Friday, July 29, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: on Purple Prose, Mangy Mutts, Smokey Sunsets and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every year I think about entering a sentence in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, but it always happens after I've seen the announcement of that year's winner.   This particular contest is like a "Worst Fiction in the World" contest, where contestants have to come up with an opening sentence for an imaginary novel that is worse than, or at least comparable to, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's first sentence of his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford (and the first line of many of Snoopy's unfinished novels).

 (Here's the entire sentence. You be the judge):

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

I love the idea of coming up with a sentence so godawful bad it could actually win an award. I think I could do that.  Write badly, I mean. A sentence that would drop them to their knees, where, when the dust settled, they would find an entirely new perspective; or better yet, fly them to the moon, where green cheese is a mere but pleasant myth, but the ethereal man who smiles down on Mother Earth is as real as their hearts will allow, thus opening a path to thinking kind thoughts of me.

Anyway.  The 2011 over-all winner was a professor from Oshkosh, WI, who sent in this sentence:

"Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

I personally thought this one, from the "Purple Prose" category, should have won, but click on the link above and see what you think:

"As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue."

More odd news from Wisconsin:  A highway worker found a dead animal by the side of the road that was like no other he had ever seen.  "It's completely hairless [he said], almost like leather.  It has a canine-like head and a fox- or dog-type head. The rear legs are coon-like. The tail is almost like an opossum."

Some people think it's a chupacabra, while others think it's just an animal with a severe case of mange. But it turns out there have been sightings of similar animals all over the place.  And unlike Bigfoot, there's actually a carcass. (Either the genus Bigfoot never dies or they disintegrate and turn into dust, giving them an entirely new perspective, leaving nothing to us except our own imaginings.)

And speaking of oddities, how about Arizona and those dust storms?  Where the heck did they come from?  And why are they all of a sudden called "haboobs"?  Such a ruckus in that touchy state over an Arabic word for "Holy shit!  Look at that thing!"  Articleman wrote about it on dagblog last week.  (He lives in Arizona but he's okay.  He's not one of them.  Lordy, if  the dust ever settles in that nutty state, everyone could breathe easy again.) 

A Flash mob comes to a DC Walmart:  I love flash mob videos, but this is a new one on me.  All they want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Just as much fun for the rest of us but it doesn't look like the Walmart manager is enjoying himself.  Still, he let it happen.  Good for him.    (Thanks to GottaLaff at Political Carnival for this.) 

A moment sublime:  There was a forest fire to the west of us last week.  Not close enough to cause any concern for us, but it produced a spectacular sunset.  It went on and on.  I ran out of purple prose long before it finally subsided.

Cartoon of the Week:

Bob Englehart - Hartford Courant


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rosa Parks: No Way to Treat a Lady

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. 
Rosa ParksMy Story.

 In December, 1955, after a long day at work as a seamstress at a Montgomery, Alabama department store, Rosa Parks got on her bus and plunked down in a first-row seat of the section clearly defined as Blacks Only.  "The back of the bus".  The unwritten, unofficial public transportation rule in Montgomery said no white person should be standing in the aisle if a black person has a seat to give up to them.  Four white men got on the bus but the white section was full.  The four blacks in the first row of the black section were told to get up and give up their seats.  Three of the four moved.  Parks sat and waited. She was arrested and fingerprinted on the day which would mark the end of what might have been for her a quiet, uneventful life.  It was the impetus for the Montgomery bus boycott, an effort that would last just over a year before the U. S Supreme Court struck down the laws on transportation segregation.

She wasn't the first one to have refused to give up a seat on a Montgomery bus (the civil rights movement was already well under way) but black leaders, including a young, untested Martin Luther King, wanted an issue in Montgomery and Rosa Parks was perfect in the role of innocent provocateur.  She was far from being apolitical, however.  At the time of her arrest, she was the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP and was working with other groups to engage in passive resistance to the Jim Crow laws of her state.

Her actions brought unwelcome public attention to Montgomery in the form of that year-long bus boycott. The days of segregated buses, schools, lunch counters, restrooms, and drinking fountains were numbered, though it would take a few more ugly years before certain thick-headed whites got the message.

It was one of those iconic events that registers and resonates until both the event and the person triggering it become larger than life.  She became Rosa Parks, the embodiment of passive civil disobedience, and continued as an activist throughout her life, until a series of illnesses brought her work to a halt.

