Friday, July 31, 2009

Stop The Madness

If I read the right wing of the Republican party correctly, the United States is led by a racist President born in Africa who wants kill old people (only white ones, presumably). That's pretty much what passes for "thought" these days in the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

The latter two positions are hardly worth commenting on, except that looney-toons birthers have actual supporters in Congress (be sure to watch Chris Matthews eviscerate Rep. John Campbell here). Similarly, Republican members of Congress have taken to the hustings to demagogue health care reform as meaning death to old people, encroaching socialism (I wish), and a general Armageddon that would result in the triumph of Evil over Good. All this while Democrats wrestle over the content of what could and should be the most far-reaching piece of legislation since the days of the Great Society.

But the worst by far is Glenn Beck's recent accusation that Barack Obama is a racist. This is a blatant smear designed to raise Beck's ratings and add nothing positive to the discussion of the most sensitive issue of all. Moreover, Beck indulges in the very thing many whites accuse blacks of: Playing the race card and claiming victimhood where none exists. It's ignorant, offensive, dishonest, cynical and done for no other reason other than to add a decimal point or two to a Fox News program. I can't think of any way in which Beck's blunt accusation remotely contributes to the dialogue about race, promotes mutual understanding, or raises the level of empathy for one race of people by another. In the same video, Michelle Malkin practically smirks when she alludes to Obama's racial attitudes.

I'm not going to dignify these accusations by refuting them. Barack Obama is about as racist as Martin Luther King; nothing more than that needs be said. But there are things we can do, such as write to the sponsors of Beck's show, who happen to include:

General Motors
Campbell Soup
Proctor & Gamble
Kraft Foods

Momma Politico has provided links to each company's contact web page here, making it easy to send simple but emphatic emails like this:

Yesterday, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck smeared President Obama by calling him a racist. This goes far beyond responsible commentary, and it troubles me that <> sponsors Beck's program. Respectfully, I urge you to repudiate what amounts to hate speech and by redirecting advertising dedicated to Beck's show to other Fox News programming.

Thanks to MP's action and the miracle of cut-and-paste, it took me about 15 minutes to compose the email and contact all nine companies. Why not join me?

(Thanks to Annette at Just my little piece of the world, Helen Wheels at Just Ain't Right, Perry at Momma Politico, and Zen Yenta for pulling together the material used in today's entry.)...

Bob Marley alway has so much things to say...

Those Republicans: Will they ever get real?...

Friday's Choice: Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana rip it up at the Montreux Jazz Festival (thanks, RGG!):

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Burrishoole Abbey

Burrishoole Abbey, found off the main road just outside Newport about 7-8 miles away, is a Dominican priory founded in the 15th C. and fortified and garrisoned sometime during the 16 C. Its many graves include a priest hung by the British in 1798 for insurrection and IRA captain killed in 1923 during the Irish Civil War. It's also been a favored picnic spot for T. and I for some time now. As you can see from the photos it's a beautiful, well-kept spot that not many people know about. Yesterday, T. and I had the place to ourselves, apart from the maintenance crew and a pair of swans.

Irish epitaph.

The white specks just past the prow of the boat are the mama swan and a pair of cygnets.

R.I.P., George Russell. This performance of Russell's "Stratusphunk" features Bill Evans on piano and Art Farmer on trumpet:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dingle (Pt 2)

We completed our tour of Slea Head with visits to the Louis Mulcahy pottery studio and the Gallarus Oratory. The oratory, built in the 6th or 7th century, is thought to be an early Christian church. Except for a sagging roof, the oratory remains in remarkably good condition despite (or because of) the fact that its builders used no mortar in its construction, instead adopting a technique known as corbeling. According to wikipedia, corbeling offsets
successive courses of stone at the springline of the walls so that they project towards the archway's center from each supporting side, until the courses meet at the apex of the archway...
Back in town, we strolled along the wharf before having dinner at Doyle's, where we each ate a traditional Kerry seafood pie, an amalgam of local catch stewed in a white roux of seafood stock and baked in a "crust" of mashed potatoes.

