Sunday, June 29, 2008

Schwarzenegger tells tales on the dead.

I watched Meet the Press this morning with Tom Brokaw. It was actually good. How odd to watch a journalist interview a subject, issue actual tough follow up questions and listen to the answers. I know that it's unpopular to go against the current hagiography of Tim Russert, but watching someone else do his show pointed out just what a political hack he was. Sorry.

Tom Brokaw interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger on today's show. He asked a quick "how did you love Russert, we'll pause while you count the ways" question and Schwarzenegger's response was astounding. He said that when he won the governorship in California, Russert called him and said as soon as Ahnold was ready to run for president, he should call on Russert who would make it happen--changing the constitution and everything. This story was not retold as if it was a joke. Arnold said "sadly, it never happened".

So there we have it. Russert believed himself to be a kingmaker.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Lied

My darling Wunderlings, I am sorry, but I told you a lie. Life has not been fireflies and lemonade stands, though there's been some. The image just sounded beautiful, like a place I would like to be rather than the place where I am.

I should explain.

Last week I stood on her patio, watering her plants. I thought "she'd be happy to come home and see these". As if she went away on vacation. But she did not. On the last Saturday in spring, just past dinner she said she'd come and do the dishes in a minute but rather sat down in her chair for a rest. She fell asleep, coughed a little, and she did not get up.

We buried her on the last day of spring. Can you believe that at least 300 people came to the church to say goodbye? Can you imagine that I stood up in front of all of them, refusing to cry, and told the world what she meant to me? I could have talked all day, if they'd let me. But did you know that the Catholic Church doesn't like anything secular to invade on their holy space? Just before I spoke I was told that the only reason I could talk about my godmother, my aunt, at her funeral was because my family has been so prominent in the church. God bless the poor sucker who is not. Imagine why I'm no longer Catholic. The priest said "keep it to 3 minutes". I stood at the marble lectern she bought for that church and spoke for more than ten. And no one was sorry that I did.

They buried her, as I said, on the last day of spring. I came back to the grave that night. Already the casket was in the ground, already the dirt was flattened over it. Under the Strawberry moon I sat in her dirt, pulling up fistfuls and telling her "I want you back. I want you back". A wish. It won't happen. I left, barefoot, but a clump of dirt in my hand.

I've so many relatives, so many people-more than 300 as I said. Everyone suffers. But to me, the pain is all around. If I leave my house and go west I will pass her house. When the girls and I go to swim lessons we pass her house. She lived there for more than 50 years. She let me live there for a while too. If I go east, I pass her grave. We saw how they tamp down the dirt with a noisy gas-powered tool. We saw how they cover the grave with straw. Inelegant, true. But how the details are done. We are forced to see them. When the girls and I go to tennis or soccer, we pass her grave. Every day, every day I pass both her house and her grave. I cannot stand the sadness. I want her back.

Two weeks ago I came home from her house, a little slip of a plant in the basket on my bike. I looked like a bush on wheels. She wanted me to have it from her garden. She had insisted and we dug it together. What did I know? This was an everyday thing. I wouldn't have guessed that two days later she would die. Last week I came home from her grave, the last of the dead flowers from her grave. I looked like a dead plant on wheels. Ferns and palms poking from my basket.

I want her back.

There are messages on my answering machine. Everyday things but in her voice. I won't hear again. My whole life I imagined how sad this time would be. Losing her is not like losing a parent, I know that. But it is awfully close. I'm off my rails a bit. I cry too much. I can't find it in me to be quite normal right now.

I want her back. Please understand, I'm just taking a bit to get back to right.

Those Whacky Pranksters at Blackwater.

And they'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for the meddling kids at the ATF. Honestly, the only thing that surprises me about this story is that federal agents went and did the right thing. I didn't think this administration allowed that kind of "doing-one's-job" thing anymore.

Here's the story from USA Today:
Federal agents raided a Blackwater armory Tuesday and seized 34 automatic rifles that the company purchased and stored on behalf of a local law enforcement agency, the Associated Press reports.

Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman, tells AP that ATF agents searched the Moyock, N.C., facility. The raid came after reports on a deal in which the company paid for weapons that were registered in the name of the Camden County, N.C., Sheriff's Office.

"The 2005 agreements gives the sheriff's office unlimited access to the weapons, including 17 Romanian AK-47s and 17 Bushmasters," the wire service says. "But [Sheriff Tony] Perry said his department has only used the AK-47s in shooting practice at Blackwater and that none of his 19 deputies are qualified to use them."

Federal law prohibits private companies or individuals from purchasing automatic weapons.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fireflies and Lemonade Stands

I'm still here. Light posting while real life intrudes.