Before she died at age 92, she co-founded The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, the city where she was living when she died, "to motivate and direct youth not targeted by other programs to achieve their highest potential".  Her will specifically left the bulk of her estate to the institute -- some $372,000 plus what had once been described as over 10 million dollars worth of memorabilia.  Last week the Detroit Free Press front page headline read:  "Rosa Parks' estate was drained. Cash Gone, memorabilia is in limbo."

 Parks died in October, 2005. By November her relatives were petitioning the court to overturn the will that left them with just dregs and neglected to give them control over the estate.  By the time it was over,  lawyers' fees had eaten up most of the cash, and the Institute she so loved was no longer in control of the funds or the memorabilia.

This is one complicated story, but this is what David Ashenfelter at the Freep says, in part, is at the heart of it:

In exchange for confirming the validity of Parks' will and trust, [Steven Cohen, lawyer for co-founder Elaine Steele and the institute] said, the institute agreed to give the relatives a part of the royalties it received from licensing Parks' likeness and image. Parks had assigned those rights to the institute in a 2000 agreement that wasn't part of her estate.

Cohen said the institute reluctantly agreed to sell or license its memorabilia collection to a museum or historical institute and give some of the proceeds to the relatives.

Though the settlement agreement called for [court-appointed family attorneys, John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr.] to bow out of the proceedings, Cohen said the pair refused to leave and kept billing the estate for fees.

Worse, Cohen said, the pair falsely accused him of divulging details of the confidential settlement agreement during a 2009 Michigan Court of Appeals hearing where the institute unsuccessfully challenged Chase and Jefferson's request for $105,000 in fees.

Even though they weren't parties to the settlement agreement and had no legal standing to do so, Cohen said Chase and Jefferson asked [Wayne County Probate Judge Freddie Burton Jr.] to order the institute and Steele to forfeit Parks' estate assets, including the memorabilia collection.

He said Burton agreed, even though confidentiality disputes were to be submitted to binding arbitration, not Burton, per the settlement agreement. Moreover, Cohen said Burton never allowed the institute to present witnesses, documents or defend itself at a trial before taking the institute's property.
Cohen said Chase and Jefferson never specifically identified what Cohen supposedly disclosed or who heard it.

In early 2010, Cohen said, Burton approved a verbal request that the institute and Steele pay Chase and Jefferson $120,075 for an unexplained claim for fees. Cohen said no trial was ever held.  

If I'm reading this right, not a single request by Rosa Parks was honored by her family.  A couple of judges and a couple of lawyers appear to have colluded to give the family what Rosa Parks herself didn't want them to have.  There's a reason she wanted her estate to go to an institute helping young people realize their potential.  It should be clear to anyone who has ever heard of her.  It's because she was Rosa Parks and it was her legacy.

The Rosa Parks bus before...

And After (Photos courtesy of Henry Ford Museum)

Now the funds are gone and her huge, important memorabilia collection is up for auction at Guernsey's Auctioneers in NY.  If it goes well, the entire collection will stay together and intact at a museum somewhere.  But if Ms. Parks wanted it to stay in Detroit at the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, her own baby, that's where it should be.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.  I could have solved this problem pro bono by simply saying, "Here's the will, there's the door".  But of course nobody asked me. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On the Palin Docudramody, the Cantor uninvite, and Will Rogers' finest moments

 All alone, I'm so all alone...  When the Sarah Palin docudromedy "The Undefeated" debuted last week, Conor Friedersdorf happened to be visiting his parents in All Red All the Time Orange County.  He went to see the Sarah movie hoping to interview Sarah fans to find out what the hell they're thinking.  Except he didn't find any.  In fact, he didn't find anyone at all--hardly.  He wrote about it in the Atlantic and -- I don't know -- I just wanted to cry.  I mean, an entire movie about Sarah Palin and even the Orange County gushers can't bear to watch it?  That's just sad.

But wait.  That can't be right. It's La Belle Palin we're talking about here.  So, okay!  The Washington Times says the lamestream press got it allllll wrong.  As usual.  On purpose.  It may not have been boffo, but it did pretty good compared to that movie about Eliot Spitzer or that movie about Jack Abramoff.  But the last Harry Potter movie debuted on the same weekend.  Harry Potter!  So what would you expect?  Jeez.

And here's the other thing (sniffle):  If hundreds of thousands of people had only read Ben Howe's pre-review on Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Harry Potter would be eating dust!  The movie is brilliantDammit!

Eric Cantor, in true democratic spirit (how'd he let that get by?), invited everyone (not just his nearest, dearest, most oblivious fans) to his Facebook page for a confab on whether he and his buddies should destroy the country swiftly or take the chance that the voters might not notice the country's going down the tubes and and let it dangle in the wind a while before tightening the noose.

Well, those damned liberals got wind of it and got a flash mob going, trying to disrupt the whole exciting exercise.  Honestly, there's only so much tolerance for that sort of thing when you're a Republican, so Eric's peeps got busy deleting all the leftist comments, ruing the day they ever got the silly idea of opening it up to anyone, just anyone, in the first place.

So if you look today you'll see it's still open, but they've figured out that allowing one or two Commie comments (out of thousands submitted, I'm guessing, if our guys are doing their jobs) will draw 10 or 20 delightfully defensive comments from their nearest and dearest.  Works like a charm!  Woo hoo!  (I would try out the commenting but I would have to "like" Eric Cantor and I'm not ready to go there yet.)

"Will Rogers and American Politics" was on our local PBS station last night. (Another fine program from the folks having to spend way too much time fighting the privateers in order to bring us public television.) Will started out as a soft-spoken, lasso-twirling Vaudeville comedian and became America's foremost political humorist.  (He was the Jon Stewart of the 1930s, come to think of it.) There was plenty to make fun of when it came to politicians and politics, but he was a gentle man, a compassionate man, and the Great Depression tore at him until he could no longer take what was happening in his beloved country.  He took to the airwaves and talked about it seriously.  Listening to the audio of his speech about unemployment, I'm hearing a man who is almost done in by the enormity of the suffering caused by that era's masters of greed and avarice.  (The radio broadcast was filmed and is shown on the PBS documentary.  It's almost unbearable to watch, Will's pain is so palpable.)

I didn't hear that same hopelessness when he spoke before a group of bankers (who must have decided to invite him after a late night of illegal hard stuff), calling them "loan sharks" and "interest hounds". 

You are without a doubt the most disgustingly rich audience I ever talked to, with the possible exception of the Bootleggers Local Union #1 along with the enforcement officers.
Now I understand you hold this convention every year to announce what the annual gyp will be.  I often wondered where the depositors hold their conventions.
I see where your convention was opened by prayer.  You send outside the ranks to find somebody that knows how to pray.  You should have had one creditor there to show you how to pray.
I see by your speeches that you're very optimistic of the business conditions of the coming year,  Boy, I don't blame you.  If I had your money I'd be optimistic, too.
You have a wonderful organization.  I understand you have 10,000 here and with what you have in various federal prisons brings your membership up to around 30,000.

Well, goodbye, paupers.  You're the finest bunch of shylocks that ever foreclosed upon a widder's home.
Will Rogers on an early laptop.  (I own that exact make and model.  It's almost as if Will himself is here with me.)

Moment of Sublime:  A freed humpback whale thanks the crew who saved her.  This is a feel-good story that may or may not be what it seems.  The crew of a fishing boat found the whale so entangled in fishing line it was probably hours away from sure death.  It took them about an hour to free the whale, and when they finally did, it swam a short distance and then put on an enthralling performance, convincing the crew that it was for their benefit.

Far be it for me to be cynical (and I can't believe this is me writing this) but it could be that that was as far as the whale could swim right then, and the glorious leaps could have meant it was gasping for air, trying to get its lungs and other internal parts working again.  But the visuals are stunning and I hate myself for thinking such doltish thoughts.

Cartoon of the week:

1922 cartoon.  Some things never change
*(Cross-posted at Dagblog here)

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Our Own Voices: Getting it Right While Blogging

 Once there was a post by Simon Dumenco called, "Poor Steve Jobs Had to Go Head to Head With Weinergate in the Twitter Buzzstakes. And the Weiner Is ...."  It appeared online on June 8.  The next day The Huffington Post published a piece by Amy Lee called, "Anthony Weiner vs. Steve Jobs: Who Won On Twitter?".  The thrust of the Lee article was the same as that of Dumenco's.  In fact, nearly the entire article consisted of quotes from Dumenco's piece.  There was a link at the end, but, as Simon Dumenco saw it, why bother?  Everything that needed to be said was already in Amy Lee's piece.  No need to go off-site to read the rest.  There was no "rest".  (The clicked links from the HuffPo piece to his own numbered a mere 57 -- a pitiful number, considering the source.)

