The Widdershins

This begins the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Most of us will have lots to do next week, so I suggest that we spend this time thinking about the good things in life.  Heaven knows, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately.  The latest election results were far from stellar, and they culminated one of the most vicious (Ebola, Ebola), contentious (ISIS, ISIS), and downright nasty (Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi) campaigns that I have ever witnessed.  Enough, already.

Let’s have some music that lets us breathe easily, and makes us feel as warm and comfortable as possible.  Try to select songs that remind us of good times, good friends, and good days.  I couldn’t care less about the era, the genre, the artists(s), or whether the tune hit the top forty or not.  Let’s just go with the flow in this absolutely open thread.

(1) Cool Change – Little River Band

(2) Southern Cross – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

(3) The Way You Look Tonight – The Lettermen

(4) Clouds – Joni Mitchell

(5) God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

(6) The Sea – Rod McKuen

 

 

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  I’m finally back after a computer-enforced hiatus, thanks to my son-in-law who got this contraption up and running for me.  It is ultra-sensitive and there will be a rather precipitous learning curve, so bear with me while I try to figure things out.

As y’all well know, I live in warm,  sunny South Florida.  It has been neither sunny nor warm the past few days, but I’m pretty certain that my personal discomfiture with temperatures plummeting into the high fifties at night will not elicit much sympathy from those inhabiting much harsher climates.  For myself and the rest of the locals, this is pretty damned cold.  Fortunately for most of us, we have shelter and warm food that we can count on – sadly, the number of those who have neither is growing.

When we first moved down here (1982), the custom on holidays was to set aside some of your leftovers to be driven downtown to the park and passed out to the homeless.  Cars lined the street for blocks, and someone everyone there managed to get fed.  The City Council was horrified by the “message” that was being sent to the tourists, and got busy helping local agencies develop and implement homeless services, and things went along reasonable well for the next twenty years or so.  There was even money to expand and better the services during the Clinton Administration.  Life was good.

Even with the best of intentions, there are members of the homeless population that do not want to live in a shelter.  Many of them that I have met were simple schizophrenics who had at one time or another been institutionalized and truly feared confinement of any sort.  Ever since Reagan decentralized mental health care, things have been in a downward spiral as far as services go, and society is the worse for it.  I honestly believe that both homelessness and incarceration rates have skyrocketed as a result of these misguided policies, but this is a diatribe for another time.  Just suffice to say that a paucity of mental health services coupled with a weak economy has contributed heavily to our homeless population.  One of my friends teaches third grade, and has any number of children with no fixed address in her class.  As long as the child is reasonably clean and healthy, social services does not intervene. At least the child gets two meals per school day, and is better off than many.

Sunny Fort Lauderdale is preparing for tourist season.  To be fair, without tourists our economy would collapse,  After a late night session, the Ft. Lauderdale City Council decided to regulate feeding the homeless.  By a vote of 4-1, the Commission voted that any feeding station must be 500 feet from a residential area, have running water and bathroom facilities, and have consent of the property owner that he plans to occupy.  Yep, city property is likely off-limits.  Major Jack Seiler has become very defensive about the situation, and insists that the city is not banning feeding the hungry, just regulating it for the health and safety of all concerned parties.  He also states that there are “hundreds”, no make that “dozens” of community and religious groups that feed the hungry on an ongoing basis.

Unfortunately for Mayor Jack and the Ft. Lauderdale City Council, the situation has gone national thanks to one Arnold Abbot, a ninety year old WWII vet who has been feeding the hungry for the past decade or so, and does not see this piffling ordinance as any reason to change his ways at this late date.  He has tangled with Fort Lauderdale previously back in 1999 when they took exception to his holding picnics for the homeless on the beach.  He took them to court and claimed that he had a religious right to follow the biblical injunction to feed the hungry, and that the alternative site offered by the city was too remote and proved an undue burden.  Clearly, Arnold was ahead of the curve on this whole religious rights thing.

One would think that the city would steer clear of messing with Arnold, but one would be incorrect.  Ft. Lauderdale officers have arrested Arnold, fingerprinted him on the site, and stuffed a “PTA” (Promise to Appear) in his pocket.  I have lost count of the number of citations, but I think that we’re up to about 5 now.  Each citation carries a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.  He has also been joined by several members of the clergy and homeless advocates, who have received similar citations.  Mayor Jack claims that these are not arrests, but I assure you that they have exactly the same impact.  Should you not show up for court, the judge will issue a bench warrant and it’s off to jail you go.  Personally, I will support Arnold as best I can through his interfaith foundation Love Thy Neighbor.  I’ve placed the link so that you may send a contribution or an “attaboy”, should the spirit move you.

In the final touch of irony, the Ft. Lauderdale City Commission had a protesting homeless man removed from their chamber so that they could read aloud their proclamation of National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week.   The mayor then thanked all those who supported him in his efforts to rise and be applauded.  I don’t know about y’all, but I am speechless.

This is an open thread.

circular firing squad

Ladies and gents, the fun is just beginning and the new Congress hasn’t even been sworn in yet.  Yesterday we saw a vote fail on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  It was one vote shy of the required 60 and even that would not have been enough to override a Presidential veto.  I heard talk that Landrieu may try to get one more vote on it.  She’s not in a position to do a lot of arm-twisting because the odds are against her getting reelected.  That’s a shame because she has been a good Senator for Louisiana.  She was able to get billions in assistance for the state and SE La when the Federal levees failed and was even helpful in getting some of the FEMA loans to local governments forgiven.  Well that’s neither here nor there.  When I receive my absentee ballot I will vote for Landrieu and hope for the best.

But on to the fun in the title.  From an article in Tiger Beat On the Potomac I read that the Dems are going to be ready to fight and stand on the issues they hold dearly, like climate change.

Liberal Senate Democrats united to block the controversial project, even though their imperiled Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu of Louisiana begged them not to at a Democratic Caucus lunch on Tuesday afternoon.

It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.
Jeff Merkley of Oregon said: “I will use whatever tools I have as a senator to protect the environment,”

 
Sheldon Whitehouse a Senator from Rhode Island added:
“They actually want to tear down environmental protection and regulation in every public comment that I’ve heard a Republican make. Clearly, there’s a challenge coming. And we have to be prepared to meet that challenge,” Whitehouse said. “With respect to climate, you can’t just go back and fix it and make it right with whoever was hurt by some stupid policy.”
I’m not sure where the good Senator has been because going back to the time when Obama was first elected, we knew what the Republican actions and responses to the President and his agenda would be, because the then Senate Minority Leader told us.  So the good Senator should not expect the Majority Republicans in the Senate to stand idly by while some Democrats try to thwart their plans.  The Republicans do not play nicely and I expect we’ll see some bodies figuratively strewn around the Senate floor.  And I meant what I wrote when I wrote  “some Democrats” because the Dems in then Senate won’t be in lockstep with their leadership.  As the article says “the early battle lines appear increasingly drawn around environmental policy, where Democratic centrists may defect from leadership in next year’s Senate and help Republicans pass legislation strongly opposed by liberal senators.”

And speaking of the pipeline and the oil from the Canadian tar pits, do the environmental Democrats

right click me to open in a new window

think that if they block the pipeline going to Texas that this will stop the use and refining of tar sands oils?  It won’t.  Either TransCanada will ship by rail to the refineries in the Gulf or they will use existing rail lines in Canada and ship to that country’s East Coast.

And we already know what has happened previously when trains were transporting oil in Canada. That was pretty disastrous.
 
Then the other thing the Canadians can do with their tar oil is to transport it west to British Columbia and they have a plan for that too.

Right click me to open in a new tab.

