Saving the Bay

I went to the Save the Bay film festival tonight at the Avon. I don’t have my writing hat on, so just a few scattered impressions–

The theater was about 3/4 full, best turnout I’ve seen there for a long time.
There was a short film about Save the Bay seal watch cruises. I never knew there were seals in Narragansett Bay, but there are and they’re big.
I was in the company of two meteorologists, which is a scientific expertise I admire. It’s a full moon and I wonder if just once March will go out like a lamb.
All those low-resolution shots of people hiking made me want to get outside as soon as it’s bearable.
The most memorable entry was an animated short called, ‘The Power of Poop’. I’ll past a link here…


I’m driving around making nursing visits, listening to the health care news on the radio. It hurts to have my hopes raised again. This whole debate has been painful and deeply disillusioning. Not only with my politicians, but with my fellow Rhode Islanders who told me face to face that an America where some people just have to die needlessly for lack of health care is acceptable to them.

I have to tune most of it out right now. I’m trying to do my job and tolerate the time I have to waste on getting over obstacles created by a fragmented and irrational system. I want to see a system that delivers care to people who need it, at a cost that is fair and proportionate to their ability to pay.

I have friends who are in financial crisis trying to afford their insurance premiums. I have friends who go without. I see waste and profiteering on the other end. I see a lot of people who are sick and unhappy. I see health care workers burnt out and stressed out because our system doesn’t reward promoting health. Not yet. But I have to hope. We are a great country and we are not done with this reform yet.

I was driving home from work this week and saw a woman fallen on the sidewalk. I pulled over at the next street, and by the time I got to her three other people had stopped to help. There was a conservatively dressed older couple and a young man with a Spanish accent and face piercings. All offering to call 911. She turned out to be okay. I think that is the real American spirit. We are ready to help. We are better than the loudest voices saying, ‘no we can’t’.

Prove Your Patriotism–Buy a Hummer!

A couple of years ago I read in a nursing magazine that a Hummer dealer had donated a Hummer kiddy car to a children’s hospital, so the kids could ride into surgery in style. I was a bit sarcastic, I’ll admit. I’ve never seen a hospital unit that had unused space to store large objects, or unused staff waiting around to charge up the battery and polish the fenders on the generous donation. I tried to fend off charges of moralism by declaring that I’m fine with candy cigarettes and near-beer and toy guns if it cheered up a sick child. Really. It’s just that this gift was suspicious of product placement and might be more trouble than it was worth.

Boy, did I get flamed.

So let me say now, that I’m saving up for a gift to Hasbro Children’s Hospital that they’ll really love. I’m buying them a pony. It’s a miniature, won’t take much space, and just needs hay and water a few times a day. A little extra work, but a small price to pay for a smile on a child’s face.

I’ve mellowed out. And I’m feeling bad about the possible loss of a national symbol. The symbol of the great American spirit that wears a yellow ribbon magnet on its bumper for the volunteer troops we send to fight far away. Yes, the Hummer. Don’t confuse this with the thin-skinned Humvees that failed to protect so many of our soldiers from IED’s. The Hummer never failed to make a statement in the Homeland when cruising to the mall or commuting to work.

Now the Hummer needs our help.

The hulking Hummer SUV brand looks to be headed for extinction.
General Motors Co. said Wednesday that it was unable to complete a deal to sell its Hummer line to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., a Chinese industrial company.

Arnold, you have more money than God. Buy a few more Hummers today. Dick, how are you going to carry all the birds and other creatures you shoot without a Hummer? Come on, Teapartiers, here’s your chance. A car that says, ‘Bush Administration’ every time you drive it. And it gets 15 miles to the gallon. And it’s real expensive. What better way to defend our way of life? Anyway, the Rapture is coming, so put it on credit. Where’s your faith?

I thought they would all come out when the foreign Chinese who are not American were trying to buy the Hummer brand. Nothing but silence. Will we see a great rally for Hummer now? It’s a big car. Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan can fit in the front seat. It can run right over a Prius. Will it now end up in the elephant graveyard?

Then there will be nothing left but used Hummers, losing value, finally to be passed along to the 16-year-old boy next door. Drive defensively.

More Empty Words

A Colorado man with a history of violence had no trouble getting a gun, which he used to shoot two schoolchildren. It would have been worse if he had not been tackled by a heroic teacher.

Math teacher David Benke says he had no time to fear for his life when he tackled a man he said was preparing to reload a rifle to shoot students at a Colorado middle school who were heading home for the day.

The gunman, Bruco Eastwood, seems to have suffered from mental illness. It’s understandable that his family is in shock. Still, this quote from a man identified as the father of the shooter is strangely empty…

“There’s nothing you can say about it. What can you say?” the man told The Associated Press. “Pretty dumb thing to do. I feel bad for the people involved.” He wouldn’t comment further.

I’m sure Bruco Eastwood’s father is feeling things he didn’t disclose in that statement. But it makes me think there is a parallel language for this kind of thing. When two children shot in front of their school are ‘the people involved’. I don’t think that Mr. Eastwood invented this script. I think we have a vast reservoir of outrage and rich language of condemnation for some kinds of violence, but a lack of words and a passive acceptance of the lone man who just couldn’t take it anymore.


The Supremes will be hearing a case brought by a Death Row inmate from the death capitol of the USA–Texas. Texas cherishes the unborn. Once you’re born you better learn to duck. Well, that’s a topic for future posts.

Anyway, today’s New York Times has an article about the case. The judge who sentenced Charles Hood had been involved in a sexual affair with the prosecuting attorney. Hood argues that the judge might not have been totally impartial.

Charles Dean Hood was sentenced to death in 1990 by a Texas judge who had been sleeping with the prosecutor in his case. It took Mr. Hood almost 20 years to establish that fact.

But he finally managed to force the two officials to testify about their rumored affair in the fall of 2008. They admitted it.

Maybe Judge Verla Sue Holland should apologize to Charles Hood, to Texas, to the United States, and to Blind Justice and then join a nunnery if the nuns would have her. But she doesn’t see it that way. She points out that Mr. Hood’s defense lawyers could have done better.

Whatever the precise contours and intensity of the affair, Judge Holland did testify that she would have disqualified herself from Mr. Hood’s case had his lawyers asked. But she also said she and Mr. O’Connell had kept their extramarital affair secret.

I’m only a nurse, and I don’t know anything about the technicalities of trial procedure. Maybe there’s an item on the checklist where the defense attorney is supposed to ask the judge if they might be boinking, or have ever boinked, the prosecuting attorney. And then the judge complements the defense lawyer on their astuteness and says,

“Yes, by the way, I did happen to have a sordid and extremely tacky extramarital affair with the prosecution. Are you concerned that I might not be able to be impartial? Let me then recuse myself, and refer this trial to a judge who is not intimate with anyone in the prosecution.”

So let’s blame the condemned for missing the chance to clear things up at the beginning.

Judge Holland feels that she has been treated very badly. She defends herself in language that… Well, the motto of the New York Times is ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’. The following is pasted from the Times. I shall excerpt it without comment.

In her deposition, Judge Holland said she had lately become angry with Mr. Hood’s lawyers for “annihilating my reputation.” She said she had asked the attorney general’s office to represent her in Mr. Hood’s challenge to her conduct because she thought she needed to fight back. She was “tired of laying over,” she said, and “getting licked without any input.”

Stop giggling, you!

This is actually appalling. Here’s the Texas district attorney’s legal reasoning for letting the conviction stand…

Mr. Hood was convicted of murdering a couple he had been living with, Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace, in Plano, Tex., in 1989.

The district attorney in Collin County, John R. Roach, has said that the case should not be reopened in light of the gravity of those crimes and Mr. Hood’s delay in pursuing rumors of the affair. Mr. Roach added that there was no need for a categorical rule against a little romance.

So, in other words, the awfulness of the crime justifies the awfulness of the trial. And ‘a little romance’ between the judge and the prosecution is no different from a couple of high school kids at the Prom. Well, actually, the kids would have no hope of mercy from Texas morality. They’re nobody.

So two people were murdered. And it’s very possible that Charles Dean Hood is guilty of the crime. But with a judge and lawyers so corrupt, and the Texas legal establishment saying that this is how it’s supposed to be, how is it possible to have a fair trial?

I hope the Supremes will forget politics and rule for decency, impartiality, professionalism, and the right to be presumed innocent.

Ronald Williamson and Tracie Wallace were brutally murdered. They are mostly forgotten in this soap opera. Whether justice will be done, or their deaths be unpunished is uncertain. The people trusted to administer justice seem to have no sense of shame.