Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blog #86: A Happy 100 Days!

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Photo from


Welcome to a Truly Open US Gov!

As the conservative Republican minority continues to piss and moan at the release of still more of those legal memos which authorized torture, and their pleas for their further withholding rises to a crescendo, we Americans need to ask themselves a very straightforward question: Why shouldn’t this administration release this information? For one thing, it is insurance against it ever happening again. And for another, why should the creators of this policy not receive the full credit they deserve for this affront to humanity and to the American psyche. What’s with this Republican penchant to govern in secrecy, anyway? Are they perchance ashamed at what they have done. It was the theorizing of these made-to-order legal weasles which turned 200 years of American traditions on its ear, and as a result they well deserve whatever credit or blame might be coming to them from down the pike. But folks, let us not allow those who ordered those opinions in the first place to go scott free. If there is punishment for the legal weasles, those who ordered that advice deserve whatever punishment their legal counterparts might receive for asking them to come up with legal justification for their use of torture and then blindly accepting it when it their orders bore fruit. We broke centuries of tradition by punishing Nazis and Fascists who broke the Geneva accords after World War II. Why should we let our homegrown crop of criminal minds get away unpunished.

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The Obama Pause that Refreshes

How refreshing it is to have the country led by a leader calling for transparency, instead of one who wraps his machinations under wraps of secrecy far from the public view. Republicans must surely love secrecy as they have made a religion out of it, using it as an attempt to mask their true motives and movements under its cloak. After all, when you stop and think about it Republicans do seem to have a helluva lot to hide. But clearly the American people are taking to this new mood of openness, which is why the President’s approval numbers are in the mid sixties, in spite of the monumental challenges facing his presidency, including two wars, a bankrupt economy, and the threat of a world wide pandemic, among many other things. Oddly enough, CNN on Wednesday night had its listeners grade the president by way of its website, and on the economy the President scored, would you believe, an A? Would you imagine that, in this complete mess of an economic time he garners an A?

Republicans may scream and holler about Obama doubling the national debt in his first hundred days, but they conveniently forget that their guy was the first to do that, and his doubling the debt benefitted only the very wealthy and the big corporations. The rest of us were left to pay the bill. As are our children, and our grandchildren.

Obama’s use of the stimulus is to create jobs, to get Americans working again, and at the same time rebuild America’s long ignored infrastructure. And what is really important here is that according to all indications the public does get the fact that Obama is truly working for us all, and according to the marks they gave him in CNN’s 100 day poll they indicated their approval and wished him well.

The Daily Beast on President Obama’s 100 Day Press Conference:

Obama Was Neither Surprised, Humbled, Enchanted, Nor Troubled by the Question. You could hear his colleagues laughing at him, but give Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times credit: he posed the most original (and perhaps only four-part) question at a press conference in years. And note President Obama, ever the perfect student, answering each part in full.

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Arlen Specter Makes Our Day

Tuesday was a mile high day on the political front. Arlen Specter, the reluctant Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, switched parties on this day, thereby bringing the total of Democratic Senators to 59. And after Al Franken’s election in Minnesota makes its long and winding way through the Minnesota legal process the Democratic Party’s majority will be a filibuster proof 60.

Not that that will guarantee anything. Democrats are notable individualists, and their rank and file shows nowhere near the dedicated lockstep marching with their leadership as that exhibited by their Republican counterparts. Only three Republican Senators defected to allow President Obama’s stimulus package to come up for a vote in the Senate. And in the House the party showed even stronger leadership, not one Republican crossed over to vote in favor of the stimulus package. However Sen. Specter’s defection is still sweet music for Obama’s ears. And in our view, sweet music for the ears of all Americans.