That was bad, and HuffPo's Executive Business Editor Peter Goodman promptly apologized, but there are stirrings out there that this isn't the odd blog out over at Arianna's place.  HuffPo has done this many times before.  Former NYT editor Bill Keller wrote about it in the NYT magazine last March:

“Aggregation” can mean smart people sharing their reading lists, plugging one another into the bounty of the information universe. It kind of describes what I do as an editor. But too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.

The queen of aggregation is, of course, Arianna Huffington, who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come. How great is Huffington’s instinctive genius for aggregation? I once sat beside her on a panel in Los Angeles (on — what else? — The Future of Journalism). I had come prepared with a couple of memorized riffs on media topics, which I duly presented. Afterward we sat down for a joint interview with a local reporter. A moment later I heard one of my riffs issuing verbatim from the mouth of Ms. Huffington. I felt so . . . aggregated.

 Oooo.   Ouch!  I confess I've heard the word "aggregate" bandied about before but didn't really understand how it might actually apply to a lowly blogger like me.  Now, with the brouhaha over HuffPo's publication of a post composed almost entirely of paragraphs from someone else's article, I've been thinking about what blogs like mine -- where other voices are prominent, where links are leading everywhere, where not all of the content is original to me -- might actually fit in with journalistic ethics and rules, even though, in the end, as chief writer/editor/publisher, I'm pretty much free to do almost anything I want on my own pages.

What is my obligation as a blogger?  Mine is a political blog, not a personal one, and I've known from the start that if I want my blog to be taken seriously (even though I'm fishing for smiles now and then) I have to be mindful of what I'm putting out there.  I know when I link to and/or quote someone else's work, it's not mine to mess with.  I can't change the words, change the meaning, put it on my page without attribution, or -- perish the thought -- print the entire piece.  It doesn't belong to me.  (I suspect in some cases I should get permission to use them, but I rarely do. I figure as long as I'm using a paragraph or two and as long as I tell where it came from,  preferably with a link, I should be okay.  I could be horribly wrong about that, too.)

So, okay.  That's bad enough.  But what about when we grab something from another site or via the social networks that looks legitimate, seems plausible, but turns out to be all wrong, and we've passed it on?  We part-time, unpaid opinion bloggers already have to work hard at overcoming our dillettante reputation.  It doesn't help when the facts go by the wayside in order to get to the clever, hopefully brilliant observations we all want to be singled out and known for.

On Poynter I found an article that answers some of the questions about what to look for in order to verify a piece you want to share or quote.  (It's written for journalists, but I personally think political bloggers have the same obligations to their readers.)  It specifically zeroes in on social networks like Twitter or Facebook, where I admit I spend a good amount of time scouring the snippets for leads to stories that might interest me enough to write about.  I also admit I'm astounded by how much misinformation there is in just those two places.

From Jeff Sonderman's Poynter piece (relevant to what I'm talking about here) :

Evaluating credibility

Consider the social history of the source. Has this person been on the network for years, or is this a brand-new account with no profile photo, friends or history? Has the person regularly posted information that was credible? In the rare case that someone deliberately tries to spread false information, it will probably be from a newly created or fictitious account, not from a social profile someone spent years building up.

Seek social corroboration. Are other social network users posting similar, independent reports from the same location? If a tornado really touched down in a city of 8 million people, for example,  there ought to be more than one photo of it. Be sure to look for other primary-source reports, not just retweets or messages based on the account you already have.

 Without naming names or even going into the entire story, I read on FB the other day that a famous news person I really admire had been canned.  I was pretty sure it didn't actually happen, and when I looked at the provided link, it clearly showed that the startling new information was in a piece written over a year ago in a piece published by The Onion!

That's why I wrote this, in fact. That sort of thing doesn't go unnoticed.  Sometimes it grows wings and flies.  I love blogging and I'm all for encouraging more of it.  I just want us to get it right.

