Saturday, March 31, 2012

The EPA Does Something

"EPA issues new rule on greenhouse gas emissions: Where does that leave coal?

The EPA proposed the first-ever US curbs on power plants' greenhouse gas emissions, saying next-generation coal plants should meet the restrictions. But the coal industry slammed the new rule."

   The coal industry slammed the new rule? How unexpected.
   The above is the title and tag line from an article written by Mark Clayton, for The Christian Science Monitor, from March 27th, 2012. It describes the nation’s first-ever restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in the United States. It is applicable only to new coal-fired power plants, limiting them to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt generated.
   What's a megawatt? A megawatt = 1 million watts.
   What's a watt? Well, of course a watt (play /ˈwɒt/ WOT; symbol: W) is a derived unit of power in the International System of Units (SI), named after the Scottish engineer James Watt (1736–1819). The unit, defined as one joule per second, measures the rate of energy conversion. One watt is the rate at which work is done when an object's velocity is held constant at one meter per second against constant opposing force of one newton. -Wikipedia
   Well I'm glad we cleared that up.
   Environmentalists are all happy about the proposed regulation, which still needs to be reviewed in open comment by the public, and isn't expected to take effect until late in the year. And as stated above, the coal industry, doesn't like it so much. I think I'm safe in saying they don't like it at all. They say it will lead to higher electricity prices.
   Why would they care about that? Won't they make more money if they raise the rates? Or if they pass the increased cost on to consumers the new rule should have zero affect on them.
   "Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American-made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids."
   Sounds good to me. It also sounds good to the Environmental Defense Fund.
   "EPA deserves a standing ovation for today's historic action to protect American's health, strengthen our economy, and address the clear and present danger of carbon pollution," Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund said in a statement. "The bottom line for our nation is that cleaner power will cut harmful carbon pollution, protect our children from dangerous smog and other serious climate impacts, and help secure a safe and prosperous future."
   The coal industry says this:
   "EPA’s proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from about half the nation’s electric power supply is a poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst," Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association said in a statement. "Higher utility bills and fewer jobs are the only certain outcomes from this reckless attempt to override Congress’s repeated refusal to enact punitive caps on carbon dioxide emissions."
   Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe says this: "We were successful in stopping their job-killing agenda through legislation when we defeated cap-and-trade," he said. "Now our fight is to stop them from forcing it on the American people through regulations."
   Of course for the Republicans and the coal industry these kind of regulations are not needed at all because global warming and climate change do not exist... despite the record average high temperatures and extreme weather events. And if those don't exist we should be able to pollute all that we want, after all, smog is good for our health, and those of who live in smoggy cities like Los Angeles should be thankful for all of that dirt in the air for us to breath. I certainly am.
   As Bob Hope once said, "I don't trust air I can't chew."
   This regulation, if put into effect after the 60 day public comment period, will effectively end the building of new coal-fired power plants, because they will be replaced with natural gas-fired power plants, so the fossil fuel energy industry can still dump hundreds of millions of tons of emissions (methane, which traps more heat as methane is about 21 times as potent as CO2, even though it dissipates faster than carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere just when climate scientists are warning us that we are on the precipice of irreversible climate damage. And how far will this regulation go in reducing carbon emissions?  According to Jeff Goodell, of Rolling Stone magazine: "Not much – at least not right now. For one thing, the rule applies only to new power plants, not existing plants. So the rule has zero impact on the real problem, which is the 400 or so existing plants in America that dump two billion tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year. EPA is obliged to issue rules for existing plants too, but as David Roberts [who the hell is David Roberts?!] points out, that is a much tougher call, and one that won’t happen until after the election. (If Mitt Romney wins and/or Republicans take the Senate, a decision will likely be put off for years.")
   This regulation was actually forced on the EPA by the Supreme Court of the United States in a decision during the Bush W years, which ruled carbon dioxide is indeed a pollutant as defined by the Clean Air Act, and that consequently the EPA has the authority and duty to regulate it.
   So instead of blaming the EPA, or the president, or the democrats, the fossil energy industry and republicans should place their blame on the conservative Supreme Court. Are they going to do that? Of course not! President Obama is to blame! Obviously.
   Sen. John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming said “the Obama Administration just took another step to fulfill the president’s plan to make electricity ‘skyrocket’ and ‘bankrupt’ America’s coal industry." The president's plan to make electricity skyrocket and bankrupt America's coal industry? I assume he means the president's nefarious plan to make the price of electricity skyrocket, and bankrupt the coal industry in this country.
   Isn't this a contradictory statement? If the price of electricity goes up, exactly how would that bankrupt the coal industry?
   But facts and common sense aside, President Obama obviously... obviously plans to destroy the energy reserves of the United States, when it was the Supreme Court, George W Bush's Supreme Court, that ordered this, because... well I don't know why he would want to do that... but of course he is, according to the republicans. 
   You bastard Obama! How nefarious you are!
   The republicans just don't like the EPA. All of the candidates for president who ran this year said they would get rid of it if they became president. After all who needs a federal agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress, which were created by a Republican president (Nixon)?
   Human health, ha! The environment, ha! We don't need no stinking human health, and no stinking environment! Republicans don't need clean air to breath as long as they can hold soft, green, dollar bills against their pasty white cheeks. The constant acquisition and accumulation of money is all that is important. It's all that really matters to republicans. To deviate from that course is tantamount to treason for the current incarnation of the Republican Party.
   Instances when the EPA has been accused of withholding information concerning air pollution at ground zero after 9/11 ordered by the White House, and other instances of political interference in the affairs of the EPA during the Bush years; making changes to President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12898 during 2001, removing the requirements for government agencies to take the poor and minority populations into special consideration when making changes to environmental legislation; failing to prevent and detect environmental crimes, informing the public of environmental enforcement, and setting and monitoring standards of air pollution, water pollution, hazardous wastes and chemicals; suppressing a study the EPA commissioned by Harvard University which contradicted its own position on mercury controls; falsifying documents summarizing government research on climate change before their release; delaying the release of their report showing that auto companies were using loopholes to produce less fuel-efficient cars until after an energy bill was voted on; allowing polluters to dump 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals in to U.S. waterways in 2010, not withstanding, this agency has just got to go.
   If the republicans win the White House it just might disappear into the annals of history.
   Fortunately, for America and the rest of the world, it looks like Mitt (Mitt) Romney will be the republican candidate for president this year, and no one likes him. Not even republicans. And he will not become president.
   And after this election Obama will "be more flexible,"  or so he said to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, and maybe, just maybe, the EPA will be allowed to grow a pair, and continue to do its job... without being prompted by the Supreme Court.
   Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, March 30, 2012


