Saturday, August 31, 2013

Skid Row Diary 14

8 August 2003       Friday     Day 27

   Seven of Nine was feeling guilty about the thousands of beings she had destroyed while being an active Borg.
   That certainly must be a tough thing to live with. I don’t know if I could.
   I’d probably start drinking, or something.
   I listened to a Schubert piano concerto while meditating and exploring the universe with the core of my being.
   Not this universe, but the one two doors down.
   I learned that the ever lovely Kelly Gates, Mark and Brian’s somewhat new anchor/news person, is 36 years old. A mere child, but still a twidge too old for me.
   But in her case I might make an exception.
   Giselle Blondet had the impertinence to not show up for work again today. And at breakfast I learned that 20% of black people thought Kobe Bryant was guilty of rape, compared to 41% of white people.
   I asked John Manzano “Where’s the Hispanic vote?” He told me that Latin Americans were 100% indifferent to the entire matter.
   I left for Trimar at 8:00 and arrived near 10:00. The film “Dare Devil,” starring Jennifer Garner was playing (just what the world needed... a disabled super hero), to be followed by “Spiderman,” starring Kirsten Dunst. Director Sam Raimi has come a long way since “Evil Dead.”
   My lovely Rumanian friend Aurica had the impertinence not to show up for work today as well. Linda was forced to interact with me when the flow of blood into the automatic centrifuge slowed.
   This is the second week in a row I’ve experienced some difficulty of this nature. When this happens the nurses adjust the needle in my arm, moving it around, back and forth, up and down, sideways and through different dimensions. It’s all quite awkward.
   Paranoid thoughts of collapsing veins coursed through my mind. Perhaps my veins don’t like, and haven’t liked being sliced open twice a week for years on end. I certainly wouldn’t if I were a vein. I’d be rightly put off!
   Afterwards I picked up a whole bunch of crap I didn’t need while at the 99 cent store in Van Nuys. Instead of hopping directly on to the Red Line when I got to North Hollywood, I walked up Lankershim  Boulevard., to the 5 points intersection where Lankershim Boulevard, Vineland Avenue and Camarillo Street meet, to the Odyssey Video Store, where I looked over their wares.
   Back at the Weingart a barbeque lunch was underway for the veterans of the 5th floor. I’m not all that much of a chicken and rib man, and cooked some smoked sausages instead. I kicked John Manzano out of my room at 4:00, and since there was nothing at all on television this evening, I spent the night in deep meditation, and reading Arthur C Clark’s “2001, a Space Odyssey.”
   When I slept I dreamt I was on the interplanetary spaceship “Discovery,” with my favorite singer and song writer for the last ten years or so, Sophie B Hawkins. Together we sang “Did We Not Choose Each Other,” as we drifted through the gulf toward Jupiter and beyond.

Listen baby, listen baby don't you do me wrong
I can make my bed, you can sing your song
Ain't nobody else gonna make you shine
If it's the truth you seek then darlin' love you'll find

I don't wanna, I don't wanna take your pain away
Isn't yours to give, isn't mine to save
Here's my heart, here's my hand, here's my soul
Take it in, take it apart, take it easy, let it go

9 August   Saturday       Day 28

   John Manzano knocked on my door three times this morning, but when I got up to answer there was no one there. Three times.
   I went back to sleep waking just in time to miss the sign in deadline.
   I showered, dressed, and went looking for Manzano. He wanted to go to the movies today.
   He was no where to be found. I didn’t really care. There was no new films I was interested in seeing. “S.W.A.T.,” starring LL Cool J’s abs (what’s up with all of these names? Why would a mother and father call their son LL?) was released yesterday, but I’m heterosexual, so I don’t believe I’d be very interested in seeing it.
   John Manzano wants to see it.
   I returned to my room and began reading “2001.” Just as I got comfortable and in to the book Manzano knocked on my door again. This time I caught him and chastised him harshly for his earlier hit and runs, then we left for the movies.
   At 10:00 it was very hot and bright outside. John and I both began to sweat as we walked to 7th and Broadway, to the MoneyGram Store where John would pick up some cash that had been wired to him.
   On the way we passed a large film unit that had commandeered Spring St between 7th and 6th. They’re always filming movies or TV shows downtown.
   John’s money hadn’t arrived.
   “That’s Okay,” he said. “You go ahead without me.”
   “There’s nothing I want to see,” I told him. “You’re the one who wanted to go.”
   “So, what are you going to do then?”
   “Go back,” I said. “I’ve got work to do anyway.”
   “What kind of work?”
   “Work work. What difference does it make? I’ve got stuff to do.”
   “No, I’m serious,” John insisted, “what kind of work. Can’t we watch one of your movies?”
   “I’m a writer, John. That’s what work I’ve got to do. How am I gonna get anything written if I don’t write?”
   “What are you going to write about?”
   “I’m going to write about you asking me about what I’m going to write about.”
   “Come on... really. I’m serious...”
   On and on.
   We watched “Best in Show,” starring Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jane Lynch. Writer, director, Christopher Guest does his best to keep actors out of work by hiring the same actors for all of his films, which tends to create a certain continuity between them.
   The movie was good.
   After lunch I was very tired and laid down from 1:00 until 3:30, dreaming I was being held hostage by Laura Prepon of “That 70s Show,” and “Slackers, and Taija Rae of “Hostage Girls,” and “Winner Takes All.” They had me tied to a bed, gaged, and totally at their mercy.
   Unfortunately I woke up when John Manzano knocked on my door again. I got up and answered... no one there.
   Ghosts maybe?
   I made myself a cup of coffee and began reading again. Manzano came back and wanted to watch another movie. I put in “Lobster Man from Mars,”and wrote while John watched.
   “Rick... what are you writing about?”
   “Shut the fuck up, John.”
   “Do you want me to help you?”
   “Yeah. Shut the fuck up.”
   This is the kind of support I’ve received from my friends all of my life. No one takes me seriously, myself most of all.
   Lobster Man cut into half of the 6:00 “X-Files,” which turned out to be the classic Alex Trebek episode.
   I threw John out at 7, taking about as much as I could stand.
   “Oh, you don’t want me to watch TV in here anymore, is that right,” he asked.
   “What makes you say that?”
   “You just told me you were going to a meeting, and that I had to leave.”
   “Oh, that’s right... you still here? Hey, they have a whole other TV in the Day Room dedicated to slobs just like you who are too cheap to buy their own TVs.”
   “I don’t like that one,” he pointed out.
   “Oh, that is just too bad... bye. See ya later. Fair thee well.”
   Alone at last, I read, meditated, and was going to watch a 2000 T.V. movie, “Hunter, Return to Justice,” starring Stephanie Kramer, but the television guide lied to me, and a reality game show, “Dog Eat Dog,” was on instead. The contestants were required to perform difficult stunts to win a paltry amount of money. Nothing new there. If I didn’t know better I would say the whole show was a flimsy excuse to watch pretty girls strip on stage into two piece bathing suits (with plenty of close ups) and then get drenched.
   It’s a good thing I know better.
   I kind of liked it. I think I fell in love a little bit with the runner up... Natasha. I don’t know why. I hardly know her.
   At 10:00 another “Dog Eat Dog” program magically came on, this time disposing with the three male contestants altogether, so six lovely ladies were featured getting undressed. They didn’t seem to mind at all.
   I fell asleep while watching “Saturday Night Live,” where Ben Affleck was pining over Anna Nicole Smith, and dreamt I was swimming in a big pool with “Dog Eat Dog’s” host Brooke Burns and Jennifer Love Hewitt. They splashed and sprayed me with water as I tried to cross a balance beam. Jennifer threw a beach ball which hit me right between the eyes and I fell into the pool. We all got into a splash fight until I started to sink. For some reason they were able to float on the surface easily. My last thought before losing consciousness due to lack of oxygen was “Why aren’t they sinking too?! They’re not even paddling It’s like they have built in floatation devices of some kind. It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not...”