Friday, July 15, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: The Arresting truth about Orlando Cops, Vegetables, Bachmann, and the Sublime Ruby Bridges

I guess you've heard that the Orlando police have been busy arresting people from Orlando Food, not Bombs who have been busy feeding the hungry and the homeless in the city's public parks.  That was a big story in itself, but the even bigger story was that, among the protesters, there was one lone supporter of the police.  He prefers to remain anonymous, but he's pretty clear about why he's supporting them (watch the video from Rawstory):

“The Orlando Police Department has demonstrated that you can count on them to enforce the law,” the protester explained stoutly. “If it was against the law for women to vote, I think they would would be there to arrest women who tried to vote. And if it was still against the law for African-Americans to use the same restroom facilities as Caucasian-Americans, Orlando Police Department would be right there to arrest them. Because they will enforce the law no matter what it is, so we have to support them for that.
“Because in America,” he went on, “the last thing you need is liberty, justice, conscience getting in the way of the law. We don’t want that. So we need to have officers who will just blindly obey and follow anything that they’re told. Because this country was founded on bootlicking. … I’m a tax-paying American. I want to see my tax dollars put to use. I like to see people getting arrested. … So I think they’re doing a great job, and as long as they continue to arrest people for feeding the homeless, I’ll continue to support them, because they’re doing their job. ... I think anybody should be arrested for feeding the homeless because it's a vicious, vicious problem."

So here's "the rest of the story".  On Monday, while police were waiting in Eola Park to arrest more feeders of the hungry, Food not Bombs were in front of City Hall setting up their tables and serving up the food.  They were invited by the mayor, Buddy Dyer, who even offered to give them peppers from his roof garden.  It was an open invitation to set up "any time they wanted".  From the mayor. 

Which brings me to my next question:  Who do the police answer to, if not the mayor?  Can't he just tell the police to go find some real crime to stop?  And if he's not in charge there, how does he have the authority to let them set up in front of City Hall?  Is he in danger of getting arrested, too?  So many questions, but the point is, the guy with the sign supporting the police got OFNB much more attention than their own protests did.  Fine job, guy, whoever you are.

I think what I read was that Buddy, the Orlando mayor, has a vegetable garden on the roof of city hall.  They can't feed the homeless in public parks but they can grow veggies on the roofs of public buildings.  That's different.   Go tell that to the people in power in Oak Park, Michigan, where there's a battle going on because Julie and Jason Bass dared to tear up their front yard and put in a vegetable garden.  A nice vegetable garden.  Well kept.  No weeds.  But nonetheless they're vegetables and according to the interpretation of their poorly-written ordinance, they're not allowed in front yards.

 Julie Bass says she called city hall and didn't get a "no", so they went ahead and planted their veggies.  Well, one thing led to another and so far no jail time, but a fair amount of harassment in the form of citations, etc.  Julie took it to Facebook, where it went viral and now Oak Park officials are getting hate mail and phone calls and it's even gone international.  I think it's going to be all right, though.  The officials really want to back down.  They're just trying to figure out how to save face while doing it.
(Breaking news:  No jail time for Julie.  Charges dropped.  Still the matter of the dogs, though...)

And speaking of vegetables, did you hear the latest about Michele Bachmann?  (No, not the chutzpah thing.  But that was funny, wasn't it?  Is she the only person in the world who doesn't know that you have to hack up the "ch" like you would a loogie?)  No, this is a new revelation of an old story (2005), where Ms. Bachmann claimed she was terrorized and practically kidnapped by a lesbian and an ex-nun in a public bathroom.  As Mike Mullen wrote in City Pages, "Michele Bachmann, an ex-nun, and a lesbian walk into a bathroom sounds like the first line of a joke..."  She has a history of calling the police over rather silly incidents, but this one is one of the more hilarious.  Really.


A moment of Sublime:   The famous Norman Rockwell painting of little Ruby Bridges being walked by U.S Marshals into her newly integrated school is going to the White House.  Rockwell called his 1964 painting "The Problem we all live with", and it was among the first of his paintings depicting real, unadulterated problems in what had formerly been perceived as "Norman Rockwell country".  It caused a sensation when it appeared on the cover of Look Magazine, and is still a vivid icon of the civil rights movement.  It's a painting that brings tears to my eyes every time I look at it, and now it'll be hanging in a prominent place in the White House, at least while Barack Obama is president.

Ruby Bridges went on to become a civil rights activist, concentrating on the children who are in danger of being left behind.  She founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation "to promote the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences through educational programs".  That scared but brave little girl became the woman we cherish for her caring soul.  Sublime.