I never lie.
That's a lie.
Or is it?
Everybody lies.
But not as much as Republicans.
Spin, mislead, misinform, untruth, misstate, misspoke, these are just other words for "lie."
Members of the media are loath to use that word however. They must feel they would offend the liar if they actually called them a liar, and these powerful politicians may retaliate by limiting their access to them, which members of the George W. Bush administration were famous for doing.
Be that as it may, politicians lie. they do it all the time. They must not remember that there are technological innovations like video that easily record their images when they make statements, and when they lie about making those statements it is soooo easy to prove they are lying.
I've seen Dick Cheney disavow a statement that he had made while being video taped, he swore up and down he hadn't said it, he admonished the interviewer for misrepresenting him, when there was a clear video record of exactly what he said which proved him a complete, and might I say, not a very artful, liar.
I have to admit I've lied many times. As an alcoholic one gets into scrapes where it becomes necessary. It's hard to lie well. One has to have a very good memory, and one has to be a good actor to lie well.
I wasn't a very good liar. Those I were lying to believed me maybe 50% of the time.
However, I have never liked lying, and am not proud of the times I did lie.
I rarely lie anymore for I have little reason to lie.
Politicians lie a lot. Everyone knows that, and to a degree it is expected of them, expecially during election campaigns. I wonder why?
Why does the American populace tolerate lies from those who would assume office, those who seek high, and powerful positions in government, the presidency lets say, where they will weld a significant amount of power over our lives. I don't get it. It has been observed that if someone will lie to get into office, then they'll most likely continue to lie after taking office. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I don't want my president lying to me. I don't want my senator lying to me. I don't want my Congress lady lying to me. I don't want anyone lying to me! I won't vote for them if I think they are.
But lying continues to be prevalent in politics, even when it is so easy to prove that politicians are lying. Republicans especially are guilty of this. I'm not saying that Democrats don't lie, or that even President Obama doesn't lie, because they and he have been caught distorting the truth on occasion, whether by accident or design. Organizations like Fact Check call them out on their lies all of the time. That's all they do. That's their job.
But the disparity between the amount of lies that the Republicans make vs that of the Democrats, well there's just no comparison.
Because most Republicans are sociopaths, lying as a way of life for them seems to be easy. It doesn't bother them to lie... not at all. It certainly doesn't bother Mitt (Mitt) Romney. Check this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show, where Rachel doesn't mind calling a liar a liar, and good for her for doing so:
Do you want this guy to be president? Mitt Romney certainly displays sociopathic behavior (remember the dog on top of the car?). I don't want him to be president. Fortunately, even if he wins his party nomination, there is little chance he will win the White House come November.
There's another guy that doesn't mind calling Mitt out on his lies.
Our dear friend Norah O'Donnell seems clearly shocked by this breach of decorum. What this country needs actually are more breaches.
Newt's position is untenable, that it's better for the country to knowingly elect a person who will lie about everything and anything, than have Barack Obama remain in office, who as far as I know is not known for using misinformation as a constant tool to forward his agenda. That's the Republican mind set. That it's okay to lie.
Now Newt has a little problem telling the truth himself. First Barack Obama has been in office for about 3 1/2 years now and as far as I can see the country is still in one piece, in fact it is healing rapidly from the damage Newt's party and George W. Bush did to it before they left office in 2008. He's also said he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to be an historian for Freddie Mac when he was clearly lobbying for them. On and on. So Newt's a liar as well.
What can I say? Republicans disregard the truth. Check this out. It's classic:
His remark was not intended to be a factual statement. In other words he lied to further his bogus argument that itself was not based in reality.
My, my.
I remember one interview with then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which it was suggested that she had been less than truthful when testifying before Congress, and she took offense. She wasn't exactly called a liar, but that's what was implied. She said something to the effect that "you can disagree with me on policy if you wish, but don't impinge my personal integrity," To which I would have replied if I had been there, Bulls__t, if you don't want to be called a liar... lady... then simply stop lying.
Politicians can lie by omission as well, like the health insurance mandate currently before the Supreme Court, that the Republicans are so vehemently against, crying "leave us one shred of freedom!" What they don't tell you is the mandate was invented by the Republicans themselves during the Clinton administration. They were all for the mandate before Obama used it in the Affordable Health Care Act, but after he used it they were suddenly against it. But they won't tell you that.
Not only Republican politicians lie. The Fox so called News network is dedicated to supporting the lying liars of the Republicans party, and the only way they can do that is to lie themselves. And they do it all of the time.
Just last Tuesday Fox Business reporter Tracy Byrnes was discussing climate change with economic journalist and habitual climate-change denier Stuart Varney. He cited an op-ed by Princeton Professor William Happer, who wrote: “CO2 is not a pollutant,” Happer wrote. “Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.”
"The temperature basically hasn’t changed much since the Ice Age," Byrnes announced. "But this notion that we’re now getting to a point where carbon dioxide is bad, I mean, I think these guys have pretty much fallen over the cliff."
"Sun spots have much more to do with the temperature on the Earth than CO2," Fox Business host David Asman insisted. "That’s what scientists are beginning to understand."
These three geniuses are not climate scientists and therefore are merely voicing an opinion, and opinion that their employer happens to embrace, and they're either flat out lying and are aware of the truth, or are just too ignorant to be alive. More likely the lie has been embedded so deeply within them that they actually belive the dribble they spew, which of course, this spewed dribble is broadcast out to millions of Fox viewers who will take whatever they say at face value, which does this country, the viewers themselves... and the world, a tremendous disservice
1. According to "Paleoceanography," a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Geophysical Union which covers the history of the ocean and its plant and animal life, temperatures in Antarctica were around 50°F cooler than in modern times when the most recent Ice Age peaked about 20,000 years ago. Not to mention this: "The first decade of the 21st century was the warmest ever on Earth according to data released by scientists at NASA. The U.S. space agency's data also revealed that 2009 was the second warmest year since temperature records began in 1880, and only narrowly cooler than 2005, the warmest year ever." There goes Byrnes ascertain, which is a lie.
2. Periodic sun spot activity does release more energy into the solar wind that affects the Earth's atmosphere, which means a warmer sun with increased solar wind cycles due to sunspot activity will tend to raise the temperture on the Earth. Well, duh!. Yet Recent research indicates that the combined effects of sunspot-induced changes in solar irradiance and increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases offer the best explanation yet for the observed rise in average global temperature over the last century, according to climate scientists B. Geerts and E. Linacre.
And 3. One of the tenets of Dr. Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit is to alway question authority, even Professors from Princeton, like William Happer. Why? Because authorities can be wrong.
The next thing they'll be saying is that smog is good for our health, and those of us who live in Los Angeles are lucky because there's so much of it here.
Don't get me started on political ads. I mean it, don't get me started. Okay, you got me started.
I don't see why anyone would take anything in a political ad seriously. You have to know that who ever produced and paid for the ad has a certain agenda to either build up their own candidate, or to tear apart their opposition. These ads are notorious for distorting the truth, lying, so I never pay any attention to them at all, whether they're from my own candidate, or the other guys. Nothing in them should be taken at face value. They are nothing but propaganda, and not the good kind. Unfortunately a lot of people are affected by them. These people are morons.
It is also unfortunate that members of the media don't seem to care if politicians lie to them. Some seem to think that if they just have representatives from each side of an issue debate each other, that that is a fair and balanced interview which represents an issue in a balanced manner. Like having someone who believes in the evolutionary process debate a creationist. This is just wrong. First it gives they creationist a certain amount of unearned validity, and second, they are letting one side present their position with a disregard for facts or the truth.
And some in the media don't seem to care if those they are interviewing are telling them the truth. David Gregory, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has made the ascertain that there's no need to fact check what his guests say on the air because viewers can do that "on their own terms," whatever that means. It's just not his job to insure his "guests," tell the truth. He gives that job to the viewers.
He is dead wrong. It is his job. There's no reason for him to have that job if he doesn't at least attempt to get the truth out of those he talks to.
Reporter Tracy Samilton, from Michigan Radio, an NPR station, followed up on a soundbite of one of Romney's stump speeches, characterizing the bailout of GM as a handout to the United Auto Workers, with this admonition:
MITT ROMNEY: "Instead of going through the normal managed bankruptcy process, he [President Obama] made sure the bankruptcy process ended up with the UAW taking the lion's share of the equity in the business."
SAMILTON: "Actually, the U.S. Treasury got most of GM's equity."
This marks a new policy undertaken by NPR, to prioritize the truth, making sure to actually inform listeners when one “side” of a story is upheld by the facts. "Among the central principles is that the new guidelines focus on standards of fairness and impartiality, as opposed to balance and objectivity," wrote NPR's ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos.
I applaud NPR for their stance, as do many other news professionals. May other major media outlets learn from their fine example.
Unfortunately, most major media outlets are owned by major corporations which themselves tend to obfuscate the truth, the facts, if it doesn't suit them.
The public needs to be diligent in demanding the truth from the news networks they watch. The American people deserve the truth.
Except for Fox viewers of course. They're a lost cause.
One day if we can get the media to observe zero tolerance toward lying in the political process, hopefully one day we can get the general population of American's to rally against it as well.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Skid Row Diary

What was that, dear reader? I can't hear you. Oh, you want another book? Okay. This memoir covers the time I lived downtown just before and after I moved into my box at the Las Americas. Enjoy.

