Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hands Across The Sand

Welcome! Thank you for joining hands with us to create the largest anti-offshore drilling gathering in history. We are joining hands to say NO to offshore oil drilling and YES to clean Energy and Renewables. The message is simple. The images are powerful. We are drawing a line in the sand against offshore oil drilling along America's beaches and in solitary events across America and the World. - Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Hands Across the Sand.

Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, fishing industries, and coastal military missions. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling.
Mission: To organize a national movement to oppose offshore oil drilling and champion clean Energy and Renewables. These gathering(s) will bring thousands of American citizens to our beaches and cities and will draw a metaphorical and actual lines in sand; human lines in sand against the threat oil drilling poses to America's coastal economies and marine environment. To convince our State Legislators, Governors, Congress and President Obama to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling and to adopt policies encouraging clean and renewable energy sources. America needs legislation that creates tax incentives and subsidies to encourage the growth of clean energy and renewable industries for America's future. - From the Hands Across the Sand Facebook page.

Last Saturday morning, June 26th, I took a bus ride down to the pier at Santa Monica... again. Everything seems to revolve around the pier at Santa Monica. It had been a bit overcast earlier in the morning, but the sun began to peek through the clouds by eleven, when I arrived. The improving weather brought out lots of people, I don't know where they all came from, but there were a lot of them on the pier, on the Ferris Wheel, even the Merry Go Round was filled up with Merry Go Rounders.
There were plenty of people on the beach too. I was surprised because the weather wasn't all that good. I mean it really was still a bit cloudy, but there were hundreds of beach goers laying out on the cool sand, dressed in swim wear, gathering up whatever rays they could get. Bikinis were in evidence.
I was not there to get a tan however. I could use one, but I'm no longer into melanoma. That's for young people.
No I was there to participate in the Hands Across the Sand "event." The facilitators of the "event," wished to distinguish an event from a demonstration, as they were not demonstrating against offshore oil drilling and the use of fossil fuels, they were... eventing against offshore oil drilling and the use of fossil fuels, a distinction possibly without a difference I must admit.
I wasn't the only one there for the "event." My goodness, no. There were a lot of other people there as well, perhaps three hundred or so. The picture above, with people standing around holding signs, is an actual picture of the "event," taken by someone from the Los Angeles Times. I was in the back there somewhere standing around, although I had no sign to hold. I was listening to various speakers, local residents and elected officials speaking about how bad offshore oil drilling is.
They were right, it is bad.
Big oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, and BP exist only to make profits for their stockholders. That's what they do. That's is their responsibility under the law. That means they have to keep drilling for oil no matter what, because if they stopped they wouldn't be able to pay their stockholders any more and they'd all get fired and go out of business, and according to the Republican philosophy (Drill Baby, Drill), that would be very irresponsible. The responsible thing then is to keep drilling for oil no matter what, then people will keep using oil to drive their cars and heat their homes, etc. According to them and the Republican philosophy, actually seeking and developing renewable energy resources like solar, wind, geothermal, and battery powered vehicles, instead of just saying we need to do it... eventually, would be very irresponsible indeed. So mush so that it's almost like political suicide to even bring up the matter seriously.
Oil companies face a big problem however in the quest for eternal profits from drilling oil... reality. You see oil is a finite entity, that means there is just so much of it, and when it is gone there is no more (oil can be made synthetically, but it is currently very expensive to do so, and then there is still that problem of discharging it into the atmosphere further exacerbating global warming concerns). My dear late friend Dr. Carl Sagan said that oil companies keep on finding more oil, but still, eventually it will run out. We may have already reached the point of "peak oil," (which means a point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline), or we might not have, but it will come, sooner or later.
Oil companies are already finding it difficult to extract oil in easily accessible places, like on land. That's why they want to keep drilling offshore, in deeper and deeper waters, because that's where the oil is. They aren't drilling a mile down, and a couple of miles further under the seafloor because the Sierra Club has forced them to, as Rush Limbaugh would have you believe (he's such a liar, that Rush), no, it's because that is where the oil is, pure and simple. And as oil becomes more scarce oil companies are going to have to keep going further and further out, into less and less accessible places.
As the current BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico would suggest, oil companies are much better at extracting oil than cleaning up their spills when accidents occur. As a matter of fact they aren't very good at that at all. My other friend, Dr. Rachel Maddow believes, as do I, that these oil companies should not even be allowed to drill for oil in deep underwater places unless they can demonstrate a proven ability to prevent these spills from happening in the first place, and abilities to stop spills once they do occur, and clean up the resulting mess.
Oil companies in the past have thought that idea is irresponsible because that would cost too much money which would eat at their profits, which would mean less money for stockholders.
So that's why we were all out on the beach at Santa Monica, to show that we were aware of what the oil companies were doing, stating that with the inevitable decline in the amount of oil reserves, the pollution its use causes, and the probability that spills would become more and more frequent, that actual implementation of renewable energy should be, well... implemented. It's not going to be easy, and it's going to take a while, but we're going to have to do it anyway, and we should get started right away. We're saying that that is the responsible thing to do, and we're right!
So there I was on the beach. After all of the speeches were made we were told to form a big circle, all three hundred of us. I was near the northwestern apex of this circle, headed directly for the Pacific Ocean. Our circle was so large in fact, that we ran into those who were sun bathing on the beach near the watery waves. They didn't seem to mind though as we plowed through them laying out on the soft sand.
The entire circle once everyone was in position, was pretty big, reaching almost to the waves, and clear to the parking lot on the other side. Then those near the parking lot were told to separate and spread out to form a straight line, folding the circle back towards us by the ocean. So soon all of us involved with the "event," were standing among the beach sunbathers near the ocean. At this point we all held hands (or were supposed to. To my left I was holding the hand of a female dwarf sociology student, and to my right some older guy who wouldn't hold hands with me or his other neighbor because he kept holding a sign). We "held hands" for about fifteen minutes while pictures were taken, and such. It was very nice. After the fifteen minutes we were thanked for showing up, and told we could go, which I did.
This happened not only in Santa Monica, but in hundreds of locations across the country, and in 19 other countries as well, so I'm told. I bet there are a lot of people who are just as concerned about offshore oil drilling and the use of fossil fuels who don't live anywhere near a beach. So our event was for them as well.
And if enough people get involved, well who knows what will happen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Slim!

Slim Pickens

Major Kong

Happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite character actors ever, Mr. Louis Burton Lindley Jr., sometimes known as Slim Pickens. He was a native Californian, just like me, and lived in California all of his life, but is well known for a kind of Oklahomian drawl, a distinct form of speech that actually was quite endearing... on him. As a young lad he liked to ride horses, something they do up near Fresno where he grew up. At 12 he joined the rodeo, and was told he wouldn't ever make much money in that profession, that there were in fact slim pickens as far as cash to be made. That's where he got his stage name! He became a famous rodeo clown, which is like the most dangerous job you can have as a live performer. I certainly wouldn't want it. He stayed with the rodeo for 20 freaking years. In 1950 he got a role in an Errol Flynn movie, "Rocky Mountain," and he was successful in films for the rest of his life. He appeared in movies with others actors like Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Mel Brooks, and Fred Ward in "Ginger in the Morning," (not a porno). I have to agree with Wikipedia on this, his best known roles were in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," "Blazing Saddles," created by Mel Brooks, and one of Steven Spielberg's more obscure movies, his 4th feature called "1941," with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. His career changed forever after "Dr. Strangelove," in which he played the over enthusiastic B-52 bomber pilot, Major T.J. "King" Kong (pictured above), for the better, finally getting the recognition he deserved, gaining much of that recognition for his comedic abilities. He was also a voice actor, and appeared on many television shows, including a guest spot on the first season of my favorite show while a young man, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." He was also a real pilot, flying multi engine planes while wearing a green U.S. Air Force flight suit and cowboy hat, just like in Strangelove.
Sadly he left us in December of 1983 after surgery for a brain tumor. He was born in the same year as my dad, and would have been 91 today. I salute him for the joy he brought to us, and remember him on this his Birthday. Happy Birthday Slim!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Priorities Of Republicans 2