The Problem we all Live With - Norman Rockwell, 1964

Cartoon of the week

"Let that one go.  He says he don't wanna be mah equal."
Bill Mauldin - St. Louis Dispatch 1960

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Betty Ford: Truth was No Stranger

Until last night, when I heard that she had passed, I didn't realize how much I admired Betty Ford.  Truth said, my first thought was "I thought she had died long ago."  I do that a lot lately.  Betty lived to be 93 years old and hadn't been seen in public for several years.  That's the only way I keep in touch with public figures -- by seeing them in public.  So when public figures I admire or enjoy are gone from view they're gone from thought, and when they pass, only then do I see it as moments lost.  I should have been paying attention.

It took her passing to bring Betty back.  I don't have to watch the tributes or re-live the highlights and lowlights of her life to understand why her life had meaning to me.  I know why.  She was honest in a caring way and caring in an honest way.  She was a career politician's wife living in D.C among Republicans, yet she was pro-choice, pro ERA, pro disenfranchised; a true non-partisan activist. I, an avowed liberal even then, followed her as if I were an acolyte sitting at her knee.

(Ellie Smeal, former president of Now, said this about her today:  "When the 1980 National Republican Convention in Detroit was deciding whether or not to keep the ERA in its platform (up until then it had been in its platform for several decades), Betty left the convention and together with the Republican first lady of Michigan, Helen Milliken, joined the National Organization for Women's protest march. I was the president of NOW at the time, and Betty and Helen were on either side of me as we marched with some 12,000 people through the streets of Detroit and wound past the convention center shouting, 'Keep the ERA in the platform.'")

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 and underwent a mastectomy, the normal action for the times would have been either to try and hide it or to simply call it a "malignancy" and let it go at that.  Betty Ford chose to call it what it was:  breast cancer.

At a time when people still had a hard time using the word "cancer" and an even harder time with the cringy word "breast", she used them both to draw attention to a scourge facing women in growing, alarming numbers.  And she survived.

Betty was uncomfortable with public speaking.  It was always a knuckle-biter for me whenever she began to talk in that measured quaver of a voice, her lower jaw moving uncontrollably as she struggled to get the words out.  But what came out was a refreshing assemblage of truth. She might have been living an Elizabethan life but she was just Betty to the women who took courage from her.

She went quiet when she gave in to pain killers and alcohol, but when her family performed an intervention, the details went public and Betty began to talk again.  This time the subject was alcoholism and with painful honesty Betty brought the hidden truth out into the open and we all began to talk about it.  Honestly.

She didn't let the issue die, easy as it might have been to pretend it didn't happen.  Instead she kept the problem alive by founding and heading The Betty Ford Center for Substance Abuse and Addiction and built it into a model for humane, caring addiction treatment.

She was some gal.  I wish she were around right now.  I can think of a few public women who could use a dose of her honesty.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Roswell, A Beer for the Times, Disappearing Art, and a Twitterpated Pope

Roswell, NM is in the news again with only just another suspicious "crash".   The "crash" supposedly burned "28 acres" of "grassland".  Uh huh.   The official word is that the pilot "ejected safely".  No ID on the "pilot".  Nobody is allowed to "see" him.  The base is "asking the public to cooperate with military and civilian authorities at the scene to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

"Everyone?"  Who is "everyone"?  I thought there was only "one" and that was the "pilot"?  Something pretty fishy here, but all we know is what "the AP" wants us to know.  Read it here and "you" decide.

Roswell "Incident" 1947

There's been a lot of bad news out of Michigan lately, but for some people a smidgeon of good news has arrived in the form of a "Raging Bitch".  (Okay, I'm laying off the quotes.  But here it's justified.  I didn't want people to think I was talking about a certain "shall be nameless" person (or persons), or that I actually would call anyone a "bitch", when in fact I'm talking about an odd but compelling name for a beer.  Thus the quotes. Okay?

Here's the story, according to Eclectablog:

Two years ago the Flying Dog Brewery released a Belgian-style IPA called Raging Bitch with the following 'artist's statement', if you will, on the label:

"Two inflammatory words ... one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it ... stand back!! Wallow in its golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled—and in heat—is pure GONZO!! It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!" — Ralph Steadman

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission refused to grant Flying Dog a license to sell Raging Bitch in Michigan and, in March of this year, Flying Dog filed suit, citing a violation of their 1st Amendment rights.