Skid Row Diary

July 12, 2003 Saturday

We have a whistler around here. He walks up and down the halls and whistles in a casual high pitched, random manner, that at times can be distracting and mildly irritating. When listening to it one wonders at the mental state of this individual. Is he a refugee from The Andy Griffith Show, or continuously and unendingly happy and carefree? Or is he just another lunatic? All possible answers depress me somewhat, so I won't think about it anymore if I can help it. A good way of avoiding depression as any. The whistling, coupled with the general racket of the background noise of the Weingart Center, added to the police and fire department's sirens which pass below my window every 10 to 20 minutes, is not conducive toward an atmosphere of quiet meditation and peaceful labors. This is not a happy place, which makes my songbird neighbor seem colorlessly mysterious.
I slept in today (of course I slept in!) waking only when someone knocked on my door. I didn't move. No need to. I wasn't getting up yet, and the only reason anyone would be knocking on my door during the first morning hours would be to get me for breakfast. I had decided not to go to breakfast again, without giving it any thought, and ignored the plaintive knocks, trying, successfully, to return to sleep.
I hoped it wasn't John who had knocked. That would have meant that he had not gone to Camarillo and would be lurking about for the entire weekend. Well, nothing I could do about that.
I drifted in and out of sleep, annoyed that the venetian blinds on the window did not block more of the morning light. I crave the darkness at times, the safety it brings, and on occasion, when very sick, blocked out all possibilities of the Sun's egress with aluminum foil.
I thought about what I needed to do today. It would be relatively painless, even fun, as most of the things I do or think about are. Today had to be the last day though. How to make that come about? How do you change yourself? How do you do it for real? Although the desire to change is always the first step (which is never acknowledged in AA), I've proven time and again it's not enough in itself. What to do? What to do?
Stop being melodramatic, that's for sure. And get a lot smarter than you have been. Wake up those sleepy little neurons and get busy. Get serious. Life is not a rehearsal, and I've wasted so, so much of it already, in fantasy, illusion, laziness, selfishness, disregard for others, and the exquisite ability to consistently reverse what little fortune I've come across.
Well if that's not getting down on one's self I don't know what is. And it's wrong to do that, yes in deed. It is wrong when there is no constructive reason for it. And I always belittle or forget all about the good qualities, they hardly see the light of day, but they're there nonetheless. At least there's that.
How simplistic... good and bad qualities of character. Dualism, another illusion the Dharma tells us.
And how many sentences did you begin with the word "and"? That's another thing to worry about.
Be smart, like Jack Ryan in the Clancy book you've been re-reading. There's danger all around and one must by necessity be diligent if one is to survive.
Is that what I wan t to do? Survive, just survive? I can stay here in this room to do that, or a room just like somewhere else nearby, and listen to the Doppler sirens, the background squeaks and twitters, and of course the man from Mayberry who walks the halls, the dreaded Whistler.
Sounds like a Batman villain.
Anyway, I didn't do all that much thinking today. I started off with a sexual fantasy which requires very little thought, only stimulus, and by the time I was finished it was just past 9:30. Too late to sign in today. Oh well, I'll make up for it tomorrow. I did want to get going though. Time is short. Things to do. Happy things. Two movies if everything went well. Two good movies, if you can believe the advertisements. We shall see.
But I still didn't want to get up. After all, I'd pretty much stayed in bed for the last three days, lost in fantasy. It's hard to shake off.
I did get up and decided a shower was not necessary (although always needed) due to the lateness of the hour. I dressed in jeans and a beige button down shirt. White socks and black tennis shoes. Sunglasses, and a blue ball cap to hide my oily hair. I left the Weingart building and caught the 18 bus to 5th and Broadway, where I purchased a pack of Marlboro red 100s for $2.50, before entering on the Red Line subway station at Pershing Square.
The train was crowded. I found a seat a read from "The Cardinal in the Kremlin," Tom Clancy's spy story, and if I had to choose it would be my favorite of his. Mr. Clancy is a very good observer, and also pretty smart. I have few criticisms of his fiction, but I do have a few. He tends to be fairly biased toward the American point of view, but will always display the opposing ideologies in an attempt to be objective to flesh out his stories. Still, in the end, it's the good old U.S.A. who saves the day, and who without our democratic parental guidance and forceful assistance, the rest of the world would surely decline into violent anarchy.
His characters seem to be two dimensional and excessively driven.
But a great deal of his built in essays promoting his opinion of almost every subject, from the institution of marriage and capitalism, to military and political ideology tends to be spot on and concise statements of how the macroscopic world of international competition exists.
And he's one of the few authors who predicted the use of an aircraft as a weapon responsible for massive loss of life and moral fortitude.
The last time I read the novel was in Central Park in Pasadena. The Park days. I'm sorry to say I have not progressed much from 12 years ago. Materialistically, spiritually, and emotionally.
There I go. Getting down on myself once again. It's so easy to fall into that trap.
I got off the subway at the Universal City station and walked across Lankershim Blvd. with a small group of other visitors, to the tram station. A lot of people were coming to the theme park today. The upper parking lot was already full, and cars were being diverted into a garage down at the foot of the hill, so those who parked there would need to take the tram back up the hill to the tour entrance, or City Walk, the open air mall where I was going. Three trams were working. I'd never seen that before, and I'd been coming here since I was ten years old. I eventually got up the hill to the City Walk, to the Loews/Cimplex movie theaters (18 of them), and checked out the movie start times.
I decided on "The Pirates of the Caribbean," first, which began at 11:20AM, which gave me about 23 minutes to get to Tommys for a cheeseburger, and wait in line for popcorn and soda before the film began. I ate my tasty burger quickly (while watching Paul McCartney sing "Paperback Writer," on City Walk's huge outdoor television screen). I had a little time to spare.
I enjoyed the film very much. Based on the Disneyland Park ride, the movie was well written, acted, produced, and directed. It integrated many familiar scenes experienced on the Disney attraction, but enlisted a supernatural element that was somewhat annoying and unnecessary. Still, all in all, it was a lot of fun and worth coming for.
I placed the ticket stub in my wallet so I could keep it forever and ever, to remind me of this day. The day I decided to change my life.
I accidentally walked into another theater just as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," began, and since I was already in there I sat down to watch the show. I was very disappointed with mis mach of thrown together plot and characters and special effects. This film might be the guiltiest of all for dropping names of characters derived from other authors and used exploitatively with little to show for it. H Rider Haggard, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Brom Stoker, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle (and these are just the ones I can remember), these authors creations were all borrowed.
Sean Connery played Allan Quatermain, a character twice portrayed in other films by Richard Chamberlain. I was particularly upset with the presentation of Vern's Captain Nemo, one of my favorite literary characters, (right there with Boo Radley, Hannibal Lecter, Sherlock Holmes, Mack and Doc from "Cannery Row," and John Nichols' April Delaney from "The Magic Journey,") as an Indian Raja. The writers made use of a Vern's brief insight into Nemo's country of origen as being India, but frequently made mention of the fact that it was extremely difficult to identify his ethnic or national background by his speech and appearance, and that of his crew as well. In this movie the Nemo character had a dark complexion, and wore a turban, while praying to Kali, the Goddess of Death. All of his crew wore similar headdress and spoke with Indian accents. James Mason will always embody the Captain for me.
The inside of the Nautilus looked the the interior of the Taj Mahal, and a little petty peeve I have, the ship never seemed to move, I mean I know from experience, a ship at sea is always in motion, up and down, forward and backwards, sideways, back and forth, always moving. That's what makes people sea sick, the constant motion. But not on this ship in the film. Vases were siting nicely on tables. I haven't seen such disregard for the film's own precepts since, well, since Connery appeared in "Zadoz."
And I don't think Nemo would be all that concerned about "saving the world" from itself. He just wasn't that kind of guy. Besides, he died at the end of "Mysterious Island," as did Dr Jekyll, and Dorian Grey, in their respective novels. The Invisible Man died in his book as well, but in this film it was not the Invisible Man appearing, but someone who looked just like him.
And the film needed just a tad more action. And there's a lady in the league, so what's up with that title?
How rude.
[For Joyce's Take readers: Speaking (or writing actually) from the future now as I edit this (March 27th, 2012, to be exact) I make this observation: Sadly this would turn out to be Sean Connery's last film before retiring. A sad end to a long and distinguished career. By the way, dear readers, speaking from the future allows me to state that I no longer indulge in activities described in this account. I no longer smoke, drink, or use fantasy to escape reality. I seem to have grown out of that phase of my life... for the most part.]
After the film ended I returned to downtown Los Angeles and to the Weingart. I watched the second half of a two part "X-Files" episode which introduced the alien Black Oil. I also watched the ABC Saturday Night Movie, "Deep Rising," staring the lovely Franke Jensen. Another computed generated eel monster movie. How many of these can we take?!
I liked the film, but ABC cut out all of the good parts. I might as well have been watching Romper Room.
I miss Romper Room.
I spent the rest of the evening indulging in complicated fantasies involving the actresses Helen Mirren, Kim Catrall, Kay Parker, Juliet Anderson, Loni Sanders, Lacey Chabert, and the senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton (sorry Bill), while smoking cigarettes and drinking instant coffee. After which I continued reading the Clancy book while eating cheap cookies.