So you see, no matter if we stop the pipeline coming into the states, as long as it is economically feasible, this oil from the tar sands of Alberta is going to be refined.  And this isn’t something I am for.  It is a dirty, nasty operation to get the oil from the sands and then this is an extremely heavy crude oil and it takes a lot of energy to process and refine it.
 
And last, I wish the environmentalist Senators would get a little worked up about all the coal that is being transported by barge down the Mississippi to Plaquemines Parish to then be loaded onto ocean going vessels, taken to other countries and used there.  We may not be burning that coal here but since they are getting read to build the third transport facility in Plaquemines, they sure must be burning that stuff somewhere.  Imagine:  people in parts of southeast Louisiana are getting to experience the joys of having coal dust cover their cars, their houses and other properties.   Some links:
 
Okay Widdershins this is a completely open thread.  Comment as you wish about whatever you wish.  Sorry about the text color changing from gray to black and stuff.  Don’t know what happened and was too pooped to try to figure it out.  My bad.

A wonderfully, wintry welcome Widdershiners. For all the lower forty-eight, we are colder than normal. To add to the list of things Noam Chomsky warned us about — saying things you never thought you would hear yourself saying — maybe it will warm up by Thanksgiving.

While watching the evening news last night I was struck by the thought that perhaps we have been struck by another typePicking at scabs photo of coldness — a tempered steeliness of acceptance. For instance, remember just a month ago — ISIS and Ebola were deemed existential threats. Last night it was reported in almost a passing mention, ISIS beheaded another American and an Ebola patient died in Nebraska. One Big Yawn. No set your hair on fire, slap your mother hysterics — just, “nothing to see here, move along” — the political sell-by date has expired on such merchandise.

For a country that has ceded gun safety to the merchants of the gun industry and the four or five million NRA gun fanatics who fortress their homes daring someone “to pry their guns from their cold, dead fingers,” I hear no tumult about yet another calculated effort to enter the homes of twelve million working poor and rip the insurance cards from the hands.

When it comes to the immigration issue, count me as an unrepentant wuss since I had to leave the theater during the scenes where families were torn apart in Schindler’s List, but I find it remarkable and so extraordinarily sad that some percentage of Americans want to do exactly that — tear families apart by vengefully deporting parents from children. I calculate the family value in that exactly nil.

As the Governor of Missouri mouths platitudes about public safety while again mobilizing the National Guard over the killing of an unarmed teenager, I remember in some neighborhoods in this country a mother would better serve the safety of her son by sending him to war rather than allowing him to walk the streets to high school.

I listen to alarming new figures confirming at least 2.5 million children were homeless at some point last year, but there is little surprise when I hear that soon 1% of the population will control more wealth than 95% of the rest of us.

Here’s a confession: I want to be continually shocked by this stuff. I don’t want to accept these facts and mumble something about “it is what it is.” I don’t want to become complacently sad about what can only be described as the grotesque nature of indifference.

So I’m an unapologetic advocate of picking at our collective scabs — the stuff that is counterintuitive, illogical, and intellectually bankrupt. We shouldn’t allow festering frailties to heal into hardened scar tissue that would forever serve as a reminder of our indifference.

There’s a Hindu legend about such things.

BrahmaLong, long ago all men were of divine spirit, but mankind so abused the privilege that Brahma, the god of all gods, decided the godhead should be taken away from man. Brahma decided he must hide the divine spirit where man would never find it again.

One god suggested, “Let us bury it deep in the earth.”

Brahma said, “No, man will dig down until he finds it.”

“Then let us throw it into the deepest part of the biggest ocean,” proposed another god.

“Man will learn to dive and someday come across it,” insisted Brahma.

Another, “Then it can be hidden in the clouds atop the highest mountain of the Himalayas.”

“Man will manage to climb that high some day,” Brahma pointed out. “I have a better idea. Let us hide it where he will never think to look: inside man himself.”

As someone who collects such stories, somewhere along the line it feels as if we have fallen victim to the laziness of being negative, fallen prey to the first emotion of fear, and fallen into a lack of patience to explore beyond the shortest, easiest answer. You can bet the fear-mongering peddlers of negativism aren’t plumbing the depths to share an iota of divinity in short, simple sound bites. For them, as Brahma predicted, their arrogant shallowness will always hide the deeper truth.

Take this conversation in any direction you might like since I have provided no direction whatsoever here. Have a great day.

20130217-msm-keystone281Good Monday, all. As you know, I have been following the developments regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline for several years now. The activists opposing it have been extremely successful so far. However, at some point the political party you elect to stand up for you, has to actually do so. Since the Democrats have allowed themselves to be convinced that this environmentally destructive idea is a good one (oil and gas donations seem to be a big part of the reason why), I am very sorry to say that, despite many years and tens of millions of dollars in opposition, Keystone XL may end up going through after all.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday will hold a vote to force President Barack Obama’s hand on the Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline that would carry crude oil from the Canadian tar sands.

This move has baffled environmental activists, who have spent six years campaigning against the pipeline and sunk $85 million into defending Senate control. It’s also baffled Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, who called it “crazy,” and the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman, who described it as a “politically idiotic” move. (My choice of phrase was “insanely dumb.”)

Senate Democrats are holding this vote now in part to boost Senator Mary Landrieu’s prospects in her December runoff, which she’s likely to lose. They are also holding it because they know, with certainty, that Republicans will make this their first priority when they take over the Senate in January…

By the New Republic’s count, the Senate has 58 votes in favor of building the pipeline. This is not a veto-proof majority, so if Obama vetoes the bill, it dies…that is, until the Senate changes control in January. After that, the bill may well have the 67 votes it needs to override it.

Knowing that the bill could go through regardless, I could see Obama vetoing the bill pro forma. As we know, his record is awful on environmental matters, having made only token efforts to address the ever-more-urgent issue of global climate change. The agreement that was reached last week with China was nothing to get excited about, according to Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.

As I understand the deal, the U.S. pledges to get its carbon emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China agrees to peaking carbon emissions in 2030.  All of which sounds very fine, except for the “Yes, buts”:

  • At least some forecasts already show China’s emissions peaking in 2030. As China’s economy matures, and its population stops growing, its rate of emissions growth will naturally slow. Getting China to agree to something that was maybe going to happen anyway does not seem like a varsity-level diplomatic achievement

  • America has already achieved half its target thanks to natural gas fracking and the aging-out of older cars and coal plants. So right away, this target seems less ambitious than advertised.

Yup, that sounds like the Obama we all know far too well. And unfortunately, reducing emissions is a cover for environmentally damaging policies like allowing fracking. A MEANINGFUL agreement would require Americans to go to renewable energy by 2030, at whatever pace non-partisan scientists and policymakers agree is possible. What I wouldn’t give for us to still be a country where this kind of political change is the norm!

My point here is that Obama and Congress won’t stop the XL Pipeline. The only hope for environmental intelligence to win this battle lies with the state of Nebraska.

The state—and the pipeline project—suffered a significant blow last February, when a district court judge voided the state’s 2012 pipeline law. In her decision, Judge Stephanie Stacy of the Lancaster County District Court said the law had unconstitutionally abrogated the power of state regulators to review the route, putting too much power in the governor’s hands.

That court victory by the pipeline’s opponents left TransCanada without a legally approved route for the KXL through Nebraska. With the route in legal limbo, the State Department opted to postpone indefinitely its long-awaited recommendation on whether the KXL is in the national interest and should get a presidential permit to proceed.

Although President Obama has declared that his decision will depend largely on whether the pipeline would worsen global warming, the federal government could scarcely approve a proposed pipeline whose route had been rejected by one of the states it must cross.

If the pipeline is blocked, then, it will be not because of political activism, but because rich people in Nebraska want to protect their private property. How typical in our New Reaganite Reality, where money is speech, corporations are people, and politicians are too bought-off to do what needs to be done to save our planet. Don’t they realize that they have to live here, too?