Mitch McConnell

"The only thing Republicans have opposed in this debate are job-killing taxes and adding to the national debt." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "What we're not willing to do is use worthwhile programs as an excuse to burden our children and our grandchildren with an even bigger national debt than we've already got."
What he is talking about is last Thursday's defeat of the Democrat sponsored American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Bill. It lost in a 57 to 41 vote, with every single Republican voting against it, and one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska ("Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska," - Little Bill Daggett).
This occurred after the Democratic leadership spent weeks paring down the bill in order to reduce its impact on the federal deficit, from $134 billion to just $33 billion, cutting provisions to help seniors, the poor, and those out of work (which by the way, is essential to continue the economic stimulus which keeps the country from sliding back into recession, and possible depression). And what did the democrats get for that effort? They got a big Republican FU, that's what they got. Not one Republican changed their vote, and subsequently the bill failed. Apparently the Democrats didn't learn their lesson when they spent a year trying to placate the Republican obstructionists while attempting to get bipartisan support for health care reform.
Here's a little FYI for my dear Democratic friends in Congress, a lessen the President has apparently learned through painful experience: THE REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT TO HELP! THEY WANT TO SEE YOU FAIL AT EVERYTHING YOU DO. DON'T TRY TO GET THEM TO HELP BECAUSE THEY WON'T!
Maybe this is why: Sen. Debbie Stabenow ((D-Mich.) one of me heros)) said she believes Republicans are trying to prevent the economy from improving in order to foster an anti-incumbent mood come November. "Cynically, for them, it doesn't serve them in terms of the elections in the fall if things are beginning to turn around," she said. "If they can stop the recovery from occurring, if they can create as much pain as possible, the cynical view is people will be angry and either drop out and not vote at all or vote against those in the majority."
And what does that make Republicans if she is correct, which I suspect to a large degree she is, to allowing the country to slide backwards toward economic insecurity, causing millions of its citizens to face growing hardship and unemployment, for the sole purpose of politcal posturing, that makes them in my opinion nothing less than traitors. Don't give me that crap that they just disagree with the Democrats in how to keep the economy growing, they know what they're doing all to well. And they don't offer any plans of their own (Republicans wanted the bill truncated or paid for with deep spending cuts, and continued tax cuts for the rich. Spending cuts for the Republicans means cuts in badly needed social programs, not cuts in the bloated defense budget. Democrats did succeed in moving one spending bill Thursday, with the House of Representatives voting unanimously to delay for five months a 21% cut in what Medicare pays doctors. Under the legislation, Medicare, which covers more than 45 million mostly elderly Americans, will boost its physician payment rate by 2.2%. After Nov. 30, Medicare will impose another deep cut in payments to doctors unless Congress comes up with yet another measure to avert it).
The Republicans say they are all worked up about the deficit, that they won't vote for anything like unemployment benefit extensions unless they're paid for. Republicans have short memories, and they want you too, dear readers, to forget certain facts as well, like that the Republicans are the ones responsible for the current deficit. When President Reagan took office the national debt was $995 billion. When he left office it was $2.87 trillion and climbing fast (we are still paying for the Reagan tax cuts). Bush's 2001 tax cuts and continued military increases dramatically worsened the problem. Bush's ended his presidency with a record single-year deficit of $1.4 trillion (that's what happens when you start two unfunded wars and continue tax cuts for the wealthiest of us all at the same time). The deficit was $482 billion in the 2009 budget year that was inherited by Obama, which did not include the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, one could say two major expenditures (it is odd that the Republicans in Congress didn't have any concerns about the deficit under a Republican president). When Obama took office he included the two wars in the budget, and passed the economic stimulus package, which arguably kept the country out of a recession, proof of which is... we aren't in a recession now! These measures rose the deficit to a 2009 total of $1.42 trillion (The President's current budget proposals forecast a deficit decline to $1.17 trillion in 2010 and $533 billion by 2013). By golly, without those two wars, and the Bush era economic crisis also inherited by Obama, this country would be in spanking good shape! But no, the Republicans don't want you to remember those nasty facts.
One has to keep in mind that the Republicans have the voice of America in their collective back pocket, where they can just pull them out anytime they want to see what the majority of Americans want. Right now they're saying that Americans are all worked up about the deficit just like they are, and all of the spending going on under the Obama administration. Americans are more concerned about that than anything. This, the Republicans figure, gives them a free pass to obstruct something like the Jobs Bill, as McConnell stated above. The national media, not surprisingly, backs up their claims. A May 19th Washington Post article states:
"With voters up in arms over the mounting federal debt, congressional Democrats are growing increasingly queasy about adding to the nation's tab, with some arguing that additional spending to prop up the economy and help the unemployed should be paid for or abandoned."
But golly gee, there doesn't appear to be any evidence for their claim (how unusual).
Polling Report points out the debt/deficit ranks well behind jobs and the economy when people are asked to rank the top problem facing the country. The spread is 49-5% from a CBS/New York Times poll, 47-15% from Fox, and 35-20% from NBC/Wall Street Journal. This would indicate that unemployment/job creation is at the forefront of the American psyche, not the national deficit, as the Republicans would have you believe, because their actions, in blocking the Jobs Bill helps to keep unemployment high, and actually stifles job growth, hindering the policies Americans care most deeply about.
First, McConnell and his cronies promise to obstruct the passage of a Jobs Bill because dealing with the jobs crisis will increase the deficit; then they complain about the government's failure to deal with the unemployment crisis.
And what does the failure of this bill mean for America? "Failure to pass the bill means 200,00 jobless a week" will lose much needed benefits and will, according to the CBPP (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), "cost the economy 900,00 public and private sector jobs in 2011." 1.2 to 2 million Americans overall will lose unemployment benefits. It stops much needed aid to financially strapped state governments in order to keep police, firefighters and teachers on payrolls. "By blocking an up or down vote on this legislation, Republicans in the Senate obstructed a common-sense package that would save jobs, extend tax cuts for businesses, and provide relief for American families who have suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
The Republicans cry over the supposed 36,000 oil workers who may face joblessness due to the administration's moratorium on oil exploration rigs (that $100 million has been set aside for by BP), but don't seem to care a fig about those 1.2 to 2 million their actions may throw into deep poverty and homelessness (further exacerbating the economic recovery) "Tough shit," Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) so elegantly put it when he single handedly held up similar legislation to extend unemployment benefits last February. This is an example of the priorities of Republicans, party before country, gain power by whatever means, that's all that matters to them.
To add insult to injury, and continue the full circle of Republican hatred, once Americans lose their jobs, which of course Republicans have facilitated, Americans become suspect. Suddenly citizens without jobs are lass than.
Contrary to current economic models in which unemployment benefits boost the economy because unemployed people will spend those benefits rather than save them, and thereby pumping money back into the economy, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting "because people are being paid even though they're not working." Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said. This man is clearly an idiot. But he's not the only one.
Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) says that helping those who are unemployed is creating a dependent class, and that the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression. Hobos! That's what you are if you find yourself out of work due to the Bush recession. “I believe there should be a federal safety net,” Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months. Again, high unemployment due to the Bush recession + unemployment benefits stimulate economy.
One reason why unemployment benefits should not be extended is that recipients will just use the money to buy drugs and booze. The people in Utah know that, despite providing no evidence for their claim, and support efforts by their Sen. Orrin Hatch to provide mandatory drug testing for those getting cash assistance from the government, like unemployment benefits. "A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch said.
"A decade ago, Michigan implemented mandatory testing in three welfare offices. Out of 258 new and continuing applicants tested, 21 tested positive for illicit substances. All but three of these women tested positive for marijuana only. In light of such experiences, few states have chosen to pursue similar efforts," said Harold Pollack, the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.
Medical marijuana, by the way is legal for almost half of the total population in America, therefore blanket drug testing could punish those who are simply following state law and their doctor's advise.
These are examples of current Republican attitudes which frame their priorities. They are not for America. They are not for family. They are not for God. They tell you that they are, but they lie, and their actions prove it.
Republicans are only for themselves. And even if you are a Republican, have always voted Republican, and hold to traditional Republican ideals of small government and fiscal responsibility (which the current Republican leadership does not), your representatives in Congress will drop you like a hot potato at the first sign you don't adhere to their agenda, or it becomes inconvenient for them to assist you.
Like if you lose your job.
Or you can't pay your mortgage.
Or you don't have health insurance.
Because that's what they do, and that's who they are.
Am I being to harsh, to quick to judge, unfair, biased, one-sided and partisan.
Yes, and delightedly so!
The Republicans seek to broaden their power to obstruct in the November elections. As a country we cannot allow them to do so. They had their chance during the Bush years, and they blew it. They want you to forget about all of that though and return them to power so they can do it again.
It time to obstruct the obstructionists.
It's time for the insanity to end.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Salvation Diary 35

"Salvation" artist, Amanda Milke

June 6 Thursday Day 268

"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes, and flowers ... in her haaaaaaiirr."
5:00AM. My new alarm clock gently serves the soothing tunes of Led Zeppelin's "Going to California." Time to go to work.
The H.I.V. virus lives!
But not in this god like body (extreme fantasy).
The test returned negative. Negative!
How good it feels to wake up. To breathe. To have a day to look forward to. I took pleasure in watching my fingers move, my cute little toes wiggle. Knowing (positively) that I may have a long (possibly somewhat normal) life to enjoy and make use of, and that I now have the opportunity to die of something safe, like lung cancer, a stroke, or heart disease.
I wonder what I would have done if my dream had been real, at least the part about the positive test results. I hope that I would have continued to carry on, gone back to work, finish my shift, retire to my room, and consider my options for a good long while. Counseling with a trained specialist most certainly would be in order. I'm sure as hell not above asking for help these days. Learning to carry on without the use of drugs or alcohol would be an extreme necessity, as it still is. Drinking would not help, it never does, not for alcoholics... not for anybody. I would just wind up back in the Park. Maybe instantly. I'd just be in the Park infected with H.I.V., instead of here at the residence where I may be able to do myself some good, and possibly help others as well. Suicide has never seriously been an option for me, no matter how bad things got. You have no choices left after you're dead.
Sometimes I think that's what life is all about. Striving for the freedom to choose. George Plick thinks so. Relationships, choices, and responsibilities. He says everything (for us human type individuals) revolves around those issues. I believe he may be right.
I have certainly gained massive respect and admiration for those who do cope, who carry on - while living under the shadow of H.I.V., or any other terminal illness. I believe there is nothing man cannot do within the bounds of known physics, whether it be bio- or astro. I know that one day science will lead us out from under the tyranny of AIDs, for that surely is our only hope.
In the meantime I shall carry on. I glory in self awareness, realizing that 99.9999999999... of the entire universe does not know that it even exists.
I'm a lucky guy.