July 13 Sunday 1

I finished the novel around 3:00AM, and went to sleep
"Maybe tomorrow," I whispered, before dozing off.
I dreamt of playing water polo with Helen Mirren, Kim Catrall, Kay Parker, Juliet Anderson, Loni Sanders, Lacey Chabert, and the senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Sorry Bill.

I woke late again, but not late enough that I could not sign in downstairs at the front desk. This needs to be done before 9:30AM.
What happens if I don't sign in?
I sign in twice the next day. That's what I did today. I signed in on a computerized screen for yesterday and today. No problem.
That ordeal over with, I walked up to the Hollymart on 5th Street (The Nickel) and bought the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times, it being Sunday and all.
I took it to my room on the 5th floor, "The Veteran's Floor," of the 10 story building. I didn't start reading the paper right away. I began to write this account again. This is the 4th attempt. If you're reading this it means I was successful in stopping my use of nicotine and sexual fantasy to escape the confines of my dreary life, and became un-homeless, and doing all without lying about anything (unless manipulation of what is generally considered to be the truth for comedic purposes).
I started lying the last time and had to stop.
I stopped writing for a while and cleaned my small room. Just a little. We are not allowed to have mops or brooms as they could be used as weapons.
Anything can used as a weapon.
Someone knocked on my door, but I didn't answer. I hadn't finished cleaning.
When I did finish cleaning, I opened my door and stuck my small wastebasket between it and the door frame so it wouldn't close. With the window open a slight breeze tended to cool my room. John Monzano came in and took a seat on my bed. I hadn't seen him for 4 days, and had thought he had gone to Camarillo to visit his mother. I was supposed to have accompanied him, but couldn't locate him last Friday. I had isolated in my room since last Wednesday, and had ignored all knocking at my door, and so thought I would need to make an extravagant explanation concerning my whereabouts, or lack thereof.
However, I took the offensive and chided him for not taking me to Camarillo.
"Didn't you get my Email?" he asked helplessly.
"No... I didn't get any Email!" I hadn't checked since last Tuesday.
He hadn't gone because his mom had decided to fumigate her house over the weekend. I did get him to apologize for not being around last Friday, even though I had no intention of going with him to Camarillo if he had gone.
But he didn't know that.
At one point he asked, "Hey, you wanta see Genghis Khan?"
"Already saw him," I told him. "At the museum."
"You did? Damn. What Museum?"
"The one that had the Genghis Khan exhibit. It was free even."
"Yup. Every second Tuesday of the month it's free," I explained.
"It's past the second Tuesday now," he said.
"Don't worry." I soothed. "Another will come around. It happens almost every month."
"Are you gonna see Seabiscuit?" he asked after awhile.
"I guess. Why?"
"Its got Nick Nolte in it?"
"Nick Nolte? So what?"
"I just wanted to know if you were going to go see it," John said.
"What part does Nick Nolte have?" I hadn't heard he was in the film.
"I don't know... the horse maybe."
"I know Toby Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Chris..."
"It's Jeff Bridges."
"What'ya mean, it's Jeff Bridges. You said it was Nick Nolte..."
"It's Jeff Bridges. I thought it was Nick Nolte..."
"You said Nick Nolte. Jeff Bridges is a whole different deal than Nick Nolte!"
"I know. I made a mistake. It's Jeff Bridges."
"Are you sure?" I teased.
"Yes. I'm sure now. It's Jeff Bridges."
"Because Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges look an awful lot alike, you know..."
On and on.
We went to lunch together. Fish patties and fries down in the cafeteria. I choose not to eat the two cookies offered, as I'm trying to eat a healthier diet.
John left me at the door when we finished eating.
"I gotta do something. I'll be up later," he assured me.
"You gonna call your mom?" I asked.
"Don't worry. I got you covered."
I didn't see him for the rest of the day.
I finished writing for the day and starting reading the paper.
Later I used the computer in the Day Room to check my Email. I found John's message and erased it. I looked up who the creator of Allen Quatermain was, and checked out the Amnesty International web site. I subscribed to some electronic newspapers concerning several human rights issues. They were free, which was almost too much for me to afford right now.
I listened to classical music all afternoon. I don't know much about classical music, but I find it soothing. Franz Liszt's piano concerto #1, in E flat was very nice.
I didn't turn my TV on until 7:00PM, to watch "Futurama," a very clever show. At 8:30 I witnessed the United States premiere of "Bonzi," a Fox Japanese gambling show, whose star is the announcer. It will either be a hit or off the air in 3 weeks. Noting the current average American television audience, this show will be on for years and years.
At 9:00 I decided to sleep for a couple of hours until 11:00 when the "X-Files," came on. I fell asleep while watching "Malcolm in the Middle," with guest star Jason Alexander, currently playing in the Los Angeles production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers." I dreamt of Odalys Garcia, the wonderful Cuban-American ballet dancer and Spanish television personality, and now singer. She's very pretty... for a girl, and very nice. In my dream we were reclining on a velvet sofa and she was feeding me grapes.
My alarm woke me at 11:00, and I watched the Run Lola Run/Groundhog Day "X-Files" episode, with the guy who used to be on "Northern Exposure." Moulder's water bed was very funny, and it's true, he shouldn't of had one on any floor except the 1st.
I had a water bed break on me once. I had moved in with my ex-wife's Aunt Debra, and was filling it while drinking beer.
I fell asleep and woke up just in time to see the giant bubble burst. Gallons of water careened throughout the house.
It was horrible. It was a good thing I knew how to swim.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is Our Congress Corrupt? 4