10 August     Sunday   Day 29

   I made sure I got up in time to sign in, then bought a Sunday Times from Jack’s Market. Jack wasn’t there.
   He never is.
   The lady midget who inhabits the southeast corner of 5th and San Pedro, who was at one time a roller derby star according to McCree, asked me for a quarter. I didn’t give her one. I never do.
   As I entered the Weingart’s lobby a young black man asked me where I had gotten the paper. I told him, then he asked me if I would go get him one. He explained to me that he was on restriction and could not go himself. I explained to him, kindly, that even if we were best friends, even if we were relatives and best friends instead of total strangers, I wouldn’t walk all of the way back to Jack’s just to get him a paper.
   He understood.
   I wrote and read the paper in my room. I felt vaguely ill and melancholy. I read some interesting pieces in the Book Review section concerning James Thurber. I also read about China’s tenuous relationship with the United States, Muslim terrorists, and Christian intolerance.
   158 citizens have registered for the gubernatorial recall election in October, some just to get their names and picture in the paper, to either promote themselves or the products they were peddling. Unless I’m given reason not to I’m voting for Mary “Mary Carey” Cook, an adult film actress. Although I’ve never seen her work I did see her picture in the paper, and her smile slayed me (it doesn’t take much to slay me. I’m easily slayable). She looks wise beyond her 23 years, and gifted, blessed, intelligent, economically sound, and determined to make a lasting change for the better in the world’s sixth largest economy.
   I’m almost positive she could do as good of a job as anyone else, probably better.
   After lunch I put the video “Blaze,” on, starring Lolita Davidovich, and got about half way through before John Manzano came knocking.
   “Whatcha watching?” he asked me.
   “Blaze,” I replied.
   “Oh, that’s a good movie. Who’s that girl?”
   “Lolita Davidovich.”
   “Lolita Davidovich.”
   I was not enthusiastic about sharing another day with John in my room. But he went away after the movie ended.
   “I didn’t like that Pollock movie,” he let me know before leaving. “Too boring.”
   “I’m sincerely sorry to hear that, John. Ed Harris will be crushed when he finds out.”
   “Do you like Ed Harris?”
   “I’ve never met him. But I think he’s a very good actor.”
   “He sucks,” he said, just because I said that I liked him.
   Don’t take offense Mr. Harris.
   The film “Blaze,” had a special meaning for me. My first night ever in a Salvation Army ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center), back in 1990, in Canoga Park, was spent at the movies and “Blaze,” was the film we saw. The ARC had received free tickets and I got to go. I thought, “Wow! This is a great place. We go to the movies. I’m going to like it here.”
   That was the first and last time I ever got a free movie out of the Sally. I guess we never got anymore tickets.
   I looked through my brand new shiny T.V. Guide (that came with the paper) and saw with great excitement that one of my favorite movies, “Being There,” the 1979 comedy starring Peter Sellers in his last role before his untimely death, would be on. The film was based on the book of the same name written by Jerzy KosiƄski.
   I was shocked and dismayed when all ready to record the film I discovered “She Devil,” starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr was on instead.
   The T.V. Guide people had made a fool of me yet again, and dashed my hopes of recording Peter upon the jagged rocks of ineptness.
   I began to plot my heartfelt revenge.
   There was only one customer service job in the paper worth sending my resume to. One!
   Thanks President Bush! Thanks Mr. Greenspan! Thanks anyone but myself for this sorry state of affairs. Mary Carey will rescue us all by God!
   I was hungry by the time dinner time came. Only about one forth of a turkey sandwich was served though (the cooks don’t like to work very hard on Sundays. I don’t know why). I was forced to eat some of my own food later.
   John came by after dinner. We watched “Futurama,” together.
   “This is so stupid,” John would say.
   Actually, it’s brilliantly written and quite funny, but not doing well ratings wise I’m told. There was a notation in the T.V. Guide that tonight’s show was the series finale.
   I was  sorry to learn that the film critic Roger Ebert was ill. Cancer, I believe. He mentioned it briefly on his show. He said it was treatable and he plans to keep working.
   What a great job he has.
   I miss Giselle.
   Tonight’s presentation of “Bonzai,” on Fox caught the beautiful and talented Jennifer Love Hewitt, who had just visited me in dreamland, in the Japanese Reporter Who Won’t Stop Shaking Your Hand Routine, Routine #87. Jennifer, I’m proud as punch to report, was so polite and unassuming, so nice, that she set a show record and lasted 97.5 seconds. The only reason she stopped shaking the reporters hand was because he ran out of questions to ask her!
   Thank God for you Jennifer Love! Well done.
   I made some microwave popcorn and began to record the 8:00 broadcast of “Diamonds are Forever,” the seventh James Bond film. I only wanted to record it because I’m a really a big fan of Jill St John and Lana Wood, Natalie’s sister. Lana gave an amazing performance that fit right in with the movies overall unbelievablity and suspension of reality.
   Where would you lock up James Bond after several sincere attempts to assassinate him have failed? Number one, why lock him up? Shoot the annoying bastard several times in rapid succession and be done with it. (Scott Evil, Dr. Evil’s son in the Austin Powers films was so right!).
   Where do you lock him up? Why stick him in a room with a convenient escape hatch in the middle of the floor, that’s where! If only the local police were as accommodating.
   And I don’t think I’ll ever forgive James Bond (or Sean Connery for that matter) for slapping Jill St John. I’ve seen him do that in two movies now. Of course, Bond is so manly that the women still wish to risk their lives rescuing the son of a bitch.
   I am ashamed to admit that I have done that myself to my sister and my first wife, Michelle,  along time ago. I am so glad that in that respect I was able to change, and violence toward anybody, but especially women is abhorrent to me now. I think the fact that my second wife, Debra, and Michelle’s aunt, tended to hit back and throw heavy objects in my direction helped me mend my ways.
   I am so sorry Cheryl and Michelle. Please don’t ever forgive me.
   I got horrible reception from channel 13 tonight, the channel which was broadcasting “Diamonds are Forever,” so I gave up recording it. After I stopped the reception cleared right up.
   I ate a Bologna and cheese sandwich at 10:00, then got so tired I decided to forego the 11:00 “X-Files,” and laid down on my rack and fell asleep.
   I dreamt I was playing roulette with Jill St John and Lana Woods, but instead of the little ball that is normally used to determine the winning number, a round diamond was spun instead. I bet 3 modified brilliants and 6 American Standards on 7 red. Lana was behind me cheering me on, Jill spun the wheel.
   The round diamond landed on 00 green. I lost. Jill and Lana took me upstairs and threw me out of the hotel room’s window.
   Fortunately there was a pool directly below me.
   I missed it by this /                                                                / much.
   “I didn’t know there was a pool down there,” Jill said.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bruce Murray 1931 - 2013

   There’s only one left now, and here’s what he had to say about the passing of his fellow Planetary Society co-founder, Bruce Churchill Murray, who died yesterday at his home in Oceanside, California, at the age of 81.

   “Dear Richard [he likes to call me Richard],
   It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Society co-founder, Dr. Bruce Murray, has passed away. Bruce died from the progressive effects of Alzheimer's Disease on August 29, 2013. We are saddened to be sure -- but we're also hopeful (even joyous) as we look back on Bruce's life and leadership -- his influence on planetary exploration, his students at Caltech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and The Planetary Society will live on to inspire a better future.
   Bruce was my mentor, boss, colleague, and friend for more than half my life.  It was a great privilege and terrific experience to work with him.
   You can read more about Bruce on our website in the obituary by Charlene Anderson and me.  Charlene was the Society's first employee, Editor of The Planetary Report and Associate Director of the Society.
   Like you, every one of us at The Planetary Society shares in this loss.  On our website we’ve provided a way for you to share your own stories about Bruce or to offer a written tribute.    Together, we will celebrate a great man.

Louis Friedman
Executive Director Emeritus

   “The Planetary Society is a non-government, nonprofit organization supported by more than forty thousand members; anyone can join. It is involved in research and engineering projects related to astronomy, planetary science, exploration, public outreach, and political advocacy. It was founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman, and has members from more than one hundred countries around the world.
   The Society is dedicated to the exploration of the Solar System, the search for Near Earth Objects, and the search for extraterrestrial life.” -Wikipedia

   The Planet Society was founded in 1980. I became a member about 10 or 11 years later while working in Pasadena just after Salvation Diary days. Through the Society I’ve had the opportunity to indirectly be involved with, and help sponsor, projects like the Society’s  Lightsail project, which consists of three ultralight spacecraft which utilize sunlight as a propulsion system, and the LIFE (Living Interplanetary Life Experiment) experiments, a two-part program designed to test the ability of microorganisms to survive in space, which involved sending little tiny bugs into space aboard the shuttle, when it was still operational, and to Mars.
   I would have been hard pressed to carry out these projects on my own as they were very expensive, and I have to admit I lacked the expertise to successfully organize them.
   Through the Society we also bitch at Congress to keep up the funding for NASA and it’s space exploration projects. This is becoming difficult due to the sequestration cuts and the Republicans non-sensical mania to cut Federal spending (perhaps they should donate their own salaries for the cause).
   We do other things as well, like advocate for the study of objects like asteroids and comets that may come close to our planet, and searching for extraterrestrial life.
   Bill Nye (the science guy) is the current executive director.
   Although not connected to The Planetary Society, you too can help in the direct search for extraterrestrial radio signals through the Seti@Home project (hosted by the Space Sciences Laboratory, at the University of California, Berkeley), if your computer isn’t doing anything when you’re not using it.
   Because of The Planetary Society my name, Richard Ruprecht Joyce, is etched on to two different microdots, which have landed in two different locations on the planet Mars (Ares Vallis, or "the valley of Ares" where the Mars Pathfinder Mission set down in 1997, and in Gale Crater, where the Mars Science Laboratory landed in 2011).
   Dr. Bruce Murray helped make that happen. He along with Dr Louis Friedman, and the late Dr Carl Sagan, made that happen.
   I had the honor of meeting Dr Murray on at least two occasions at Society events, one of them when he introduced Dr Stephen Hawking when he was promoting his book and film, “A Brief History of Time,” in Pasadena.
   Below Dr Friedman and Charlene Anderson, who knew Dr Murray much better than I did, share their memories:

   “One of the most remarkable minds of 20th century exploration was stilled this morning, August 29, 2013, when Bruce C. Murray died of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 81. The Planetary Society owes its existence to Bruce, who with Carl Sagan, decided in 1979 that the world needed an organization that would harness the public’s fascination for planetary exploration and demonstrate to politicians that voters would support those who supported planetary exploration. Bruce and Carl directed the organization together for sixteen years, until Carl’s death, and Bruce took over as president for another 5 years.
   The world knew Bruce Murray as Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, from the triumphant Viking landings on Mars, through Voyager’s encounters at Jupiter and Saturn, to the start of Galileo to Jupiter and Magellan to Venus. Discover magazine dubbed him “the Admiral of the Solar System,” a title for which he took a lot of teasing from those who knew and loved him. Bruce’s great hero was Captain James Cook, the great explorer of the seas, and he may have been secretly pleased to have been given a title – even if entirely unofficial -- that recalled great explorers of the past.
   As a young man, Bruce did not set out to become a planetary explorer. He went through MIT through the ROTC program, and after getting his PhD in geology, he served two years with the US Air Force. He then spent several years prospecting for petroleum for Standard Oil. He found his way to Caltech where, in the early 1960s, geologists were beginning to look at Earth’s neighboring ball of rock, sometimes called the Moon, as an object worthy of study.
   Bruce became a pioneer in planetary imaging and earned an appointment as a professor of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. He began his Caltech career by using big telescopes, such as the 200-inch Hale telescope on Palomar Mountain, to observe the Moon and Mars through the infrared to try to figure out what substances lay on their surfaces. As the Space Age progressed and people started launching spacecraft to get close to the planets under study, Bruce was appointed to the Imaging Team for the first Mariner missions to Mars. His skills in imaging, wrangling fellow scientists, and communicating with the public led to his appointment as Imaging Team Leader for the Mariner 10 mission to Mercury. Not long after that success, he was appointed Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
   Bruce profoundly influenced the course of planetary exploration from the very beginnings of the space age. On a personal note, he profoundly influenced us as our leader at The Planetary Society, as a family friend, and for one of us (LDF) as a mentor and boss at JPL before The Planetary Society. (I was assigned to go meet Bruce Murray on my first day of employment at JPL, to work on the Mariner-Venus-Mercury (Mariner 10) mission where Bruce was the lead imaging scientist --- LDF).
   It is through its spectacular images of other worlds that the space program has captured the hearts and imaginations of members of the public. Few know that, without Bruce, there might not be so many wondrous images to entrance us. In the early days of planetary exploration, the idea of taking along a camera to snap pictures of the planets was controversial. The space science community was dominated by physicists who thought taking pictures was a public relations stunt that would eat up data, spacecraft power and mass resources that should be reserved for other instruments that they found more scientifically valuable. Working with his colleagues at Caltech, notably Robert Leighton and Robert Sharp (for whom Mt. Sharp is named on Mars), Bruce changed that. He literally helped change our picture of the solar system.
   The planet Earth, especially the dry desert areas that entrance many a geologist, was also a target for Bruce’s scientific ponderings, even while he led the charge to Mercury, Venus, Mars, and beyond. Through his work on so many worlds, Bruce helped invent the field of comparative planetology. Those scientists who today study planetary processes such as seismic events, climate change, the history of water, cratering, and so on by comparing them among different worlds are following in Bruce’s footsteps.
   A key to Bruce’s success was his willingness to reach out to others who might have something to teach. When he and Carl saw the need for an organization that would promote and defend planetary exploration, they did not have a clear idea of how such an organization should work. Bruce enlisted the aid of John Gardner, who had served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, before going on to found Common Cause and become an expert at building of public constituencies. Gardner became Bruce’s mentor and taught him the steps to building an organization like The Planetary Society.
   For example, Bruce initially thought that a simple mimeographed newsletter would be sufficient means to communicate with Planetary Society members. But those who, like John Gardner, Bruce enlisted to help form the organization (as well as Carl, of course) emphasized that the gorgeous color pictures of the planets were our best and most inspiring means of communicating the value and inspiration of space science. Thus, was born The Planetary Report.
   While Bruce had a reputation for suffering fools badly – a trait his mother frequently lectured him about – he was remarkably willing to change his mind and admit when he was wrong. He acknowledged the expertise of others and attracted brilliant people to his projects. At The Planetary Society we saw this when he was willing to dismiss his reservations about the use of direct mail to build our large membership base. In his scientific work, he was willing to overcome his skepticism about the accessibility of water on Mars. His rigorous insistence on intellectual honesty often made him controversial, especially when dealing with the often contentious politics of the space program. But those same qualities made him widely admired and sought after for advice on the direction the space program should take into the future.
   Bruce was honored by the Society twice with formal dinners, once in 1990 on the occasion of the Society's 10th anniversary, and again in 2002 when he formally retired from Caltech and stepped down as President of The Planetary Society.
   Bruce also gave direction to Planetary Society programs. He initiated our deep involvement in the development of a Mars balloon, first with students in a summer program at Caltech, next with research and development funded by members of The Planetary Society, and then in close collaboration with French and Russian scientists. Unfortunately, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that a Mars balloon never flew — or one has not flown yet. The concept lives on.
   Together with Carl, Bruce also pushed the Society into the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) when U.S. government support for it at NASA was curtailed. This led to our multiple SETI projects that began with Suitcase SETI in 1982 and continue today. Bruce and Carl also encouraged the Society to support the search for exoplanets at a time when it was relegated to borrowed time on a few small telescopes at minor observatories. SETI has yet to make a discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, but scientists following Bruce and Carl’s lead have certainly vindicated their prescience by finding exoplanets nearly everywhere they look.
   With his wife Suzanne, Bruce traveled extensively, not just as tourists but in connection with in-depth involvement in science programs. He was a visiting Professor at the University of Paris, a Visiting Associate at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and a Visiting Professor in Japan at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Sciences. Bruce served as an interdisciplinary scientist on several Russian Mars missions and participated on the Soviet-French Venus-Halley mission. He served as Director of Kerr-McGee Corporation, as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, Chair of the COMSAT Technical Advisory Council, a member of the ARCO Scientific Advisory Council and of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
   Bruce’s most visible legacy may lie with the institutions with which he was principally associated: Caltech, JPL, and The Planetary Society, but his biggest legacy is the outstanding group of planetary scientists who were once his students. So many of the great discoveries of the last few decades of planetary science have been made by those who were trained in their work by this demanding, gruff, brilliant, and deeply caring man. Every human and every robot now exploring the planets owes a debt to Bruce Murray. We were enriched by having known the man; the world of science and exploration is so much poorer for his loss.”

   And here is one of those students,  Bruce Betts, now Dr Bruce Betts, a planetary scientist who earned a B.S. in physics and math and an M.S. in Applied Physics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science with a minor in Geology from Caltech, and now Director of Projects for The Planetary Society.

