Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jared Lee Loughner's YouTube Compilation

I don't know whether I will leave this up.  I will think about it tomorrow.  Right now, I'm going back to the previous post where I am currently sipping hot chocolate and looking out over the moonlit, snowy buttes from the relative warmth of my tent.

It's a magic tent that I bought in Diagon Alley.  We're all here but the tent is roomy enough that I haven't seen hide nor hair of any Marlinspike Hall domestic staff (we left a skeleton crew back at The Manor), Fred, or even La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, though strains of that goddamned aria interrupt this blessèd silence now and again...  Thank goodness the kitchen is fully equipped.

Illustration of Perkins' Tent, borrowed by the Weasleys.
The tent was enlarged by the use of an ordinary Extension Charm.

Come aside, and rest...

As I often do when my denatured brain cells overheat, I spent some time this evening enjoying the photographic evidence of nature's brilliant calm as captured by my oldest brother's camera.

You can enjoy more of his work, and his friend ruuscal's photos, as well, over at his American Idyll blog. TW has a longstanding love affair with the Grand Canyon, in which he has lived, loved, worked, and played.

When he and I reunited after what seemed a lifelong time apart, TW was quick to realize that I often needed "armchair" access to Anywhere Else, and gave me the first (of his many) gifts -- my own Late Night Insomniac's Pass that lets me traipse about the canyons, smell the flowers, and worship at The River's edge. 

Brother-Unit TW chose to add some of Chopin's Nocturne in B flat minor and lush videography to offset his triptych of "the beautiful Butte."  There is also a bit of good advice, for good measure, tacked onto the end.

Older brothers just can't help themselves.
I love you, Tumbleweed. We're gonna get you to The Manor once Linda at the Lone Alp Home Depot gets our flooring order straight. We're having a test run on Brother-Unit Visitation next weekend, when Grader Boob is flying in, provided he can successfully elude the Dean of the English Department, who is already dicking around with The Boob's grades. The poor boy is overwhelmed:

Been dealing with a cold, grading, and the final plagiarists/collusionists (?) of Fall semester.

Each equally aggravating.

It's important to remember, on days like today, that "the beautiful Butte," Chopin, and even freezing, stormy weather are as much "reality" as the shootings in Tucson or that nagging pain sitting right behind your eyes.

Breathe deep:

Take long walks

in stormy weather

or through

deep snows

in the fields

and woods,

if you

would keep

your spirits up.

Deal with

brute nature.

Be cold

and hungry

and weary.

--Henry David Thoreau

(journal entry for December 25, 1856)

* Please don't reproduce TW's photography without securing his permission -- just leave me a comment here and I'll hook you guys up!

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Reads the First Amendment

In an eerie coincidence, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot today at a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, participated in this past week's reading of the Constitution from the House floor specifically reading the First Amendment, which protects among other things the right of citizens to peacefully assemble and petition the government.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

REPOST in the wake of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Shooting: Pollyanna's Glad Game

When a Congressperson is shot at point blank range in the head, it is time to examine the atmosphere that is informing our political and social makeup.

It is time to talk about these things, it is time to put up our "Polyanna Glad Games," and to pull our collective head out of the sand. Discourse, and its level of civility, matters.

Words matter.

There are desperately angry people who are desperately searching for leadership. The desperation has been increasingly palpable since President Obama took office -- his election having tapped into the barely suppressed rage of racists whose racism has heretofore managed to adequately explain their racist world. They feel intimately violated by the sweeping changes in the United States, no matter how intelligent or necessary that change has been.

It's been all "Don't tread on me" with neverending references to some abstract "Truth" and fantastical "Liberties" that our "Forefathers" apparently secreted from their very pores. 

Already I am reading things like "[t]here aren't many details yet, but whatever they turn out to be, they will be spun hard, and not in favor of liberty," that from Moonbattery on today's shooting. 

It's been nothing but racist, ignorant bullshit for way too long. And there has grown alongside of it a fluorishing political economy of wagging radio tongues and malevolent talking heads.

The sad thing is that those with real points to make on the conservative side of politics and governing have been drowned out, their thoughts and considered points trammeled by demagoguery.

There is a place for the right, the left, and the moderate.

There is no place, or, at least, there ought not be a place, for mindless followers spurred on by meanspirited Machiavellis.

Anyway, I lay the blame for Congress Woman Giffords death squarely on the shoulders of FOX News and those who put gun targets on the backs of public servants.

It will be a while before I play The Glad Game. How about you?


The editorial below is one of the best, most thought-and-discussion provoking pieces I've come across in a good while. It's reproduced here in its entirety -- please forgive me for that and be sure to follow the link, because the comments are also well worth a read.

I am a Frank Rich fan. He is meticulous. He is candid.
And I usually agree with him -- there's that!

I haven't yet scoped out the responses to this editorial -- I am sure they're mounting -- but will post links to them. Maybe tomorrow! I am having a few days of... I don't know exactly how to characterize it... carefully crafted peace? It took me a week but I managed to trace the source of my acid stomach to all this mess.
We've been laid bare. I've been laid bare. Flailed, thrashed. My mind is bleeding.