The Republicans coined the term hoping it would stick as a pejorative label, but President Obama turned it on it's head by declaring, "I don't mind it when Republicans call it Obamacare, because I do care!"
During the two years that The Affordable Health Care Act has been in affect 54 million Americans are now receiving preventive health care services, 2.5 million young people can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, 5.1 million seniors have saved a cumulative 3.2 billion dollars on prescription drugs, 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions now have medical coverage, 20.4 million women now can get mammograms and other care with no cost sharing, further it eliminated co-pays on preventive services such as child immunizations and cancer screenings and eliminated annual and lifetime claim caps for more than 80 million policyholders.
When its broadest provisions are triggered in 2014, millions more Americans will be relieved of the threat that their insurer can dump them or jack up their premium to unaffordable heights just because they've fallen ill or been injured.
Yet you have republican morons like this lying, lying, lying. They distort a little too:
How do you know a republican is lying? Their lips are moving.
That's not just an adage, that's a statement of fact.
It's true that the democrats suck at public relations, which amazes me. Only 39% of respondents to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this month thought they knew how the law would affect them personally. The country is pretty much evenly divided with those for and against the law as a whole, probably in large part because the republican noise machine, Fox News, Limbaugh, and republican politicians constantly lie about it, however when the individual components of the law are explained to the public it is met with overwhelming approval. The democrats have done a horrible job of getting out in front of the republican propaganda and explaining, and defining this law to the American public, including the president, and shame on them for that, because it's not that freaking hard! Hire Don Draper or something for God's sake, but keep your message alive, and don't let the republicans define anything.
Speaking of the republicans, as distasteful as it may be, they keep on chanting this "repeal and replace" mantra concerning the health care act, yet they haven't exactly explained what they would replace it with, but they're very heavy on the repeal part. You know why? They don't want to replace it with anything. They want our health care system to return to what it was before The Affordable Health Care Act went into place, keep American health care the most expensive of all the industrial nations, and derail all of the advances cited above, because that's what their health care industry masters and the insurance companies want. And the republicans are the political arm of big business, and that's who they look out after, not the American people.
Are the republicans in Congress corrupt? You bet your sweet ass they are. Defiantly and unashamedly so.
To be perfectly fair, which I always strive to be, the republicans can't help themselves simply because they're sociopaths and don't know any better. Another statement of fact.
Oh democrats are corrupt too, just less obvious about it.
Another example of corruption, again by republicans, and I equate corruption as passing legislation on behalf of lobbyists who work for specific industries who pay off members of Congress through campaign contributions, or as I like to call it... legal bribery (everyone says lobbying is protected by the First Amendment as a matter of free speech. I say that's fine. My freedom of speech is protected as well until I use it to attempt to bribe a policeman let's say, then I'm guilty of a crime. I believe the same should hold true for lobbyists).
H.R.5, or The Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act, of course does nothing to protect access to health care. This bill was introduced by republicans so the title must mean the exact opposite of what the bill is actually intended to do, which is a tort reform bill, which would shield nursing homes, hospitals, insurance companies, physicians, and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers from legal consequence of their negligence, making it harder for patients to sue for compensation when providers are negligent. The bill also drastically shortens the time a patient has to file a lawsuit for their injuries and limiting fees for patients’ attorneys while providing no limits on the health industry’s legal fees. Republicans claim these restrictions are needed to cut costs and create jobs. BS. Costs need to go up if providers are negligent, and there is no evidence that this would create one freaking job. This is just a sop to the health care industry.
Why do you think the republicans always claim that climate change is a fraud, a vast left wing conspiracy designed to... I don't know what it's supposedly designed to do as it doesn't make any sense. All the time they say that despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.
Why? Because the Koch brothers, big oil, fossil fuel providers, the auto industry need them to do that so they can keep raking in massive profits, that's why. It is the absolute height of irresponsibility... to sacrifice the health of our planet, the health and well being of literally billions of people, including the children of republican lawmakers, in the constant pursuit of profit. Money.
Truly unbelievable, and another proof of the sociopathology rampant in the republican party.
Apparently it is legal for members of Congress to profit from what is known as insider trading, profiting in the financial markets based on information the public does not have, but members of Congress do have due to their positions as legislators. This must make Martha Stewart scratch her head. It makes me scratch mine. I'm scratching it right now!
The senate passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or Stock Act, last Thursday, which the House of course had already passed, and it passed overwhelmingly, 96 to 3 (the House approved it 417 to 2 last month). The bill prohibits members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. The bill affects White House staff as well (it also decreases the time lawmakers have to report stock and securities transactions from once a year to 45 days).
Sounds good, huh? It is good, but it only came about after the news program "60 Minutes," did a report on the goodly amount of insider trading going on in the halls of Congress. If that hadn't of happened you can be sure it would still be going on. And still, the House republicans watered down the bill (which the senate signed off on) allowing what is called the “political intelligence” industry to thrive, where it's somehow okay to provide financial legislative information to hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. How can this possibly be legal? The second provision dropped from the bill would have given prosecutors powerful new tools to pursue public corruption cases.
So one step forward, two steps back.
The bill is awaiting the presidents signature. I don't know what the hell he's waiting for, but it's ready for him to sign.
So what's the answer with all of this obvious corruption in Congress, which is caused by private money overwhelming our government, which is the largest problem our country faces as far as I'm concerned, and which I've discussed before, many times.
Well, the answer is obviously to get money out of Congress.
The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 750 and H.R. 1404) was re-introduced in 2011 in the Senate by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). The bill would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want. It was introduced almost exactly a year ago, on April 5th, 2011. And that's it. It was re-introduced and nothing else has been done. Nothing else probably will be done because members of Congress are addicted to cash, that's why they break into houses and car jack so much. Oh, I'm sorry, that was the heroin and meth addicts.
It's hard to distinguish between the two.
But this is what eventually must be the answer. Private funds must get out of politics (and by extention, corporate control) in order for our government to do what it was designed to do by the founding fathers. The American public must provide the pressure, as they did with the STOCK Act, because you know, sure as hell, Congress won't do it until it is forced to.
Again, Americans need to wake up and force their politicians to do the right thing.
Then maybe we can get something done in this country... like save from itself.

Corruption? Pretty much. Here's a link to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's (CREWs) latest report on members of the House doling out cash and favor to their own families:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Our Congress Corrupt? 3