   “I am saddened by the loss of my professor and mentor, Bruce Murray.  I celebrate him here by sharing some personal memories and reflections. There is much to respect, and also much to amuse as we reflect on the life of this great man.
   My first connection to Bruce Murray was his signature on the membership card of The Planetary    Society.  Yes, I carried my card in my wallet.  I had joined while in high school when The Planetary Society was established.  Whenever I looked at the membership card, I always focused on the signatures: Carl Sagan, and this guy named Bruce C. Murray.  (Random Bruce Murray fact: his middle name--Churchill).  Then, I went about my life, and eventually was accepted to Caltech Planetary Science for graduate school.  That first summer, I was assigned to carry out summer research with Bruce.  Before having met him, I just thought: cool, this is the guy whose signature I have carried in my wallet for years!
   One of the first things I learned about Bruce after arriving at Caltech was that he had completed his Ph.D. in two years – a terrifying thing to learn about a potential graduate advisor.  I tried to sooth myself that he had done that at a little-known, lesser institution – MIT.  Later he told me that he had been very focused on finishing his Ph.D. quickly because he thought he might get called to active duty in the U.S. Air Force at any time for the Korean War or its aftermath.  Still.  2 years.  Yikes.
    As I got to know Professor Murray, he was… different when compared to other faculty.  Bruce had returned to teaching shortly after his stint as director of JPL and co-founding The Planetary Society.  Bruce had a broader perspective on the whole space exploration process.  That meant, as a student, one may have gotten less of his time focused purely on science, but, in return, one got an introduction to the broader world of planetary exploration.  Mind you, he and all the other professors held the students accountable for excellent science, but Bruce also got his students involved with other strange endeavors that had impacts on space exploration more broadly--like The Planetary Society.
    Bruce had different sides to him.  In meetings or seminars, he filled the obligatory role of Caltech faculty (and former Caltech students J) as cranky, dubious, skeptical questioners of all things presented to them.  He also was focused on trying to bore into the core issue of a matter, sometimes at the expense of pesky details.  I can’t tell you how many times he asked people, including me, to sum up what they were talking about in 25 words or less – I did so in my Ph.D. defense as a joking response.
    Being a Bruce Murray graduate student was also an interesting process when I interacted with others in the field.  People in space exploration tended to either really like or really dislike Bruce Murray, likely as a result of his big personality, strongly expressed opinions, and positions of power he held.  That actually tended to work out well for me as a graduate student.  Others in the field would either help me because they liked Bruce, or pity me because they didn’t.
    Bruce involved his students as free labor supporting The Planetary Society – a hidden benefit many members weren’t even aware of.  It was through Bruce, and those I had met at the Society, that I was called back into the fold at The Planetary Society as Director of Projects, after stints doing planetary science research and working at NASA Headquarters.
    Of course, there are memories involving Bruce that I don’t like to think about, like Ph.D. oral qualifying exams, or Soviet saunas.  But there are many I like to focus on, like his kindness to and concern about my family, his insights into the scientific process, his great big belly laughs, his slamming his hand on the table and shouting “Damn it, Lou [Friedman]!”, his unabashed sporting of side burns long after the 1970s, and his unveiling of the amazing world of Martian geology to me.
    Bruce Murray affected me more than just about anyone else other than my family.  I will miss him.  The worlds will miss him.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What the Hell is the FDA & EPA Letting Us Eat and Drink and Why?

Would you drink this?

   We all love Jennifer Love Hewitt. Just love her. She’s so talented, pretty, and perky (she’d hate me for saying that. It’s been a long time since anyone’s called her “perky,” especially since she’s appeared in ”The Client List.”). I even wrote a short story that she magically appears in that can be found right here.
   And when she appears in films we all scramble to see them.
   And when I say we I mean me.
   However, when I saw the opening scene of “The Tuxedo,” the movie she starred in with the infamous Jackie Chan, I knew the film was in trouble. I mean who starts a major Hollywood production which is produced and distributed by DreamWorks, with a close up of a deer urinating into a mountain stream? And when I say close up I mean really close up. Some would think that would be in bad taste even though the film’s plot dealt with poisoning the general water supply with bacteria that spills electrolytes into the blood of those who drink it, which totally and ironically dehydrates them until they look like little raisins left out in the sun in the middle of a ferocious dust storm. I wouldn’t begin a film that way, but Kevin Donovan, the film’s director thought differently about it.
    "The movie is silly beyond comprehension, and even if it weren't silly, it would still be beyond comprehension," our late friend Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote of the film. Still he declared it did have it’s good moments, and I’ll posit that those good moments were all of the scenes with Jennifer Love Hewitt in them.
   “The Tuxedo,” cost $60 million to make and made $104 million worldwide, so it probably lost money upon it’s initial release considering marketing and distribution costs, which I’m sure was made up with rentals and re-broadcasts.
   Be that as it may this discussion of the film and the Lovely Jennifer does nothing to further our discussion about what the hell is the FDA and EPA is letting us eat and drink and why?
   Except, that sometimes we may be drinking water with deer piss, or bear piss, or squirrel piss, or fish piss, or worst of all, Blue jay piss in it.
   I like water. I drink it all of the time. I’m going to drink some right now as a matter of fact, please excuse me a moment... boy, that was good!
   I keep several bottles of it in my refrigerator in anticipation of getting thirsty. The refrigerator keeps my water nice and cold. I like it that way.
   When one of my bottles of water gets empty after I drank all of it, I don’t despair. I just fill it up again with water from the tap on my sink, then stick it back in my refrigerator to get it cold again.  It’s an endless cycle.
   I don’t mind drinking water from the tap. It tastes alright to me... it tastes good even. I’m going to have another drink right now...
   I make coffee with tap water, Top Ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes, rice, tea, and a whole bunch of other things.
   I wash my hands, brush my teeth, and even go so far as to shower with it occasionally.
   My dear sister doesn’t care for tap water and buys it in bottles from her local super market. Many do.
   The last time I visited her she took one of my bottles of tap water by mistake and began drinking it. I looked in her refrigerator for my bottle of water and couldn’t find it.
   “Cheryl, did you take my bottle of water,” I asked her.
   “Your bottle? I might have, why?”
   “You know it’s tap water, right?”
   “Oh... that’s why it tastes so terrible.”
   Apparently she doesn’t like the taste of tap water. I’m just the opposite. Bottled water tastes sterile to me, without taste.
   But is tap water safe to drink? Is bottled water safe to drink?
   I found that question asked on the Internet, especially concerning tap water here in Los Angeles where I live. Here’s a couple of answers:
  “The water is completely safe to drink any place in the US from the tap. Some areas the water tastes better than others, but it is all safe.
   But it seems everyone in LA drinks bottled water anyway. You can get cheap water at almost any grocery store or Walmart and premium brands as well, Fiji water is my choice for bottled water.”
   “Bottled water companies are masters at advertising - they have convinced people to purchase water (at many times the cost of gasoline) when perfectly good water is available practically for free out of the tap.
   Water in LA is perfectly safe. If you want to be able to take water with you, get/bring a reusable bottle and just refill from the tap as needed.”
   I do that already, so I feel extra clever not paying money for bottled water.
   But is it really safe, and where does it come from?
   In L.A.,  the Los Angeles Aqueduct, supplies water and electricity to 3.8 million residents. I’m probably one of them. The Metropolitan Water District imports water from the Colorado River and State Water Project and supplies it to member agencies and cities. Many cities also rely on groundwater, especially those along the coast.
   “In 1960, California voters approved financing for construction of the initial features of the State Water Project (SWP). The project includes some 22 dams and reservoirs, a Delta pumping plant, a 444-mile-long aqueduct that carries water from the Delta through the San Joaquin Valley to southern California. The project begins at Oroville Dam on the Feather River and ends at Lake Perris near Riverside. At the Tehachapi Mountains, giant pumps lift the water from the California Aqueduct some 2,000 feet over the mountains and into southern California.” -Water Education Foundation
   Okay, so a lot of our water here in L.A. comes from the Colorado River. But wait a second... the Colorado River originates in the Rocky Mountains.
   “The Rocky Mountains are an important habitat for a great deal of well-known wildlife, such as elk, moose, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, lynxes, and wolverines.” -Wikipedia
   I’m willing to bet they’ve got Blue jays up there as well. What’s to stop all of these animals from taking a leak in the streams that feed the Colorado River, and therefore straight into my tap water?
   Nothing. Nothing at all.
   What’s to stop people who swim or ski in the Colorado River, like at Lake Havasu, close to where my sister lives, from taking a leak in it as well. I would if I were them.
   Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing to stop them from doing so.
   So am I drinking a lot of pee laced water? Who’s responsible for monitoring the nation’s water supply.
   The Environmental Protection Agency is.
   According to the Center for Disease Control, “The United States has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. Over 286 million Americans get their tap water from a community water system. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality in public water systems and sets maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants.”
   Maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants? Does that mean the EPA will allow a little pee in the water until it reaches a certain level?
   I suppose it does.
   There are other things besides pee that can be in our tap water as well.
   The CDC continues: “Sources of drinking water are subject to contamination and require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing contaminants. Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. There are many sources of water contamination, including naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium), local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations), manufacturing processes, and sewer overflows or wastewater releases.
   The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.”
   Specifically examples include source microbial contaminants such as Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Norovirus.
   Contamination from Sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife (freaking deers!).
   Inorganic chemical contaminants like arsenic, copper, fluoride, and lead.
   Naturally occurring contaminants, or those resulting from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, soil and gas production and mining or farming.
   Disinfectants such as Chlorine, chloramine, water additives for inactivating microbial contaminants.
   Byproducts of drinking water chlorination like haloacetic acids and  trihalomethane..
   Plus organic chemical contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides, benzene, toluene, agriculture storm runoff, byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, and septic systems.
   Radioactive contaminants like radium and uranium that occur  or result from oil and gas production and mining activities.
   And let’s not forget good old methane, or natural gas, if you happen to live near a fracking operation (see picture and video above).        
   No wonder tap water tastes so good.
   Soooo, there is a possibility that our drinking water could be contaminated.
   But just a little bit.
   Yet we can still take some measure of solace in knowing “The United States as one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world.”
   So is my sister right in buying all of that bottled water? Is she better off? Healthier and safer?
   "Bottled water isn't any safer or purer than what comes out of the tap," says Dr. Sarah Janssen, science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, which conducted an extensive analysis of bottled water back in 1999. "In fact, it's less well-regulated, and you're more likely to know what's in tap water."
   "Bottled and tap water come from essentially the same sources: lakes, springs and aquifers, to list a few. In fact, a significant fraction of the bottled water products on store shelves are tap water -- albeit filtered and treated with extra steps to improve taste." - Los Angeles Times
   Alright, alright, I’ve learned enough. No more water for me. From now on it’s nothing but Pepsi Light.
   How about our food supply? Surely the Food and Drug Administration is looking out for us.
   And I’m not even going to bring up genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that have been in our food supply for about 20 years now, and which will most likely be the cause of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. No, I won’t say a word about them.
   The FDA itself says this: “FDA regulates food from GE (genetically engineered) crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and disease, including making sure that all new GE plant varieties pose no pest risk to other plants. EPA regulates pesticides, including those bioengineered into food crops, to make sure that pesticides are safe for human and animal consumption and do not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment.”
   Cool. So we don’t have to worry about those at all. (until Uncle Hector and Aunt Judy rise from the grave).
   But let’s pick some staple foods that Americans eat on a regular basis and see how the FDA and USDA, and EPA are doing their jobs and protecting us from unhealthy practices, like eating them. Oh, let’s say salmon for instance.
   I have some salmon in my refrigerator right now. Here, let me get it out. “Smoked Nova Salmon,” the package says, brought to me by Lasco since 1921. It’s America’s favorite salmon, the package also tells me. It’s hardwood smoked and premium quality.
   Okay, this looks pretty good. I might have some for lunch even.
   This appears to be wild salmon, that was frozen before being placed in my refrigerator.
   The FDA allows farm-raised salmon to be sold in the United States. Farm-raised fish are usually fed a diet of genetically engineered grains, antibiotics and chemicals unsafe for humans. To mask the resulting grayish flesh, they’re given toxic and potentially eyesight-damaging synthetic astaxanthin.
   You know what? Australia and New Zealand have the good sense to ban farm-raised salmon, one would think in a precautionary measure to protect their citizens from genetically engineered grains, antibiotics and chemicals  that are unsafe for humans (not to mention that synthetic astaxanthin).
   How about our pigs, cows, and turkeys? Well according to MSN Healthy Living, about 45 percent of US pigs, 30 percent of cattle, and an unknown percentage of turkeys are plumped with the asthma drug ractopamine before slaughter. Up to 20 percent of ractopamine is still there when you buy it. Since 1998, more than 1,700 US consumers of pork have been “poisoned” this way. It damages the human cardiovascular system and may cause hyperactivity, chromosomal abnormalities and behavioral changes (like zombiism). Currently, US meats aren’t even tested for it. For this very health threat, ractopamine-laced meats are banned in 160 different countries! Russia issued a ban on US meat imports, effective February 11, 2013, until it’s certified ractopamine-free.
   Mountain Dew and other drinks in the US contain the synthetic chemical brominated vegetable oil, originally patented as a flame retardant, and is banned in Japan and Europe.
   Arsenic-based drugs are approved in US-produced animal feed because they cause animals to grow quicker and meats products to look pinker and “fresher.” The FDA says arsenic-based drugs are safe because they contain organic arsenic … But organic arsenic can turn into inorganic arsenic, and run through contaminated manure and leach into our drinking water. The European Union has never approved using arsenic in animal feed, and environmental groups here at home  have sued the FDA to remove them.
   It’s kind of sad when we need to sue the agency responsible to protect out food, which in turn protects us, to do their job.
   Bread, hamburger and hotdog buns are “enriched” with potassium bromate, or bromide, linked to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort and cancer. I suffer from hypothyroidism and I’m thinking now it’s because of all of those hamburgers I ate at Jack In The Box and McDonalds when I was a kid.
   And the Filet-of-Fish sandwiches.
   God damn it!
   If I had been born in Canada, or Europe, or even China where it’s okay to pollute everybody to death, I wouldn’t have had to worry about it because bromides are banned there. Jeeez.
   On and on...
   Oh yeah, about those GMOs I wasn’t going to talk about, “The US government subsidizes the very crops identified as being the most harmful to human health and the environment; the top three being corn, wheat, and soybeans. And nearly all of the corn and soybeans grown are genetically engineered varieties.
   By subsidizing these, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated soybean oil, and meats loaded with antibiotics – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic disease. These junk-food subsidies make it much cheaper to buy a burger, fries and soda from a fast-food restaurant than it is to buy grass-fed beef and veggies. It's not that these foods necessarily cost more to grow or produce; rather the prices for the junk foods are being artificially reduced by the government.
   According to the report,* Americans die earlier and live in poorer health than people in other developed nations, which included Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the U.K.
   Of these 17 affluent countries, the US ranks last overall, and near the bottom in nine key areas of health, including low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and general disability. At 75.6 years, American men have the lowest life expectancy among the countries reviewed, and American women ranked second-to-last at 80.7 years. The infant mortality rate in the US is equally abysmal, with 32.7 deaths per 100,000, while most others range between 15 and 25 deaths per 100,000.”
   Why would the U.S. government subsidize these foods and practices, and turn a blind eye to their utilization in our national food supply (money, money, money, money, campaign contributions, money, money, money, money in politics, money)?
   I have no idea.

*US Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, -Steven H. Woolf and Laudan Aron, Editors; Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries; Committee on Population; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Institute of Medicine

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Impeach Obama Immediately If Not Sooner

Constitution of the United States

Article I.    Section 2.   Clause 5.
The House of Representatives shall chuse [choose] their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. 
Article. II.   Section. 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.

In the United States, the articles of impeachment are drafted by the House of Representatives for cases involving federal officials. Once drafted, a supermajority of the United States Senate is required to convict based on the articles. -Wikipedia


In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has usurped the exclusive power of Congress to initiate war under Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the United States Constitution by unilaterally commencing war against the Republic of Libya on March 19, 2011, declaring that Congress is powerless to constrain his conduct of the war, and claiming authority in the future to commence war unilaterally to advance whatever he ordains is in the national interest. By so doing and declaring, Barack Hussein Obama has mocked the rule of law, endangered the very existence of the Republic and the liberties of the people, and perpetrated an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor as hereinafter elaborated.

-Impeach Obama Campaign

   You know there are a lot of things I don’t like.
   For instance I don’t care for the ongoing bickering between CBS and Time Warner (currently Time Warner Cable has blacked out CBS stations due to a dispute concerning retransmission fees) which forces me to miss watching “Under the Dome,” the only thing that CBS is good for. For that matter I don’t like it that the Stephen King novel of which the television show is based is 1074 freaking pages long, and that King spends so much freaking time on characterization and back story that by the time we get to find out what’s behind the freaking dome we’re ready for the old folks home.
   Hey King... read a Koontz novel, any of them, and learn how it works. Life is short enough.
   My girlfriend is pissed with this dispute as well because she’s missing “Dexter.”
   She’s into serial killer killers, which should be a little alarming to me I guess. I’ll have to be extra diligent while sleeping from here on end.
   Don’t want to wake up wrapped in cellophane, that’s for sure.
   I don’t like it that cotton candy is pink.
   Oh, I know you can sometimes get designer cotton candy in other colors, most notably blue, but it usually comes in pink.
   I don’t like peanuts that are still in the shell.
   I don’t care for the “Sleeping Yogi” pose in yoga. It makes my butt itch.
   I don’t like it that it’s going to cost me $27.00 to get a California I.D. before my current one expires on my birthday this year. $27.00! How do you spell “RIP OFF!" For $27.00 it better make my bed and do the dishes for me. Jesus!
   And government I.D.s are so affordable and easy to get the Republicans say.
   I don’t like it that unlike other scientific units, which can theoretically be measured anywhere in the world based on natural properties, the kilogram is still based on a physical object: a cylinder of platinum and iridium that dates back to 1889. That just plain out sucks, as I’m sure you agree.
   I don’t like it that I have to wait a whole week to see the next episode of “Breaking Bad.” I want to know what’s going to happen NOW! Hey Vince Gilligan, take a look at “House of Cards,” will ya?
   I don’t like it that the Republican control the House of Representatives. In that I’m not alone. According to a NBC / Wall Street Journal poll taken last month, 83 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing in Washington, an all-time high in the poll. Just 12 percent approve of Congress' job, while 57 percent said they would replace every member of Congress if they could. Everyone!
   I don’t mind the Democrats so much, but the Republicans really piss me off.
   I don’t like it that Congress has been out of session since August 5th and will not return until the 9th of September when there is so much work for them to do (and then the House is scheduled for only 9 days of work in September). I’m seriously considering running for Congress myself... I could use the rest.
   I don’t like global warming, unequal distribution of wealth and resources, world hunger, human trafficking, over fishing, deforestation,  corporate welfare, Citizens United, the Supreme Court for that matter, sequestration,  Dancing with the Stars, on and on...
   And the Dutch of course.
   On and on...
   When I don’t like something I tend to write about it. It makes me feel better I suppose. If other people read it and agree, that’s great. If they read about and disagree that’s alright too. No one gets hurt or is punished in any way by my writing. It’s all rather harmless.
   Currently there’s a craze, I guess that’s what you’d call it, by some Republicans in Congress, and their political base, or rather those people who elected them to Congress, their constituents, to impeach President Obama.
   What is impeachment Rick? Do you throw peaches at the President, or something? Isn’t that illegal?
   No, no, no. No actual peaches are involved. According to Wikipedia “Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as criminal or civil punishment.”
   So those calling for Obama’s impeachment are actually calling for his removal from office.
   So, what is an impeachable offense Rick, and who does the impeaching?
   Glad you asked. As shown above the Constitution states in Article I, Section 2, Clause 5, that the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. As for an impeachable offense, Article II, Section 4, the only impeachable offenses are treason, bribery, “or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.”
   What the hell does high crimes and misdemeanors mean Rick? Is there such a thing as a low crime?
   Why yes, there is. Jaywalking for instance would most likely be considered a low crime. As far as a concrete definition of high crimes and misdemeanors, there is none, and this is somewhat of a point of contention. House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford defined high crimes and misdemeanors in 1970 saying "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."
   Well, well, well, that’s pretty convenient if your party happens to be in charge of the House and you don’t like the President, like the situation we find ourselves in now, with the Republicans in charge of the House, and a Democrat as President.
   Yet that’s all the instructions, or all of the foundation the founding fathers provided, so we have to deal with it unless it is clarified in the future by the Supreme Court.
   But don’t hold your breath.
   Who else can be impeached Rick?
   By golly, the Vice President can too, as well all civil officers of the United States, whatever that means.
   What does it mean Rick?
   Well lots of people think it means members of Congress, since they’re the only other elected officials. The President’s staff and Cabinet would probably go with the President if he were forced out of office, so there would be no need to impeach them. Who else could it mean?
   Members of Congress disagree sometimes, and maintain that they are not civil officers of the United States, and are therefore immune to impeachment, which is pretty self serving if you ask me.
   So the House of Representatives can remove the President from office by impeaching him with a simple majority vote, Rick?
   Nope. It’s not that easy. If it was they would have done it a long time ago.
   First, the President has to be impeached by the House, and you’re right, that’s done with a simple majority vote. Once that’s been done the President has been “impeached.” Next, the whole shebang moves over to the Senate, so they can have some fun to. They get to try the President for whatever offense he (or she) has been impeached. A two thirds majority vote is required to convict the President. That process is presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States, who is also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Roberts holds that position now.
   Once convicted by the Senate the President is removed from office. If he (or she) refuses to leave, we send in the marines to throw their ass out.
   Depending on the offense, the President can still face criminal and civil charges in a regular court. Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon resigned from office before he could be impeached, but still could have faced criminal charges for interfering with the Watergate investigation while he was President, until Gerald Ford, now President, pardoned him of all future criminal charges.    
   Has there ever been a President who has been impeached Rick?
   Why yes, there has. Two of them.
   President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for trying to remove Secretary of War, one Edwin Stanton, from office without the consent of the Senate, which was then a violation of the Tenure of Office Act, a law later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But while it was in effect, the House impeached Johnson, who evaded conviction in the Senate, and removal from office by just one vote.
   Who else was impeached Rick?
   President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on  December 19, 1998, on two counts of getting a blow job in the Oval Office by Monica Lewinsky, and then lying about it.
   Okay, okay... so how does this all fit in with President Obama? How many blow jobs has he gotten in the Oval Office, Rick?
   No, no, no! President Obama hasn’t gotten any blow jobs in the Oval Office at all as far as we know. No. The Republicans in the House, some of the Republicans, want to impeach him for... well I don’t know what they want to impeach him for. They don’t say what it is they want to impeach him for, but they sure do want to do it, I’ll tell you that.
   Impeaching the President “...would be a dream come true,” said Michigan Representative Kerry Bentivolio. I’m sure it would, for him and his Tea Party constituents.
   “A question I get a lot, ‘If everybody is so unhappy with the president, why don’t you impeach him?’” Texas Representative Blake Farenthold said at a town hall meeting recently. “I’ll give you a real frank answer about that, if we were to impeach the president tomorrow, we would probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it.”
   Probably? Well the Republicans do control the House, and all they require is a simple majority vote to impeach the President. But first they would need a specific impeachable offense, and then, knowing this action would be followed up by a trial in the Democratically controlled Senate, who would be very unlikely to convict the President for anything, what would be the point really?
   There wouldn’t be one.
   Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, the President’s close friend according to Coburn, has told his own constituents that Obama is “perilously close” to meeting the constitutional standards required for an impeachment trial.
   Really? For what exactly? Remember dear readers that little pesky requirement needed in order to impeach a President... an impeachable offense. Has the President committed treason? Well according to some he has. But we’ve discussed this at length and have decided in the real world if he’s committed a treasonous act worthy of impeachment, then every president since FDR (and a lot before him) has as well, because Obama hasn’t done anything any other president hasn't done in the past.
   Is the President guilty of bribery? Other than the “legal bribery” that every politician is guilty of in the form of campaign contributions, no. No one’s accused him of that to my knowledge, so we can move on.
   Okay, here we get to that hard to define “high crimes and misdemeanors” part.
    "I think there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration,” Coburn said at a town hall meeting, “but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence of people who are making decisions."
   We’ve discussed incompetence as an impeachable offense, and have decided it wasn’t. Again, this is an offense every president has been guilty of, especially Obama’s predecessor.
   Perhaps President Obama’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya was an impeachable offense, as those at “Impeach Obama Campaign” propose above. They even wrote their own Articles of Impeachment, which should save the House some time if they ever take it up. Democrat Dennis Kucinich even called for the president’s impeachment.
   But military action in Libya was UN backed and carried out by NATO, and no U.S. ground forces were involved, and therefore he was not impeached at the time.
   Perhaps he will be for attacking Syria without a mandate from the UN. We shall see.
   No it looks like certain Republicans in the Congress want to impeach the President simply because they don’t like Obama, or anything he’s done, or stands for. Perhaps they want to impeach him because their political base, their constituents, want him impeached simply because they don’t like him, or anything he’s done, or stands for.
    But he is the lawfully elected President. This is something Republicans find difficult to accept, so they don’t, and look for any excuse to remove him from office. The “Birther Movement,” is a prime example of this. Even though the President has provided ample proof that he was born in America and was eligible to run and win the presidency, some people refuse to accept that, because it doesn’t fit in their world view I guess. How could a black man, a man with the middle name of Hussein be our President? Didn’t we go to war to remove a guy with that very name, Saddam Hussein, from power. Maybe they're brothers. On and on.
   So these people cry and moan, much as I did when George W. Bush was President.
   So if Obama is not a legitimate president, but he holds the White House, any thing he does should be suspect, like his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as Obamacare. So Obamacare must be bad. Right wing propaganda outlets reinforce this belief, so conservatives are against the implementation of Obamacare and encourage their members of Congress to do whatever it takes to stop it’s implementation, like holding the federal government hostage by threatening to shut it down at the beginning of October when authorization for government spending expires if Obama doesn’t repeal or defund Obamacare, or give them everything else they want (like making the sequester cuts permanent). Or the same when the debt ceiling needs to be raised.
   Yet Obamacare is already the law of the land, upheld by the Supreme Court, which is something that outrages the Republican base. Even if Republicans in the House did shut down the government in October Obamacare would still be implemented, because that implementation has already been paid for, which some Republicans just can’t accept.
   So of course there’s only one thing for them to do... throw a tantrum, like little children, like little babies, who don’t get their way. Rather than respect the rule of law in this country, they’d rather tear it economically apart in a fit of childish rage, no matter what the consequences may be, or who gets hurt, even themselves (what will happen to these Republicans 401K’s if the government defaults on it’s obligations? They’ll probably lose as much as 20% of their value).
   Maybe it’s time for the Republicans, the base and those who represent them, to grow up and return to some form of rationality.
   Come on, try it. Just for a little while at least.
   I guarantee you won’t like it, but it is best for the country.
   Children usually want to take on adulthood as quickly as possible, I know I did.
   It’s time for Republicans and conservatives to want that too.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Skid Row Diary 13

6 August 2003    Wednesday      Day 25

   My alarm woke me at 3:00 because I set it for that time. I got up off of my rack, paced the short distance across my room (about one pace) to my desk and turned it off. I then went back to my rack, realized I was still tired, became aware that “Star Trek Voyager,” would soon come on, then went back to sleep.
   I re-awoke just before 7:00. An infernal informercial was just ending and “Tarzan,” the cartoon series was just beginning. I realized that Tarzan’s Jane... Jane Porter, was really hot. Didn’t Minnie Driver supply her voice in the movie? Minnie Driver’s really hot, I thought.
   Then I got up and took a shower.
   John Manzano knocked on my door just as I finished dressing and checking on Giselle.
   We went to breakfast. Chicken omelets. Chicken omelets? Who in their right mind makes chicken omelets on a regular basis. Anyone with an excess amount of poultry you may say, and you may be right.
   “What are you going to do today?” John asked between mouthfulls of chicken omelet.
   “I don’t know. Look for a job I guess. Go to school. What are you going to do?”
   “I don’t know... go to school...”
   “We could go throw things at cars from the freeway overpass,” I suggested. “We haven’t done that for awhile.”
   “Naw. Oh, you know... I have to go to the EDD to get my GR paper stamped.”
   “Really?! I’ll show you where it’s at. I’ll go to the One Stop.”
   We walked over to 9th and Hill. John kept bitching about how far it was, the lazy bastard. We arrived at the EDD building just as it opened. John went upstairs to get his paper stamped. I went to the One Stop on the ground floor.
   For the last several days most of the computers there had lost their ability to connect to the Internet, and no one in the office in a position of authority seemed to be in any great hurry to remedy the situation, which was upsetting. I couldn’t check my Email, let alone try to find a picture of Susanne Christian and Imogen Stubbs.
   Coincidentally, the two computers that allow access to their disk drives had not been booted up for several days, which makes it nearly impossible to print my personal files. I was quite vexed!
   However, I was able (to my great relief) to take care of a small personal matter that had nothing to do with finding a job. I spent a little over two hours typing a letter to the State Appeals Board, my GR caseworker, and her office administrator, giving them all a stern what for, describing the circumstances  of last Thursday’s aborted hearing attempt. I derided the hearing process and the officers inability to begin the proceedings in a timely manner. I also requested another hearing.
   I get like that sometimes. Make a big fuss about being offended and initiate some long drawn out process, or set of events that I lose interest in a few days later, usually because I’ve relapsed and couldn’t be bothered.
   We shall see.
   I took three copies of the letter to the post office and mailed them. That done I grabbed the Red Line from the 7th St. station to LACC, and then to the Financial Aid Office. Hopefully their computers would be working today.
   They were. Thus the office was rather busy and crowded, and I had to wait a while to be seen. Naturally Colette had the day off or something, and couldn’t be found.
   Another disinterested lady helped me though. I had to fill out and sign one more form, and review my SARs  (Student Aid Report), from the federal financial aid people. The federal financial aid people could not verify my veteran status and had documented I was not a vet. Bad federal financial aid people. Dumb ass federal financial aid people.
   I showed the financial aid lady my veteran I.D. card, corrected the SAR report, and that was that.I was told to come back in four months to check on my status.
   Four months!
   That wouldn’t help me with books in September. I could still hope for help from Voc Rehab, or I could wait another semester to start school, or I could leap off a cliff into the Grand Canyon, or (horror upon horror) I could save up all of my plasma money and pay for the books myself.
   At least I had options.
   Before leaving the campus I looked for and found the EOP&S (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) office and talked to a young man there. I learned that I had to be a full time student in order to qualify for their services, such as book vouchers and priority registration. I took some pamphlets concerning their program before leaving.
   I stopped at the 99 cent store at MacArthur Park before returning downtown and picked up some candles, chicken gravy mix, pizza rolls, and a small, red duster. I then bought jalapeno cheese rolls and hickory smoked spam from the nearby Food For Less.
   “Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam.
Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
Spam spam spam spam!”
   Now well provisioned I returned to the Weingart and made myself a nice cup of Irish Breakfast Tea, then exercised and yogaed for a full half hour.  I used the day room computer to check my Email, and while doing that I heard on the T.V. news that Jennifer Connelly had a baby boy today, by that annoying actor who played Russell Crowe’s imaginary roommate in “A Beautiful Mind.”  
   Congratulations Jennifer! I wish you peace and good health, and for your two children as well, but not for that actor bastard. May the fleas of a thousand camels torment him until the end of his days!
   Why couldn’t you wait for me Jennifer? I’m the only one who fully appreciates you!
   Oh well, it can’t be helped I suppose. Jennifer’s loss is just another example of the ill effects of alcoholism and neardowellity.
   Forlorn, I consumed my newly acquired pizza rolls in my room where no one could see me. They were good.
   After a while I calmed down and wrote while listening to classical music. I wouldn’t finish until just before 8.
   I did break for dinner. Chile Mac. Gary Porch sat with me. He told me of how he had left his Weingart I.D. in a neighbors room who had left for the day. That meant he couldn’t use it to get breakfast or lunch, poor fellow.
   And I stopped writing to watch “Married with Children,” which was preempted by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement of his intention to run for Governor of California in October’s recall election. I haven’t a clue as to what his qualifications are. We shall see.
   Charley Rose hung out with The Dave Matthews Band. I’m not a fan, although I admire the band’s unique sound. Maybe they're an acquired taste. They certainly are popular.
   At 8:00 I got good reception on channel 58 and watched the first installment of Ken Burns documentary on the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition, the first official expedition of the new government of the United States, called for by Thomas Jefferson while he was President, and who had just completed the Louisiana Purchase. Very exciting.
   John Manzano stopped by and asked why I was watching this rather than channel 28's expose on the Spartans. 
   “Because I wanted to learn about this more. But I’ll tell you this... I agonized over the decision.”
   “I’m sure you did,” he said.
   He wanted to watch “The Twilight Zone.” He also told me that he had gotten information that his ex-wife had just married a man she had previously gotten a restraining order for. This is now causing him to worry about his children, but also provides more evidence in his case to win custody over his two sons.
   Women. They quite often don’t know what’s in their own best interest... what’s good for them, and act in contrary manners. They require guidance.
   But when we try to explain this simple fact to them they get all defense.
   Silly. But they can’t help it I guess. They’re women.
   Anyway, I told John I’d try to look up information concerning child custody laws in California.
   He mooched a smoked sausage sandwich from me and left after eating it and realizing I wasn’t going to change the channel to “The Twilight Zone.”
   As it happened (“As it is supposed to happen,” Bokonon sings to us) the Lewis and Clark documentary ended at 9:45, so I switched channels to 13, to the latest version of “The Twilight Zone,” just in time to see one of my favorite actresses, Jessica Simpson, being turned into a 10 inch doll by an obnoxious nine year old girl.
   How unfortunate.
   Actually, it was a pretty good segment, what I saw of it at least, and not a little bit scary.
   This episode may have influenced my dreams that night, which involved being turned into a doll, along with Rose McGowan, the perky and beautiful star of “Scream,” and “Phantoms.” Rosy (I like to call her Rosy), dressed in a Raggedy Ann outfit, held doll hands with me as we walked down the yellow brick road which led to Toyland. Unlike poor Jessica, we were very happy, and were singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” all of the way.
My oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine heading my way

7  August    Thursday   Day 26

   I watched the “Lineage” episode of “Voyager,” wherein the female half Klingon Lt. became pregnant by her human husband (at least he looked human. Who can tell these days?) As the late Dr. Carl Sagan aptly put it, it would be easier to mate a flea with an elephant than two different species from different planets. At least fleas and elephants possess the same DNA structure.
   Who knows what a Klingon possesses? I certainly don’t.
   But I nit pick. So does Carl.
   I was able to get some yoga and exercise in during the last half hour of the show, then took another nice, hot shower with my neighbor from down the hall, after which I wrote while listening to a Vivaldi (The Red Priest) violin concerto, and Mozart’s 39th  Symphony.
   At 5:00 I meditated and experienced enlightenment. Now space and time are open to me.
   Brian, of the Mark and Brian Show, threw his back out this morning while brushing his teeth. How odd.
   Thank God I’m still young and supple and have no trace of geez about me.
   Brian does. He even plays golf, the badge of geez.
   It was at this point that I figured out how to get my new VCR to record UHF channels by programming those channels into it. All I had to do was press the right button. The Auto Set Up button. These kind of insights occur after enlightenment.
   I also prepared a blank VCR tape to record the beginning of Despierta America so I could gaze upon Gizelle’s loveliness anytime I desired, as I would most assuredly do with Odalys Garcia as well if I could find Lente Loco on Univision’s local broadcast schedule. But I can’t. She’s being denied to me.
  John Manzano knocked on my door at 7:00, just as I was beginning to record.
   “Are you ready to go?”
   “Are you ready to go?”
   “Are you ready to go?” he kept repeating.
   Then I learned, much to my dismay, that Gizelle had taken the day off, pants or no pants, and wasn’t on the show today.
   I was disheartened, but eventually pulled through and went with John to breakfast.
   Waffles that soaked up all of the tiny amount of maple syrup that we were provided with, giving them the consistency of dried cotton. John and I ate heartedly.
   We parted after breakfast. John went to school, and I returned to my room to listen to Mark and Brian, and read about tobacco until 8:30 when I left the building walking up to the Nickle, to the Service Spot, where Mr. McCree works.
   This was the first time I had visited. The office looked nice and clean, and well furnished. I could see rows of computers behind the reception desk, as if computer classes were offered here, or a job resource center like at the One Stop.
   Donuts, little wheels of death, were available on a tray to my left.
   I asked the male receptionist if Mr. McCree was in. He wasn’t, so I left a message for him to come by and see me, or call my voice mail, to let me know if he was still alive.
   I caught a 53 bus up to the Skid Row Housing Trust office and signed in, then walked back to the Weingart. The day was already hot and humid.
   Mark and Brian were talking about the movie “Jaws,” which they will be showing at a special presentation on the pier in Santa Monica next Tuesday night. I’d like to go but then I’d have to call in to their show and participate in a trivia quiz, or fart on command, or lick my elbow... something entertaining, in order to get tickets, and I’m much too shy for that. I’m what M & B call a “passive listener,”and am content to remain one.
   We shall see. Perhaps I’ll change my mind.
   John Manzano tells me that he feels what M & B ask their listeners to do on their radio program is degrading, and he hates them for it.
   “And I suppose Howard Stern doesn’t do that? That he treats all of his guests and callers with the utmost respect? I don’t think so! I’ve heard guests, callers, his own freaking staff for Christ’s sake, go away in tears after talking to that long haired moron, geek. What you got to say about that Manzano?!”
   He didn’t have anything to say to that. John is a Howard Stern fan, thus joins what one critic labeled Stern’s fan base as, “a cast party for 'Deliverance.’”  
   I don’t care for Mr. Stern’s show very much, but have been forced to listen to it on occasion. Like when I used to deliver papers in Bullhead City and there was nothing else on the radio.
   But I digress.
   At 9:55 I walked next door to the Levi Center for Mr. Cairns Super Search Job Workshop, today’s topic... Liabilities!
   I was given my very own lined piece of white paper on which I was to list all of the liabilities I possess which hinder my gaining employment.
   1. Unstable
   2. Addict, prone to relapse.
   3. Laissez faire attitude toward working for other people.
   4. Dislikes those in positions of authority
   5. Lousy credit history.
   6. Minor criminal history (no felonies, mostly DUI and petty theft (booze of course. Everything’s related to booze))
   7. Lack of recent employment history.
   I’m fucked. I’ll never get a job.
   I left the meeting all depressed and morose. My head was hung low, my brow furrowed. I went to my room and started to cry.      
   John Manzano came back from school and collected me for lunch. Beef stir fry. I dribbled some stir fry juice onto my shirt and I was forced to change it.
   We walked up to the V.A. outpatient clinic on Temple. John was to begin his anger management classes at 1:00. I escorted him to the 4th floor to make sure he arrived clam and serene.
   Then I went to the 3rd floor, which was one floor below the 4th. I went to the V.A. Benefits Counselor’s office. There was a sign on the door stating he wouldn’t be back until the 13th.
   I then visited the Business Office on the 1st floor and was told I’d have to see the Benefits Counselor to find out why the federal financial aid people couldn’t verify my veteran status.
   I left the V.A., checking my mail before returning to the Weingart. I watched the film “Pollack,” on my new shiny VCR.
   Now I like Jackson Pollock’s paintings. They’re beautiful in an abstract expressionist sort of way. I have no idea of his real value as an artist, although I believe he was highly regarded. I do know that he fit the classic description of an addict, in his case he abused alcohol and nicotine (just like me). If Ed Harris’s fine portrayal of Pollock was accurate, he was a selfish, self absorbed, asshole, unable to deal with the world around him. He reminded me of myself at various time in my life.
   He was depressive as well, never a good combination. Unfortunately (and still my only information is coming from the film) he exhibited no sense of humor at all, and died as a direct result of his drinking, taking an innocent person along with him (the ultimate selfish act), in a fatal car crash.
   The same, or similar end awaits me if I’m not careful. I like to think I’ve learned to become more aware of the world around me and my responsibilities within it, but once I take a drink...
   Marcia Gay Harden won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife, and she deserved it. Jennifer Connelly had a very small part near the end of the film, but I could actually feel her terror in the last scene. She is so talented... and still had big boobs in this film.
   Nowadays not so much, which saddens the men of the entire world... and some women.
   But I digress.
   John Manzano and I shunned dinner where liver was being served. Instead I invited him to dine in my room, and he opted for a hickory smoked spam sandwich.
   “Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam.
Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
   Spam spam spam spam!”
   Good choice. Then he sauntered off to to an evening class at school.
   He’s learning to crochet.
   I watched Charley Rose talk to some lawyers about the Kobe Bryant rape case. I couldn’t be less interested. The media is having a field day, and if the victim sincerely feels she was assaulted I sympathize with her, for she is in for a rough time. If she’s just out for publicity she’ll certainly get that. For money, she’ll probably get that too.
   If Mr. Bryant is innocent, and any decision will be a judgment call, then I hope he’s treated fairly. If not I hope he’s put away.
   And that’s all I have to say about that, except that I don’t like basketball very much, and I hold a slight disdain  for all professional sports where athletes are paid outrageous sums of money for developing useless physical abilities. Same goes with the millions paid to some film and television stars. Same with bankers, and other parasitic CEOs. And models... don’t get me started on models. Hundreds of thousands of dollars just to take pictures of their skinny asses.
   There’s so much poverty in the world. When people’s compensation are so out of proportion with their contributions to society I am outraged.
   It doesn’t take a lot for me to get outraged.
   I need to attend Outrage Management classes.
   I’m also a little socialist, I guess.
   I finished reading “Ghost Story.” I had forgotten how it ended and thought it rather weak, but the book in it’s entirety is so, so good.
   At 8:00 I recorded the 1999 remake of “House on Haunted Hill.” Despite the fact that Vincent Price was in the original (which tends to raise the creepy meter ten points all in itself), that film really sucked, although it scared the hell out me me when I was a kid. So a modern remake had a good chance of being decent. Starring Famke Janssen, Ali Larter, and Bridgette Wilson, this movie was quite clever, and scary, despite another weak ending. And I’d be happy to watch toilet paper commercials all day as long as Geoffrey Rush is in them.
   John Manzano returned from school and watched the first half of the movie with me, and kept bitching like a little girl about how hot it was in my room, like there was something I could do about it. I mean my fan was blowing right on the big pussy.
   I threw his complaining and noisy ass out and went to bed after the movie and put my shallow, opinionated ass to sleep. I dreamt I was involved in a vicious paintball fight with Tracy Winn, the beautiful and talented ex-actress and star of “Foreign Affairs.” Along with Colleen Applegate, both the prettiest actresses ever in adult films (not that I ever watch movies like that. They both registered a hard 134 , on a scale of 0 to 100 on the Pretty-O-Meter, so it’s not just my opinion, it’s a matter of record).
   We were all covered in multi-colored paint blotches, battling each other in what seemed to be a gigantic mansion that had at one time been a hospital for the criminally insane. Tracy, the little imp, shot me three times in rapid succession right between the eyes, then scarpered down into the basement. I went after her, but got lost among the endless corridors and passageways and wound up falling into an abandoned oubliette, and was never heard from again.