June 7 Friday Day 269

Well, well, well.The cadets came yesterday, all fifty of them. Most of them fat. The food's good at Territorial Head Quarters, I hear.
Robert had gotten up early cleaning things as if on uppers. When he's like that (every Sunday morning before chapel) he can be a slight pain to be with. I stay away. I visited the warehouse while Robert and the janitors got busy, busy, busy. The Major and Mrs. Johnson were there nice and early as well, making sure everything was set for the cadets arrival.
Who arrived fifteen minutes late, had a little snack, were lectured about our rehabilitation program, ate lunch, got lectured some more, ate dinner, took a tour of the residence, the warehouse, the antique store, went to chapel, disrupted everyone's schedule- including their own, and left.
See ya next year.
Colonel Allen was there with the cadets. This was the first time I'd met him. He could stand to lose a few pounds himself. He didn't look at our towels.
His wife is very nice. I'd met her before. She was the only one of the bunch who came to the desk to ask us how we were doing. We told her we were doing fine.
Robert took off after chapel. He later called to ask me if I could cover for him the next morning, as he wanted to spend the night in Upland. I told him I would be happy to switch shifts with him instead. He reluctantly agreed.
Since I had to get up early yet once again, Art Svensk was an hour late relieving me. He wouldn't have come in at all if Clarence Bliss hadn't called over to the Green Hotel and asked the landlady there to knock on Art's door.
"I forgot what day it was," he informed us when he finally got here.
That was the last time I would be working with Clarence on a full time basis. You could now say he was retired. His Social Security had begun to come in, and he would be moving to the Transition House. He bought himself a car (the Blissmobile).
"It's been good working with you, Rick."
"Well, you'll be around, won't you?" He may work for us once in a while as a volunteer. "I need your experience, strength, and hope."
He's a good man, Clarence is. I'll miss him.
And I wish him well.
This morning I made it to the desk by seven. I got all of the work done by nine, and goofed off until Robert relieved me at three thirty.
Tonight was the first Friday night I had off for over eight months. How did I spend it? By watching the Lakers lose horribly in the third game of the playoffs. They looked like a bunch of old men being beat up by a gang of street thugs.
I also read a few chapters from Vonnegut's "Jailbird," and "The Trial," by Kafka, books I had borrowed from the residence library today.
At midnight, while changing channels on my television, I happened across a new "In Concert 91." The featured groups included, Poison, Slaughter, and The Bullet Boys. Sounds like a recipe for genocide.
I went to sleep dreaming of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs.

June 8 Saturday Day 270

I slept in this morning, getting up at about eleven. I went to the restroom. Immediately, Roger Collins came in talking about his leg, describing in detail, his bandaging techniques. As soon as he left one of the janitors came in to mop the floor. I gave up, returned to my room and rested on my bed until after lunch.
At twelve o'clock, as a diversionary tactic, I laid down an oil slick near the restroom at the opposite side of the building. As soon as I saw the janitors head in that direction I slipped into the shower and finished before they had a chance to get me.
When I went downstairs Robert called me to the desk and asked me to take over for him while he went somewhere. So I began work a couple of hours early.
Just before dinner I was looking at the closed circuit T.V monitors at Dennis Smith out on the back loading dock. He had just finished washing his car and was sitting next to, what looked like, a young Chicana girl. As I watched he began smooching with her, which I found extremely entertaining, so I invited several of the guys who happened to have been sitting in the lobby to have a look. Pretty soon there were seven or eight of us watching Dennis and this eighteen year old make out. For a while there we thought Dennis was going to jump the poor girl, but I guess she knew how to handle herself... and Dennis... pretty well. As he came into dinner we applauded him, and offered our scores on a 1 to 10 scale on his feeble attempt at seduction.
Earlier today a parade was held in Washington D.C. in honor of our servicemen and women who served in the Persian Gulf conflict. There's been a lot of these parades lately. Victory Parades some call them. Military hardware is displayed in abundance; tanks, patriot missiles, anti-aircraft platforms, troop carriers, jet flybys, on and on. One would almost think they were in Red Square during the May Day celebration.
It is a good idea I believe to show our appreciation to our soldiers who leave home and family to risk their lives in the service of our country. I also believe we could show our appreciation in a more substantial manner: increased pay and benefits, better housing and schooling for our soldier's children, retirement benefits, and so on, rather than this glitzy and extremely temporary, almost vulgar display of our nation's ability to wage wars of mass destruction.
Blatant political propaganda.
And what did we win in this war? Am I wrong or is Saddam Hussein still in power? Has he even been reduced to the point where he can no longer pose a threat in that region of the world? How many lives were lost, and to what end? Are we regarded any differently in the Middle East?
I wonder just what was it that we won and why are we celebrating?

June 9 Sunday Day 271

I woke to Woody Allen in "Bananas," but the film was too silly to continue watching at 5:00AM., so I turned it off and went back to sleep.
I slept through the wake up call, early breakfast, late breakfast, fellowship of prayer, and damn near through chapel service, which would have been very embarrassing as I was scheduled to read the responsive reading section of the service.
But I made it, and once again my voice did not quiver.
Mrs. Johnson told me that I looked good behind the podium. Perhaps she was making a career suggestion.
Tom Rotsch and Michael Vallee decided to join Ron Collins and myself at the Sunday morning meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at the American Legion headquarters of South Pasadena. Mr. Vasquez once again, ur... volunteered to drive us there (we outnumbered him).
I mentioned to Robert that George Washington had grown marijuana on his Mt. Vernon estate.
"Don't say that!" he exclaimed. "I'm so disillusioned. All my heros are tarnished."
The meeting proved to be very interesting (lots of pretty ladies). Tom is a genuinely nice person, who goes out of his way to meet people. He walks right up to those he has never met, says hello, introduces himself, volunteers to read portions of the Big Book, makes friends easily... all of which sickens me to no end.
I am a nice person also, but I'm not as blatantly obvious about it as Tom is. Besides, I'm rather shy at times, or feel awkward in social situations where I don't know anybody. That's one of the reasons, I suppose, that I have used drugs.
I have a mean streak, or temper, or hardness in me, which I believe excludes me from being a genuinely nice man. It's not too bad, but it's there. I'm not as friendly as I could be, I guess.
I do like children and small furry animals. Even big ones if they don't have teeth.
The meeting's speaker was very good. His name was Carl. A youngish individual. I will here quote three lines from his presentation (without his permission of course):
1. "Most of the time, back in high school, my grade point average equaled my blood alcohol level."
2. "My head would have killed my body long ago, except it needed it for transportation."
3. "My counselor asked me about my drug of choice... like what was it? I didn't know what she meant. I asked her, what was a drug of choice?
She said, 'For example, if someone brought you a tray with a quart of Jack Daniels, and ounce of coke, and an ounce of Thi-sticks on it, which would you choose?'
'All of them,' I told her.
She said, 'No, no, it doesn't work that way. You may only choose one. Which one would you choose?'
'Well I'd take the coke, I guess.'
She said, 'Well, maybe cocaine is your drug of choice.'
'But you don't understand," I told her. 'I'd take the coke, sell a few eight balls, buy a couple of sticks, and a case of Jack Daniels.'
We walked back to the residence. I went to the park and laid out in the sun just as a five song block of Led Zeppelin came on the radio. It was good for my soul.
I watched the fourth game of the NBA playoffs. I shouldn't have bothered. Chicago won by 15. The only way the Lakers could have beat them is if obstacles (trees, telephone poles, etc.) were placed on their side of the court to keep the Bulls from scoring.
Not a bad idea really.
A touching account of human relationships on "Star Trek, the Next Generation," tonight. A love affair between a woman and an android emphasized what can be meaningful between two people.
I read for most of the evening.
Hid out in my lonely room.