On our way out of town the next morning, we stumbled across the ruins of Minaurd Castle while searching for a holy well. The structure is not locked off, so we made our way inside the walls, which had pretty much been taken over by plant life. What stories could those castle walls tell?

Country blues...

200 guitars...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Does Health Care Reform Mean To Your District?

Thanks to Annette at just my little piece of the world for calling my attention to this useful website produced by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Use it to look up the impact of HR 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, on your Congressional district. Here's what I found out about the bill and Washington's 8th:

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act would provide significant benefits in the 8th Congressional District of Washington: up to 20,000 small businesses could receive tax credits to provide coverage to their employees; 7,500 seniors would avoid the donut hole in Medicare Part D; 1,000 families could escape bankruptcy each year due to unaffordable health care costs; health care providers would receive payment for $20 million in uncompensated care each year; and 29,000 uninsured individuals would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. Congressman David G. Reichert represents the district.
  • Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 20,000 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.
  • Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 7,500 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.
  • Health care and financial security. There were 1,000 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.
  • Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $20 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.
  • Coverage of the uninsured. There are 53,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 7% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 29,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.
  • No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 9,650 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 97.3% of taxpayers in the district.
This analysis is based upon the following sources: the Gallup-Healthways Survey (data on the uninsured); the U.S. Census (data on small businesses); the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (data on the Part D donut hole, health care-related bankruptcies (based on analysis of PACER court records), and uncompensated care); and the House Committee on Ways and Means (data on the surtax).

Some things you can do to help:
  1. Publish the report for your district on your blog or web site.
  2. Contact your Congressman urging him or her to support HB 3200 and request an explanation if they do not support it.
  3. Put a pointer to the web site on your Facebook page and urge your friends to look up the report for their district.
Note: If you find the web site confusing or are pressed for time, contact me personally and I'll look up the report for your district...

Paul Krugman writes that President Obama can't give the Blue Dog Dems what they want because what they ask for makes no sense...

According to the Committee report, the number of uninsured Washingtonians by district, the number of 2008 health care-related bankruptcies, and the percent of taxpayers affected by a proposed surcharge on each district's wealthiest taxpayers:

WA-1 (Jay Inslee-D)
62,000 uninsured (9%)
1,100 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 1.8% of taxpayers

WA-2 (Rick Larsen-D)
104,000 uninsured (14%)
1,150 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 0.9% of taxpayers

WA-3 (Brian Baird-D)
114,000 uninsured (15%)
1,550 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 0.9% of taxpayers

WA-4 (Doc Hastings-R)
140,000 uninsured (19%)
1,500 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 0.6% of taxpayers

WA-5 (Cathy Rodgers-R)
127,000 uninsured (18%)
1,200 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 0.8% of taxpayers

WA-6 (Norm Dicks-D)
88,000 uninsured (13%)
1,300 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 0.8% of taxpayers

WA-7 (Jim McDermott-D)
83,000 uninsured (13%)
2,050 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 2.1% of taxpayers

WA-8 (Dave Reichert-R)
53,000 uninsured (7%)
1,000 bankruptcies
Surcharge: 2.7% taxpayers

WA-9 (Adam Smith-D)
(link broken -- most like WA-3)

Even though the 4th and 5th districts would benefit most from HB3200, you can count on Rodgers and Doc "Dim Bulb" Hastings to oppose it on ideological grounds, as will Dave "Empty Suit" Reichert. Whether they ultimately sign on to this particular bill or not, the D's will support whatever Nancy Pelosi brings to the floor. But it would be nice for them to know that their constituents have their back...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dingle (Pt 1)

Dingle Peninsula tides and winds roll in like thunder. I've never heard such loud beaches. It's magnificent.

The trick to Dingle is getting there. You have to go through Limerick, an especially tortuous proposition when one of the main roads is closed, causing a traffic snarl across the entire town. Dingle itself, about 200 miles from Westport as the Irish roads twist and turn, lies nestled at the foot of the Conor Pass, on of the three ways in and out of the peninsula. The pass reduces down to a single lane at times, but also affords magnificent views:

Upon arrival, we shopped a bit and had dinner at a recommended seafood restaurant called Out of the Blue, the elegant bistro interior of which belied its wharfside shack facade:

As did the menu. While T. went for the whole sea bass, I started with six of the best oysters-on-the-half-shell I've ever had. From there, I went on to a "duo" of mackerel and sea bass fillets prepared in a lime-butter sauce. Regrettably, neither of us had room for dessert!