It is very expensive to run for Congress. The federal kind, not the state, although that probably costs quite a bit too.
There's various factors that can affect the total cost of an election depending on the scale of the campaign. If your an incumbent who has held your seat for the last 20 or 30 years, and face no serious opposition, then your campaign will likely not cost as much as a race that is highly contested.
In 2008, the last general election, on the average to run in the House of Representatives it will cost about 1.1 million dollars. Congressmen and women have to run every two years, so they have to come up with that kind of cash every two years. For the Senate the cash figure is approximately 6.5 million every six years, and this was before the disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court which equates money as free speech (just like Mitt Romney equating corporations as people), and allows unlimited campaign contributions, so in a highly contested race the sky's the limit as far as how much money can be spent by so-called superpacs, or wealthy individuals, as we're seeing currently with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum being backed by individual billionaires.
As a general rule of thumb members of the House wake up each day knowing they need to raise $2,000.00, not including the weekends. $10,000.00 a week. They accomplish this in various ways; directly calling campaign donors (they'll spend about 10 hours a week doing this), attend fund raising events, or Political Action Committee (PAC) events, through direct mailing to constituents, and soliciting funds online (when Al Frankin first ran for the Senate I contributed to his campaign, and I've been receiving Email solicitations from him and his lovely wife Franny ever since, and he's not even my senator). As far as the Senate goes, retired senator George Voinovich (R-OH) states a typical senator will spend 20 to 25% of their time fundraising.
So our Congress-people and Senators are always hungry for cash. They need it on a daily basis. That's why we hear so much about them getting busted on home burglary charges and car jackings. Oh, wait a minute, I'm sorry, that's heroin and meth addicts who get busted for home burglaries and car jackings.
Well I guess those who work in the U.S. Capital and heroin and meth addicts have a lot in common.
I don't know about you, dear readers, but when I vote for a senator or congress-person, I want them to go to Washington to work on my behalf, not spend a quarter of their time raising money so they can keep their jobs come the next election.
It helps that our elected officials in Congress are usually independently wealthy people. You rarely see folks from skid row here in L.A. running for Congress.
But congress-people and senators rarely use their own money in campaigns. That's why you see presidential candidate Mitt (Mitt) Romney constantly soliciting campaign contributions even though he's a multimillionaire. Why don't they use there own cash you ask. Good question. They don't because they don't have to, and they're cheap. And people who self-finance their campaigns have a tendency to lose. Just ask Meg Whitman.
Now a lot of the people or entities that candidates receive campaign contributions from represent special interests. People or corporations, or industries that may want something in return for their cash later on.
I know! It seems amazing, but it's true.
There are so many examples of this kind of crap going on in Congress it's really unbelievable. Let me start with the so called JOBS — or Jumpstart Our Business Startups — Act. Sounds good doesn't it? America needs jobs. Unemployment is still high. We want small businesses to thrive. But just like the "Financial Services Modernization Act," of 1999, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, sponsored by Senator Phil Gramm, may he rot in hell, and eagerly signed into law by Bill Clinton, instead of modernizing anything, it repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had imposed banking reforms in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash which led directly to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Glass-Steagall was designed to control banking speculation, Clinton repealed it happily stating "This legislation is truly historic. 'We have done right by the American people.''
Eight years later we had the financial meltdown of 2007/2008 which we're still recovering from.
And now were doing it again! Amazing.
According to Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future, the Jobs Act will "Once again basic protections for investors, including individuals and families, are being recklessly overturned in a deregulating frenzy." It "undoes Sarbanes-Oxley's key provisions. In a typically cynical move, the corrupt dealmakers of DC have appropriated two good ideas - "crowdfunding" by individuals, as is done on Kickstarter, and the need to find investment capital for small and medium-sized businesses that are the engines of job growth. But this bill will actually hurt both those efforts. Kickstarter finances creative projects, where it's fairly easy for investors to decide whether they feel a project has artistic merit. But this bill will unleash a torrent of unscrupulous scam artists onto the public, leaving them unable to decide which project has merit and which doesn't. Since these ventures won't be required to provide some basic financial data, many of them will bilk their investors - drying up the pool of available capital for truly worthwhile startups. Worse, the bill is designed so that even billion-dollar corporations can be considered "startups," leaving the door open for a dozen Enrons of tomorrow to shaft the unwary. The common-sense protections proposed by Sen. Jeff Merkley were rejected, while the equally rational protections of Sens. Scott Brown and Jack Reed, which were passed, will be fairly easy for clever sharks to swim around. We've seen this play before, and it never has a happy ending. That will no longer be required of them, thanks to the "JOBS" Act."
The House passed this bill March 8th with 158 democrats signing on, and of course all of the republicans (9 abstained). The Senate passed it last Thursday, with 26 democrats giving an Aye vote, and again all the republicans. The president says he's going to sign this piece of crap, after it reconciled in the House. So on the one hand you have Obama creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to supposedly protect consumers from unscrupulous lenders, and on the other hand he's about to sign into law a bill that will allow investors to easily get ripped off. How can this be explained?
It's an election year, congress-people and senators (and the president) need campaign funds, so they are exceptionally amenable to do the bidding of their Wall Street masters. In other words they're being paid to pass a law that will relax Wall Street regulations, regulations that were put into place to ensure another 2007/2008 financial meltdown does not occur.
And in a few years when another financial crisis does inevitably occur they'll surely say, "well who could have seen this coming."
And why should they care? They're making money hand over fist on these kind of deals. It's only us, the American people, the middle class, the 90%, who will pay the price for their reckless BS.
Is our Congress corrupt?
Why yes... it is.

To be continued

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Difference Between Kids

As a small child the first thing I ever wanted to be was an astronomer. I am still fascinated with the subject, and continue to monitor current events in space exploration and theory. I'm a member of The Planetary Society, I receive daily updates via Email from Spaceref, I have my very own copy of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos." I get misty sometimes when watching it, the ideas presented are so beautiful.
. I am fairly knowledgeable on the subject, probably more so than the average person.
When I was in what is now called Middle School, and High School, I always got A's in general science classes. Always. The scientific method fascinated me, as did almost every subject associated with science. A lot of my fellow schoolmates were not so enthusiastic.
I did not become an astronomer. There are several reasons why, but one of them is that math was involved. I don't like math. I'm not enthusiastic about math.
I hate math.
That's what calculators are for.
My lovely ex-case manager, Erin, on the other hand, loves math. "I used to like working out my problems," she happily told me once.
The point I'm so laboriously trying to make here is that people are different, including children.
So why does the federal government treat children as if they are all the same? What I'm talking about is George W Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which threatens withholding of federal funds for education for schools that do not administer and pass certain standards set by individual states, through the use of standardized tests, a law that has largely been left in place by the current Obama administration.
According to a new report issued by Scholastic Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, only 28% of teachers believe standardized testing has any significant value in accessing student performance. Let me see, if I've got my math right... that means almost exactly 72% don't. The study was based on a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers
Additionally, only 26% of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know.
And accordingly to an assessment of the report by writer and teacher Judy Molland, the specific problems associated with standardized testing are:

* One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey’s findings—that is, only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them.
* All states have standards, which should guide classroom instruction, both in the curriculum and in the way the material is presented and tested. However, state standards and state standardized tests are not always correlated, and often not well-matched to contemporary teaching and learning goals.
* It makes no sense to evaluate students only on standardized tests, administered over one or two days in the school year. Instead, all students should be evaluated using multiple measures, so that their performance throughout the year is monitored. Many students freak out at the sight of a “high-stakes” test.
* Grading teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores, a practice that is appearing in districts across the country, is unfair. The tests are often not well designed, but in addition, no teacher can choose which students he has in his class. I’ve had students who are very strong one year, and very weak the next year. Don’t grade me on my students’ differences.

She continues:
"Overall, according to the report, teachers see ongoing formative assessments, class participation, and performance on class assignments as much more important measures of student learning. At the same time, most teachers (85 percent) agree that their students’ growth over the course of the year should contribute significantly to evaluations of their own performance."
She states that she, as well as many other teachers have abandoned the public school sector in order to enter the private school system, where standardized testing is not required, so it would seem our nation's formal educational policies may actually be driving our most talented and valued teachers out of the system. She also cites the nation of Finland as ranking consistently at the top of international surveys of education, where students only take a standardized test once during high school, in the very last year.
Our Republican friends would say, "Finland! That's a socialist country. We certainly don't want to be anything like them!"
Of course we wouldn't. We wouldn't want an educational system that actually educated (this is what's called sarcasm).

Lastly, I'll reprint this... essay I guess, or epic apology, from freelance writer and English teacher Ruth Ann Dandrea, regarding this type of testing, which I found at Common Dreams:

'A Test You Need to Fail': A Teacher's Open Letter to Her 8th Grade Students,

Dear 8th Graders,

I’m sorry.
I didn’t know.
I spent last night perusing the 150-plus pages of grading materials provided by the state in anticipation of reading and evaluating your English Language Arts Exams this morning. I knew the test was pointless—that it has never fulfilled its stated purpose as a predictor of who would succeed and who would fail the English Regents in 11th grade. Any thinking person would’ve ditched it years ago. Instead, rather than simply give a test in 8th grade that doesn’t get kids ready for the test in 11th grade, the state opted to also give a test in 7th grade to get you ready for your 8th-grade test.
But we already knew all of that.
What I learned is that the test is also criminal.
Because what I hadn’t known—this is my first time grading this exam—was that it doesn’t matter how well you write, or what you think. Here we spent the year reading books and emulating great writers, constructing leads that would make everyone want to read our work, developing a voice that would engage our readers, using our imaginations to make our work unique and important, and, most of all, being honest. And none of that matters. All that matters, it turns out, is that you cite two facts from the reading material in every answer. That gives you full credit. You can compose a “Gettysburg Address” for the 21st century on the apportioned lines in your test booklet, but if you’ve provided only one fact from the text you read in preparation, then you will earn only half credit. In your constructed response—no matter how well written, correct, intelligent, noble, beautiful, and meaningful it is—if you’ve not collected any specific facts from the provided readings (even if you happen to know more information about the chosen topic than the readings provide), then you will get a zero.
And here’s the really scary part, kids: The questions you were asked were written to elicit a personal response, which, if provided, earn you no credit. You were tricked; we were tricked. I wish I could believe that this paradox (you know what that literary term means because we have spent the year noting these kinds of tightropings of language) was simply the stupidity of the test-makers, that it was not some more insidious and deliberate machination. I wish I could believe that. But I don’t.
I told you, didn’t I, about hearing Noam Chomsky speak recently? When the great man was asked about the chaos in public education, he responded quickly, decisively, and to the point: “Public education in this country is under attack.” The words, though chilling, comforted me in a weird way. I’d been feeling, the past few years of my 30-plus-year tenure in public education, that there was something or somebody out there, a power of a sort, that doesn’t really want you kids to be educated. I felt a force that wants you ignorant and pliable, and that needs you able to fill in the boxes and follow instructions. Now I’m sure.
It’s not that I oppose rigorous testing. I don’t. I understand the purpose of evaluation. A good test can measure achievement and even inspire. But this English Language Arts Exam I so unknowingly inflicted on you does neither. It represents exactly what I am opposed to, the perpetual and petty testing that has become a fungus on the foot of public education. You understand that metaphor, I know, because we have spent the year learning to appreciate the differences between figurative and literal language. The test-makers have not.
So what should you do, my beautiful, my bright, my intelligent, my talented? Continue. Continue to question. I applaud you, sample writer: When asked the either/or question, you began your response, “Honestly, I think it is both.” You were right, and you were brave, and the test you were taking was neither. And I applaud you, wildest 8th grader of my own, who—when asked how a quote applied to the two characters from the two passages provided—wrote, “I don’t think it applies to either one of them.” Wear your zeroes proudly, kids. This is a test you need to fail.
I wondered whether giving more than 10 minutes of every class period to reading books of our own choosing was a good idea or not. But you loved it so. You asked for more time. Ask again; I will give you whatever you need. I will also give you the best advice I can, advice from the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Juan Ramón Jiménez. Ray Bradbury thought this was so important, he used it as the epigraph at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451: “When they give you lined paper, write the other way.”
It is the best I have to offer, beyond my apologies for having taken part in an exercise that hurt you, and of which I am mightily ashamed.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Jennifer Blaire!

Beautiful Jennifer

As Animala... "Rowr"

"Do the Rock Dance!"


As Droxy Chapelle, in "Trail of the
Screaming Forehead"

With son Griffin

Becoming Billy Tuesday in
"Dark and Stormy Night"

With husband Larry Blamire

Happy Jennifer

It is my great pleasure and honor to be able to give birthday wishes this morning to my absolute favorite actress of all time, Ms Jennifer Blaire.
Today happens to be her birthday so it is perfectly appropriate to do so.
Unfortunately little detail is known about Jennifer's life, as she is dark and mysterious... like Teresa Ganzel. However, I will share what we do know.
For instance, we know the Jennifer was born at a very early age in Danvers, Massachusetts, and we know that Danvers is a very interesting city, associated mainly with two things: a lunatic hospital, The Danvers State Insane Asylum (home of the pre-frontal lobotomy!), and of course the Salem Witch Trials ("despite being generally known as the Salem witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in a variety of towns across the province: Salem Village (now Danvers), Ipswich, Andover and Salem Town" -Wikipedia).
Well... no wonder.
Anyway, we know she graduated Danvers High, and attended college in Salem, after which she made her way out west and fell into the greedy clutches of one, Larry Blamire, the prolific writer, film producer and director, and her husband. Together they have a male infant child, Griffin, who himself was born at a very early age, just like his mom.
The Internet Movie Data Base tells us that Jen (I like to call her Jen) began her acting career in 1994, as Girl #1 on "Baywatch," the most watched TV show of all time (according to The Guinness Book of World Records). Imagine that. The number one girl on the most watched TV show of all time. Not a bad start at all if you ask me.
Then, after she and Larry were hitched, Jennifer won the role that would change her life forever, that of Animala, in 2001's "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra," one of a handful of films I've seen that utilizes Skeletorama (it has been rumored that Martin Scorsese had considered using Skeletorama when shooting "Hugo," but eventually opted for 3D instead).
Many consider The Lost Skeleton to be one of the great films of our time. I know I certainly do.
The film was written, produced, and directed by Larry, which certainly kept him busy. And if that wasn't enough, he also acted in it, and provided the voice of the lost skeleton. But I have to state that he, and everyone else in the movie (although they were all wonderful) were overshadowed by Jennifer's performance, portraying Animala, the strange and wondrous creature created out of some random forest animals that just happened to be standing around, by a discarded Transmutatron.
God I wish I had one of those. Maybe one day.
As the above clip points out, "Nobody..." let me repeat that... "Nobody can resist the mesmerizing allure of Animala's 'Rock Dance'!!! I know I can't. I can watch Animala's Rock Dance allllll day, because, well, it's mesmerizing. Not only that, it's hypnotizing as well. I mean look at what it did to Larry in the above clip... the poor, dumb, bastard. He didn't know what hit him.
Be that as it may, Jennifer would reprise the role of Animala in 2009s "The Lost Skeleton returns again." Wonderful movie.
But between these two films Jennifer kept busy, appearing in the video "Abracadabra," in 2001, as well as Frank Darabont's "The Majestic." Darabont, you may recall, also directed a small film entitled "The Shawshank Redemption," which has been playing over and over again on the AMC channel this week.
By golly, it's on right now!
By golly!
Jen went on to appear in the crime / comedy, "Meet the Mobsters," directed by her husband, and which I'm looking forward to watching later tonight.
After "The Shawshank Redemption."
In 2007 she appeared in "Tales from the Pub," of which we have two clips featuring Jennifer right here:
As my friend Robert Vasquez would say: "Positively uncanny."
And then there's this terror tale. Oh, the horror!
And in two other of my very favorite movies, as Droxy Chapelle in "Trail of the Screaming Forehead," (based on a true story I'm told), and as Billy Tuesday (no relation to Charlie Thursday) in 2009s "Dark and Stormy Night." Fantastic movies! I'm going to watch this one again tonight too.
After "The Shawshank Redemption."
Myself, and everyone I know are waiting eagerly for the release of "The Lost Skeleton Walks Among Us." I can't wait! Come on Larry, get the lead out!
Now I happen to be Facebook friends with Jennifer, so I do have a little bit of information that most people might not. And I will say we have at least these two things in common besides our good looks; we both like Ray Bradbury (who I've had the good fortune to meet on several occasions), and the television show "Psych," the true story (I'm told) of a fake psychic detective who lives in Santa Barbara.
If you're a fake psychic detective there's probably no nicer place to live.
Anyway, I'm aware that Jennifer's dear mother has been ill and hospitalized, and it got pretty rough for a while. But I'm told (really) that she's doing much better now, which everyone here at Joyce's Take is very thankful for.
And everyone here at Joyce's Take also wish Jennifer, Larry, and Griffin, continued good fortune and health, and for Jen, a very happy birthday.
Happy Birthday Jennifer!!!

Here's a link to shop for all kinds of things lost skeletony... and more!