June 10 Monday Day 272

A wonderful, relaxing day. I got up at about eight and took my time in the shower. I was downstairs by nine.
It may not look like it but I spent practically the whole day writing. An hour in the morning, then I ran all of the urine that had piled up, which lasted until noon. Then to the park for an hour (my tan is coming along nicely). Back to the residence for a quick shower, more writing, dinner, "Star Trek, the Next Generation," (it's on every week now at six), more writing, then up to my room to read a bit before turning in.
I watched "Cheers," before drifting off, and "Nightline," (should victims, or the surviving families of victims, be allowed to be heard at the penalty phase of criminal trials. An item the Supreme Court will decide tomorrow), which topped off the evening well.
One entry in the continuing saga of Dennis Smith. He went on a work day pass to court in West L.A., and did not return for the 11:00PM curfew. He did not call.
I doubt if they'll let him back in this time.
In the morning Mr. Pandolfi told me that Dennis had tried to come in at 1:00AM. It doesn't work that way and Dennis knows that.
I also found out that Dennis did some how make it back inside the building, and borrowed $20 from one of his roommates, George Estrada.
Curiouser and curiouser.

June 11 Tuesday Day 273

As I said, maybe we didn't do Dennis such a big favor by letting him back in. Maybe he had gotten off too easy, so easy that his mistake made no real impact on him.
Reuben Smith, on the other hand, seems to be taking things a bit more seriously since his brief departure and return.
That's good. Possibly his mishap was the "kick through the goal posts of life," that he needed.
He's still not talking to me very much. But it's not because I was the one who pointed the finger at him. He understands I believe, as do most of the guys around here, that it's my job. I think Reuben has a bad case of the "guilties," stemming from his relapse (and indeed, that is what it was, a relapse... Near Beer, or not). He thinks he let Harold down and feels ashamed because of it. This of course is one of the prominent aspects of relapse. Guilt and shame. And depression vast.
Reuben's slowly coming out of it though. All it takes is time. He'll be alright. All of us relapsers go through it. It helps to stay sober the next time around.
Dennis came in at about 9:30AM, carrying a small brown briefcase which contained his cassette tape collection. That's all he had left. He looked haggard and exhausted, sweating profusely. He asked if he could get a telephone number from his locker. I told him he could.
Dennis had relapsed. Big surprise. Rockoff told me that when Dennis had left here yesterday he had $300 on him, in cash. That's all gone. He apparently sold his car (I'm sure for far less than when what he paid for it) in order to buy more cocaine, then he came back here early in the morning looking to borrow more money.
In less than 18 hours he had gone through maybe $500, $600, or $700, depending on how much he got for his car. All of that money no doubt went up his nose, or into some hooker's back pocket. No more car, no more money, no more job, no more room and board, no more self respect.
And this is how relapse on cocaine works.
But this is no dream.
The dramatic speed and intensity of cocaine relapse is a very good reason to be glad not to be a cocaine addict. I'm glad. Very. I'm much happier being an alcoholic. Five to seven hundred dollars would have lasted me at least a week, maybe two in a cheap motel with cable television. Three or four gallons of wine a day, and maybe something to eat.
With alcohol you can draw out your misery so much longer.
In the end I'd be in exactly the same place Dennis is right now.
Dennis retrieved the telephone number he wanted, and made a call. I think he called his parents and told them what had happened.
When he finished he walked outside and sat on one of the benches in the front parking lot. I watched him from my office window. Some of the cooks, Tom Gibbs, Marvin Gardenhire, and Carlos Noble, came out and sat with him. I don't know what they said, although I'm sure they offered support. But having been in Dennis's position I know their kind intent offered little solace. Misery loves company, and Dennis was thoroughly alone now. The men who were talking to him still had a program, still had sober days behind them, still had hopes for the future. Dennis had none of those things. He may have even felt angry, or resentful towards them, missing what he had lost in such a short time, and what they still possessed. The only comfort Dennis had left was the cigarette he was smoking and that would only last for another three minutes. One tends to smoke fast when anxious and nervous.
To add insult to injury, the Major came over for lunch and noticed Dennis sitting. He asked me to go out and tell him to move on. He was not allowed to hang around.
Where did he go? Why to the Park, of course. He had just become a full fledged resident. You get to become a full fledged resident of the Park only when you have no where else to go.
After my shift, Rockoff and I walked to the thrift store to search for more clothes that might fit us, that didn't have holes in the pockets, or buttons missing. We had brand new clothing orders in our hands, courtesy of Clarence Orion. We saw Dennis sitting alone on one of the benches in the Park while passing the southeast corner of Fair Oaks. He was busy staring off into space.
Throughout the evening my thoughts returned to Dennis, as I avoided Jill, watched "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and the evening news. Of all those who have left here I guess Dennis's departure has affected me the most.
I can see myself too easily in him.
There is nothing I can do for him, of course. I am powerless to help other people if they do not wish to help themselves. I thought about seeking him out in the Park, talk to him, maybe get him something to eat. I didn't do that though. Hanging out in the Park with a newly relapsed individual might not be such a good idea for me. Besides at the present time I doubt there would be much I could say to him that he'd want to hear.
All I can do is, well... wish him well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Save The Whales

A Blue

The Mighty Humpback

The Blue whale is the largest known animal to have ever existed on this planet by volume (they can reach up to 108 feet in length, weighing up to 180 metric tons or more, although it is difficult to get them on a scale). Bigger than those brontosauruses you saw in Jurassic Park. Much bigger.
Like me, Blue whales like to eat shrimp, although they eat tiny little ones called krill. I once had a shrimp eating contest with my lovely case manager, Erin. We each had about twenty to twenty five shrimps to eat, and I ate all of mine, and she couldn't finish hers, so I won that contest. "This isn't over," she wrote ominously to me afterwards. Big talk for one who hasn't set a date for a rematch yet. But compared to a Blue whale Erin and I are little chumps. Adult Blue whales can eat up to 40 million shrimps, or krill, each day! That's like 7,900 pounds of the little crustaceans.
That's a lot of shrimps! I wouldn't even try to eat that much. Fortunately there is a lot of krill for them to eat, which they do so by swimming around and filtering the shrimps through giant strainer like appendages in their mouths called baleen plates, after which they swallow em up.
Like all other living things on the Earth, whales are our cousins. But whales share a characteristic that makes them much more closely related than let's say a fungus, tree, or insect. Whales, along with dolphins and porpoises, are mammals, just like us. What that means is that they are warm blooded, generating their own body heat, like us. They breathe air, like us, and have to continuously come to the ocean's surface to breathe (which must make it rather hard to sleep. It seems they are conscious breathers, meaning they choose when to breathe and are never fully unconscious when they sleep, allowing only half of their brains to shut down at a time). They bear their young internally, like us. And they possess a neocortex in the brains, like we do, which is responsible for higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language. In other words they are very smart (I won't say like us, as they don't go around killing each other).
All whales used to live on land about 50 million years or so ago. They didn't like it there so they went back to the ocean where all life originally came from.
I've got an idea for a short story concerning a Blue whale, a little girl, and her father, which I've been wanting to write for the last 30 years or so. I'll get around to it one of these days.
Blue whales used to be abundant in all of the worlds oceans until the 20th century when they were hunted almost to extinction. In 1966 the International Whaling Commission (IWC. The agency was created after World War II to oversee the hunting of tens of thousands of whales a year but gradually evolved into a body at least partly dedicated to keeping whales from vanishing from the Earth's oceans) banned the hunting of Blue whales, but the Soviet Union did so illegally until the 1970s. by which time 330,000 blue whales had been killed in the Antarctic, 33,000 in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, 8,200 in the North Pacific, and 7,000 in the North Atlantic.
Since the ban and the end of the illegal hunting best estimates show in the Antarctic a significant increase at 7.3% per year, but numbers remain at under 1% of their original levels. In 2002 the total world population was estimated to be between 5,000 and 12,000.
I've restricted my attention here to the Blue whale because I happen to like Blue whales. But many species of large whales have had their populations decimated by the systematic hunting by humans for whale oil, meat, baleen (whalebone formerly used to make buggy whips, parasol ribs, and corset stays), and ambergris (the stuff used to make perfume from Sperm whale guts). the IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986, however that ban was not absolute and some whaling continued, mainly by Japan, Norway, and Iceland, through a loophole which allowed continued whaling for scientific research. About 1,500 animals are killed each year by the three countries. 1,500 whales killed each year for scientific research?
Last May, the 23rd to be exact, I attended a rally on the pier in Santa Monica to "Save The Whales." About forty or fifty of us showed up for the event which was just one rally of 16 being held in California coastal communities. The purpose of the rally was to protest the United States plans to end the 1986 moratorium on commercial whale hunting, which would have allowed limited hunting for the next ten years, which also seemed to be in direct contradiction to what Barrack Obama promised while running for President. We protesters wanted to "ensure that the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on international whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable."
Well yesterday morning I was all excited to get the news that the IWC, which is currently meeting in Agadir, Morocco, had dismissed the attempt to end the moratorium. "We won!" I thought to myself. I was happy that my attendance on that cold windy pier in May had made a difference.
Actually that is what the "Save The Whales," folks wanted, and that's what they got.
But upon closer examination it seems that nothing was solved. Other news stories described what happened at the 88 nation member meeting of the IWC as a "collapse," not a dismissal. Japan (the biggest offender), Iceland, and Norway are happy as hell the so called "moratorium," will still be in effect, because many member nations, specifically Australia and Latin American countries, wanted to ban whaling altogether, zip, zero, nada, which would have been fine with me. In my mind, in this day and age, using these magnificent creatures for a source of food products is nothing short of barbaric.
Countries like the U.S. and New Zealand wanted to set specific quotas that whale hunting nations would have to adhere to, which would have allowed the three countries to resume commercial whaling but at significantly lower levels and under tight monitoring. Japan balked, and no agreement could be reached, hence the "collapse" reference. This turn of events, or non-turn which is more like it, keeps the moratorium in place, at least for the next year until the commission meets again. With the moratorium in place, Japan, Iceland, and Norway can continue to utilize its loopholes, thereby setting their own quotas, hunting hundreds of whales under the guise of doing "scientific research."
I don't know... call me crazy, but closing those loopholes might have been a worthy priority of the commission.
Whales are some of the grandest, most magnificent creatures on this planet. They cause humans no harm, are in fact beneficial to us by eating all of those krill. They care for their young, they talk to each other, they know they exist, yet we hunt them to the point of extinction. This is not being a good Shepard of the Earth's resources. Like oil, whales are a finite entity, once they are gone they will not return. It is our job, our responsibility to care for and protect them... especially against ourselves.