Good afternoon Widdershiners! It is my sincere hope your senses are not under assault by the polar vortex — it is much too cold this early in the season and just think there’s another hunk of polar air breaking away and headed south. So this weekend enjoy football, go see a movie, or start looking through Thanksgiving recipes you can conspicuously leave around your kitchen as you unpack the finest concoctions of your favorite caterer.

Where there’s a will…George Will

As per the tradition around these parts, Friday’s post is the news of the weird. There’s nothing more abnormal for me than this first item. I’m actually quoting George Will and quoting him favorably — yes, that George Will, the conservative one who is so uptight his last bout of flatulence burst his eardrum.

Mr. Will, as I’m sure Mrs. Will refers to him, wrote an opinion piece published yesterday. The subject of the essay was the amendment of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — the sixty-word piece of drivel sold to Congress in 2001 by Dubya as a non-binding resolution whereupon he promptly proceeded to bind us into two wars that continue to this day.

But I digress…back to Mr. Will’s op ed. Mr. Will spends much time and effort secreting a rather frothy tale of verisimilitude and it takes him until the penta-ultimate paragraph to write these words:

The last 11 years have been filled with hard learning. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history, coincided with mission creep (“nation building”) in Afghanistan. (Emphasis my own.)

I applaud Mr. Will for publicly saying and admitting what the rest of us have known for a decade, but it is unceremoniously buried so deep in the piece few of the fringe troglodytes will trudge deep enough to lay witness to the blasphemy of their sainted George Will. You know what they say, where there’s a Will, there’s always a cold, pasty, stiff guy who’s got something to say.

A British Boo Boo from the House of Honey

Young Luna with a better photographer than a sonogram...

Young Luna with a better photographer than a sonogram…

Honey Boo Boo move over. Amanda Collins, 28, took “beauty pageant mom” to the next level or maybe all the way to the basement. Earlier this year Ms. Collins entered her daughter Luna in Britain’s UK Princess and Prince International competition. Her entry was based entirely on an ultrasound scan at the ripe old age of 20 weeks. Said Amanda, “As soon as I saw her image on the screen…I knew she was a stunner.”

Contest officials accepted the application based upon the ultrasound scan and named Luna the runner-up in the pageant. Luna received her crown six weeks after she had previously more formally crowned.

Here’s your $21,000

Angry taxpayers and retail customers sometimes protest their debt by paying the bill with containers of coins (especially pennies), but what if a company did that to a customer? A court earlier this year ruled that Adriana’s Insurance Services in Rancho Cucamonga, California, (love the name) had unjustifiably ejected and assaulted a 74-year-old from its offices. Mr. Andres Carrasco had complained about a canceled policy and it didn’t sit well with the folks at Adriana’s Insurance and they forcibly ousted him from their offices.

The court ordered Adriana’s to pay Mr. Carrasco about $21,000. In August, the still-irritated and decidedly unneighborly company dropped off at least 16 buckets full of coinage at Mr. Carrasco’s lawyer’s office. Obviously Adriana’s was hoping Mr. Carrasco would “change”.

Bring Enough to Share

Ms. Ashley Tull, 30, was arrested in Selbyville, Delaware, for teaching her daughter to over-share. It seems Ms. Tull dropped her 4-year-old daughter off at the Hickory Tree Child Care Center and her daughter promptly began sharing small individually wrapped baggies of heroin with her classmates. It was going to be “a party” since the girl’s backpack contained over 200 baggies of heroin.

Smoking is Injurious to Your Health

A man in Aurora, Colorado, suffered life-threatening injuries on October 26 when, as he backed out of his driveway, his front driver’s side tire ran over his head. He had jumped out the driver’s side door to avoid a lit cigarette that had fallen into his jacket. As he fell, he landed underneath the driver’s door as the van continued slowly in reverse. If it is any consolation, afterward the jacket didn’t need pressing.