Love, Jess.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Suffer the children of Fallujah

From the Inter Press service:

'Special Weapons' Have a Fallout on Babies

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

FALLUJAH, Jun 12 (IPS) - Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say.

The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after "special weaponry" was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004.

After denying it at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah.

In addition, depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tonnes of DU in Iraq thus far.

Many doctors believe DU to be the cause of a severe increase in the incidence of cancer in Iraq, as well as among U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and through the current occupation.

"We saw all the colours of the rainbow coming out of the exploding American shells and missiles," Ali Sarhan, a 50-year-old teacher who lived through the two U.S. sieges of 2004 told IPS. "I saw bodies that turned into bones and coal right after they were exposed to bombs that we learned later to be phosphorus.

"The most worrying is that many of our women have suffered loss of their babies, and some had babies born with deformations."

"I had two children who had brain damage from birth," 28-year-old Hayfa' Shukur told IPS. "My husband has been detained by the Americans since November 2004 and so I had to take the children around by myself to hospitals and private clinics. They died. I spent all our savings and borrowed a considerable amount of money."

Shukur said doctors told her that it was use of the restricted weapons that caused her children's brain damage and subsequent deaths, "but none of them had the courage to give me a written report."

"Many babies were born with major congenital malformations," a paediatric doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "These infants include many with heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down's syndrome, and limb defects."

The doctor added, "I can say all kinds of problems related to toxic pollution took place in Fallujah after the November 2004 massacre."

Many doctors speak of similar cases and a similar pattern. The indications remain anecdotal, in the absence of either a study, or any available official records.

The Fallujah General Hospital administration was unwilling to give any statistics on deformed babies, but one doctor volunteered to speak on condition of anonymity -- for fear of reprisals if seen to be critical of the administration.

"Maternal exposure to toxins and radioactive material can lead to miscarriage and frequent abortions, still birth, and congenital malformation," the doctor told IPS. There have been many such cases, and the government "did not move to contain the damage, or present any assistance to the hospital whatsoever.

"These cases need intensive international efforts that provide the highest and most recent technologies that we will not have here in a hundred years," he added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed concern Mar. 31 about the lack of medical supplies in hospitals in Baghdad and Basra.

"Hospitals have used up stocks of vital medical items, and require further supplies to cope with the influx of wounded patients. Access to water remains a matter of concern in certain areas," the ICRC said in a statement.

A senior Iraqi health ministry official was quoted as saying Feb. 26 that the health sector is under "great pressure", with scores of doctors killed, an exodus of medical personnel, poor medical infrastructure, and shortage of medicines.

"We are experiencing a big shortage of everything," said the official, "We don't have enough specialist doctors and medicines, and most of the medical equipment is outdated.

"We used to get many spinal and head injures, but were unable to do anything as we didn't have enough specialists and medicines," he added. "Intravenous fluid, which is a simple thing, is not available all the time." He said no new hospitals had been built since 1986.

Iraqi Health Minister Salih al-Hassnawi highlighted the shortage of medicines at a press conference in Arbil in the Kurdistan region in the north Feb. 22. "The Iraqi Health Ministry is suffering from an acute shortage of medicines...We have decided to import medicines immediately to meet the needs."

He said the 2008 health budget meant that total expenditure on medicines, medical equipment and ambulances would amount to an average of 22 dollars per citizen.

But this is too late for the unknown number of babies and their families who bore the consequences of the earlier devastation. And it is too little to cover the special needs of babies who survived with deformations.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert. RIP


Tim Russert collapsed and died this afternoon at the age of 58.

Why do I think Cheney was involved?

Okay, that was uncalled for, but if I were Scott McClellan, I guess I'd have someone else tasting my food.

Revisiting the flood insurance issue.

In my post yesterday I said that anyone can buy flood insurance, regardless of whether you've been deemed to be in a 100 year flood plain by FEMA. The man that I discussed who lost his house had said in his interview with NBC that he didn't have insurance because "it's complicated". How true is that.

Reading through this morning's paper, I can't seem to find an exact answer on whether you can always buy flood insurance. Even the state official that is in charge of the program is unclear. If your municipality opts out of the national flood insurance program you either cannot get flood insurance or you must pay obscene amounts of money to get it.

Why would river and lakes communities opt out of flood insurance? To quote the State Journal article "officials fear that joining the program will stunt economic development by boosting construction costs and restricting the ability to build in high-risk flood areas."

So, ultimately what that means is that if a municipality opts out, but your insurer recognizes the risk, they won't insure you. And can you blame them?