Happy Birthday Linda Cardellini!


As Velma Dinkley

Happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite actresses, Ms. Linda Cardellini, of "Freaks and Geeks," "Scooby Doo," and "ER," fame. She also gave magnificent performances in the highly regarded films, "Brokeback Mountain," "Legally Blonde," and "Grandma's Boy." Linda and I were born about 20 miles from each other, as the crow flies, she in Redwood City, and myself in San Jose California. 20 miles apart, and 20 years apart. I'm not going to say which of us is the older... well yes I am, it's me. Anyway everyone here at Joyce's Take (me and my invisible cat, Herkimer) wishes Linda a very happy birthday. Happy Birthday Linda!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


She would have been a young 44 today, but her life was cut short during a burglary on the first day of November in 2006, almost 4 years ago.
She was born Adrienne Levine in Queens, and was raised on that Long Island in New York. She always wanted to be a performer, and began when she was 9 years old at the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center, a performing arts summer camp which throughout the years has trained thousands of aspiring actors. She and I were very different in this respect. She had the guts and clarity of vision to know what she wanted to do with her life, and the energy and direction to follow through. At 9 years old I was lucky if I knew what time it was, let alone what I wanted to do, or how to do it. And she was always much prettier than I was or am today. Much (I know it's hard to believe, but just take a look at the pictures above dear readers!).
She loved baseball, and took her stage name Shelly from the first name of her father, Sheldon, who passed away when she was only 12. In that we were alike. My father left us when I was 11, one month away from being 12.
She made her professional debut while still in high school in New York, in a summer stock production of the musical "Annie." She went on to Boston University, majoring in film production.
Like I said above she was a very lovely woman, and an exceptionally talented actress and writer. She got her big break when cast by Hal Hartley as the lead in his first two feature films, "The Unbelievable Truth," playing a beautiful teenager with great life expectations who falls in love with a mysterious, possibly dangerous man (oh, how the girls love those bad boys!), and "Trust," playing a pregnant high school drop out with family problems.
Few of her subsequent acting roles lived up to the promise of her two first films however, and she had the talent, interest and ability to change career directions and began working as a writer and director, making her feature length film directorial debut in 1997's "Sudden Manhattan," wherein she took on the daunting task of directing herself as a self-obsessed New Yorker (she should have gotten together with Woody Allen as they seemed to be made for each other... professionally).
In 2000 she won the Film Discovery Jury Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival for her direction of "I'll Take You There," which she also wrote, and starred along with Ally Sheedy (of "The Breakfast Club," fame).
Adrienne played in major roles in over two dozen off Broadway plays, many at Manhattan's Workhouse Theater. She guest starred on television shows like "Oz," and "Law and Order," the later show paying a kind of homage to her by dramatizing the circumstances of her murder in the 2007 episode episode "Melting Pot."
I first saw Adrienne in the film "Factotum," which mainly deals with the life of the Los Angeles writer, Charles Bukowski. She had a very small part in that film, but she certainly caught my interest, and I took it upon myself to learn more about her, after which I became aware of her life and death, became a fan, and I rejoice in the life that she lead, her achievements, and her courage.
Last night I watched the film "Waitress," the last project she worked on before she died. She wrote, directed, and acted in this remarkable, award winning film (outstanding performances by the entire cast, including Adrienne, Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, and a rare appearance from Andy Griffith). A perfectly realized movie, brilliantly written. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it.
Just a few moments ago my computer mysteriously finished downloading the film "Serious Moonlight," which Adrienne wrote, and which her husband, Andy Ostroy produced after her death. I'm looking forward to watching it.
On November 1st, 2006, Adrienne was working in her Greenwich Village office when she was strangled to death by a 19 year old illegal immigrant from Ecuador who was had entered in order to steal money from her purse. This man admitted to her murder, and is currently serving a 25 year sentence without possibility of parole for first degree manslaughter, a plea bargain.
Her murderer will become a free man again in the year 2033, at the age of 45.
Plea bargains.
Since her death her husband founded The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, which is "a non-profit organization that awards scholarships, production grants, finishing funds and living stipends through its partnerships with academic and filmmaking institutions." This is it's Mission Statement:

The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and directors through a series of scholarships and grants, providing recipients with financial support and consultative access to the Foundation's advisory board of actors, directors, producers, composers, law, publicity, academic and trade professionals. Reflecting Adrienne's spirit, generosity, courage and whimsy, our goal is to recognize the tremendous passion and commitment of women artists in creating their own work, and provide them with support and guidance particularly during periods of transition and struggle.

And this is what her husband says about his amazing wife who died much, much too early:

"Adrienne was fiercely dedicated to the art of filmmaking and, at 5’1”, stood tall in an industry where women face many challenges and hurdles to climb. But she did it, and on her own terms. She was able to successfully make the transition from actor to filmmaker, having written and directed three features. Her last directorial effort, “Waitress,” premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, was sold to Fox Searchlight Pictures within hours of its screening, and went on to become a smash box-office success nationwide. In the brief weeks and months after her death, Adrienne had finally reached the critical acclaim of which she always dreamed." -Andy Ostroy

And this:

"Adrienne was the kindest, warmest, most loving, generous person I knew. She was incredibly smart, funny and talented, a bright light with an infectious laugh and huge smile that radiated inner and outer beauty... she was my best friend, and the person with whom I was supposed to grow old"

They had one daughter together, Sophie, who is now 6 years old I believe, and who appeared with her mom and Ms. Russell in the very last scene of "Waitress."

On August 3rd of last year Andy established The Adrienne Shelly Memorial Garden, a tribute to his beloved wife. It is located on the Southeast side of Abingdon Square Park in Greenwich Village at 8th and 12th Streets. It faces 15 Abingdon Square, the building where Adrienne died.
I've never been to New York, but I'll probably make it there eventually. And when I do go there that garden is sure to be one of the places I visit.
She lives on as a role model and inspiration to me and thousands of others who aspire to succeed in whatever field they choose.
In loving memory of Adrienne Shelly, June 24, 1966 to November 1, 2006.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Priorities Of Republicans

Rep. Joe Barton

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case, a $20-billion shakedown with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20-billion slush fund. It is unprecedented in our nation's history." - Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)

The blast killed 11 men right off. Tens of millions of gallons of crude oil have been released into the Gulf of Mexico, so much that it can clearly be seen from outer space (picture above). Hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants have been dumped into the Gulf to... well I don't know exactly what they're supposed to do, disperse the oil I guess, which ultimately makes it harder to clean up. Oil and natural gas are now being captured and burned which adversely effects and exacerbates global warming concerns. "A comprehensive inventory of offshore species in the Gulf of Mexico completed in 2009 counted 15,700 species of sea life, with those in the area of the oil spill numbering 8,332 plant and animal species, including more than 1,200 fish, 200 bird, 1,400 mollusk, 1,500 crustacean, 4 sea turtle, and 29 marine mammal species."* All threatened. As of June 18, there had been 1,292 dead animals found in the spill zone including 885 dead birds, 363 sea turtles, and 44 dolphins and other mammals, with some reports of dolphins being spotted running low on food, and 'acting drunk' apparently from effects of the spill. Louisiana is in a State of Emergency due to the advancing oil slick. Shrimping season began early in anticipation of the advance of oil. Oil had encroached upon wildlife refugees and seafood grounds. The spill is devastating blue crab and oyster fishing markets and related businesses. On May 24 the federal government declared a fisheries disaster for the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Initial cost estimates to the fishing industry were $2.5 billion. Governors of the Gulf states are falling all over each other in PR campaigns assuring potential tourists not to cancel hotel reservations because of oil encrusted beaches. "Everything's fine," they say. Still Initial cost estimates that the impact on tourism along Florida's Paradise Coast could be $3 billion. Economist Abraham Pizam said the oil slick may become "the worst disaster in the history of Florida tourism." According to the insurance brokerage firm Willis Group Holdings, total insured losses could amount to $30 billion. Some have called the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is still spilling by the way, with no end in sight, the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. I will agree to the point that it is the worst since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, which also affected the security and livlihoods of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of citizens. Added are the affects the spill itself, and the damage it is doing to the seafood industry of the Gulf, this "accident," has global consequences as yet undetermined.
The point I'm trying to raise is this question, are the Republicans concerned about the damage this spill has had upon the thousands of ordinary citizens of this country, or are they concerned with the health and profitability of Big Oil, specifically at this time, British Petroleum?
In recent weeks past I've seen Republican leaders in Congress, and others around the country claiming that they agree the spill is a horrible thing, that BP should be held responsible for all costs (after a quashed effort by the United States Chamber of Commerce and House Minority Leader John Boehner to stick the American tax payer with part of the clean up costs, claiming the federal government was partially at fault for the accident. They are right for once, the federal government is partly responsible for the spill, and is already paying for clean up efforts in the Gulf with the participation of the Coast Guard. Other more significant costs and payments will undoubtedly be incurred). They claim to sympathize with the residents of the affected areas, and criticize President Obama for not responding soon enough and forcefully enough to the crisis. They say this over and over and over again as if it were true, hoping that their talking points will adhere to the American psyche rather than just to their base who will believe the moon is made out of green cheese if told to them by Rush Limbaugh. They call this Obama's Katrina, trying to equate the loss of an entire American City with an estimated 81 billion in property damage, and resulting loss of hundreds of human lives, and displacement of thousands more, to this spill.
They are morons. As of yet only the eleven workers on the rig itself have died due to this accident (eleven too many). The response to the rig explosion was swift compared to that of Katrina, and the deregulation of the oil industry and the corruption at the Minerals Management Service, the supposed government watchdog of said industry, had it's roots firmly planted by the previous administration.
The Republicans chant: How long are you going to blame President Bush?
The answer: for as long as he is responsible, and he certainly still has a good deal to answer for.
The Republicans wouldn't even be happy if Obama put on his magic Superman suit and went down a mile underwater and shut off the leak himself. They'd say he was just grandstanding for political advantage.
Because that's just the way they are. Most of them at least. Most of them who open their big yap.
The President's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel (sounds like a damn foreigner to me) appeared on "This Week," Sunday and made an interesting observation about how the Republicans would behave and govern during this crisis. Talk about another Katrina...
For an example he pointed out Texas Republican Representative Joe Barton's apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward quoted above, (apologizing for a 20 billion dollar escrow account to be funded by BP in order to settle immediate claims against it, and other costs associated with the spill, an account that BP itself suggested) as representative of the Republican world view, and I have to agree. Very shortly after Barton made this frank and startling comment he was asked to recant it by the Republican leadership, and is still in danger of having to give up his position as the senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce committee because he made it in the first place.
The above is not an apology, it is an admission of Republican principles and idealogy, dismissive of the pain and suffering of the victims of the oil spill disaster (the "small" people so tellingly described by BP's Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg), siding instead with a huge multi-national corporation, and not even an American one at that (although much of BP stock is owned and controlled by American interests, including members of Congress).
This admission would be disturbing in and of itself, but it's more than that. It's representative of the entire Republican frame of mind. From Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Rand Paul, John Fleming, Jim Jordan, the Republican Study Committee, and space alien Exeter, er, I mean Rep John Cornyn all have echoed Barton's sentiments to one degree or another. They express their concern for the poor billion dollar company, the 4th largest on the planet, rather then their own constituents whose lives have been ruined because of BPs devastating ineptness and greed. It's nothing less than amazing.
Right wing commentators like George Will and Bill Kristol, and Republican Governor Haley Barbour want to get back to business as usual ASAP, stating the off shore oil drilling moratorium that President Obama imposed following Deepwater's explosion (so that safety protocols could be reviewed) will be more devastating to the country than the spill itself (neglecting to mention the $100 million fund already set up to compenstate those who will be affected by it, and that the moratorium affects only 33 exploritory drilling rigs out of 3,600 working rigs in the Gulf). The Republicans were pleased that a judge in a US District Court blocked the moratorium yesterday (a judge appointed by Reagan, and who has owned stock in a number of petroleum-related companies). More Drill, Baby Drill, despite the possible consequences. Drill, Baby Drill, even though the oil drilled doesn't come back to the U.S., although you'll never hear that from the Republicans. No it goes to the world market, where all oil goes, and it may or may not come back to us, at an inflated cost of course.
The White House and Dept of the Interior said they will appeal the decision.
What is sad about this is that so many Americans, good honest, hard working people, some affected directly by the spill, some indirectly, are being taken in by the Republican lies and misinformation that is spewed out 24/7 by the likes of Limbaugh, and Fox News, and are siding with the Republicans against their own best interests.
For example... the Republican Party is often considered the party of traditional Christian values. Well I can't think of a more godless entity than a corporation, a man made device which has no soul, and it's only purpose is that of making money, to the detriment of everything and everybody else. That's who the Republicans choose to champion. That's who they are. That is their top priority.
Is that who we want to be in charge of this country once again? Is that the way to govern a country for the people, of the people?
That's a question the American people answered in November of 2008. There's still so much to correct and clean up from the last time they were in power. We've only just begun.

* Biello, David (2010-06-09). "The BP Spill's Growing Toll On the Sea Life of the Gulf." Yale Environment 360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Retrieved 2010-06-14. Shirley, Thomas C.; John W. Tunnell, Jr., Fabio Moretzsohn, and Jorge Brenner (2010). "Biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico: Applications to the Depp Horizon Oil Spill. Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Cyndi Lauper!

Happy Birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite singers and song writers, Ms. Cyndi Lauper. I actually own several of her CDs, and the songs, "Time After Time," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," True Colors," "She Bop," "Iko Iko," "What's Going On," "911," and "Feels Like Christmas," are some of my favorite songs ever, sung by a brilliant vocalist. And she's pretty cute too. I liked her one feature movie, "Vibes," so much I actually paid for a copy of it. All I know is that if I'm ever feeling blue all I have to do is play one of her albums and my whole perspective is changed for the better. Happy Birthday Cyndi!
PS: (Wednesday morning 6-23-10) Just saw Cyndi on Good Morning America a couple of hours ago, where she sang "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," live in studio. The band sucked but she sounds and looks as great as she ever has. And they gave her a birthday cake! Happy Birthday again Cyndi!

Happy Birthday Janet!


Birthday wishes go out today to my lovely cousin, Janet, who resides in Saint Louis, in the state of Missouri. I have to admit I don't know Janet very well, having only met her, and her late sister Karen, briefly when we were adolescents (kids), and for many, many... many years we were out of touch with each other, only coming into contact once again recently through the miracle of the Facebook machine. But I do know this, she is lovely, she is very nice, apparently likes to run (which I don't), and we both like these things, the Adorn Hair Salon and Carol Burnett (just saw the film "Noises Off," as a matter of fact. I highly recommend it). In any case all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her a very happy birthday. Happy Birthday Janet!

Happy Birthday Julia Ann!