And in other, more important news? Fred installed a birdhouse in the huge oak sheltering our suite in the northeast wing of Marlinspike Hall, where we have been living for a decade or so, rent-free but burdened by incredible maintenance cares -- all courtesy of Captain Haddock. Five minutes after hanging the For Rent sign, a robin moved in and began building!

Yes, I am playing the Pollyanna Glad Game, however did you know?

For a moment there was silence. The sky was darkening fast. Pollyanna took a firmer hold of her friend's arm.

"I reckon I'm glad, after all, that you did get scared -- a little, 'cause then you came after me," she shivered.

"Poor little lamb! And you must be hungry, too. I -- I'm afraid you'll have ter have bread and milk in the kitchen with me. Yer aunt didn't like it -- because you didn't come down ter supper, ye know."

"But I couldn't. I was up here."

"Yes; but -- she didn't know that, you see!" observed Nancy, dryly, stifling a chuckle. "I'm sorry about the bread and milk; I am, I am."

"Oh, I'm not. I'm glad."

"Glad! Why?"

"Why, I like bread and milk, and I'd like to eat with you. I don't see any trouble about being glad about that."

"You don't seem ter see any trouble bein' glad about everythin'," retorted Nancy, choking a little over her remembrance of Pollyanna's brave attempts to like the bare little attic room.

Pollyanna laughed softly.

"Well, that's the game, you know, anyway."

"The -- game?"

"Yes; the 'just being glad' game."

"Whatever in the world are you talkin' about?"

"Why, it's a game. Father told it to me, and it's lovely," rejoined Pollyanna. "We've played it always, ever since I was a little, little girl. I told the Ladies' Aid, and they played it -- some of them."

"What is it? I ain't much on games, though."

Pollyanna laughed again, but she sighed, too; and in the gathering twilight her face looked thin and wistful.

"Why, we began it on some crutches that came in a missionary barrel."


"Yes. You see I'd wanted a doll, and father had written them so; but when the barrel came the lady wrote that there hadn't any dolls come in, but the little crutches had. So she sent 'em along as they might come in handy for some child, sometime. And that's when we began it."

"Well, I must say I can't see any game about that, about that," declared Nancy, almost irritably.

"Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about -- no matter what 'twas," rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. "And we began right then -- on the crutches."

"Well, goodness me! I can't see anythin' ter be glad about -- gettin' a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!"

Pollyanna clapped her hands.

"There is -- there is," she crowed. "But I couldn't see it, either, Nancy, at first," she added, with quick honesty. "Father had to tell it to me."

"Well, then, suppose you tell me," almost snapped Nancy.

"Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don't - need -- 'em!" exulted Pollyanna, triumphantly. "You see it's just as easy -- when you know how!"

"Well, of all the queer doin's!" breathed Nancy, regarding Pollyanna with almost fearful eyes.

"Oh, but it isn't queer -- it's lovely," maintained Pollyanna enthusiastically. "And we've played it ever since. And the harder 'tis, the more fun 'tis to get 'em out; only -- only sometimes it's almost too hard -- like when your father goes to Heaven, and there isn't anybody but a Ladies' Aid left."

The Rage Is Not About Health Care

Published: March 27, 2010

THERE were times when last Sunday’s great G.O.P. health care implosion threatened to bring the thrill back to reality television. On ABC’s “This Week,” a frothing and filibustering Karl Rove all but lost it in a debate with the Obama strategist David Plouffe. A few hours later, the perennially copper-faced Republican leader John Boehner revved up his “Hell no, you can’t!” incantation in the House chamber — instant fodder for a new viral video remixing his rap with’s “Yes, we can!” classic from the campaign. Boehner, having previously likened the health care bill to Armageddon, was now so apoplectic you had to wonder if he had just discovered one of its more obscure revenue-generating provisions, a tax on indoor tanning salons.

But the laughs evaporated soon enough. There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

No less curious is how disproportionate this red-hot anger is to its proximate cause. The historic Obama-Pelosi health care victory is a big deal, all right, so much so it doesn’t need Joe Biden’s adjective to hype it. But the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers. As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.

Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.

When Social Security was passed by Congress in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, there was indeed heated opposition. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Alf Landon built his catastrophic 1936 presidential campaign on a call for repealing Social Security. (Democrats can only pray that the G.O.P. will “go for it” again in 2010, as Obama goaded them on Thursday, and keep demanding repeal of a bill that by September will shower benefits on the elderly and children alike.) When L.B.J. scored his Medicare coup, there were the inevitable cries of “socialism” along with ultimately empty rumblings of a boycott from the American Medical Association.

But there was nothing like this. To find a prototype for the overheated reaction to the health care bill, you have to look a year before Medicare, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both laws passed by similar majorities in Congress; the Civil Rights Act received even more votes in the Senate (73) than Medicare (70). But it was only the civil rights bill that made some Americans run off the rails. That’s because it was the one that signaled an inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of America, not just its governance.

The apocalyptic predictions then, like those about health care now, were all framed in constitutional pieties, of course. Barry Goldwater, running for president in ’64, drew on the counsel of two young legal allies, William Rehnquist and Robert Bork, to characterize the bill as a “threat to the very essence of our basic system” and a “usurpation” of states’ rights that “would force you to admit drunks, a known murderer or an insane person into your place of business.” Richard Russell, the segregationist Democratic senator from Georgia, said the bill “would destroy the free enterprise system.” David Lawrence, a widely syndicated conservative columnist, bemoaned the establishment of “a federal dictatorship.” Meanwhile, three civil rights workers were murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.