And my personal favorite:,393775425

Saturday, March 24, 2012


We seem to be running out of helium.
I was at the dollar store the other day. It's actual name is still The 99 Cent Store, but they don't sell anything for 99 cents there anymore. Food items there now all cost a dollar, other items a little bit more. I was there to buy some cheese, jalapeno cheese slices to be exact. while I was waiting in line to pay for my jalapeno cheese slices I noticed a security guard standing near the stores entrance holding a balloon filled with helium, which made the balloon float in the air. If he had let go of that balloon it would have happily floated up to the ceiling, trying to find its way up into the sky, up into the atmosphere.
That's because pure helium is lighter than normal air, which consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. As the picture above indicates, helium is an element that consists of just two neutrons, two protons, and two electrons. Nitrogen, on the other hand consists of seven protons, neutrons, and electrons, and oxygen is even heavier with eight.
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, second only to hydrogen, which consists of just one proton, neutron, and electron. About 20% of the observable universe consists of helium. Most of the helium in our solar system resides inside the Sun, as hydrogen is squeezed and heated until it's one proton, neutron, and electron atoms are fused into two, making it helium. The process is not exactly as simple as that, but that's basically what happens, and it happens a lot. Every second 600 million tons of hydrogen atoms are converted into helium atoms.
Appropriately helium was named after Helios, the Greek God of the Sun. It was first observed as an unknown yellow spectral line in sunlight during a solar eclipse in 1868 by a French and an English astronomer. The formal discovery of the element was made in 1895 by two Swedish chemists, who found helium emanating from the uranium ore cleveite.
The United States is by far the largest supplier of helium, which was found in large amounts in natural gas fields in 1903. The single largest concentration of the gas exists in an underground rock formations near Amarillo, Texas... The Federal Helium Reserve. However the government is selling it all off, as it thinks the private sector should take over, and the reserve should be completely depleted by the end of 2014. I don't know why the government believes this, but they do.
A lot of people think prisons are better being run by the private sector, but they are wrong.
A lot of people would like to privatize social security, but they are wrong.
Anyway, helium has uses other than filling up balloons.
You can breath in the helium in those balloons and your voice will sound like Micky Mouse. That's one use, great at parties.
You can also cool it down until it's way, way cold, and use it to maintain the superconductive magnets of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, which is very important if you need this kind of medical imaging. MRI machines account for more than a quarter of the helium used in the United States.
Helium has been used in experiments to study turbulence to help understand Chaos Theory. But only little amounts are needed for that. It is however widely used in welding, in the manufacturing of optical fibers and liquid optical displays (LCD) screens, and in processes such as growing crystals to make silicon wafers.
NASA used helium to pressurize the gas tanks in rockets when we used to have a space program. And it keeps the particle accelerators at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois and the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN from overheating.
“Helium is central to half of my ongoing research and the dissertation work of several students,’’ said Daniel Lathrop, a University of Maryland physics professor.
Helium may be the second most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth it is relatively rare—0.00052% by volume in the atmosphere.
But now some scientists are worried that we may completely run out of helium within the next three decades. At the current rate of usage, “the world would run out in 25 years, plus or minus five years,’’ Robert Richardson, a Cornell University physicist who won a Nobel Prize in 1996 for his work with superfluid helium, told a gathering of Nobel laureates in August.
They are already running into shortages, and what helium is available to scientists is becoming more expensive. According to a some interviewed in The Guardian, if helium were being fairly priced, that balloon the Dollar Store security guard was holding would be worth about $120. Helium is that valuable to medicine and science.
Oleg Kirichek tells the Guardian about a project at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory that was canceled when the facility ran out of helium:
“It costs £30,000 a day to operate our neutron beams, but for three days we had no helium to run our experiments on those beams,” said Kirichek. “In other words we wasted £90,000 because we couldn’t get any helium. Yet we put the stuff into party balloons and let them float off into the upper atmosphere, or we use it to make our voices go squeaky for a laugh. It is very, very stupid. It makes me really angry.”
Professor Jim Wild agreed:
“Helium is particularly important for running super-conducting magnets. These have to be cooled to -270C to operate, and liquid helium does that perfectly. These magnets are now widespread and found in machines that range from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva to MRI scanners in hospitals,” said Professor Jim Wild, of Sheffield University. “Without helium, none of these machines would work. Unfortunately that threatens to be a real prospect in the near future.”
This is a real problem. Should helium balloons be banned? Should non-industrial and scientific use of helium be curtailed? I think this is a serious question that deserves careful consideration. I think we may need to look into other ways of obtaining helium, such as harvesting the solar wind and mining the element on the Moon.
So we have a finite supply of an essential substance that will inevitably become increasingly more expensive to obtain. There's another substance that will suffer the same fate.
Oil is made from the decomposed remains of organic matter, and like helium there is a finite amount of it on this planet, which means it will be increasingly be more expensive to obtain and at some point in the future we are going to run out. It's inevitable. It will happen. It is totally irresponsible to think otherwise.
Helium is an element and cannot be replaced with any other substance for scientific and industrial use. We're screwed with helium.
But not so with oil. It can be replaced with other fossil fuels like coal and natural gas... for a while, as they are finite materials as well, and will eventually run out (and this does not even take into account the real affects of global warming). However there are other energy sources that are not finite, such as wind and solar power, that should be well worth pursuing now, not when the Earth has initiated a runaway greenhouse affect due to fossil fuel consumption, or when we run out of these substances, or they become so expensive they become economically inviable to continue to use.
In this country the Republican Party has tended to resist investure into green technology, as a matter of fact they demonize the Democrats who are more willing to do so. For our nation to remain a leader in this world we have to get past these political games and look and act toward these pressing problems in a realistic, fact based manner. For oil and helium depletion, and any other problems we will or currently face, such as global warming, over fishing our oceans, deforestation, etc, etc, etc.
The Republicans need to grow up. The rest of us need to show them the way.

How helium may have cooled the universe.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Teresa Ganzel!

Lovely Teresa

With The Great One, Jackie Gleason, in "The Toy."

One of my favorite pictures of Teresa
from "The Toy."
I don't know why.

On the Pyramid game show

On stage in "Viagara Falls"

Pretty Lady

It is with great pleasure that I am able to give a happy birthday shout out this morning to one of my favorite comedic actresses, Ms Teresa Ganzel.
This shouldn't be a big surprise. The title of this post should alert you all that this was going to happen.
Unfortunately little is known of Teresa's life. She is dark and mysterious. But here is what we do know.
She was born at a very early age in the city of Toledo, which is in the state of Ohio. Many are. Tom Cruise's wife, the actress Katie Holmes also comes from Toledo, as does the lovely actress, Adrianne Palicki, from "Friday Night Lights."
In 1835, there was actually a Toledo War, which was a land dispute between Ohio and the adjoining territory of Michigan. Militias were raised and positioned on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo. There were no shots fired and no one was hurt. The two sides just hurled taunts and insults at each other, like "I fart in your general direction," and "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits."
They straightened it all out eventually.
Anyway, Wikipedia tells us that Teresa is best known for appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, replacing Carol Wayne as the Matinee Lady in the popular "Mighty Carson Art Players" skits. She often played "ditzy busty blonde bimbo" roles, and I must say she was very good at it, although I've never seen her in anything she wasn't good in.
The Internet Movie Data Base tells us she began her long career in 1981, when I was still in the navy, playing the President's daughter in the film, "C.O.D." Next she appeared on the popular sitcom, "Three's Company," a show featuring another of my favorite actresses who also played a "ditzy busty blonde bimbo," Suzanne Somers, whose birthday we've previously celebrated.
I actually attended a live taping of this show once, but Teresa wasn't there, oh no.
Damn it!
In 1982 she appeared without benefit of clothes in "National Lampoon's Movie Madness," with Peter O'Toole in "My Favorite Year," and with Jackie Gleason and Richard Prior in "The Toy," (pictured above). She also began her stint on The Tonight Show that year, which would last until 1991 when Johnny retired.
During the eighties she would continue a successful career, mostly appearing on television. She was a frequent guest on game shows like the $25,000 and $100,000 Pyramid, and Hollywood Squares. She's appeared on "The Love Boat," "Remington Steele," were Pierce Brosnan started out, the 1986 version of "The Twilight Zone," "Newhart," "New Love, American Style," a mini series that I was particularly fond of called "Fresno," "Night Court," "ALF," "Married With Children," "Mama's Family," "Columbo," "Monsters," "Hunter," the film "Hexed," and many, many more, including a goodly amount of cartoon voice over work, working consistently up to the present.
By golly, just a couple of years ago, 2010 to be precise, she appeared as the female lead in the off Broadway play, "Viagara Falls," opposite Bernie Kopell, of "Love Boat," and "Get Smart," fame.
Here's some clips featuring Teresa:
Teresa is the sister of actor producer Mark Ganzel, who produced "Fresno," and has been married to Richard Davis from January 17, 2004.
And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish Teresa and her family, continued good health and fortune, and a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Teresa!