Julia Ann

"Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you,
Julia" - John Lennon

Birthday wishes also go out today to my lovely case manager's life long best friend, and sometimes visitor to Los Angeles, lovely Julia Ann (who turns a whopping 27)! Julia lives in New Jersey of all places, is probably there right now as a matter of fact. She is very nice, I know this because I've met her (I also have to say these nice things about her because if I don't I'm afraid she may Jujutsu me upon our next meeting, as she is an avid martial artist). Besides having the good sense to be friends with Erin, Julia and I have these things in common: we like these books; Voltaire's masterpiece Candide, and Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales; the movies Run Lola Run (it's a good thing I'm fluent in German... well, at least I know what "scheisse" means), Seven, Memento ("Am I chasing him, or is he chasing me?"), and Lost In Translation; the musical groups Blondie, and of course Blackalicious; and who doesn't like Indonesian Clove Cigarettes, I ask you? Anyway, please join me dear readers in wishing lovely Julia a very happy birthday (and in honor of it, this post has the 300th position on Joyce's Take!). Happy Birthday Julia!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Madam President

Last Tuesday, June 15th to be exact, President Obama delivered his first speech from The Oval Office, and spoke of the BP Gulf Oil Crisis, the Administration's response, relief for those who have lost their livlihoods, and a little about how he envisions the nation's departure from fossil based fuels toward a more "Green Economy." It wasn't a bad speech, but certainly not one of his best, and the President had his fair share of criticism after he gave it, some calling it bland, stating that he might as well have been giving a lecture of the founding of the National Monument movement.
Quite often I've noticed that once in office elected officials tend to parse their words, which again - makes for bland speeches. For a Democratic President at this particular time in our nation's history, with the rise of the Tea Baggers, and ultra right wingers attempt to take over the Republican Party, the President is going to be excoriated by these loonies no matter what he says.
But one still yearns for an honest, bold appraisal of the situation, with bold remedies. The type of speech that will guarantee the speaker will never be elected to any office. And last Wednesday, the 16th to be exact, one of my heros of the elite liberal media, Dr. Rachel Maddow offered one, speaking from the fake Oval Office, as fake President Obama, this is what she said:

"You know how sometimes after you get into an argument or a confrontation with somebody, you can‘t help afterwards thinking of all the things you wish you‘d said. You run it over and over in your mind, imaging the perfect comeback or the perfect way to have made your point.
Well, last night after the president‘s big Oval Office speech on the BP oil disaster, I had a version of that experience. I hadn‘t, of course, been in an argument with the president or anything, I just couldn‘t stop running tape in my head of what I wish that speech had been like, what I wish he‘d said.
An Oval Office address is a priceless chance to get the nation to stop what it‘s doing, to stop every other TV show in the country, to get us all to pay attention, all at once, to this crisis and to what the president has to say about it.
What if he had started off by saying, “Good evening”? OK, actually, he did start off by saying, “Good evening.” But what if right after he said, “Good evening,” he said, I‘m here to announce three major developments in the response to the BP oil disaster that continues right now to ravage the beloved gulf coast of the United States of America.
I wish I could tell you that the first development is that BP has capped the well, stopped the leak. They haven‘t. They can‘t. They don‘t know how. And no one else does either. Their best hope is a relief well, which poses its own risks and challenges and which, even in a best-case scenario, affords no relief until August.
All this, the might of this, the mightiest nation on earth and the combined expertise of the richest, most technologically ambitious corporations the world has ever seen cannot, it turns out, cannot cap an oil well when it breaks 5,000 deep in the ocean.
It‘s something that mankind does not yet have the technological capability to fix. And that brings us to the first development in this disaster that I am announcing tonight.
Never again will any company, anyone be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling.
When the benefits of drilling accrue to a private company, but the risks of that drilling accrue to we, the American people, whose waters and shoreline are savaged when things go wrong, I, as fake president, stand on the side of the American people and say to the industry, “From this day forward, if you cannot handle the risk, you no longer will take chances with our fate to reap your rewards.”
Our nation‘s regulatory oversight of the oil industry has been a joke in many ways for decades, from the revolving door of industry apparatchiks taking supposed oversight jobs in the government in which they just rubber stamp the desires of the industry to which they were loyal, to energy industry lobbyists themselves being allowed in secret meetings to write our nation‘s policies.
In light of the state of the gulf right now, my fellow Americans, the details of how industry has infiltrated and infected the government that was supposed to be a watchdog, protecting the American public from them, those details are enough to turn your stomach.
But no detail tells you more about the corroding power of the industry against the interests of the American people than the simple fact that they have been allowed to drill in American waters without being forced to first prove that that drilling is safe.
That will never happen again, as long as I am fake president. When I announced in March that my administration‘s energy policy would include expanded offshore drilling, that policy change was predicated on our acceptance of the oil industry‘s assurances, our acceptance of their assurances that they knew how to do that kind of drilling safely.
They were lying. It cannot be done safely, not when no technology exists to cap a blowout on the sea floor. Offshore drilling will not be expanded in American waters. The moratorium will be held firm and in place, unless and until this industry conclusively demonstrates major advances in safety.
Oil industry jobs are important and I will work with industry to mitigate the impact on American families who survive on oil company paychecks. But in the 21st century and in the name of the 11 oil workers who were killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out, we will not play Russian roulette with workers‘ lives and we will not play Russian roulette irreversible national environmental disaster for the sake of some short-term income.
The second major development I‘m announcing tonight, my fellow Americans, concerns another oil industry assurance we can no longer believe. The industry has long assured us that they were capable of handling spilled oil.
In BP‘s own disaster response plan for the Gulf of Mexico, they claimed they were perfectly capable of containing and cleaning up to 250,000 barrels of oil a day, that no significant amount of oil spill of even that size would get to shore, would foul beaches, would kill wildlife or destroy wetlands. They were lying when they gave that assurance.
And the industry is lying when it says it takes seriously its responsibilities to contain and cleanup disasters that they cause. The same low-tech ineffective equipment and techniques are being used to respond to this oil disaster today that were used in the 1960s and ‘70s to respond to spills back then.
That‘s because the industry has not invested in any new containment and cleanup technology in all of these decades, because they haven‘t cared too much about it as an issue and it shows. It shows both in the inept technology that we have to deploy, to contain, to clean up a spill like this.
And it also shows in the lackadaisical, uncoordinated, unprofessional way this inept technology has been deployed by BP. Beaches have been fouled. Wetlands have been destroyed. Wildlife has been killed that should have been saved. Pensacola Bay in Florida, if properly boomed, should never have been breached by oil. Perdido Pass of Orange Beach, Alabama should never have been breached by oil.
Queen Bess Island, the pelican nesting ground and Barataria Bay in Louisiana - Barataria Bay itself - none of these areas should have been breached by oil even given the sad state of existing technology to stop it. But the fact that those areas were breached is BP‘s human error.
And tonight, as fake president, I‘m announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico with priority of protecting shoreline that can still be saved, shoreline that is vulnerable to all that has not yet been hit.
I‘ve asked the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to assist me in the diplomatic side of this, in soliciting, green lighting and expediting all international offers of help, from experts in booming and skimming all over the world.
We will bring in the best experts and the best equipment from anywhere on earth to dramatically increase our efforts to get the oil out of the water and off the coast. Oil industry workers are often trained in booming and skimming.
I‘m hereby directing BP to fund booming and skimming crash academies for all available oil industry personnel anywhere in the world to radically overhaul what has been a haphazard, halfhearted, totally unacceptable protection effort starting immediately.
No expense will be spared and no excuses will be brooked. Even if the oil leak is capped today, the oil in the water will continue to surge towards shore for weeks if not months. As fake president, I will personally issue a public update on cleanup and containment efforts every single day until this disaster is under control.
And finally, the third development I have to announce to you tonight in the response to this oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is about how we got here and how that will change.
Every president in the modern era has complained that America must get off oil. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now, I, fake President Obama - we have all intoned solemnly that we must get off oil.
Now that we have, at the hands of the oil industry, experienced the worst environmental disaster in American history, the time for talk is over. The world is different now. Our country is different now. The scales have fallen from our eyes.
People say we‘re not ready. They‘re right. We‘re not ready. We also weren‘t ready to fight in World War II before Pearl Harbor happened. But events forced that upon us and events have forced this fight upon us now.
I no longer say that we must get off oil like every president before has said, too. I no longer say we must get off oil. We will get of oil and here is how. The United States Senate will pass an energy bill this year. The Senate version of the year will not expand offshore drilling.
The earlier targets in that bill for energy efficiency and for renewable energy sources will be doubled or tripled. If senators use the filibuster to stop the bill, we will pass it by reconciliation which still ensures a majority vote.
If there are elements of a bill that cannot procedurally be passed by reconciliation, if those elements can be instituted by executive order, I will institute them by executive order.
The political cowardice that has kept politicians from doing right by this country, finally, on energy - finally, standing up to the oil industry - that cowardice has been drowned in oil on Queen Bess Island.
There is a new reality in this country that has been forced on us by this disaster. As president, I pledge to you that the land and sea and livelihood and lives of American people will be put first as with the other thing that is humanly possible to stop this disaster.
We will never again let the oil industry put America at this kind of risk. We will save what can still be saved that is directly at risk in the gulf and we will free ourselves as a nation, once and for all, from the grip of this industry that has lied to us as much as it has exploited us, as much as it has befouled us with its toxic affluent.
The oil age, America, is over. If you are with me, let your senator know it. I will next speak to you about the BP oil disaster tomorrow with my first public update and the cleanup effort in the gulf. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
Oh, and one more thing. I‘ve also decided I‘m not a White Sox fan anymore.
I‘m a Red Sox fan and I‘m closing Guantanamo. Thank you. Bye.
So in my mind, last night, that‘s what the president said which is why I will never run for anything because I say stuff like “toxic affluent” and I get all weepy when I‘m mad. Also, when I‘m mad, I get blotchy and nobody likes a blotchy president."