Jim Caruso, Flying Dog's CEO and general partner, said Monday the issue comes down to freedom of speech and his brewery's longtime affiliation with [author Hunter S.] Thompson and [artist Ralph] Steadman.

"When there's smoke under the door, the fire's not far behind with constitutional rights," Caruso said. "If you don't like the beer or the art, don't buy it. ... The state shouldn't decide."

So this week the Michigan Liquor Commission (privatized, btw) reversed their decision, but Flying Dog Brewery is going to sue, anyway.  The scamps.  (Read the rest at Eclectablog link above.  Almost makes me wish I drank beer.)

So, okay.   Did you hear that Michele Bachmann has officially signed the Official Family Leader Presidential Pledge?  (required of all presidential candidates if they want to be endorsed by Family Leader)  She is against all marriages except hers, against all pornography except Right Wing pornography, against Sharia Law except when it applies to liberals, and against all states except Iowa.

This is what she pledged:

The Candidate Vow:
Therefore, in any elected or appointed capacity by which I may have the honor of serving our fellow citizens in these United States, I the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow* to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman. I vow* to do so through my:
 Personal fidelity to my spouse.9
 Respect for the marital bonds of others.10
 Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices.11
 Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.12
 Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy. 13
 Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended “second chance” or “cooling-off” periods for those seeking a “quickie divorce.” 14
 Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.15
 Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States. 16
 Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy – our next generation of American children – from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.17
 Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.18
 Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.19
 Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security. 20
 Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA‟s $14.3 trillion public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit, and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.21
 Fierce defense of the First Amendment‟s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech22, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.
The Vow of Civic, Religious, Lay, Business, and Social Leaders:
We the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow* that no U.S. Presidential primary candidate – nor any primary candidate for the U. S. House, Senate, Governor, state or municipal office – will, in his or her public capacity, benefit from any substantial form of aid, support, endorsement, contribution, independent expenditure, or affirmation from any of us without first affirming this Marriage Vow. Furthermore, to uphold and advance the natural Institution of Marriage, we ourselves also hereby vow* our own fidelity to this Declaration and especially, to our spouses.
So help us God.
* NOTE: Or, “solemnly attest”. Each signatory signs only in his or her individual capacity as an American citizen and current or potential leader; affiliations herein are for identification purposes only and do not necessarily imply formal embrace of this vow or the sentiments herein by any institution or organization.
(Jon Huntsman says he never signs pledges.  Buh bye, Jon.)

Moment of Sublime:  Sand Art by Peter Donnelly, Christchurch, NZ:

Watch The Sand Art of Peter Donnelly.  Amazing.

Cartoon of the Week:

Mike Luckovich - Atlanta Journal Constitution

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In an Era of Super-Villains we need Super-Heroes

Since the dawn of man there has always been the need for a healthy society to smack down villains.  Villains are the human version of opportunistic rats:  There is no compunction about doing us in if that's what it takes to keep their kind going.  If their population is allowed to grow and thrive, their numbers will take us over.

In this country we're finally waking up to the evidence before us: our home-grown rats have blind-sided an easily distracted population, speedily metastasizing into super-villains.   For over two centuries they've been working on doing us in, taking us over, and now they own us.

They've commandeered our congress, corrupted our governors, pirated our airwaves, and swayed our elections, recently spending untold millions to create a phony, astro-turfed movement with no real goal except to destroy whatever safeguards are left to keep us safe, civil and healthy.

They own us.

Who are they?  We all know who they are.  They know who they are.  They take pleasure in their mischief-making, periodically rubbing our noses in it, lest we forget.  Their goal, as stated, is to destroy Barack Obama and the Democrats so fully there will never, ever be another Democratic majority.  Not ever.  Their goal is to turn all public works over to private interests and to keep it that way for all eternity.  Their goal is to dehumanize the worker bees and make them dependent on the benevolence of their bosses.  Their goal is to lead us into temptation and make sinners of us all.

They are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  They are the Heritage Foundation.  They are the Religious Right.  They are Dick Armey and FreedomWorks.  They are the Koch Brothers.  They are Fox's Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.  They are Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove.  They are John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  They are the same people you knew they would be.   The same bunch we've outed hundreds of times before. The same bunch still moving forward unimpeded, more bloated, more dangerous, less likely to look back.

The last thing they want or need is the presence of a Super-Hero.  But not to worry.  They're breathing easy, sleeping well at night, knowing there are no Super-Heroes on the horizon.  They're safe from us.  While they've been forming legions of followers, we've been looking in vain for our 21st century redeemers.

Where are this century's Mother Joneses?  The Walter Reuthers? The Martin Luther Kings?  The larger-than-life figures deep in the trenches, laying down their lives for causes that seem beyond any reasonable hope for success?  Where are the men and women who accept that they'll be jailed or bloodied or both but do what they need to do because it's the right thing at the right time and somebody has to do it?

Martin Luther King - March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963
Where are the leaders who understand that a country can't survive without livelihoods, without dignity, without fairness and justice?  Leaders who understand that there are promises to keep, obligations to fulfill?  Who understand that what is happening in our country is all wrong and something must be done now?

(There are a few bona fide heroes, such as the good senators Bernie Sanders and Al Franken. [And Elizabeth Warren.  Added 3/13]  They're working hard but they can't do it alone.  They could use a few Super-Heroes.)

So that's it, then.  Let me know if you find one.  I'll keep looking, too.


Friday, July 1, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Bachmann, Founding Fathers, Glenn Beck and Where Gays Come From

 Happy Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day), July 1, and Happy Fourth of July (formerly Independence Day), July 4.  Both days celebrate independence from Great Britain, the only difference being we dropped the Brits in 1776 and the Provinces to the North went on bitching about them until 1982.

Sometime in the 60s or 70s I was at my aunt's house singing praises to Queen Elizabeth, thinking that was the polite thing to do, considering I was in Canada and it was Dominion Day.  Imagine my surprise when that tiny Italian spitfire snarled "Piss on the queen!"  There might have been a hand gesture, too, I don't remember exactly. Well, I was shocked!  By the time I came to my senses she was passing salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, Cornetti bread and Dago Red from Uncle Victor's wine cellar so I forgot to ask what she could possibly mean by that.  I'm sure she had her reasons.  (You know things are bad when whole countries don't want to be you anymore.)

I should ask Michelle Bachmann why we all wanted to be free of England.   (She might even know why my aunt was so mean to the queen.)  She knows all about the Founding Fathers, those guys who worked tirelessly to end slavery.  She tends to confuse founding sons with founding fathers, but I'm not here to pick nits, I'm here to find out once and for all why two out of three countries in North America went out of their way to give up their British citizenship when we're all so in love with the Brits we can't get enough of their music, their movie stars, their accents or their Royal weddings.

Oh, by the way, Glenn Beck said goodbye to Fox yesterday.  I know.  I don't care, either, but it happened and it's Friday Follies, and I have a happy Holiday houseful so I'm using it to fill space so I can go make potato salad. 

Fox News Channel

 And speaking of happy, I found this picture at a place called  Thank you, Happy Place!

My moment of sublimely happyWe are Ohio, a pro-union coalition, delivered 1.3 million signatures on petitions to repeal Senate bill 5, the anti-collective bargaining bill republican Governor John Kasich thought he had pushed through without a hitch.  Ha!

The coalition leading the effort to repeal Senate Bill 5 delivered a record of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the secretary of state today to place Ohio's new collective bargaining law on the November ballot.
A parade of more than 6,000, led by a banner proclaiming the "million signature march," rumbled through Downtown this morning.
We Are Ohio, the group leading the referendum effort, organized the march up Broad Street to Fourth Street, where a 48 ft. semi-truck carrying the 1,298,301 signatures in 1,502 boxes collected will be unloaded. The parade also included retired fire trucks, a drum line, bagpipes and loud motorcycles. It took about 15 minutes to pass.

 The best part?  they only needed 231,000 signatures, so with that many signatures, they made it impossible for the petitions to be challenged, and impossible for the bill to become law before the results of the November elections.  Kasich and his bunch can slither, they can rattle, but they can't sink their fangs in.  Not this time.

Union supporters march toward the Statehouse to deliver the 1.3 million petition signatures.

Cartoon of the week:

Copyright © 2011 Creators Syndicate

Have a great Independence Day weekend.  Stay safe, be well, be back on Tuesday to give 'em hell.