If that were me, I guess I'd reconsider my decision to build in a hazardous area. What is sad is that there are people living in towns and villages throughout the state whose municipal governments chose not to participate in the national flood insurance program. People whose businesses on Main Street are now wiped out, with no federal aid forthcoming because their local government didn't want to stifle economic development out in the resort areas. You see, if you don't participate in the program and your town gets wiped out you are not eligible for federal disaster assistance.

Though these towns are allowed to try to get into the program in six months.

A writer to our daily paper had this to say
"A decision was made to benefit business interest in the short term. A few people benefited for a few years; now many more are dealing with an economic disaster.
Be careful when you see a proposal for less government or lower taxes. Contaminated food, bad drugs and pollution are the result of insufficient government control. Big corporations have only one objective - to make money regardless of the impact on society.
Only government agencies that act in the interest of consumers can reduce these catastrophes. The irrational American Conservative dream that everyone can be in the top 1 percent has exacerbated recent calamities".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Global Warming. Local Floods.

Last weekend there was flooding to the north, south, east and west of us. One little town, Gays Mills, said it may never recover, as it was completely flooded last August as well. Sadly, to the west of here are many little farms who are trying to practice either sustainable or organic farming. Last year many were wiped out. And organic farmers don't get much insurance money for a failed crop because they don't have as much invested in their resources like genetically modified seed that needs to be repurchased every year, nor in the massive amounts of petroleum based fertilizers our mono-culture corn farmers need. I don't know what's going to happen to the farmers who managed to hang on to this year.

Last year as fires raged out west, a blogger that I read regularly commented that in many of those areas where the fires were destroying homes, the people had no business building there. Often, those areas have been repeatedly ravaged by fires, and developers go in and build and damn the consequences. Except that we all pay higher premiums to cover them.

The news of the past few days showed a very nice young man and his family after their $500,000 dollar home was washed away when the man-made Lake Delton carved a new outlet to the Wisconsin River. He laments that he had no flood insurance.

I don't know his personal situation that well, and he has my sympathy, but there are a few things that ought to be said.

Anyone can buy flood insurance. He said on television that he couldn't because FEMA and his town hadn't come to an agreement on the flood level in his area. If his property were deemed high risk, insurance would be mandatory. His mortgage lender would be legally bound to require it. This man could have estimated that his location between a river that runs through 2/3's of Wisconsin and a man-made lake that's only eight feet deep, might mean he should pick up the insurance. He could have opted to, though it wasn't required.

The other thing is that Lake Delton is a very desirable recreational lake. It has been over-developed for the last thirty years at least, due to its being really close to Milwaukee and Madison. This house was built in 2003 which leads me to believe that for a long, long time it was recognized that the property he built his house on was not stable. I admit to this being a guess, and would gladly claim to be wrong if I am.

It does seem in very many lake communities that regulations are for the poor and people without influence. I've been awestruck by new construction on other lakes that comes far too close to the water's edge, or landscaping that allows for run-off into the lake or riverfront. We do need government. We do need a community to recognize that some things are a bad idea and ought not to be allowed. Otherwise, if every man is for himself please do not cry to me when your house floats away. Laissez-faire is a harsh reality.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Keep Dr. Dobson OUT of the Hall of Fame

Focus on the Family kindly sent me an e-mail letting me know that Dr. James Dobson is up for a National Radio Hall of Fame award. Would I kindly cast my vote?

Sure enough, and I would like to ask you to kindly do the same. Please pass this along to anyone you know who would also like to cast a vote against Dr. Dobson.

Dr. Dobson's fellow nominees are Bob Costas, Dr. Laura, and Howard Stern.

I briefly considered voting for Howard Stern, since having Stern defeat Dobson seems the most fitting, but I couldn't do it primarily because I despise Howard Stern. These days "misogynist" gets bandied about to the point of losing all meaning. Howard Stern fills up that empty-meaning cup and lets his demeaning drivel overflow.

I voted for Bob Costas. Mostly because he is the only professional the National Radio Hall of Fame put up for nomination this year anyway.

The whole thing seems rather sad. Nonetheless, if there is a God you will help to ensure that Dr. Dobson goes home from the banquet empty-handed and cursing the Lord who hath forsaken him.

Te he.

Here's the link. There's extra bullshitty signing up stuff involved, but remember: it's us against the fundies. You know they'll all be working hard to get him in. They won't let a little registration whoo-ha stop them. Go the extra mile. Tell your friends. Start a campaign. Tell 'em Jess sent you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ed McMahon - Feels like snark, but I got nothin'.

Ed McMahon was on Larry King last night talking about the recent news that his home is in foreclosure. I want to be snarky about it, eat the rich and all that, but I think it is just sad.

