Monthly Archives: February, 2010

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…

An Inspiring Sermon

Extending charity to Glenn Beck. A powerful testimony. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the public figures who say they are Christian would try to out-do each other in following the teachings of Jesus.

Earthquake in Chile

Associated Press reported that a new apartment building fell over backwards, with the wall becoming ceilings and sixty people trapped inside.

What sense can we make of this disaster?

Wikipedia has the news and the geology in one site. Weeks ago churches and aid groups came forward for Haiti, and will again for Chile. There’s no law of nature that earthquakes must be infrequent.

Hope

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.

Prejudicial?

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.

Moon– Me Vida Local Video

Being married to a space cadet who has scores of books about the Apollo mission, I wanted to see the movie, Moon. It played briefly in Providence and I didn’t get out to see it, but it finally came to Acme Video on DVD.

It’s pretty good, minimal explosions and some smart ideas. Sam Rockwell basically does a solo performance playing himselves (there’s a whole warehouse full of hims). Kevin Spacey is GERTY, a cousin of HAL from 2001-A Space Odyssey, but with a smiley face. He’s really sinister.

Anyone seen it? I liked it. I’m kind of cranky about recent sci-fi movies where the aliens either act just like people or look like runway models painted blue. Here there’s no space aliens, just an alienated human being who ends up as an illegal alien.

And let me add Acme Video to the list of unique, friendly Rhode Island businesses.

Me Vida Local List–
Acme Video
Silver Star Bakery
United BBQ
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda
Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands
Four Mile River Farm

Real Courage

He was a Vietnam vet, a hard working family man. He was looking forward to retirement in a few years. He was working for us when he was murdered in an act of Anti-American terrorism. Who was he? He was Vernon Hunter, 61 years old, taken from his family and community by self-righteous hate.

Bearing False Witness

Forgive me my trespass, Steve Benen of Political Animal, for pasting so much of your post here, and readers, Washington Monthly is the place to go for Steve’s update on what’s happening in politics.

I don’t usually rip off so much of someone else’s writing, but this post concerns Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson is in my opinion an international criminal who uses religion as camouflage for his steady accumulation of personal power. [Kmareka's legal department says that the First Amendment still allows human beings to have an opinion. I'm so grateful. Thank you, Supremes.]

If Robertson was following Christian morality he might be constrained by the Ten Commandments. Namely, the ninth. The Bible, interestingly, doesn’t say straight out that it’s a sin to tell a lie. God’s Commandment is– ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor’. ‘Bearing false witness’ is perjury. It’s a malicious lie that ruins a life. It’s the provocation that gets someone killed.

It’s the lie that puts a target on an innocent person. It’s the claim that the suspect was running away when he was shot in the back. It’s the false accusation of rape that justifies the lynching. It’s the lie that precipitates a war.

I believe there is a special place in Hell where the 700 Club is the only news playing. Pat Robertson is assuring the faithful that the Devil isn’t such a bad guy. Pat scares them with apocalyptic visions until they decide that the Devil they know is their buddy.

Maybe he calls up the unclean spirits of the slave owners who used lies and propaganda as effectively as the whip. More effectively–because deception requires way less energy than coercion.

So here’s a take on the CBN ‘News’…

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a report from radical TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which religious right activists and many on the far-right quickly embraced, but which didn’t stand up well to scrutiny.

CBN reported, in an apparent “exclusive,” that five Muslim-American soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina “were arrested just before Christmas and are in custody. The five men were part of the Arabic Translation program at the base.” If true, it’s the kind of development that would likely have broad political and policy consequences. Except, as Marc Ambinder noted, CBN appears to have gotten it wrong.

[T]he Army says it’s not true. No one has been arrested. The National Security Council was not aware of any arrests, a spokesperson said.

Let me express a humble nurse’s opinion of interpreters. We adore them. We are grateful to have them. Our job is hazardous to our patients and our license when we have to grab Marina in Maintenance or the grandchild to interpret. A very good interpreter I worked with told me she was exhausted by the end of the day. I understood, because I was exhausted too. It is very hard work to communicate vital information accurately across language and culture.

Broadcasting lies against hard-working Arabic interpreters, Americans in service no less, who are protecting our country and their fellow service members by facilitating communication– that would be contrary to our national interest and security. Unless you think our national interest is in precipitating total war in the Middle East, and our security is in qualifying for The Rapture.

The Armageddon Agenda is a deeply Un-American fifth column hiding in plain sight. Don’t mess with my interpreters, Pat Robertson, or you’ll hear from me. Whether it’s the professional interpreter, or Marina in Maintenance, or the little grandchild, or an Arab-American in service– you are saving lives. We, on the ground, know what you do and how much you are needed.

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