In fact, the current surge of anger — and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism — predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “traitor” and “off with his head” at Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have spiraled ever since — from Gov. Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Tea Party rally in Texas to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies last summer to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot.

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition to the Democrats, that’s their right. If they want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995 by boycotting hearings and, as John McCain has vowed, refusing to cooperate on any legislation, that’s their right too (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while only 16 percent are aligned with Democrats.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.

Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too.

Gabrielle Giffords

The implications actually made me throw up. 

Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head, at point blank range, while hosting a community event this morning in Tucson.

She is one of ten members to have been targetted for harrassment last year during the health care reform debate.

Twelve people were reported shot and the gunman is in custody.

There is a serious discussion to be had, and some serious blame to be assigned that go beyond the actual gunman to those whose "leadership" incited this crime.

NPR and CNN confirm that she is dead, as are six other people. 
[AND THEY WERE WRONG!  Hooray!  According to a hospital spokesperson, she has just come out of surgery for a wound that went "through and through" the brain, is alive, in critical condition, but will likely survive!  Sadly, a child was also shot, and is dead.  The total of those shot now stands at an incredible 18, 6 of whom are reported dead.  If we can trust reports...]

Sarah Palin and her fellow demagogues best hold their tongues today.

From WSJ:

The shooting was not the first time the congresswoman has had brushes with violence. Following the health care overhaul vote this year, her district office was vandalized.

"The rhetoric has gotten incredibly heated," she told MSNBC in March. "Not just the calls, the emails, the slurs. Things have really gotten spun up."

She also specifically called out on a "targets" website created by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the 2010 midterm elections that featured a crosshair over hers and other districts. Republicans campaigned heavily against Ms. Giffords, a moderate Democrat in a Republican-leaning district, this year.

"We can't' stand for this, we do really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and you know things for example we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, the thing is the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district," she told MSNBC.

Rep. Giffords earned a reputation as a strong fundraiser and campaigner who was deeply engaged in Arizona's bitter immigration debate.

If somehow the demagoguery of the last few years has escaped you, and you feel the need, as you doubtless do, to lighten your mood, here are some rapidly assembled palinesque moments from this blog:

Palin Pales
Polyanna's Glad Game
A Thousand Little Wacos:::Apples and Cabbage
The Philpot Shoots the Schlessinger and I Need Yogurt
Barack Obama and William Ayers = John McCain and Charles H. Keating, Jr.

*i rarely blog about real time events, but tennis and politics are my usual exceptions.  given that, i don't go back and change anything about such posts beyond grammar, spelling, and factual corrections.  if i piss you off by blaming right wing extremist politicos (and, okay, an occasional wayward idiot on the extreme left, not to mention the odd annoyingly tepid numbnut from the middle realm), i will offer you my ear, but not my apology.

Diamond Jill Saves the Day

I'm back to screening phone calls.

I came *this* close to overcoming my dislike of the telephone but then I spent a good portion of the day yesterday on hold and waiting for promised return calls -- a well known (and laughable) pledge that went unfullfilled. 

I don't want to blame any particular entity for my dislike of the apparatus. 

I certainly would not want Linda, head of the Flooring Department at... oh, let's say... The Lone Alp Home Depot Store... to feel that she failed in any way, whatsoever.  Would I divulge that she placed a large order, charged to one of my many high-ceilinged credit cards, without informing me of the quote for the job?  Would I let on that Linda ordered the wrong product?  Would I let slip that she then claimed she didn't know how to order things "over that there internet"?  Did I mention that she was in charge of an entire department?

I now recognize the moment in our conversations when Linda grabbed onto her safety net.  In the middle of her confusing the square footage of our wing in the Manor with the price of tea in China, she paused and blurted out:  "D'ya want me to call Corporate?"

Apparently, "calling Corporate" is what Linda does best, and may well constitute 99% of what Linda actually accomplishes in the course of her workday.  It sloughes pesky responsibility off of her broad shoulders (I imagine them as broad.  Very broad.).  And she cannot be bothered to call you back unless and until she has received her own return call... from Corporate.

I made eight calls to The Lone Alp Home Depot.  Three resulted in an actual conversation;  None resulted in the resolution of anyone's problem, except perhaps in Linda's case, as she almost purrs when dialing Corporate.  I made an additional five calls to MeasureComp, three of which were spent interminably holding, finally ending in frustrated hangups.  These are not good customer service stats.

So this morning, I resolved to let all calls go unanswered, as usual.

Still, when I heard ringing a few moments ago, I didn't let a full minute elapse before checking voice mail.

And I am so glad!

Sure, it wasn't for me.  Or Fred.  Nor was it for one of the 144 Haddock Manor Domestic Staff (139 of those positions are familial inheritances -- a situation I aim to explain one of these days, color-coded ancestry charts in hand).

It wasn't even a purposefully misguided caller for La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, who will jot down Fred and my private numbers on a proffered pub matchbook when she is trying to avoid a liaison that looks to have little chance.   It doesn't happen very much anymore.