What rarely gets reported, and what probably goes to the fact that being rich don't make you smart, is that McMahon won more than the value of his home in a lawsuit against a company that was supposed to clean the mold from his house, but did not. McMahon could have paid his home off at that time but he chose not to. They say that the money went to gutting and rebuilding the interior of the home, but it doesn't look like that's what they did. From the little clippy they showed this morning, McMahon & Wife's excuse on being broke was that they spent beyond their means and showered too many gifts upon their friends. Well, when you go door to door doling out 10 million dollars, sooner or later it catches up with you.

McMahon is not alone. It seems that in Manhattan, some erstwhile Susie Socialites are quietly trying to scale back but are hoping that no one will notice. "I know the Escalade is two years old, but I just can't bear reprogramming the mp3 player". Look for victory gardens atop Fifth Ave penthouses all summer long. "The corn? It's ornamental!" I hear koi are delicious.

From Dailykos:

So New York’s very wealthy are addressing their distress in discreet and often awkward ways. They try to move their $165 sessions with personal trainers to a time slot that they know is already taken. They agree to tour multimillion-dollar apartments and then say the spaces don’t match their specifications. They apply for a line of credit before art auctions, supposedly to buy a painting or a sculpture, but use that borrowed money to pay other debts
What was that thing about the subprime mess being the fault of ignorant, low class borrowers who had no business messing with finance? Ha Ha! I found my snark.

You know what Ed McMahon and I have in common? Ascot? no. Faded trophy wife? no. Halitosis? Let me check-(huhh, huhh in my palm) yeah, probably particularly if he likes as much coffee as me. No the other thing is that Countrywide Mortgage foreclosed on me, too.

A few years ago in the midst of the re-fi, go-go market, Ben and I bought a duplex. Right after we bought it, a new lender bought the mortgage from the lender we had at closing. That lender was Countrywide. For some reason, Countrywide sent all correspondence to the rental unit (though our home address was prominent in the closing papers) where the tenant promptly threw it all away. At our house we would casually notice that we weren't receiving our mortgage bills but assume that the shell game was continuing and that sooner or later we'd get our statement.

When we finally got our statement it was in the form of a sheriff knocking on the door and handing me a summons.

In the next few weeks our conversations with Countrywide were truly bizarre. Let me say that the first thing we did upon discovering which company owned our property for us was to pay up our balance. However, Countrywide didn't want to dismiss the foreclosure until we paid their legal and search fees, which they claimed came to over three thousand dollars.

"Send me your itemized bill. Show me the hours you've been charged for," I said.

"Well," they hesitated. "A lot of that is internal. We had to do a search to find you so that we could serve you with papers."

"How did you do that?" I asked. "Did you hire a detective?"

"No. We did an on-line search".

They googled me for three grand?

"Did you check your own database?" I asked.

"Of course"

"Then you probably should have found us, since you hold another of our mortgages."

So Countrywide dropped the foreclosure, and we promptly financed through another lender. I could never say for sure but my suspicions are that Countrywide had a little scam going where they quickly moved for foreclosure so that they can collect fees they don't incur. I think that by the time we were served we had missed two of their statements. Unfortunately, the foreclosure is on our credit reports - as resolved, but still. The other crappy thing is that all those people who bought those real estate get-rich guides call you on the phone because they've seen in court records that there is a foreclosure against you. They want to buy your property for pennies on the dollar. Even though we weren't actually losing a home, it felt humiliating to get condescending calls from rank amateurs.

I feel for people, even Ed McMahon, who go through it for real.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I think this is a fabulous post

Will Bunch, who writes for the Philadelphia Daily News and who tries to rein herd at his blog Attytood has written this piece about the events during the week that Barack Obama was born in 1961.

The following article was datelined Aug. 5, 1961, and appeared in the Sunday New York Times the following day. It was headlined: BLIND RIDER HELPS BREAK COLOR LINE:

JACKSON, Miss., Aug. 5 (AP) -- Two Freedom Riders, a blind white woman and a Negro, broke the segregation barrier today in a Jackson, Miss., bus depot.

When that landmark event took place, Barack Obama was all of one day old. He was born on Aug. 4. 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here's some other stories that appeared in the Times the week that Obama was born:


WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The Government filed three civil rights suits today. They charged that Negroes had been denied voting rights in Montgomery County, Alabama, and Walthall and Jefferson, Davis Counties, Mississippi.