Fokken A as in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's Red Light District after dark

Amsterdam’s Red Light District after dark

Martine and Louise Fokkens are 71-year-old sisters. They retired after their careers spanning some 50 years. Their careers? The sisters were prostitutes in Amsterdam. (“Fokkens” is their “stage” name, supposedly loosely translated as “old whores” in Dutch.)

Louise has not worked since 2010 because of arthritis (no word on whether it was a chronic work-related condition), but both Louise and Martine appeared in a 2012 documentary. Both appeared in an interview last month with the Jewish news agency JTA where they complained about Amsterdam’s “working girls” are now all foreign and young, and the clients are tourists instead of the steady local clientele. No word on exactly why the Jewish news agency was interested in the ladies’ kvetching.

Conservative Media Makes You Stooopid

 

Love a Good Survival Story

 

Have a great weekend and take this conversation in whatever direction you may so desire.

 

chan-lowe-usa-today-obamacareNote to readers:

Yesterday was Fredster’s birthday and a couple of his friends took him out to celebrate.  Fred hasn’t had any alcohol since last December and right now he is feeling no pains.  Therefore the post will be brief.

Good day to you Widdershins.  As the title asks, what are the members of the Supreme Court up to now?  On Friday, Nov. 7th (after the mid-term elections, mind you) the Supremes decided to take up the question of whether the Federal health insurance exchange can offer subsidies to folks who are looking to purchase health insurance on that exchange.  The plaintiffs in this case argue that the text of the law creating the A.C.A. only mentioned subsidies being available  on the exchanges run by the individual states.  They argue that the law does not mention the federal exchange in the text of the law and that since it does not, then the federal exchange cannot offer premium assistance to those seeking to obtain health insurance on that exchange.  Here’s the problem with that:  36 states opted not to establish exchanges, instead just letting their citizens use the Federal exchange.  So, live in Cali, or Kentucky or one of the other states with a state exchange then no problem.  Live in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas or one of the other states and you won’t be able to obatin subsidies to assist in paying your premiums.  This excellent article over at Think Progress shows what will happen if the subsidies go away:

1. Millions of people will see triple digit premium hikes.

2. Millions of people will lose health care coverage.

3. Obamacare will face a death spiral.

4. Insurers will advocate for repealing market protections.

5. States will lose billions of dollars.

6. The health of Americans living in red states will worsen.

Krugman also has a great piece on this…mess…for lack of a better word.

To understand the issue, you need to understand the structure of health reform. The Affordable Care Act tries to establish more-or-less universal coverage through a “three-legged stool” of policies, all of which are needed to make the system work. First, insurance companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against Americans based on their medical history, so that they can’t deny coverage or impose exorbitant premiums on people with pre-existing conditions. Second, everyone is required to buy insurance, to ensure that the healthy don’t wait until they get sick to join up. Finally, there are subsidies to lower-income Americans to make the insurance they’re required to buy affordable.

Now as Krugman points out, the states without exchanges could simply set something up that directly links to the Federal exchange and that could probably solve the issue.  But would they?  I can easily see Bobby Jindal refusing to do so merely for political purposes and his laughable presidential ambitions.  And I can easily see some other Repub governors just saying “too bad – so sad” and moving on.

Here’s Krugman’s last words on this:  (bolding and italics mine)

Once upon a time, this lawsuit would have been literally laughed out of court. Instead, however, it has actually been upheld in some lower courts, on straight party-line votes — and the willingness of the Supremes to hear it is a bad omen.

So let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Judges who support this cruel absurdity aren’t stupid; they know what they’re doing. What they are, instead, is corrupt, willing to pervert the law to serve political masters. And what we’ll find out in the months ahead is how deep the corruption goes.

Here’s a clip from John Oliver’s Puppy Justice skits.

Finally I’m going to put in a tweet from The Rude Pundit about this issue and I soooo hope he’s right.

This is an open thread and I will probably not be around until waaay later in the day.  I am already regretting the number of bourbons and soda I consumed.  :-(

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