Happy Birthday Leah!

Birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite people, my lovely case manager's roommate, lovely Leah! (pictured above. She's the pretty one in the middle) In the picture she was busy giving away TOMS shoes to the little children of Argentina, because that's just the way she rolls. She's also a wonderful singer. Her Facebook page lists her interests as photography, cycling, travel, and paper (paper? Perhaps she makes her own... like I do), and her political affiliation is "Peace," which is a beautiful affiliation to have. Her birthday happens to coincide with the first day of summer, which is exceptionally appropriate for such a bright, warm, and caring young lady. Please join me dear readers as we wish Leah a very happy birthday. Happy Birthday Leah!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Roman Richard

His first name was Roman, his middle name Richard. Everyone called him Ray... I don't know why.
My sister and I called him "Daddy."
He was born in Chicago on December 10th, 1919, and had two brothers, Rick and Hank, and one sister, Jean. I think I met Uncle Rick once, as he stayed back east while his siblings moved to the west. I am in contact, however, with his daughter, my lovely cousin Janet through the Facebook machine. I could send her a message right now if I choose to (as a matter of fact I will do so on Tuesday, as it is her birthday then).
Jean married a butcher and lived somewhere close by in a large apartment, and she had two sons. Hank married a science teacher, and lived in the hills above Hollywood, and owned a telescope I could look through every once in a while. My family would visit Hank and his wife each Christmas Eve for as long as my father was alive. Sometimes Hank dressed up as Santa Claus.
He was an alcoholic, just like me.
My father was a soldier who fought in World War II, a Sargent I think, who participated in what is known as The Battle of the Bulge, Nazi Germany's last great offensive. He came back aboard the Queen Mary, a really big cruise ship, which now is docked in nearby Long Beach. I've been aboard it several times. Some say it's haunted.
My father married my mother, Susie Lucille, or Lucille Susie, which ever you prefer, she didn't care. When my sister and I were born they lived up north in San Jose, California, what is now known as the heart of Silicon Valley, where all of those Internet companies work and play, like Google, and Apple Computer. He worked as a foreman in a Safeway candy factory. Safeway was and is a large supermarket concern, and apparently they wanted to make their very own candy. It was good. My dad brought some home all of the time. Perhaps he pilfered it.
He once took us on a tour of the candy plant, and I'm surprised that I can remember this because I couldn't have been more than three years old, but what I do remember is that you could get great big factory doors to slide open just by standing on a spot that tripped a beam of light. Pretty cool.
We lived in duplex in San Jose, which is like two houses stuck together. I don't know why. My mom, dad, myself, and our Siamese cat Toby lived on one side, and my mom's mother and dad lived on the other. Their names were Madge and Charley respectively. My dad must have loved that arrangement.
When my sister, Cheryl, came along my parents decided to get rid of Toby the cat, pro-actively taking precautions against cat attacks upon her person. Toby was a little wild I guess. I remember him as liking to hang out at the top of window curtains, looking down with disdain upon all beneath him. My mom and dad must have thought I could hold my own with Toby if he decided to attack me.
I doubt if I could.
We all moved to Los Angeles when I was three or so, after Cheryl came along. We moved to the community called North Hollywood specifically, which is just north of the real Hollywood, and connected by Cahuenga Blvd, separated by the Hollywood Hills where Hank lived. Oddly enough, at that time, and even today, more movies and TV shows are probably produced (made) in North Hollywood at Universal Studios than in Hollywood, which is famous for making movies. Paramount Pictures on Melrose Ave., is the only major studio still working in Hollywood.
My dad and his best friend, Lester, bought a small liquor store right across the street from Universal. That's were he worked during the day. At first we lived in an apartment on Magnolia Blvd., which was magically connected via a back porch to an apartment occupied by Lester and his lovely family. When Lester decided to sell his share in the store and move to Diamond Bar, my family moved to a small apartment just down the street from the store, on Willow Crest Ave., which is now a parking lot (as is the spot where the store was located.
My sister and I shared a bedroom, and my mom and dad shared another. In that apartment I watched the very first episode of "Star Trek," that was broadcast in 1966, September 8th to be exact. My favorite television show at the time was "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), a spy television show that was inspired by the popular James Bond movies of that time. My father was also a big fan of the Ian Fleming books (James Bond novels), and one of the two times I remember going to the movies with him was to see "Thunderball," at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome, which is now called the Archlight Theater (the other was "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," which we saw at a drive in).
My father was a good man, a kind man, with a keen since of humor. I remember we used to sing "The Hearse Song," as he drove us to school on the California highways. "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, into your stomach and out your mouth." Pretty morbid, I agree, but it was fun at the time.
He never spoke much about his experiences during the war. His one souvenir of that conflict was a Luger pistol that I only saw him fire once while at his brother-in-law's lake (yes, he owned a lake, or a great big pond really, about the size of a football field, and named after his wife, Jean). I knew he played baseball while in the service, and that's about it.
He only spanked me once, after I had been caught swimming in the pool at the apartment on Magnolia. I remember waiting for him to get home from the liquor store, and that was much worse than the actual spanking, and I know that he only did it because he was worried about losing me in some pointless accident. He loved me that much to overcome his natural gentle tendencies and thought violence would make an impression upon me.
He would be wrong in that. My independent nature, displayed by this early swimming episode, would manifest itself again very shortly after his untimely death when I was just eleven. My mother paid that price.
Some of my fondest memories of my father were when I would go with him to work on Saturday mornings, foregoing all of those neat cartoon programs on television. It would be my job to go to the restaurant at the other end of the hotel the liquor store was attached to and buy two buttered bagels for our breakfast. I remember one time when he must have thought I was too tired to go with him one day, I must have been fast asleep or something, and he left me at home. I was very upset and let him know about it.
I also remember one time I was riding the ten speed bicycle I had won in a contest at Disneyland (it was green!) in a empty parking lot adjacent to the liquor store, when I crashed into a chain link fence, getting a big cut on my forehead. My dad rushed out of the store without closing it when he heard what happened, and was the first one on the scene to rescue me. I got a few stitches then, and I still see that scar everyday when I comb my hair.
My father was a member of the local Kiwanis Club. I don't know why. Something to do with his business I suppose.
We used to deliver booze together on the Universal lot. To Grandpa Munster, to the set of "Ironside," and "The Virginian," and to many others as well. Some of these so-called stars owed my dad money.
My father smoked cigarettes. My mother smoked except for the last few years of her life. My sister smokes. I used to smoke. Tobacco products will probably be responsible to some degree for all of our deaths.
Dad went on an overnight stay in a hospital at one point. Something to do with his heart I think. That's what he died of back in 1967, a heart attack (September 13th, to be exact). My mother and I were with him during his last moments. At least he had that.
All of the regular customers who came to the store the next day were totally shocked when told of his passing. He was well liked. Everybody loved my dad. I know I did.
I am now seven years older than he was when he left us, yet I still think of him as being much older, and wiser than I.
He is now buried in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, in Mission Hills, California. I will be going to there to visit him today, after I attend the services at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles.
I will tell him of our nation still at war in two countries where we have no business being, and how we have defiled the entire Gulf of Mexico with our greed. He will not be pleased. Yet it's better that he get the information from me, rather than second hand.
I will tell him of my friend Erin, and he will be happy that I have such a friend.
When I'm not there visiting him he is still in good company. The great comedian, film star, and entertainer of troops, Bob Hope is around there someplace. The great character actors Walter Brennan of "The Real McCoys," and a movie I watched just yesterday, "Support Your Local Sheriff," with his friend James Garner are there. Chuck Conners of "The Rifleman," William Bendix of "The Life of Riley," and William Frawley of the "I Love Lucy," series, are all nearby, and he would have been familiar with each of them.
There are many other people who are buried nearby too, who have done many other worthwhile things besides acting in movies and television.
I think my father would at least understand the turns my life have taken if he were alive. He might even have been proud of the way things are turning out, although not necessarily of the tortuous road I took to get where I am.
I will be very sad and cry to myself when I go to see him in a little while. I always am. It's a measure of my love for him, for he is always close to my thoughts, a role model for sure.
And I will never let him really die.