NEW CANAAN, Conn., Aug. 5 -- A survey to determine whether Negroes would be welcomed as home owners here is being taken by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

On the day that Barack Obama was born, there were no black federal judges in the United States -- that would not happen until the day after:

HYANNIS PORT, Mass., Aug. 5 (AP) -- President Kennedy has decided to name James Benton Parsons as a Federal district judge. He will be the first Negro appointed to such a judical post in the continental United States.

On the day that Barack Obama was born, black people in a number of cities and towns across the United States could not swim in the same public pool, drink from the same water fountain or use the same restroom as white people. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was still nearly four years away on Aug 4, 1961.

Between the day that Barack Obama was born and 1968, at least 28 people were killed as they actively worked for the rights of black people to live in an integrated society, vote, and eventually run for public office. Their names are:

Louis Allen, Willie Brewster, Benjamin Brown, James Chaney, Vernon Dahmer, Jonathan Daniels, Henry H. Dee, Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., Medgar Evers, Andrew Goodman, Samuel Hammond Jr, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Wharlest Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr, Rev. Bruce Klunder, Herbert Lee, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, Delano H. Middleton, Charles E. Moore, Oneal Moore, William Moore, Rev. James Reeb, Michael Schwener, Henry E. Smith, Clarence Triggs, Virgil Ware, Ben Chester White, Samuel Younge Jr.

These men and women did not die in vain.

They died because somewhere in their souls they knew that someday in America, there would be a night like this night, a night like June 3, 2008:

[T]onight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another—a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

This is not to say that Barack Obama is some kind of Messiah, or even that he will win in November -- he now has five months and a fair opportunity to try to do what 43 other men before him have done, to prove that he has the leadership skills to become the president of the United States. This is just to say how remarkable it is that a man who wasn't even guaranteed the right to vote when he was born is now the Democratic nominee for the White House -- and to say thank you to the people who fought and who even gave their lives to make this moment happen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Conversations With The Five Year Old

Ima: (looking at pictures from the hospital when she was born) Momma, why do they put babies in boxes?

Me: They put babies in boxes?

Ima: Yes, look! (shows me picture of her in one of those acrylic crib things)

Me: Oh, that's so you'll be ready for your cubicle later.

Ima: What?

Ima: Momma, why do they put that thing on your wrist

Me: So they can match you up with your parents. Who knows, they could have made and mistake and you might have been sent home with someone nice!

Here's Your Candidate

And this episode doesn't even cover torture, privatization and choice.

Monday, June 2, 2008

You Be The Judge

Following are quotes from the comments at the rightwing website Little Green Footballs and from the comments at the leftwing Hillary Clinton supporting Taylor Marsh.

You, dear reader, get to try to see if you can guess from which site each quote originated.

1. When Obama said in one of his speeches that HE would heal America's broken soul, is when I really had enough of his BS. That is not the presidents job! That's a faith healers job. Protecting the Constitution is the presidents job. I don't want Obama mesing with my American soul!

2. The ObamaMessiah is headed off to a synagogue in Florida -- to woo the wary...


4. The O'ccult Master will not allow defection in the msm.
The O'ccult Master will send out memo's and re-statements.
Thus say the O'ccult Master of the humming loons of America.
Humm the O'ccult tune or be declared off key.

5. Obama is a nasty piece of work.

6. How terribly sad that so many people have thrown their principles out the window to support a slacker like him

7. .....Thats when POTUS Obama starts Sharia Conversion Jan 21st

8. I recall reading a spin-off link about how the MSM was finally taking the ObamaMessiah to task -- that was months ago...and I think the critical, analytical articles are few and far between (they are flukes) -- the critical pieces drowned out in a vast sea of non-stop praise and worshipful awe

9. If the Dem. Convention becomes a bloodbath, thats best of all!


11. Better four more years of Republican misrule than the unAmerican BO and his passel of thugs dirtying up our country.

Prizes will be awarded. Do your best!

UPDATE: The answers that are Little Green Footballs are in green, natch. The answers from Taylor Marsh are in red, because that's the way that website's readers hope to turn the country. Goodluck with that formerly progressive people who valued a woman's right to choose and who thought torture was bad. Your new candidate, McCain, is really going to take some getting used to for you.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good Sportsmanship is Dead.

I'm listening to Clinton supporters on Face the Nation right now swearing that Hillary Clinton has played by the rules throughout this campaign. Excuse me? Clinton has tried from Nevada on, to try to change the rules as long as that benefits her. Obama did the right thing in Michigan by not putting his name on the ballot. Mandy Grunewald, Clinton's media advisor, just said "Too bad, so sad, that was his choice". And then she stuck her tongue out. Okay, I kid, those were not her exact words, but the effect was the same.

These people spin like republicans.

Please, Hillary. Stop. You are killing us.