Republican’s view of Sen. Specter’s reputation as a not-to-be-trusted maverick dated back even before that stimulus bill when he was one of three Republican Senators to reject the GOP hard line opposition and crossover to stand with the Democrat majority. Republicans of the extreme right welcome Sen. Specter’s move, for they wish for a party of “pure” principles, which of course is going to limit the party even more. They are trading Ronald Reagan’s call for a Big Republican Tent into a call for an ideologically pure Pup Tent. Which of course suits most of America to a tee. With only 20%, one in five, of today’s voters calling themselves Republican, that Pup Tent does indeed seem to be small and shrinking.

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100 Days and Flying High!

Wednesday, April 29, was President Obama’s 100th day, a big deal in the judging of a Presidency since Franklin Roosevelt’s ascension in 1933. And everybody, and his brother, is offering their opinion. So I guess it would be appropriate for Little Eddy to offer his.

Of course 100 days is nowhere near far enough along to affix any kind of meaningful grade to the new President’s job history, especially in areas which really matter. But having said that, what a charming change it is to have a president who can think on his feet, who is both articulate and honest, and best and most importantly, who does exactly what he had promised he would do when running for the office? How unique this is after eight years of a Republican Administration which paid no attention to what the public wanted, and was Proud Of It? To have a president who actually cares about the country, and the people in it, rather than turning his full attention to games of foreign policy is indeed a heady combination which could carry us anywhere. A president who is going to work full time in the interests of our country and its general population, and not just in the interests of the rich and well connected. A president who is going to be transparent in everything he does. No secrecy from this president. Absolutely first rate. What grade do you give the President after the first 100 days? We give him an A for both effort and execution.

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Flying Piglet from

President Obama’s Swine Flu advice: cover your mouth while coughing, and wash your hands!


Mother Nature Still in Charge

Houston, Texas, Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Last night, during the night, the old lady who is really running things on this earth showed those of us in Houston who is still the boss. It’s Mother Nature I’m talking about, and she proved her continuing control over our situation by dumping 1.76” of rain during the night. This left my neighborhood in near flood conditions with the waterline well above the sidewalks.

Fortunately all of the houses in this neighborhood are built at least six feet above the street level, and as a result no houses were threatened by the water. Transportation was severely curtailed however, school was cancelled for the day, and few if anyone from the neighborhood attempted to go to work.

At eleven a.m. although the sun was out, and although it hadn’t rained in several hours, the water level remained well above the sidewalk level. While observing the situation from the front yard, I saw an electrician walking down people’s front yards just above where the sidewalk was hidden. Upon my remarking that it is a mess out, he grinned and announced that there was no way he was going to drive in here.

According to the Weather Bureau the record for this day dates to 1957 and stands as 2.72”. The afternoon forecast reads: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Some thunderstorms may be severe with locally heavy rainfall possible. Highs around 80. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60 percent. The forecast turned out to be wrong, there was no more rain that day. And by four p.m. not a trace of the water could be found.

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Graphic from

Piglets are among the most lovable of baby animals

The child in the picture above licking the hog’s snout is not in the least bit out of line in situations where children live in close contact with farm animals. In the three camps I worked for one of the most lovable things in camp for both campers and counselors alike were the camp pets. And these ranged far and wide beyond the usual pet dogs and cats. For some unknown reason horses and horseback riding came first with a number of girl campers. But camp also had a number of baby farm animals we would rent from a neighboring farm for the summer. These included chickens, sheep and goats, and most definitely a young piglet or two or three. Piglets are charming animals, they are clean (they don’t seem to acquire their gross habits until they gain the majority of their growth), and they are both warm and affectionate. In short they are all you could possibly ask for in a pet. If only they didn’t grow up.

At Blueberry Cove Camp in Maine one summer we had a ten year old camper named Tony who got a most intense crush on our littlest piglet. I don’t really remember whether this piglet was male or female, it wouldn’t have mattered though because it’s sex had nothing to do with Tony’s attraction to it. I’m not sure how it started, but the piglet roamed free, and after a few times of Tony cuddling it, the pig began following Tony around to his activities. Soon counselors could expect the piglet to be cuddled up with Tony. And by the time the parents’ visiting weekend rolled around Tony’s parents discovered that Tony and the piglet were a super item. His parents thought the relationship very cute, if not truly beautiful, and I must say I and most of the rest of the staff agreed. There was nothing quite as charming as the sight of Tony and his piglet friend lying nose to snout, as it were, freely trading kisses and snout lickings.

Tony’s mother quietly inquired of us privately what was likely to happen to the pig after camp. We explained as how we rented the animals from (here we’ll call him Farmer Brown) for the summer, and after camp the pig would probably get some fattening up over the winter and then be sold next spring for slaughter. (Such is the fate of virtually all farm animals in our civilized society.) To her credit Tony’s mom racked her brain to try and think of a way that her son’s pet could escape the inevitable, but she could come up with nothing. For as downright beguiling as a piglet can be, it will sure as hell grow into a large, smelly, obnoxious grown animal in a matter of months. It is only a matter of time. And dealing with an adult hog would be impossible in a city situation. And so Tony’s mom’s options were limited to none. Tony’s pet would undoubtedly be up for slaughter the next spring and Tony was encouraged not to think beyond the summer for his favorite pet. And his mom assured us she would find a dog for Tony after camp.

A strange night for camping

My favorite part of working in camps as a counselor was in taking the campers on trips. These trips were meant to offer a challenge to the kids, either climbing a mountain, paddling a canoe, or riding a bicycle, among many other things. It was a chance to get a small group of kids away from the entire camp, and allow them to experience living close to nature. But for me, it was a chance to test my own mettle against the forces of nature.

Not that nature ever really tested us. In the three camps I worked for we never had an accident on a trip, and we had very few in camp. On the contrary, I had many really vivid experiences on trips. There was one trip in particular which had a profound effect on me. We were camped out in an open field, with a spectacular view of mountains in the background. I had a tiny Sony shortwave radio, hardly larger than a deck of playing cards, and after a campfire and stories, and the kids were safely in their sleeping bags, I slipped on the earbuds and prepared to surf the shortwaves.

It was an extraordinary night. The Northern Lights were crackling in the northern sky. (The Northern Lights are white, while the Aurora Borealis consists of colored lights, red and green. I saw Northern Lights several times in Maine, but I never saw the Aurora there. It I saw several times while visiting Pete Seeger after camp in Beacon, N.Y.) I feasted on this visual for at least five minutes before I started exploring the shortwave bands. I finally settled in on a Canadian station which was giving a newscast. As I listened the newscaster went on about a story from Montana, where two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were camped out in the Montana wilderness when their tent was torn into by a bear, who proceeded to bite a chunk out of the young man’s buttock, which was evidently bare and moving rapidly. What a strange story to be listening to, out in the wilderness with northern lights crackling in the sky. That night was seared into my mind, a totally unforgettable experience.

Imagine my surprise in talking with two of our camp parents at the end of that summer, and hearing the same story told by them. It seems that the lad that was attacked by the bear was in one of those traveling camps that would experience the west driving by day and camping by night. The boy was the nephew of our parents, and she told me that the boy’s parents were surprised to learn that he had been in a tent with a girl. The girl was not hurt. The boy managed to fend the bear off, then was driven to a hospital where his wounds were taken care of. Aside from losing a chunk of his gluteus maximus and being somewhat sore, he did recover fully, although he left the camp after the accident and returned home. Where one assumed he had a most subdued rest of the summer.

Talk about a small world. As those parents discussed their nephew’s fate, I couldn’t help reliving that night when I first heard about it, the Northern Lights crackling in the night sky, as the Canadian newsman painted quite vividly the story of that camper in Montana suffering the bear attack. What a small world it is indeed, to have this far flung incident somehow related to one of our own campers? And to first hear of it while camping deep in the wilderness during a crackling display of the Northern Lights.

Gluteus maximus indeed. Our time doth hereby ticketh away, leaving us with nothing to say beyond a cordial goodbye, and an invitation to return next week. We’re very glad you came. We do hope you will come back again. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy

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