blogging a lot.

Do come back.

Gen. Stanley MacArthur

Per James Fallows at the Atlantic, Obama has a constitutional obligation to fire McCrystal. Article II,  Section 2 makes the President Commander in Chief. As such, he must act swiftly to

  1. stop disrepect for the chain of command.
  2. protect the security of the US against  public discord within that chain of command and public scorn for one’s own current government, and
  3. protect civilian oversight of the military.

McCrystal has to say bye-bye, but please please please Mr. President, require him to do so.

Catching up, some lessons and a song

Over the last week, I’ve learned four important lessons. Allow me to share.

  1. Do not move heavy furniture, in the dark, barefoot  – or you might end up in the Emergency Room.
  2. Do not undertake two substantial volunteer projects that share a deadline.
  3. Do consider your excema prone skin when building a swimming pool. It’s likely to cost a few sheckles to convert to a salt water system. And this leads to the final and somewhat humiliating lesson:
  4. Do listen to friends.

Given the above – and the mood engendered this past week – I am unbloggy. So unbloggy that I failed to do a Friday night oldie.

Here is a taste of the – then – newly-emerging edgy 60’s culture. It wasn’t all hippies and the Beatles:

More oil crimes

Of course, we need oil. The nations of the world run on oil, and most of their economies would collapse without access to oil. All these things are true right now and will be for some time to come.

But that does not justify 1) the criminal destruction of habitat, environment and entire communities or 2) the political denial that slows – in fact prevents – any serious investment in the future and a world without cheap oil.

We are approaching the end of cheap oil – it’s harder and harder to find what they call ‘sweet crude’, oil that processes well and efficiently. And as long as sweet crude is there, extraction costs are containable. But today we’re increasingly turning to things like shale and deep water which are far more expensive to extract and process. We’ll be paying a whole lot more for oil in the future – and unless we can locate the political will to acknowledge that and put serious money to work on alternatives, that future looks bleak.

BP isn’t the only company out there regularly committing criminal acts. Victims of Exxon Valdez waited decades for compensation as Exxon’s lawyers endlessly appealed until some of the plaintiffs died.

In 1979, a  Pemex blowout off Mexico’s east coast was the third largest oil spill in history. (They were drilling 12,000 feet below the seafloor!) It took ten months to stop the flow.

And today, The New York Times has an update about the horrific crimes of Shell Oil in the Niger Delta, where they’ve been spilling the equivalent of and Exxon Valdez every year for fifty years. Fifty years. Half a friggin century. Shell claims that criminals who siphon oil from their pipelines are responsible for much of the problem.  But as the story says, Shell manages to use soldiers to beat women protestors but can’t find forces to guard the pipelines.

Today’s New York Times:

 The oil spews from rusted and aging pipes, unchecked by what analysts say is ineffectual or collusive regulation, and abetted by deficient maintenance and sabotage. In the face of this black tide is an infrequent protest — soldiers guarding an Exxon Mobil site beat women who were demonstrating last month, according to witnesses — but mostly resentful resignation . . .

Claytus Kanyie, a local official, said of the gulf spill, standing among dead mangroves in the soft oily muck outside Bodo. “Nobody [in the US] is worried about this one [the Mexico spill]. The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used to be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.”

 Somewhere, somehow, someday they should pay for this.

I’m ready. Bring it on!

Luke likes Seattle, he likes his dinner and pretty much he likes the whole shebang. This baby knows how to smile which makes a beloved nephew smile a bit himself.

Musta’ been a very gay place

all gone

MONROE, Ohio – A six-story

statue of Jesus Christ was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers Tuesday.

Hey, Pat Robertson! You want to ‘splain what awful sin got Jesus to destroy himself?