Less and less, in fact.

And that's not due to a lack of matchbooks, as they are a craze in Tête de Hergé.  It's not that anyone smokes -- the last smoker died in 1989 -- no, it's due to the artisan candle collecting craze.  What is amazing is that we haven't suffered a rash of manor, castle, or monastery fires, thanks mostly to our medieval stone foundations, slate roofing tile, and exceedingly well-maintained wattle and daub.  Sure, we generally have oak framing, but here is the secret:  It is *English* oak!

So... errr, yeah.  We collect matchbooks here. 

Moving right along to the voice mail!   
It was a wrong number.
But what a glorious wrong number!

It was the grande dame of local drag, Diamond Jill.  She is a transplant from the USAmerican South, and proves it with every languid syllable. 

I could almost see her flaming red locks as I listened to her breathy message:

"Dah-lin'!  It's Diamond Jill!" Her delight in announcing herself was infectious.  Why, I was delighted she'd called!

She speaks a dying language of Old-Fashioned Southern, with a vocabulary that waxes and wanes between the obscure and the grandiose, but that totally escapes the trap of outrageous whimsy.

She went on to express her interest in, of all things, a used car for sale.  I feel like rushing out and buying one so that I can call the lovely lady back and offer it at half price.

I know her story well, as do most Tête de Hergéens.  The boy was an accomplished dresser at age 5, thanks to a stylish older sister and a liberal-minded, slightly absent mother.  An early stint in the Marines only heightened the acuity of her couture, and probably authored the precision and work ethic that drives her singing career today.  It may also have something to do with her dedication to all things peaceloving...

Anyway, after all the time spent yesterday being barraged by Linda's halting misquotes and ineptitudes, it was a pleasure to hear Diamond Jill's verbal talents, so smooth that she's currently booked in every straight music club west of the Lone Alp.  I wonder if we could get her for next summer's Manor Fest?  The Cistercians would go wild...

"Ah'll be home all mohnin', dah-lin'.  Give us a call!"

Overexposure [A Draft, Published]

Unpublished drafts are piling up again in the old blog post hopper. 

Uh oh, here I go, set off by my own first sentence. 

HopperA temporary storage bin, filled from the top and emptied from the bottom, often funnel-shaped.

It's okay... I am reining myself back in.  Imagine Mental Police on the Inner Bull Horn:  Step away from the definitions.  Drop the bad analogy.  Now!  Drop it!  On your knees!

Sometime before Christmas, I let the stuff of life get me down.  It happens.  Fortunately, I eventually remember that I control at least one aspect of the swirling dervish of informational input threatening the boundaries of self -- and take measures to limit my exposure. 

Turn the computer off.  Mute the television.  Put on some music.  Mop the floor.  Or, yeah, do that other thing that just popped in your head!

Anyway, I think it the meltdown below began with... the state of our tap water.  What else?

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****

Exposure to chromium compounds in the Valley of Leon, Mexico

As much as I'd like to think myself impervious to most influences outside the magic walls and halls of Marlinspike Manor, situated deep, deep in Tête de Hergé, I've fallen prey to the nefarious influence of... the news of the day.

Not the Big News, even, nationwide or international, but the stories featured on online newspapers, mostly USAmerican in origin.  They leap off the monitor "page," and well, I think they suck my brains out through my eyes. Not to put too fine a point on it.

I had just finished reading an article sent to me by an environmentally conscious friend, all about the threat of carcinogenic hexavalent chromium in tap water.  She lives in one of the cities that turned out to have higher-than-is-sane levels of the stuff.  If it rings a bell, your brain is probably screaming "Erin Brockovich," because this is the same pollutant she targeted in the famous case against PG & E, charged with poisoning the groundwater in Hinkley, California -- a "toxious tort." The utility's compressor station at Hinkley used hexavalent chromium to prevent rust in its cooling towers.  Most people could have foreseen problems, given that the station's used water was then stored in unlined ponds, from where the carcinogen eventually leached into the desert community's source for drinking water.

The case settled back in 1996.  Eleven years later, we are still shocked by the news that we're drinking down unhealthy levels of the stuff?

"It is sometimes difficult to understand why I still have to warn the public about the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water 23 years after my colleagues and I first sounded the alarm," Brockovich told the The Environmental Working Group / EWG. "This report underscores, in fairly stark terms, the health risks that millions of Americans still face because of water contamination."

[Subsequent to the famous Hinkley case], a 2005 Wall Street Journal investigation and a separate EWG report based on court documents and depositions from a similar lawsuit in Kettleman City, Calif. revealed that PG&E had hired consultants to publish a fraudulent analysis of cancer mortality in Chinese villagers exposed to hexavalent chromium, in an attempt to disprove the link between the chemical and cancer. The study was published in the respected Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and scientists and regulators — including the EPA — cited the fraudulent article in research and safety assessments. The journal retracted the paper in 2006 in response to EWG’s request for corrective action.

California officials then conducted a rigorous re-assessment of the study data, finding a statistically significant increase in stomach cancer among the exposed. Their analysis is consistent with laboratory evidence from the National Toxicology Program and others showing that hexavalent chromium in tap water causes gastrointestinal tumors in multiple species.

Industry has sought for more than six years to delay state-mandated regulation of hexavalent chromium in tap water in California. Aerospace giant Honeywell International Inc. and others have stalled the adoption of the advisory public health goal by pressing for additional external scientific peer review. California’s Department of Public Health can neither set nor enforce a mandatory tap water standard for hexavalent chromium until the goal is finalized.

You can read the Executive Summary of the report in .pdf file HERE.


Did you know that, for many years, and as recently as 1995, when the EPA designated a Super Fund cleanup of a site, one of the initial "remedial" measures taken was to use an incinerator on the soil?  This is part of what some residents of the Toms River area of New Jersey believe is behind the discovery of SAN trimer in their groundwater -- leached directly from the Reich Farm Superfund site, "where spent process streams from the manufacture of polymers of styrene and acrylonitrile by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) were dumped..."  

Then some chucklehead decided it would be a good idea to INCINERATE the stuff.

Thanks to some awesome bloggers, I recently learned about the terrible phenomenon of childhood cancer clusters, including the possibility of one at the Toms River site. I was googling in search of more information when I ended up misdirected and somehow reading the Dayton Daily News from Ohio online.

I think my nimble fingers purposefully messed up, trying to give my psyche a break from all the bad news.

Lots of luck!

In the lower right corner of the "front page" was the usual list of local stories that some bot or other thinks would fascinate me.

Right now in Dayton, it's 33 degrees but feels like 24.  And in other news...

Paraplegic grandfather found in van was stabbed and strangled.
Burglars steals Christmas presents wrapped under tree.
Thieves cut down spruce tree behind local church.
Police levy likely to be on May ballot.

Additional stories from the Ohio paper's "news partners" were laid bare, as well, in minimal headlines -- large stories in small titles, tucked in lower corners:

Family's schnauzer found shot expected to survive.
Man dressed as Santa kicked out of mall.
Seattle-area officials meet with Jewish groups over 'Israeli war crimes' bus ads.
Warning: 'Granny Scam' is targeting elderly.
911 dispatcher sends firefighters to wrong home.
Veteran has purse stolen during cancer treatment, faces eviction.
Elderly man arrested after his ring is found in child's underwear.
Witnesses: Malaria specialist on ski slopes punched teen girl repeatedly.
It was the elderly man losing his ring in a kid's underwear that got me.  That's a detail truly disgusting to contemplate, an image one doesn't want to entertain, a thought one wishes were unthinkable.

Music.  I need music.  A cat.  I need a cat.  Or maybe a good man. 

Where is Fred, anyway?  Last I heard, he was online researching the caustic effects of my favorite diet cola, a habit he is determined to break.

I dunno.  When the organizing principle for the glut of information available to us is our own brain, I fear for our collective mental health -- never mind all the carcinogenic opportunities in the physical realm!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Falls and Rearrangements

File this in the "Bless Her Heart" Department. 

I was lying back in bed, ensconced in three pillows, as well as a "husband" (the stuffed, corduroy-covered kind), struggling to focus my eyes, when the phone rang.

Because I am waiting for an out-of-state business call, I picked up.  Normally, I let everything go to voice mail, as telephones and what I often find on their other end repulse me.

It turned out to be a relative of whom I am very fond, my Dad's sister.

What a tale she had to tell -- and so perfectly foreshadowed by Fred having taken a loud, vicious fall in the shower last night.  Well... actually, Fred managed to fall OUT of the shower, which is hard to picture but he swears to it.

My Aunt was all dressed up for an evening Christmas party at a friend's home.  She had never been there before, and not living in Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs), the area turned out not to be well lit and to be inadequately and unevenly paved. 

That's right, she wiped out.  Right on the curb.  More importantly, right on her [very lovely] face.

Because this is not a phrase one normally hears from the mouth of the Best-Bred of the Upper Crust, I can only imagine her horror to find that "[her] nose was on the wrong side of [her] head."

She lay in the street bleeding for a bit, yelling for help that did not come, then struggled to her feet and made it to her friend's door where she politely rang the bell. 

The mystery is why the intelligent crowd gathered within chose to take her to an urgent care center instead of calling 911 or transporting her to an Emergency Room.  The erudite doctor there declared her nose broken and her face lacerated, then advised her to see an ENT "next week."

She would, of course, go on to have headaches and jaw pain -- and now knows that she was likely concussed.

She has spent weeks visiting plastic surgeons, only to find that none were willing to accept the allotted payment from Medicare for the fairly extensive surgery required to repair her nose, jaw, and skin.  Medicare thinks this work merits about $9,000.  Yes, I *can* wait for you to stop giggling.

Luckily, she lives in a university-rich area with several med schools and just this morning, one of the academic luminaries has deigned to operate for that paltry sum.

She has to wait four months, though, all the while in terrible pain and sporting the aforementioned now-misplaced schnoz and multicolored insulted tissues. 

So she calls to apologize for not having contacted me over Christmas... and I so want to reassure her that, compared with one whole brood of my relations, she is promptness, largesse, and good-humor personified.

I neglected her extensive chronic medical woes, of which she rarely speaks, and the financial hardships that I know of, but that she has never mentioned. 

She reserved her one moment of agitation for one of her sons, by chance an orthopedic surgeon, and his overstated contention that she fell because of her age.


(Clearly, she fell precisely because she does not live here, in the well-maintained environs of Marlinspike Hall.  We are clearing out The Computer Turret in hopes that she will spend The Thaw with us, come Spring.  My boorish cousin is welcome, too, I suppose, provided he can keep his age-ist prejudices to himself.)

So, as I am fond of saying, but usually without such literal intent:  Bless her bones!

We wish Nancy a full and rapid recovery.

Fred is okay, by the way, although his tailbone is quite painful and he is walking funny.  Apparently, his acrobatics paid off and allowed him to land on his unsubstantial tush instead of on the base of his humongous skull, for which we give thanks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Update on some details: Lindsey Baum

This is an odd update to make about the case of Lindsey Baum, the 12-year old child from McCleary, Washington, missing since June 26, 2009.  There is, as is so often the case, no hard news about her.  What is heartening is that people continue to tell her story and keep the hope of finding her alive.

Today, Susan Murphy Milano, of HWT Radio fame, wrote about Lindsey in her blog.  Seeing just the title, and not knowing who Susan Murphy Milano from Eve, I was prepared to be incensed:   "The Connection Between Michael Jackson and Lindsey Baum."

I've become used to finding psychics and other less-than-what-I-consider-reliable-sorts on the other end of searches for updates on missing children.  Lindsey Baum, unfortunately, has attracted quite a nutty following.  So I was feeling combattive when I finally landed on this ersatz linking of Baum and The King of Pop.

It was nice to be disappointed for a change.  She has grabbed the attention that Michael Jackson never fails to attract and has connected it with Lindsey's disappearance, the news of which was eclipsed, at the time, by Jackson's death.

I managed to miss some of the details that Ms. Murphy Milano was able to share.  She based them on the profile at the CUE Center for Missing Persons, I believe, and while don't know their sourcing, either, they have my confidence.

Erring on the side of better-late-than-never, these details seem worth airing here:

Lindsey has the following distinguishing physical characteristics: 
Scar above her left eye;
Birth mark dark brown on right wrist;
Colored fillings in her teeth.
At the time of her disappearance, June 26, 2009, Lindsey Baum was wearing:
A long sleeve hooded shirt (not sweatshirt) light bluish/gray;
Jeans with knees cut out;
Black slip on American Eagle shoes with white rubber soles (no socks);
Bathing suit under clothes (a red/white/blue striped/polkadotted top with mismatched floral print bottoms).

If you have any information regarding Lindsey Baum, please call the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office at 866-915-8299 [Tip Hotline].

1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
McCleary Police Department (Washington) 1-360-533-8765
Family Website: Lindsey Baum


Orificeseses... Orifessesive... Orifessavivarous*:  If it wasn't a word before, it won't be one now.  Unlike Sarah Palin, the Neologism Deity doesn't generally smile on, at, or about me.  I find myself, in truth, to be almost obsessively refudiated.

I follow @God (and only @God) on Twitter.  It was @God who turned me on to a photoessay leitmotif with which most of you are already familiar. 

I couldn't bring myself to reproduce the captioning but decided that, really, it's not necessary -- which is sad and hilarious at the same time.

Also sad and hilarious at the same time?  There are several photos of Palin from which to choose, each as exuberant as the others, just with slight outfit and background changes.  I chose this one because of the beautiful white pearlized cross she sports.  It takes a strong woman to pull that off.

And because, frankly, certain angles are just easier to believe, @God or no @God.  Ultimately, I'll have to consult old friend @Tweetin4Palin

For the record?  We Americans owe a profound debt of gratitude to Sarah Palin's Ghost Tweeter for a host of unseen protections from things unamerican -- and mostly pagan -- the latest as recently as Winter Solstice 2010:

[...D]emons tried 2 take the moon away last night! I am a Maverick Grizzly Prayer Warrior; made 'em give it back. You're welcome.--Tweetin4Palin SP GhostTweeter, 21 December 2010 
Anyway, I trust her implicitly.  She assures me that publishing this post will not undermine any of the political (or comedic) gravitas for which I am known. 

She also sent me a pint jar of chicken noodle soup.  And some crackers.  In a cute basket.

I'm just sayin'.

* No, I don't know what it means.  Yet.  Something along the lines of oriflamme meets fesse meets vivisection?  Amazingly enough, if you enter those three terms into Google Search, one of your first, and only, successes will be Deucalion, King Of The Golden River, Dame Wiggins Of Lee, The Eagle's Nest by John Ruskin.  This puts a whole new twist on my understanding of art history.

Embedded Collars: The Boundaries of Compassion

I cannot imagine being this sick ever again without the benefit of staring, hour after hour, at the Animal Planet channel.  Dobby, Our Little Idiot, and Marmy Fluffy Butt, Dobby's mother, concur, as they have become dedicated viewers of Animal Cops, Animal Precinct, and even, hard as it is to believe, Pit Bulls and Parolees.

The regional differences -- Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, New York City, and Canyon Country, California are all represented -- are worth the witness.  You will hear, for example, a NYC cop say things that the polite folks in Texas wouldn't dare utter without benefit of a centuries-old adage involving a rocking chair or a moving truck. What is common to all, of course, is unshakable dedication to the animals, even when the outcomes are nothing less than tragic.

Unfortunately, one result of our steady diet of animal rescue shows is a growing suspicion that humankind does not merit the benevolence shown us by the creatures we deign to domesticate for their companionship and service.

Watching a vet debride a young cat's neck and "armpit," deep red tissue pulsating from the blood vessels nearly exposed by an imbedded collar, Dobby shakes his tiny little head in disbelief and shoots me a look approaching disgust.  Unbelievably, the cat's owners are not charged with cruelty as it turns out the elderly couple thought that the spreading, stinking wound was the natural result of the spay the cat underwent just prior to their adoption.  That's right.  It never occurred to these TWO people that perhaps their pet had outgrown the collar it sported when it was 6 weeks old.  Rather, they chose to believe that spaying a feline naturally results in a bloody, pus-filled mess in the region of the animal's neck.  The poor thing had tried to escape its collar but in so doing only managed to entrap one of its front legs -- but that had to have happened months earlier, given the depth of the... embedment, if such a term exists.

I am also, I confess, a dedicated viewer of shows about hoarding.  I consider myself an unactuated hoarder.  I have the tendency but never act upon it.  In fact, I force myself to live in the other direction -- I am an anti-hoarder. 

Yes, I get rid of even the most precious of artifacts.  My past can easily explain it but that's boredom squared, so we won't go there!

Early on in my hoarding education, television-based, I wondered about the convergence of such people with the animal kingdom.  It was hardly a surprise, then, one drug-addled afternoon, to see Confessions: Animal Hoarding cheerfully advertised.

Holy Mother of God.

Fred informed me that he once did a research paper on the history of the American SPCA and learned that this pioneering group was among the first to expose, and insist on legislation against, child abuse.  That made sad sense to me and I treated it as another piece of logical received information.  Then one day, as I watched a child surrounded by heights of cherished garbage hug a faithful pet dog, I plugged the ASPCA and "child abuse" into Google's search engine.  Fred had spared telling me that the organization had had to force the powers that be to declare, in 1873, human children part of the "animal kingdom" in order to extend to that precious race the umbrella of its protection.  (I know that there was much going on in 1873 to appall a more modern and enlightened being, but I've never been fond of relativism, as it tends to stunt my ability to be shocked by the social crimes of the present day.):

In the late 1800s, a church worker named Etta Wheeler forever changed the face of parental authority in North America.

During a family visit, Mrs. Wheeler discovered 11-year-old Mary-Ellen, the step-daughter of the woman casually entertaining Mrs. Wheeler, shackled to her bed and badly beaten. Too tiny and ill-formed for her 11 years, it was quite evident Mary-Ellen was also grossly malnourished. Some of her scars were visibly healed over, giving a clear picture of long-term and sustained child abuse.

Appalled by what she saw, Mrs. Wheeler reported the severe and obvious abuse and neglect to the authorities. The authorities could find no law that had been broken: in 1873—and even today in many countries—what went on behind the closed doors of the family was considered no one's business but the family's.

But Etta Wheeler was determined: she marched herself into the American S.P.C.A. demanding they do something to help the battered Mary-Ellen.

Animals were protected, but children were not!

In order for the A.S.P.C.A. to act on behalf of Mary-Ellen, children had to be declared members of the animal kingdom, which is indeed what happened. The A.S.P.C.A. did finally intervene. Mary-Ellen was removed from her abusive home and placed in foster care, where she thrived. She eventually married and had 2 daughters of her own, one of whom she named Etta as a tribute to her rescuer. Mary-Ellen lived to the age of 92.

Mary-Ellen is considered the very first case of child abuse in North America, more because of the historical significance than the historical accuracy. The time had finally come to protect children as children, which lead to the creation of child abuse laws.

It is easy to see that our willingness to legislate against cruelty to animals leads investigators into situations where the environment is equally destructive and detrimental to humans.  The surprise is how difficult it remains, 138 years after Etta Wheeler got pissed off, to intercede on behalf of our own species. 

Clearly, linking animal advocates to human social services (ranging from incarceration to psychiatric treatment, or my favorite -- both) is an enlightened, if overwhelming, approach.

Based on my extensive research -- itself based on the close, febrile viewing of five television episodes -- animal hoarders consider themselves bona fide rescuers and think that the environment which they provide is the best possible, and above reproach.  They see themselves as martyred workers for a cause, so when divergent opinions are voiced, they rarely comprehend the message and are incredibly resistant.  The more expert the opinion, in fact, the more stringent the denial. 

Recently, I found myself so overcome by horror that I did the unthinkable and turned the Idiot Box off mere minutes into an A & E Hoarding show segment.  Featured were foul-mouthed Hanna and her chickens, lame goats, and waterless ducks, on the one hand, and Kathy and her emotionally-stunted husband Gary, with his feral rabbits ensconced in the very walls of their home, on the other.  I recorded the episode but haven't had fever high enough to excuse watching it. 

I confess to thinking that it would be an emotional reprieve to see animal hoarding have as its object creatures besides dogs, cats, and doe-eyed horses (errr, well, horse-eyed horses... but you understand my meaning... their eyes are intelligent velvet).  I don't relate much to chickens or apparently insane, inbred rabbits, but this was impossible to witness.  Also, it correctly begged several questions, not the least of which are conditions provided animals raised solely with the intent of slaughter, as well as the impact of personal antipathy when we are engaged in the obligation of human "rescue."

I'm cruising at 101 degrees, so maybe later today we will try to watch Episode 40 again -- but only if Dobby and Marmy can stomach it. 

They're sleeping on it and that seems a grand idea.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

making it to 6:30

i love the new (to me) blogger "stats." i can know, for instance, that someone from denmark is at present looking at the strange compline piece i wrote last week.

i am not alone! someone else is awake, online, and, quite likely, given his present activity, also suffering!

my mdvip go-to guy will field a call from me in one hour, as i figure that 6:30 am is a decent enough time for phoning in what is clearly a quasi-emergency. i've had my index finger primed for button-punching since, oh-h-h-h, roughly 1 am.

at roughly 1 am, though, i was hysterical. not "kind of" hysterical, or "hysterical" in a literary sense that has nothing whatsoever to do with gender bias. no, i mean: hysterical, as in, freud would be both bored and delighted.

there has been an onslaught of "oh god... oh god oh god oh god." i whined, in a particularly ugly whining voice: "heeeellllppppp me... oh god oh god oh god... heeeellllppppp me."

fred, sworn to take care of me, has managed to slip into his old ways and spend most of his time deeply asleep.

what is really irritating? oh god... oh god oh god oh god? well, that would be fred's insistence that he'll do whatever i decide to do. as in: drive us to the emergency room/department... or fill my water bottle... or feed the felines... or tie a knot in the warbling tongue of la bonne et belle bianca castafiore.

as she practiced her best, and only, aria last evening, how could i not feel... oh god oh god oh god oh god... that i was being mocked?

"ah, je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir?" i mean, really? as the muted dulcet tones of moi -- barfing and moaning, moaning and barfing, in full-fledged feminine hysteria -- served as bad moravian background singing from just outside detroit? pure mockery, pure mockery.

don't touch my sentences. any of them. attribution, even spelling, might be a bit off, but i am writing, clearly, from my death bed.

wow. i just plugged in "female hysteria" over at dear, dear wikipedia (and if you haven't been moved by jimmy wales to help out with a few bucks, what are you waiting for?), and i am stunned.
Since ancient times women considered to be suffering from hysteria would sometimes undergo "pelvic massage" — manual stimulation of the genitals by the doctor until the patient experienced "hysterical paroxysm" (orgasm).
yes, okay, [oh god oh god -- yaddayadda] so i was tossing around terms with which i am not really familiar. my connaissance of freud came from literary criticism classes at berkeley. worse, those classes were in french. what did make freud of acute interest, at the time, was the influence of that neer-do-well, jeffrey masson.

wow, that was a long time ago. what were we so riled up about? we filled auditoriums just to hear the guy, and this was when both foucault and derrida (as well as derri-da-da's son) were essentially in residence.

[it's later and i am rereading this, despite my eyes inclination to cross.  we heard him because he was "happening" at the time, because he'd published the assault on truth, was fired from the freud archives, had a libel suit ongoing against janet malcolm of the new yorker.

whatever. i am in pain, and laughing doesn't help matters any -- as it jiggles jiggly-prone body parts and, well, that hurts. still, for you, dear reader from denmark --(prince hal? hal? is that you?) -- we will share the aforementioned wikipedia's introduction to dr. jeffrey masson.

to whit, to woo:

Dr. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (born March 28, 1941 as Jeffrey Lloyd Masson in Chicago, Illinois) is an American author, residing in New Zealand. Masson is best known for his conclusions about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. In his book The Assault on Truth, Masson argued that Freud may have abandoned his seduction theory because he feared that granting the truth of his female patients' claims that they had been sexually abused would hinder the acceptance of his psychoanalytic methods. (Several Freud scholars have disputed the traditional story that Freud's seduction theory patients reported having been sexually abused in early childhood, the basis on which Masson built his case.) He is a vegan and has written about animal rights.

oh god!  if you were in any way involved in what *must* be called the BROUHAHA (mwa ha ha ha!) surrounding his book, Assault on Truth, and the postpublication rock star tour, you must read the wikipedia entry for dr. masson.  Curious as to what... well, as to what happened to masson? where did he go, what did he do, in that post assault on truth phase?

Since the early 1990s, Masson has written a number of books on the emotional life of animals, one of which, When Elephants Weep, has been translated into 20 languages. He has explained this radical change in the subject of his writings as follows:

“ I'd written a whole series of books about psychiatry, and nobody bought them. Nobody liked them. Nobody. Psychiatrists hated them, and they were much too abstruse for the general public. It was very hard to make a living, and I thought, 'As long as I'm not making a living, I may as well write about something I really love: animals.'

my favorite comment over at amazon for when elephants weep was: "i loved it but it was way too anthropomorphic." mwa ha ha!

ouch.  ouch.  oh god.

and then, of course, it must be said: more power to him.

and thanks to him, my essential weirdness, an inspirational unknown visitor from denmark, the influence of anti-nausea medication, and high anxiety?  it is 6:28 am.  made it!