We toured the peninsula the next day, driving around Slea Head and beginning with stops at various viewpoints and the magnificent strand above.

Ring Fort.

Note the path, which starts from about where I took this picture. Less traveled thought it may be, we did not take it.

T. has more here...

The First Line is from Strumpet City, James Plunkett's fine novel centered on the 1913 general strike in Dublin. (Confidential to RE: Don't miss this one)...

Clifton writes about Common's The Corner on Just A Song:
When I was growing up the corners around my house were reserved for the older men to share a drink and discuss the good and bad aspects of life's journey. They wouldn't do anything but stand out there, talk loud, and yell at the children when they saw them doing something wrong...

Elysian Fields overpass...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gone to Dingle

We're off to the Dingle Peninsula for a few days. Look for great pictures early next week! In the meantime, enjoy The Pogues singing "Sally McLennane," for which our cat was named:

Uva uvam vivendo varia fit

Readers who love Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove -- and you can count me among them -- often wonder what the celebrated motto Uva uvam vivendo varia fit means. Augustus McCrae had seen it somewhere and scratched it into the Hat Creek outfit's sign (along with the cautionary "We don't rent pigs"), resulting in an exchange along these lines with Woodrow Call:

"What does it mean?"

"It's a motto. It just says itself."

Call was quick to see the point. "You don't know what it means. It could be telling someone to rob us."

"That would be fine with me. Just once I'd like to trade shots with an educated bandit."

(This is from memory, so the actual exchange is somewhat different. This is the gist, though.)

McMurtry never translates the motto, letting it stand as a symbol of the cowboys' illiteracy even as they conduct a life-changing epic cattle drive from the Rio Grande to Montana. It's McMurtry's way of contrasting the Hat Creek outfit's lack of school learning with the education in living that they pick up on the journey north.

I once asked a friend of my son, a friend who studied Latin through high school, what it meant. He studied it curiously, informed that it didn't make any formal sense, then took it to his teacher. They parsed it out as best they could and came up with this:

Each man finds happiness in his own way.

This dovetails nicely with the novel's theme of the wisdom of avoiding the pursuit of obsessions in favor of appreciating the adventure of everyday living.

The Witliff Collections at Texas State University offers a different, if related interpretation:

A grape changes color [ripens] when it sees another grape.

In other words,

the phrase serves as a metaphor for the group's journey, as many of the story's characters go through a process of personal maturation and development. Much like grapes ripen in the presence of others.

As to why McMurty chose to garble the actual Latin, your guess is as good as mine. I like to think that it's a private joke at the expense of Augustus McCrae, who otherwise generally has the upper hand in the novel.

My favorite supporting character in Lonesome Dove is the top hand, Dish Boggett. His obsession with Lorena leads him to defend her honor at every turn and to love her in spite of her dismissal of him. At odds with the demanding Woodrow Call at the beginning of the book, Dish’s regard for the captain increases at the same time that Call grows to respect Dish’s abilities. Eventually, he becomes Call’s trusted lieutenant. Dish, of course, does not perceive that gaining Call’s regard is a greater triumph – a more certain one , at least– than attaining the love of someone who doesn’t want him. After all, as Gus McCrae observes, the problem with wanting something too badly is that it lets you down once you have it.

If you haven't read Lonesome Dove, move it to the top of your reading list. I've read it five times and I have no doubt that I’ll read it again. There's humor and wisdom on every page of the simple and oft told tale of a cattle drive. As the characters grow and mature, they become beloved. Not many books can claim that...

I believe when I fall in love this time it will be forever....


I can't believe these looney tunes still squawk about the President's citizenship. Don't miss the link to Chris Matthews laying waste an idiotic Republican congressman. Unbelievable...

More shoes...

My wife and Claude Monet...

Still more shoes...

Nearly 7,000,000 more Americans will lose health insurance by the end of next year...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care Reform Now

"No matter what your views are on abortion, you shouldn't ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that abortion is taking a life. I would hate to see the health care debate go down [sic] over that issue."

-Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), on Fox News

This kind of sanctimonious moralizing chaps my ass. Does Senator Gregg agree with this statement?
"No matter what your views are on the Iraq war, you shouldn't ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that the war means the unjustifiable taking of life."
Logically, you can't subscribe to the first without admitting to the second, but logic rarely intervenes in conservative "thinking."

Abortion is, of course, a right established by the Supreme Court in 1973. It's legality has survived one challenge after another. And unless universal health care includes coverage for abortions, poor women will not be able to exercise their Constitutional rights. That to me is at least as unconscionable as Senator Gregg's hand wringing. And this clown was going to be in Obama's cabinet?...

Here is a useful time line of the broad schedule for health care reform. Even if and when legislation is passed, it will take longer to put into effect than you think. The highlights:
  • 2010: The government establishes a Healthcare Advisory Committee led by the surgeon general to recommend basic benefits.
  • 2011: The committee reports out recommendations for adoptions by the Health and Human Services Department. Taxes on the upper-income earners so dear to the Republican party take effect.
  • 2013: The government opens a health insurance exchange available to individuals and companies with fewer than ten workers. All plans in the exchange offer at least the basic benefits package and assistance to families at up 400% of the poverty level. "Individuals are required to get coverage — and employers to offer it — or face financial penalties. Businesses with payrolls under $250,000 are exempt from the mandate. Medicaid eligibility is expanded."
  • 2014: Exchange expanded to include businesses of up to twenty people and individuals who cannot afford employer co-pays.
  • 2015: "The government decides whether to open the health insurance exchange — and the government-sponsored plan — to all employers.
  • 2018: Employers who continue to provide coverage outside the exchange must offer at least the same basic benefits available through the government-regulated purchasing pool.
And yet the Republicans caution against moving too quickly. Where was all that caution when Bush rushed into the war in Iraq?

This is not as efficient, all-encompassing, or cost-effective as a single payer plan. There can and will be many a slip betwixt now and 2018. But there is the critical public option, and it's a damn sight better than what we have now. The biggest obstacle between President Obama, the American people, and decent health care access are -- unsurprisingly -- fearful members of the Democratic caucus apprehensive that the plan is too "liberal." If one of these panicky poltroons of the Potomac comes from your state or district, let him or her know that you expect them to grow a backbone...

There is a balm in Gilead...

This is my 500th blog entry. When I was a kid growing up in the 60s, I knew every big league ballplayer who had hit 500 or more home runs (or was about to) because there just weren't that many of them. So here's to Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and little Mel Ott, all 5'9", 170 pounds of him...

While we're at it, five players I wish I could have seen in their primes:
  1. Ruth (The Sultan of Swat)
  2. Jackie Robinson
  3. Williams (The Splendid Splinter)
  4. Walter Johnson (The Big Train)
  5. Mays (The Say Hey Kid)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vintage Irish Post Cards

Curragh off Aran Islands, Co Galway, Ireland

Near Screeb on the Coast Road, Connemara, Co Galway, Ireland

Thatchers at Work, Aran Islands, Co Galway, Ireland

Salthill (Galway City), Showing Clare Mountains

Roundstone Harbour and "Twelve Pins" Connemara, Ireland

Killarney Colleen
Though se [sic] looks so breathtakingly simple
There's mischief in every dimple.

Did you know that true love asks for nothing?
It's like all the years growing up watching your dad wear those raggedy clothes knowing he wanted to look good but he couldn't because he didn't have a lot of money and he wanted his kids to look right. That’s the kind of love Stevie Wonder is singing about...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mayo North Tractor Club Vintage Fair

Yesterday, we journeyed north to the Vintage Fair outside of Crossmolina. The Vintage Fair consists of antique sellers (I picked up some not-so-antique post cards from the '70's), craftspeople; demonstrations of country skills such as blacksmithing, metalworking, dogs herding, and even poteen making; music; vintage cars and steam engines; you name it.

Blacksmith at work:

Border collie herding ducks:

1955 Morris Oxford:


1920 butter churn:

Threshing contest: