Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stepping back into NYC's "club era" -- the Yale Club today, the University Club in March

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McKim, Mead and White's University Club,
at Fifth Avenue and West 54th Street

by Ken

This morning I made sure to get enough of my day's posts posted so that I could go out and play, notwithstanding the arctic weather here in the Big Apple. Today that meant a special of the historic "club" districts of Midtown Manhattan, including a visit to the largest of them all, the Yale Club (which survives in part by sharing its facilities with a bunch of other clubs, like that of my alma mater, I was surprised to be reminded).

Matt Postal has been doing a series of tours for the Municipal Art Society of some of the surviving clubs, namely those that have responded at all positively to his entreaties. He has explained that when he was attending graduate school at the City University of New York in the '90s, he was involved in a massive project into the clubs built during the great era of clubs in Midtown, the later part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. It was a natural project for the CUNY Grad Center when it was located on the block north of the New York Public LIbrary, on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, a virtual stone's throw from the graet club blocks -- 43rd and 44th Streets between Sixth and Vanderbilt Avenues and -- opposite the south side of the library and its neighbor to the west, Bryant Park, 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. But before the project could be completed and brought to whatever form it might have taken, the grad center moved -- not that far, to its present location in the gorgeous, landmarked former B. Altman building at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, but far enough that the "club district" was now judged to be out-of-neighborhood. The project was shelved, leaving Matt with all that work expended and all those reams of files.

On earlier MAS tours with Matt, I've gotten to see the inside of the Players Club (on Gramercy Park South) and the Century Association (on 43rd Street just west of Fifth Avenue). A number of the city's most prestigious architects designed those club buildings, and setting foot inside them also carries the feeling of stepping into another era.


CONTINUING THE CLUB THEME

On a recent MAS tour with Francis Morrone, part of a series exploring the "side streets" of Midtown, our group had spent time at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 54th Street, onl partly sheltered from the rain, looking at the extraordinary pile of a building on the northwest corner, McKim, Mead and White's University Club of 1899.

Which gave Francis the opportunity to mention that on March 3rd he will be giving this year's 14th Annual McKim Lecture, co-presented by the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art and the University Club (in the form of the 1 West 54th Street Association), in the club itself. It was a date he suggested we might mark on our calendars, though he warned that they charge a really lot of money.

I actually remembered to do some Web searching, and was able to confirm the March 3rd date, but for details and reservations In was instructed to check back later. Perhaps inspired by the upcoming Yale Club tour with Matt P, I remembered to check back, and sure enough the full information is now available, including this:
The topic of the lecture will be “The City Beautiful and the Urban Landscape in America.” The talk will explore the movement to beautify America’s cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the impact and legacy of that movement, its relevance today, and the many misconceptions about it (including that of Jane Jacobs). All of this will be discussed with specific reference to the contributions of McKim, Mead and White.
I know from my recent experience of (finally) reading Jane Jacobs's storied Death and Life of Great American Cities, and from doing bunches of tours with Francis where her writings have come up, including one last August devoted specifically to "Then and Now: The West Village of Jane Jacobs," that he's one of the few people who invoke her work who's actually familiar with what she wrote. So I'm especially psyched for the promised corrective to her view of the City Beautiful movement, which could most politely be described as scathing.

Beyond which, in my experience Francis takes his public presentations very seriously. Like when his latest book, Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes (written with Robin Lynn), had a festive do of a public book-launch party in the historic chapel of Green-Wood Cemetery, at a time when many authors would coast on the labors of book-writing now comfortably behind them, Francis seemed to have devoted as much effort to the presentation he gave as most people would devote to actually writing a damned book. The way he tied Green-Wood itself into the first of the successive eras of NYC urban landscapes it had a lot to do with settiing in motion (starting with two of the city's still-greatest urban landscapes, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted's Central Park and Prospect Park) was, in a word, masterful.

Beyond that, there's the sheer thrill of penetrating the mighty exterior of the University Club. Here are a few paragraphs from a post by Scott on the IWALKED Audio Tours website:
As it is likely that most of us will never see the insides of the University Club let me share what I have been able to learn of its interiors from my research. The highlight of the building is the library on the second floor which you can sometimes get a glimpse into from street level. The library is said to contain vast vault ceilings with murals painted atop its ceiling by Henry Siddons Mowbray that emulate the Vatican Apartments. Also amongst the interior is an extensive art collection, including a series of portraits by Gilbert Stuart, and a series of swimming pools allowable for usage with either swimming or birthday suits (at least in the male-only pool).

Speaking of male-only, the University Club underwent an overhaul of its membership policy in 1997 due to the passage of the New York City Public Law 63. Public Law 63 required all fee-collecting clubs with members greater than 400 (of which the University Club has over 4,000 members) to begin allowing the membership of women, or else the club would be forced to alter its charter.

The University Club has been located within this nine-story Italian High Renaissance Revival building since 1899. The Club which took on a series of temporary homes since its founding acquired a lot that was formerly owned by St. Luke’s Hospital to build on this site. They then hired the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White to construct themselves new quarters for the sum of $1 million. McKim, Mead and White’s unique design integrates pink Milford granite on its exterior, along with a series of twenty-five feet columns that grace each side of the front entrance. Also integrated above each of the building’s windows are crests that are representative of various prominent universities. Perhaps the most intriguing element, however, is the deceptive appearance of the building’s exterior. By glancing at the outside of the building it seems apparent that there are no more than three levels, when in actuality the interior maintains nine.
You'll notice that phrase of Scott's, "as it is likely that most of us will never see the insides of the University Club," well, that's what I was thinking too, that day when we stood in the rain looking at the building's exterior. Well, I put that all together, swallowed hard, and -- reminding myself that a good part of the money goes to the worthy causes represented by the prsenting institutions -- shelled out the $75 they're asking for just the cocktail reception preceding the lecture and the lecture itself. That'll get me inside the building and into Francis's lecture. I didn't give serious consideration to the higher-priced option, which adds on a dinner following the lecture, at a jacked-up total of $150. It occurred to me afterward that maybe I should have really gone hog-wild, if only to see the dining facilities of the club.

I know enough from my club tours with Matt to know that the dining facilities of these places are a key feature of their design. Maybe I should have thought of the extra $75 as a fee for on-site inspection, with the meal as an added bonus. I'm not sure I could have sold myself on that, though, and anyway it's done, though I suspect an upgrade wouldn't be entirely impossible. Probably if I called the phone number listed for reservations, and mentioned that I've already registered for the recpetion and lecture, and wondered if I might still be able to tack on the dinner. . . . Oh no, now I've planted a bug in my head!

These are, of course, decisions each of us has to make for him/herself. And I just thought some of you might want to know about this. There aren't a lot of people I'd seriously consider shelling out the basic $75 for, but put Francis in a package with the University Club itself, and I'm already kind of glad I overcame my habitual cheapness.


For information about current and future Municipal Art Society walking tours, go to the MAS website, mas.org, and click on "Tours."
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Home Safety Watch: Say, it's Super Bowl weekend -- watch out for bedroom TVs toppling over onto the kiddies!

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"From 2011 to 2013, an average of 11,000 children under age 18 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries involving TVs or injuries involving both televisions and furniture, according to a new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. From 2000 to 2013, 279 people were actually killed by falling TVs and furniture."

by Ken

Super Bowl weekend means different things to different people. To me, for example, it means that maybe I should check out which episodes TBS is including in that all-day Law and Order marathon (and never mind that I've got the whole thing on DVD -- it still strikes me as a way superior option).

Apparently, to a lot of people the Super Bowl means it's time to buy a new TV or two. And the Washington Post's Lenny Bernstein makes a further connection I wasn't aware of. It seems that buying a new TV frequently means moving the old TV it's replacing into the bedroom, where with alarming frequency it may topple over onto a household kiddie. And whereas old-style CRT TVs perched atop a dresser pack humongous force when they topple over onto an unsuspecting toddler, even much lighter flat-panel sets can seriously mess up a kiddie-size body lying in its descent path.

Well, what the heck? It's only kiddies, right? Pass the nachos.
To Your Health

TVs tip over on toddlers with surprising frequency, causing injuries and deaths

By Lenny Bernstein January 30 at 2:48 PM

It's not your imagination — Americans buy nearly three times as many televisions before the Super Bowl as they do before any other sporting event (the World Series is second, the NBA Finals third), according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

It's what happens after you get that new set home that creates a largely unrecognized health hazard. The old TV often goes in a kid's room or some other part of the home, usually on a dresser or another piece of furniture that's not built to handle it. Curious kids climb the unstable TV-furniture combo and the whole thing tips over, resulting in a surprising number of injuries.

From 2011 to 2013, an average of 11,000 children under age 18 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries involving TVs or injuries involving both televisions and furniture, according to a new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. From 2000 to 2013, 279 people were actually killed by falling TVs and furniture.

"This is just one of those things that we need to educate people about, because it's so preventable," Marietta S. Robinson, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety agency, said in an interview.

In tests conducted by the consumer agency, a 32-inch CRT (old style) television dropped from a height of 36 inches hit with an average force of 12,703 pounds. Flat screens hit with 2,100 pounds or less, still a sizable impact on a small child's body. Forty-one percent of U.S. households still have at least one CRT set, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.



Nor is there always a loud crash to alert parents. Brett Horn of Kansas City, Mo., lost his 2 ½-year-old son, Charlie, in 2007 when a 30-inch-high dresser tipped over on the child who was supposed to be napping. Despite having an audio monitor on, Charlie's nanny heard nothing. When she went to check on Charlie and his two brothers, she found the child, who was later declared dead of asphyxiation.

"When that [dresser] tipped over and fell on him, it didn't make a sound or much of a sound, because obviously there was something there to break his fall," Horn said. He and his wife later founded Charlie's House to help spread the word about accidents to children in homes.

Lisa Siefert of Barrington, Ill. found her son, 2-year-old Shane, under his dresser after his nap. There was no television, no toys on top, but presumably he had pulled out the drawers and tried to climb to the top when the furniture tipped over on him. She also has started a child safety organization, Shane's Foundation, to reduce future deaths and injuries.

Siefert and her husband had child-proofed the house for an older sibling of Shane's. "We had outlet covers, drawer latches, netting for the balcony, play gates, door-knob covers," she said. "This is not something that we were aware of."

Robinson said the government works with furniture manufacturers to improve furniture stability, and the Consumer Electronics Association is part of a group that promotes National TV Safety Day on Saturday. The solutions are pretty simple: anchoring TVs and furniture to walls as part of childproofing a home, and recycling old, heavy CRT televisions that are rarely used.

When parents put knives out of reach and childproof cabinet doors, "they should also think about anchoring their furniture to the wall," Robinson said. "This is a danger that people just don't think of."

"We’re asking families to add one important, and perhaps overlooked, task to their pregame prep,” Kate Carr, president and chief executive of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a news release. “Take a look around your home. Can the flat-panel TV tip over? Have you moved the old CRT to a bedroom dresser where it rarely gets watched? On National TV Safety Day, recycle that old TV. Your home will be safer for it.”

TVs and furniture can be mounted on walls or anchored with straps and brackets, all of which can be purchased at low cost wherever the sets themselves are bought, officials said. If that's impossible, TVs should be placed on low, stable piece of furniture, with the television pushed back as far as possible to the wall.
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You're probably dying for some inside dope on Dartmouth's new no-hard-liquor policy, right?

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I know you can't actually read this timeline of "The Process" involved in President Hanlon's historic reform plan, but if you really care, you can click on it to enlarge. Actually, I was thinking more that it might make a lovely wallpaper; just print out this PDF on any suitable-for-wallpapering material.

by Ken

I expect you've heard something about the new plan announced by the president of Dartmouth College to make the campus a better, safer healthier place for everyone to live and learn -- you know, the plan that includes banning hard liquor from the campus. (Ah, now it rings a bell?) And you're thinking, gee, I'd like to know more about that, like can you really keep hard liquor off a whole college campus?

It's just your luck that you happen to have an inside connection. In exchange for putting in four years on that campus in its much-reduced form back around the Civil War, I get a lifetime of timely information about Alma Mater deposited in my e-mailbox. And for a price, I'm prepared to share that information.

Okay, I'm just kidding about the price. It's all included in the standard DWT package. (Tipping optional, though nobody's done so yet.)

The plan is actually called "Moving Dartmouth Forward," and its genesis, as you can see from the timeline above, goes back to April 16 of last year, when College President Phil Hanlon "call[ed] for an end to extreme behavior at Dartmouth." I guess you had to be there, or be watching the news, to know what kinds of "extreme behavior" he had in mind. Like, he wasn't thinking of the American Family Association's former loudmouth-in-chief sounding off about Jews and Muslims and other non-Christian scum.


ACTUALLY, THOUGH, THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS



Okay, this is not riveting video. It looks as if President Phil was strapped to powerful electrodes that would administer giant juice jolts anytime he moved any part of his body more than half an inch.

But this is actually serious business. And it's actually an enormously wide-ranging, deeply detailed plan, meant to address serious, deep issues of community respect and safety. I don't claim to have digested even the materials I have access to, and I certainly don't claim to know how workable the system of proposals is (and the proposals are clearly meant to function as a system). But I can tell you that the problems President Phil is attempting to address here are big-time ones, and with the process he set in motion last April, he seems to be really trying to find ways to grapple with them.

You'll find the complete text of President Phil's speech, as prepared, here. (And also an FAQ here.) But I want to share a chunk from the beginning of the speech, because President Phil evokes one of my heroes, in exactly the right way. (I've added the picture.)
I want to begin the conversation by reaching back into our past.

I begin with a story of a young professor of philosophy at Princeton University in the wake of World War II. The professor, at the behest of Dartmouth’s then dean of the faculty, was convinced to pick up from Princeton and move to Hanover to become the chairman of the mathematics department at Dartmouth. His task was to revitalize the department, filling it with faculty of the first rank, capable of attracting the brightest students in the nation.

It was a risky proposition made riskier by the fact that this professor would be a non-tenured chairman. And yet the philosopher turned mathematician -- who studied under Einstein -- took the leap. He came to Dartmouth. He recruited tenaciously and built a stellar department from the ground up. As a Dartmouth undergraduate, I had the good fortune to be a beneficiary of his efforts.

But he did not stop there. A computer genius—he foresaw that while the invention of the computer was an incredible breakthrough … the real revolution would be putting the computer into homes and classrooms across the country. So he helped to invent the language that would make computers accessible. Which we know as BASIC.

But he did not stop there. He became president of the College, and he presided with calm during a time of tremendous social unrest in our country. He inspired and managed the transition of Dartmouth to a coeducational college, without doubt the most significant change in our College’s history.

I share the story of John Kemeny -- a story of risk, a story of best-in-class teaching, a story of leadership, a story of visionary problem-solving, a story of the courage to CHANGE -- because it encapsulates perfectly the incredible promise that is Dartmouth.


John G. Kemeny (1926-1992)

Like President Phil, as a Dartmouth undergraduate I had the good fortune to be a beneficiary of John Kemeny's efforts. In my time, as I recall, which actually predates President Phil's, he was still, as memory serves (sometimes better than others), co-chair of the Math Department, and was still teaching actively. I don't think I ever took a class with him, but I'm sure I must have had lectures with him. And though I am by no means a mathematician of any sort, I took classes with a number of professors from that "stellar department" he "built from the ground up," including two terms with Tom Kurtz, co-inventor with Kemeny of the BASIC programming language (I understood scarcely a word Professor Kurtz said during those two terms in an honors math course, real college-type math turning out to be very different from the kiddie-style high-school version I'd sailed through, but then, I with my basic ignorance of mathematics was apparently every bit as mystifying to him), and spent some time with a number of the others. They were an amazing bunch -- not just incredibly smart, but creative, wise, and humane, some of the best people I've known.

As President Phil mentions, at a time when computers still existed only as giant mainframes, Kemeny and his team were committed to maximizing hands-on contact -- they wanted every student in the college to have the opportunity to sit at a keyboard and do at least some simple programming, using the pioneering Dartmouth Time-Sharing System and of course BASIC. That's what they'd been created for.

The first, and maybe only, alumni function I attended was a dinner presenting Kemeny to NYC alums when, a year or two after I graduated, he was selected as the new president of the college. I was just looking at his Wikipedia bio, and see that as a Hungarian refugee settled in NYC, he attended George Washington High School, a legendary public school not far from where I live now in Washington Heights, which graduated countless students en route to great public careers. He graduated in three years and then, during his undergraduate years at Princeton, "took a year off" -- to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos! ("His boss there was Richard Feynman. He also worked there with John von Neumann." Yikes!) Amazingly, the Wikipedia bio makes no mention of the fact that in 1979, while still president of Dartmouth, he chaired what became known as the Kemeny Commission, overseeing the Report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three-Mile Island ("The Need for Change: The Legacy of TMI").

But I digress. If you're in need of inspiration for vision, it would be hard to think of a better model to turn to than John Kemeny.


FOR A SURVEY OF THE CONTENTS OF THE PLAN --

I'm going to turn the floor over to the Dartmouth Office of Public Affairs, which posted this release, "President Hanlon Presents His Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan," with associated materials. I'm guessing they won't mind my sharing the release with you.
Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon ’77 today introduced his Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan to address high-risk behavior on campus and create a safe and inclusive environment in which students can live and learn.

The plan has at its core a new housing model that will fundamentally transform the residential and social experience at the College.

President Hanlon presented the reforms as the capstone of work that began last spring when he called on the Dartmouth community “to create fundamental change in every place on campus where the social scene is carried out.”

In his April 16 address, Hanlon announced the formation of the Presidential Steering Committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The committee’s work included crowdsourcing solutions from the Dartmouth community, investigating best practices, and visiting peer institutions. Committee members were also charged with consulting external experts in the fields of student life, student health and wellness, sexual assault, alcohol abuse, diversity and inclusivity, and campus safety. Committee members heard from more than 40 student groups and 50 alumni groups and reviewed more than 2,000 email suggestions before submitting their final report to Hanlon this month.

From this report, Hanlon identified the set of reforms announced today, which Dartmouth has begun to implement and will continue putting in place in the coming months and years.

“To be clear, no single action contains the consummate solution. If it did, these problems would have vanished from our campus and society years and years ago,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon outlined steps to ensure a safer and healthier campus environment for students, raise expectations for individuals and student organizations, create a more diverse set of social opportunities for students, foster a more inclusive campus environment, strengthen academic rigor, and increase opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

“Dartmouth has a long tradition of academic excellence,” said Hanlon. “This is our legacy. And as we move to the future, we will become ever more defined by this ideal. But this will happen only if we remove the barriers that keep us from fulfilling our potential.”

Among the most notable reforms, Dartmouth will aim to lead nationally by eliminating hard alcohol from campus. Under Hanlon’s plan, hard alcohol will no longer be served at events open to the public, and penalties for underage students found in possession of hard alcohol will increase in severity.

Other initiatives include a four-year mandatory sexual violence prevention and education program for students; comprehensive sexual assault training for faculty and staff; an increased presence of faculty and other mature influences in the lives of students; a comprehensive code of conduct for all students; and the new housing model.

As part of the effort to increase accountability, the College will reinforce the rules for student groups—including Greek organizations—and hold all groups to higher standards than ever before. Organizations that choose not to live up to these higher standards will not be part of the Dartmouth community.

These steps are being taken to raise expectations for all students on campus, Hanlon said, and he warned that if substantive Greek reforms are not enacted within several years, the College will reevaluate the continuance of Greek life on campus.

To ensure accountability and adherence to the new plan, Hanlon also announced the formation of an external review panel chaired by Tufts President Emeritus Larry Bacow. Dartmouth will regularly reevaluate and retool the Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan, ensuring transparency and substantive reform throughout the process.

OKAY, OKAY, HERE'S THE NO-HARD-LIQUOR PART OF THE PLAN
To truly create a safe environment—and one that is advantageous to learning—we will also have to tackle the challenge of excessive drinking. Dartmouth will take the lead among colleges and universities in eliminating hard alcohol on campus. Dartmouth’s new alcohol policy for students will prohibit the possession or consumption of “hard alcohol” (i.e., alcohol that is 30 proof or higher) on campus by individuals, including those over the legal drinking age, and by Dartmouth College-recognized organizations. In addition, we will ask that the entire campus community follow suit and not serve hard alcohol at college-sponsored events and be role models for the healthy consumption of alcohol.

The key to the successful implementation of any policy change is a clear path for enforcement. To this end, we will require third-party security and bartenders for social events. We will also increase penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol, especially for those students who purchase and provide alcohol to minors.

Now, aren't you glad you asked? Okay, you didn't ask, actually.
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Why Democratic Voters Stay Home for Elections -- Ed Schultz Eloquently Discusses a Prime Reason

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Of the three pipelinies that have burst in the last two weeks, the latest was in West Virginia. The state's nominally "Democratic" U.S. senator, Joe Manchin, was one of nine "Democrats" who voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

by Noah

Shortly after the November elections that resulted in a disaster for the so-called Democratic Party, I asked Howie if he thought the Democrats in Congress would ever wake up. It was a rhetorical question. His answer was the obvious "No."

This past Thursday was a sad day for progressives and, really, all Americans, if they thought about it. On Thursday, the United States $enate voted to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that would seize private property from American-citizen landowners through the heartland of our country. Many landowners have turned down offers of very large six-figure sums of money from oil interests to allow the companies to build the pipeline across their property and over the nation's largest aquifer. Think about that. What could go wrong?

 Oil companies and their bought-and-paid-for minions in Congress -- who, unlike real Americans, never saw even a single dollar, let alone six figures, they wouldn't gladly pocket -- tell us that carting the world's dirtiest, Canadian oil through the pipeline will be safe and that carting it by train is not always safe. On Thursday, the $enate voted to approve the pipeline, by a margin of 62 to 36, ignoring the fact that three pipelines have burst in the past two weeks. The most recent broken pipeline is in West Virginia.

Of course, trains do derail, sometimes horribly, but how does that justify risking permanent pollution of the nation's largest aquifer, the aquifer that grows our crops? And how does that justify seizing land that families have, in some cases, owned for generations? We expect republicans to talk about things like rights of private ownership while backing their Big Oil masters and screwing the public. To republicans there is no piece of land on Earth that should not be a target for a nice coating of crude. But in this case, nine democrats agreed.

As much as anything, this issue should be seen as not just a pollution and climate-change issue, but also one of individual property rights. What's going on amounts to land theft.
The end result of Thursday's vote is that when it comes to our private-citizen property rights vs. the rights of oil companies that are already subsidized with our taxpayer money and don't pay taxes themselves, we are not a two-party system. Instead, we have republicans that call themselves democrats and republicans that call themselves republicans. In one sense, the republicans who actually call themselves what they are seem more "honorable" than the republicans that pretend to be democrats. And yet, Democratic Party leaders wonder why they couldn't get people to vote for them in the recent midterm elections.

Here is the list of the Democratic $enators who sold us out:
Bennet (Colorado)
Carper (Delaware)
Casey Pennsylvania
Donnelly (Indiana)
Heitkamp (North Dakota)
Manchin (West Virginia -- that pipeline bursting in his own state didn't matter)
McCaskill (Missouri)
Tester (Montana)
Warner (Virginia)
They even sold us out for oil that isn't even for us. It's Canadian oil headed for China and India. Some of them will have no problem lying about the pipeline construction creating "thousands of great jobs," just like newly minted $en. Joni Ernst (R-IA) did in her recent snake-oil response to the president's State of the Union speech.

Now, Canada could have built the pipeline over Canadian land to the Pacific, but apparently Canadians didn't want that. Funny how nearly all of the U.S. media, who run oil-company commercials all day, can't bring themselves to mention things like this. Money doesn't talk, it swears, very loudly.

It isn't a long list, the Keystone Nine, but when it comes to overriding a presidential veto, if President Obama does decide to veto the pipeline, it's a very significant list. It's also significant that Harry Reid could not or would not keep these nine fake democrats in line.

It takes a two-thirds majority to override. Are five more phony democrats lurking in the weeds, maybe just a visit from the K Street Bribery Squads away from joining with the real republicans? If we're lucky, Reid was just letting the Keystone Nine vote to approve for other reasons. To do that, he would have to be very confident that a presidential veto will eventually be sustained, but meanwhile the message sent to democratic voters overall is not a good one. Unlike the republicans, the democrats, as illustrated by the Keystone Nine, do not stay together in lockstep. The time to start doing that was years ago. The democrats need to show voters that they will stand up for them and not capitulate. Their continued and continued and continued Vichy-style politics will not motivate voters.

Here's Ed Schultz. He sees this issue as so important that he devoted the first 20 minutes of his Thursday show to the issue of the Democratic Party needing to grow a pair and stand up for the people who voted for them. It's no small thing that things are so dire in Washington that, in the clip, even an untrustworthy conservadem corporatist like Rep. Steny Hoyer comes across as being on the correct side.



Schultz gets very eloquent and very fiery around the 7:44 point of this clip. If you don't have time for the full 20 minutes, start there, but it's all worth it. Among other things, he makes a call to "end the purchasing" and to "draw the line" for us, not for Big Oil, and certainly not for the Republican Party. No more talk about supporting the middle class without action to match; no more deals, cave-ins, and compromises; no talk of "tinkering" with Social Security; etc. It's time to give repugs a big dose of their own medicine. He'd make a hell of a football coach at halftime, but I'd be surprised if any of the players in Washington are listening. Past is prelude.

"If you're not willing to fight for me, how in the hell do you expect me to line up and fight with you?"
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Say good night, Willard

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Plus "TV Watch" note (see below)


No, I'm not going to give you a playable clip. If you really want to watch it, you can find it for yourself. But that's 3:34 of your life that you'll never get back.

by Ken

In case you haven't heard, Willard Romney has decided not to make a third run at the presidency, to the apparent surprise of "those who have spoken to Romney," who were persuaded that he would run since "he views the emerging GOP field of contenders as too weak to defeat likely Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton" and "believes he would be a better candidate after his experiences in 2012."

Now we have several pieces of business before once again saying, "Bye-bye," to Willard, starting with --

CONFIDENTIAL TO THAT "SENIOR ADVISER"
(You know, the one who says that "all the political metrics were right" for a 2016 Willard for Prexy run)


Dude, have you had your political metrics checked lately? Seriously, those things can get dull, go out of alignment, sometimes even get so worn that there's nothing for it but to duct-tape the suckers, which doesn't do wonders for their accuracy. Do yourself a favor and get those metrics into the shop for a check-up, even if they're out of warranty. Or maybe skip a step and buy a new set -- usually those things can't be repaired anyway.


NOW IT'S TIME FOR THE "WILLARD
GOES BYE-BYE" QUIZ, 2015 EDITION


How well do you know your Willard? Score one point for each correct answer and two points for each incorrect answer.

1. According to the Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Dan Balz ("Mitt Romney decides against running for president again in 2016"), "those who have spoken to Romney came away from the conversations believing he was likely to run again for several reasons." Which of the following is not one of those reasons?

(a) He views the emerging GOP field of contenders as too weak to defeat likely Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(b) He believes he would be a better candidate after his experiences in 2012.
(c) He sensed an opportunity to win.
(d) He has become addicted to crack cocaine.

ANSWER: (d) "Those who have spoken to Romney" haven't commented on his crack use.

2. Willard is said to have told friends that he wanted to be "a more authentic candidate" if he ran in 2016 than he was in 2008 or in 2012. What plans did he have to be "more authentic"?

(a) To have himself notarized.
(b) To wear his Mormon underwear on the outside.
(c) To blame everything on President Obama.
(d) To replace Andy Richter as Conan O'Brien's sidekick.

ANSWER: All of the above.

3. Which of the following did Willard not tell a Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego two weeks ago should be among the pillars for a 2016 GOP campaign?

(a) Dealing with wage stagnation.
(b) The middle class economic squeeze.
(c) Lifting people out of poverty.
(d) Arranging a fair price for the 1% to buy the part of the country they don't own yet.

ANSWER: (d) Willard doesn't believe in paying "a fair price"; he believes his people should get it for a "rock-bottom price."

4. Willard made his announcement today, a day before arriving in Washington for an important annual event. What is that event?

(a) The annual dinner of the exclusive Alfalfa Club, where he is being inducted as a new member.
(b) The announcement of a new plan to return the Washington Redskins to NFL playoff contention.
(c) The announcement of a new plan to fund the government until the next shutdown threat.
(d) The blossoming of the cherry trees. (What, they're not? Are you sure? But my crack staff people said . . .)

ANSWER: (a) The annual dinner of the Alfalfa Club. (No, I don't know what the Alfalfa Club is. Do you really want to know?)

5. Which of the following members of the Alfalfa Club will be seated at the head table along with Willard? (Choose all that apply.)

(a) All seven Bush family members who are members.
(b) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
(c) Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
(d) Alfalfa from The Little Rascals.

ANSWER: (b) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and (c) Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. None of the Bush family members will be attending. Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa in The Little Rascals, was shot to death under still-disputed circumstances on the night of Jan. 21, 1959.

6. Which of the following is Willard most likely to do now that he has all that free time (and, presumably, cash) on his hands?

(a) Travel around the country like Johnny Appleseed, with a dog caged to the roof.
(b) Travel around the country like Johnny Appleseed, buying up businesses and putting people out of work.
(c) Travel around the country like Johnny Appleseed, buying fancy new homes. (Wasn't it Ben Franklin who said, "A man can never have enough fancy new homes"?)
(d) Travel around the country like Johnny Appleseed, denouncing economic inequality and ripping up trees to build McMansions.

ANSWER: Hasn't the man earned a little privacy?


ONE LAST PIECE OF BUSINESS: ANOTHER
SCOOP FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT

TODAY 12:32 PM
The Borowitz Report

ROMNEY INCREDIBLY RELIEVED THAT HE CAN KEEP ALL HIS HOUSES

By Andy Borowitz


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told supporters on Friday that he was “incredibly relieved” to be able to keep the approximately five to ten residences he owns across the country.

“Having to talk about how much I care about ordinary Americans and so forth—I was game for that,” he said. “But having to sell all of those houses? That was going to be brutal.”

The 2012 Republican nominee said that he was especially glad he did not have to part with the car elevator in his eleven-thousand-square-foot mansion in La Jolla. “Come on, that thing is neat,” he said.

"TV WATCH" NOTE FROM KEN:
THE PARENTHOOD FINALE


Well, it's all over now. I don't know that this odd 13-episode farewell season is the way I would ideally liked to have seen the show say good night, but I thought last night's final episode provided a pretty decent resting place. I'll probably want to say a little about the show and its departure, but first I want to watch the episode again. So, tomorrow maybe. Or maybe not. One never knows in such matters.
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Bay Area homeless population on the rise during tech boom

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During the 2014 holiday season, Margaret Cho was in San Francisco helping raise funds for youth services. (Photos by Gerard Livernois)

"It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by Denise Sullivan

If you're looking for extremes in income disparity, look no further than San Francisco.

The city that announced a $22 million operating surplus can seemingly not afford to house its lower- and middle-income residents or feed them.

"This provides us in city government with an opportunity to help working-class and middle-income families that are struggling," said Supervisor David Campos of the city's windfall in a December edition of the Chronicle. "I think that it's a conversation that should begin sooner rather than later."

Agreed, though the history of San Francisco's housing and homelessness story is complex, requiring a quick look back at the last 50 years and our waxing and waning attitudes between equality and tolerance, racism and outright cultural genocide, and back to inequity and apathy again.

San Francisco is historically the place people went when they weren't accepted elsewhere. If you were a freethinker or Beat, you went there. If you were a hippie/counterculturist, you went there. If you were gay or transgender, you went there. Likely you went because you weren't welcome where you came from or you were seeking to start your life adventure. But San Francisco is also the place of which James Baldwin said, "There is no distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham," back in 1963 when he visited and heard of its segregated housing and lack of jobs for African Americans.



In this brief irreverent history, the '60s and '70s rolled on, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone got shot for helping the meek, while Jim Jones killed them with Kool-Aid. In the face of such tragic loss, we mostly maintained our generosity of spirit. Accommodating as best we could the influx of mentally ill folks when Ronald Reagan's ill-conceived policies cut them loose, we were also designated a sanctuary city, a place where victims of civil wars, specifically Central Americans, were allowed to seek refuge without interference by immigration services. Mayors Dianne Feinstein, Art Agnos, Frank Jordan, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom all had their ways of handling matters of housing these various at-risk and marginalized communities, some better than others (though Jordan's plan and platform, to send the homeless population packing, was the biggest moral disgrace).

Today, the problems of  housing our people look much different. In the annual San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey, according to the Coalition on Homelessness (CoH), almost half of the respondents claimed to be homeless for the first time, and the crisis is "mushrooming," says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the CoH. In a worthy attempt to foster empathy, a new municipal-transit ad campaign underscores people's resident status. Estimates continue to put San Francisco's homeless population at over 6,000, but that isn't counting all families and youth, who traditionally go underreported. (The waiting list for public housing is over 10,000 households long.) Over two thirds of respondents to the survey reported a disability. The young comprise another hefty segment of the homeless population: whether they're among the 800-1,000 residing with family, or among the 3,000-plus served by Larkin Street Youth, they are not being served. During the 2014 holiday season, Margaret Cho came to town to raise much-needed funds for youth services with a series of street theater events. Some called it a publicity stunt, but I'd say it shone a much-needed spotlight on the disconnect between life among present-day new arrivals with jobs and those who also call San Francisco home but without  steady means of support, including shelter.


People in need gather at 16th and Mission Streets to collect items Margaret Cho and friends collected for them.

Bubbles ballooned and burst, the mortgage crisis hit here, and some folks survived the changes while others didn't; these are simply the wages of our system. Yet with this never-ending wave of tech workers who wish to reside in the urban space rather than in suburban Silicon Valley, its cities traditionally shunning affordable housing in favor of gleaming suburbia, we can unequivocally say that housing here is for the rich. If you are poor, you are expected to live outdoors -- that is, until you are evicted from that space too. Developers and the newly rich may buy units previously occupied by long-term tenants who've been evicted and live in them without reservation; they can snap up properties that have been foreclosed on -- often properties inherited by native-born sons and daughters trying desperately to hold on to their generational heritage -- and flip 'em. Titleholders in good standing electively cash out behind irrefusable offers, which is certainly their right to do, while the housing crisis continues unabated. But at what cost? People's lives are lost from exposure to the elements; others lose their souls by refusing to assist.

At present there are approximately 1,300 shelter beds, which roughly translates into about 5,000 people on the streets and in the parks nightly here. Housing and programs supplemented by money from the surplus budget, billionaire philanthropists, and the collection of taxes and other means could fix this injustice. But there remains resistance by the new power brokers and tech barons to become part of the solution; it doesn't fit their agenda.

Thankfully, there is an increasing awareness of the Bay Area's shameful housing crisis, and it's starting to get national attention, which just may be a beginning toward assistance -- from elsewhere. We have not been shown evidence nor a plan for what or how the 30,000 new units proposed and promised by Mayor Ed Lee are going to manifest, though his office just announced the creation of 138 units thanks to HUD. Lee's plan also includes implementation of the problematic Laura's Law, building of 500 more units, specifically for the homeless community, plus a shelter for homeless LGBT persons. That's great, but when? Just last night 54 more people were displaced, six injured and one died following a fire at their apartment building, prime Mission real estate, allegedly not fitted with proper fire alarms. It will be interesting to watch how the city will assist the people impacted most by the loss of their homes and businesses, meaning those who are just one paycheck or one four-alarm fire away from homelessness.


Denise Sullivan is an arts and culture journalist, commentator, and third-generation San Franciscan. She is co-founder of United Booksellers of San Francisco, a coalition of independent bookstores organized to support and sustain literary life there, and author of several books.
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Bibi Netanyahu does damage control with Harry Reid and others -- and Harry says hell yes, he's running for reelection

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At his Washington home, recuperating Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday of his upcoming reelection, "I’m running, and that’s all I can say, okay?"

"There have been partisan recriminations in Washington and Israel over the speech, with accusations that Speaker John A. Boehner, who extended the invitation, and Mr. Netanyahu were exploiting the situation for political gain. Mr. Netanyahu faces voters on March 17 in a contest in which national security and Iran could be significant factors. Democrats in Congress have said Mr. Boehner is trying to undermine Mr. Obama and weaken his ability to govern, a charge that Mr. Boehner disputes."
-- from "Netanyahu Is Talking to Leading Democrats to
Little Effect So Far
," by Carl Hulse and Jeremy W. Peters

by Ken

House Speaker "Sunny John" Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have done themselves less political good than they reckoned with their scheme to bypass protocol and have Bibi speak to Congress on invitation of the speaker -- without, not just consultation with, but even a heads-up to, the White House. Bibi is known to have called severeal Capitol Hill Dems: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, as the paper's Carl Hulse and Jeremy W. Peters report in "Netanyahu Is Talking to Leading Democrats to Little Effect So Far."

Senator Reid was full of information last night. In the course of that interview, Hulse reports in this morning's NYT "FirstDraft" e-mail, the senator had some emphatic news of his own regarding his decision whether to run for reelection next year. Hulse reports:
Will he or won’t he? That’s what people in political circles are asking about the re-election plans of Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, as he recuperates at his home in Washington from serious injuries suffered in an accident while exercising.

Given that he is 75 years old, has just undergone surgery to restore vision in one eye and has seen his party lose the Senate majority, some are betting that Mr. Reid will forego another difficult election in Nevada in the next year.

Well, he wants people to rest assured: He is running for re-election, and he cannot say it clearly enough.

“All I can say is what I keep saying, I’m running,” Mr. Reid said in an interview on Thursday at his Washington home. “I’m running. And that’s all I can say, O.K.? I’m just saying, I’m running.”

Despite his recent absence from the Capitol while tending to his health, Mr. Reid said that he had been deeply engaged in his party’s strategy during the new Congress’ first month and that Democrats were off to a strong start as they adjusted to their new role. And for those worried about his whereabouts, he intends to spend more time on Capitol Hill beginning next week.

We will have more from our interview with Mr. Reid later on Friday about both his recovery and how he has turned his home into a congressional office.

NOW, BACK TO BIBI'S BACK-SLAPPING BLITZ

Here's how Hulse and Peters begin their report:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has been reaching out to leading Capitol Hill Democrats to try to ease criticism over his coming address to Congress, but has made little progress.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why the White House had been circumvented before he was invited to speak before Congress. The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.

The calls came at a delicate time. Congress is split over whether to impose further sanctions on Iran as the United States and Tehran negotiate a possible freeze to its disputed nuclear program. President Obama has said any vote on sanctions would jeopardize the talks. Mr. Netanyahu, who is to address the issue in his congressional speech, and many pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress have urged a hard line.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday that he had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.”

Mr. Reid, a strong supporter of Israel, said in an interview that he had had a candid conversation with Mr. Netanyahu. He said he had advised the prime minister that the speech, scheduled for March, had become such a problem that some Democratic senators had backed off their support of the quick imposition of new sanctions on Iran.

“It’s hurting you,” Mr. Reid said he told Mr. Netanyahu. “I said: ‘You have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.’ ”


“It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘Don’t come,’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is recovering at his home in Washington from a serious exercise accident he sustained Jan. 1. “I wouldn’t do that.”
Harry says he told Bibi "he believed Mr. Boehner had been out of bounds in offering the speaking invitation," and Nancy Pelosi says she warned him that the speech “could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.”

Meanwhile, the tension over the politics of the event has cast a spotlight on Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Miami Beach native Ron Dermer, generally considered Bibi's closest adviser, who has strong ties to the U.S. right-wing political apparatus and is believed by White House advisers (notably Denis McDonough and Ben Rhodes) to have been actively fomenting opposition to the president in the U.S. According to the Hulse-Peters NYT report, "Mr. Dermer had worked with Mr. Boehner to arrange the speech without telling the White House."


" 'BIBI'S BRAIN' COMES TO WASHINGTON"


"'Bibi's Brain' Comes to Washington" was the head on Ron Kampeas's December 2013 Politico report on Ron Dermer's installation as Israel's U.S. ambassador. The deck read: "Ron Dermer was a GOP operative. Now he's back as Israel's ambassador. Can he save this troubled relationship?"

Or maybe make more trouble?
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Amid hubbub over the RNC trip to Israel in cahoots with American Family Association crackpots, AFA's super-crackpot Bryan Fischer is dumped

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You know my sad history with non-YouTube video embedding. If the clip doesn't play, watch it onsite.

by Ken

Noah tipped me the other night to Rachel Maddow's report on weird doings growing out of the Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus's scheme to take a bunch of his people on an all-expenses paid trip to Israel -- with those expenses paid by the American Family Association, which sounds like just another right-wing propaganda outfit but, as we've had frequent occasion to note, is in fact one of the more incendiary hotbeds of American crackpottery, thanks in good part to one of the Right's more notorious crackpots, Bryan Fischer, who until Wednesday was the organization's director of issue analysis. At that point, however, he was suddenly and summarily relieved of any role as a spokesman for the AFA, though he remains a talk-show host for them.

(You'll recall that Bryan was a nominee for Noah's 2014 Crazyspeak of the Year Award -- and while he didn't cop the coveted award, but as Noah pointed out, when it comes to right-wing crazyspeak, all the nominees were winners.)

The timing is mysterious, in that Fischer hasn't said anything different from what he's been saying from time immemorial. It may just be coincidence that the separation occurred just as the RNC is having to answer questions about the Israel trip in cahoots with AFA, after Haaretz published a story about the trip, with Israelis voicing notable lack of enthusiasm for the aegis of the impending American Republican crusade to the Holy Land. (In the clip, Rachel talks to the reporter of the Haaretz story, Debra Nussbaum Cohen.)

Here is Steve Benen's MaddowBlog report.
The Rachel Maddow Show / The MaddowBlog
AFA ousts Bryan Fischer as group spokesperson

01/29/15 08:00 AM—UPDATED 01/29/15 04:30 PM

By Steve Benen

For those unfamiliar with Bryan Fischer, the religious right leader is practically a real-life caricature of an evangelical radical. Fischer, a prominent voice for the American Family Association for many years, makes ugly and ridiculous comments – about minority faiths, about gays, about Democrats, et al – on a nearly daily basis.

But going forward, Fischer will no longer make ugly and ridiculous comments in his capacity as a spokesperson for the AFA. Rachel reported on the show last night that the AFA has fired Bryan Fischer from his post:
“Fischer has been their director of issue analysis, the director of issue analysis for the American Family Association forever. He’s basically quoted everywhere for years now as the organization’s spokesman. […]

“The president of the American Family Association telling us tonight, that as of today, Bryan Fischer should no longer be described as the director of issue analysis for that group, he should not be quoted as a spokesman for the group. As of today, the American Family Association tells us that Bryan Fischer is, and I quote, ‘just a talk show host.’”
When “The Rachel Maddow Show” asked AFA President Don Wildmon what prompted Fischer’s ouster, Wildmon specifically referenced Fischer’s bizarre assertions connecting Nazis and homosexuality. Fischer, of course, originally made these remarks years ago, and has repeated related comments in the years since, but talking to us last night, Wildmon now says, “We reject that.”

As of last night, Fischer’s bio page on the AFA website has been removed.

The timing of this unexpected shakeup is probably not a coincidence: the American Family Association, despite years of right-wing extremism, is partnering with Reince Priebus and members of the Republican National Committee on a trip to Israel, which created an awkward dynamic. Why would the RNC team up with a group whose spokesperson says things like, “Counterfeit religions, alternative religions of Christianity have no right to the free exercise of religion”?

Nearly 100 RNC members are scheduled to participate in the AFA-sponsored Israel trip, which begins this weekend. It’s against this backdrop that, all of a sudden, Fischer is no longer the religious right group’s spokesperson.

Since our broadcast last night, Mediaite reported at 11:11 p.m. (ET), “For the sake of clarification, Fischer has been fired as a spokesperson and director of issues analysis, but is still a radio show host for the AFA.”

Around the same time, Fischer himself said on Twitter that his right-wing radio show will air today in its usual timeslot and on the same station.

We’ll have more on this as the story unfolds, but it seems at this point that the American Family Association has indeed fired Fischer as a spokesperson for the organization, but will keep him on as the host of an AFA-backed radio program. When AFA President Don Wildmon described Fisher as “just a talk show host,” the unstated subtext may have been “just our talk show host.”

I'VE BEEN CURIOUS TO SEE WHAT WOULD DEVELOP

And I'm not sure much will. Yes, there's an embarrassment here, but really, is the RNC (or its lustily reelected chairman, Reince Priebus) any stranger to embarrassment? If they have any brains they'll abort their Israel jaunt, or find a less toxic partner. But really, does anyone look to the RNC for smartness?

Or the AFA? So maybe, as Rachel notices in connection with "prophet" Cindy Jacbos and her embarrassing connection to GOP presidential hopeful Booby Jindal, some more Web pages will need to be disappeared. And here I have to suggest to Rachel that it doesn't matter whether they're scrubbed-clean removed, because Americans by and large just don't care about this stuff. Blow away the smoke from the smoking guns, and I'm not sure much of anything can even be said to happen.

That said, removing Bryan Fischer -- the man we see in Rachel's segment saying, "Counterfeit religions, alternative religions to Chritianity, have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion" -- from his AFA platform is a good thing. But even for the AFA this may be a gain. The organization hasn't suddenly become any less committed to the promulgation of ignorance and hate, but it becomes a tad less conspicuously egregious shorn of its most inflammatory mouthpiece.
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Capt. John Doswell, "a bona fide superhero"

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Capt. John Doswell (photo by Mitch Waxman)

"If you wanted to know pretty much anything about New York Harbor, you could ask John. I will always regret not asking John more stuff. I thought I had more time."
-- from "Fair Winds, Captain John," Working Harbor Committee
blogger Mai Armstrong's remembrance of Capt. John Doswell

by Ken

With the arrival today of the February issue of On the Hip, the e-newsletter of the Working Harbor Committee of New York and New Jersey, which WHC Chair Rebecca Weisbrod leads off with a piece called "Moving Forward," indicating that WHC plans to do just that in the face of its enormous loss early this month, I had a second chance to read the lovely piece WHC's daily blogger Mai Armstrong wrote on the sad occasion of the death of the life force of WHC, its executive director, Capt. John Doswell. And one line popped out at me:
John Doswell was a bona fide superhero. He created beauty from decay, he restored life to stagnant waters, he built people into a community, where before there was none.
I never knew Captain John except to say hello to at WHC events, mostly boat trips of one sort or another on and around the harbor that had become the focus of his energies -- in particular the swell Hidden Harbor cruises that took so many New Yorkers and visitors to places around the harbor that most people who aren't professionally engaged in harbor activities didn't used to get to see.

Before a WHC event Captain John could usually be seen racing around, clipboard in hand, doing whatever had to be done to get the damned thing underway. Then once we were out on the open harbor, Captain John could usually be heard manning the microphone for the running commentary, which he orchestrated with guest speakers from various walks of life somehow bound into the life of the harbor -- pols, administrators, shipping-industry folk, etc.

I was always aware that I was seeing only the tip of the iceberg of Captain John's harbor-related activities, but it was always great to see him on the job, knowing that meant he was also doing all those other harbor-related things. And somehow, rereading Mai's remembrance, I thought "superhero" was on the money. I don't doubt that Captain John loved being at the center of that activity, but there was never any sense that that activity was about him. It was about the life of the harbor, which plays such an important role in the life of New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area, and also about the life of the people who make their livings from the harbor.

I might add that Captain John seemed to draw good people to him. It was via WHC events and events of the like-minded Newtown Creek Alliance that I first got to hang out with Mai herself (a real sweetheart) and that tireless Man About the Harbor and Man About Astoria, Mitch Waxman, whose multifarious exploits have been chronicled in this space on a number of occasions.

I realize that the workings of New York's Working Harbor Committee will likely fall well outside the normal concerns of most DWT readers. I'm hoping, though, that some readers, at least, will be well served by this belated glimpse of a special guy -- as Mai says in her remembrance "the guy who made things happen," and a real superhero. Fair winds indeed, Captain John!

Fair Winds, Captain John

by Mai Armstrong

Captain John W. Doswell, our captain, our North Star, our guiding light passed away on Friday 2 January, 2015 and the WHC family and the whole waterfront community has been reeling from the news.

I have barely parsed the news of his passing and am now faced with this daunting task of writing a eulogy befitting of my friend. So many things to say about Capt. John…where to start?

John Doswell was a bona fide superhero. He created beauty from decay, he restored life to stagnant waters, he built people into a community, where before there was none.

You could always find John working. The man never stopped doing. There were piles of documents neatly stacked in the “dungeon” – the basement office from where Capt. John would steer the constant stream of waterfront projects, events, educational programs, working harbor tours and more. With that wry smile of his, he worked tirelessly on, even when he discovered he was ill.

John was so passionate about the ‘6th boro’ he dedicated the last decade of his career to our waterfront. He founded Friends of Hudson River Park, and Pier 84 is what it is today because of him. He was an integral member of many illustrious waterfront organizations and committees – North River Historic Ship Society, Community Board 4, Save Our Ships New York and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, to name a few.

He was one of the original group of friends who bought the Fireboat John J. Harvey, and helped to restore her to working glory. He was onboard the fireboat, pumping water onto Ground Zero on 9/11 and he was onboard (with a flask of hot chocolate under his arm) safeguarding her during Hurricane Sandy.

But for me, he was the ‘guy who made things happen’. As executive director of the Working Harbor Committee, John would orchestrate the most amazing extravaganzas. 22 years of Tug Boat Races, international ship visits (including a 16th century replica of a Spanish Galleon), OpSail 2012, where part of the challenge was to find berthing for dozens of vessels from around the world.



Only one man could make it all happen. Doswell.

John would narrate every single harbor tour, enthralling boat-loads of passengers with details about the workings of our magnificent harbor, peppered with stories of lighthouse keepers and fireworks disasters. The thought of never hearing his ‘fireworks story’ again as we approach Erie Basin, makes me immeasurably sad.



If you wanted to know pretty much anything about New York Harbor, you could ask John. I will always regret not asking John more stuff. I thought I had more time.

But beneath all the hustle and bustle stood this really great man. Smart, funny and sincere, John was a kind, loving and supportive husband, father and friend.

His love and passion for the waterfront paled in comparison to his love for his daughter Jhoneen and his life-partner wife Jean. In perfect sync, they were always together, whether working to save a historic ship from scrap or traveling together to exotic seas. Their love and respect for each other so evident and beautiful.

John, always gracious, welcomed everyone with open arms and an open heart. He never spoke an unkind word about anyone, or lost his temper, that I know of. His positivity permeated everything he did.

Every obstacle was a challenge we could overcome, every set back merely a springboard to success, in every dark cloud he would see only the silver lining.

We have lost a great teacher. We have lost a great leader. We have lost a great man…



Fair winds, Captain John.
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You weren't at Senator Vitter's do last night? You missed some swell eats

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by Ken

I realize that this post comes a day late. I'm sure you're thinking that if only you'd known, and if you'd been in the D.C. area and had a hankering for some Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen fried chicken, you could have whipped out your checkbook and for a mere $1000 and enjoyed not just your chicken and sides (and your biscuit, and maybe some of that iced tea or lemonade) but also the company of both of Louisiana's U.S. senators.

Alas, Philip Bump's washingtonpost.com "Fix"-post ("David Vitter’s $1,000-a-head Popeye’s fundraiser could buy you A LOT of fast-food chicken") only went out at 1:51 yesterday afternoon, and I probably didn't get to it right away, and I surely didn't appreciate the urgency.
On Wednesday night, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) will host his state's new junior senator, Bill Cassidy (R), at a fundraiser benefitting Vitter's gubernatorial run this year. The invitation trumpets an unusual aspect of the event: It will be catered by Popeye's, the fast-food chicken franchise that trumpets its Louisiana roots and which, apparently, does catering.
"Apparently does catering"? Apparently? Did you look at your own link, Philip? They do catering "from our kitchen to YOUR table" and it's "perfect for parties, tailgating, reunions and more!" They have ready-listed "meal recommendations" for serving 20, 30, 50, 75, or 100.

And can you put a price on the opportunity to say a Louisiana howdy, not just to our old pal Sen. Dave "Diapers" Vitter but to Louisiana's brand-new senator, Bill Cassidy, the fellow who defeated Mary Landrieu. (I know we do a lot of whining hereabouts about "lesser of two evils" ballot choices, and Mary Landrieu was a pretty horrible senator. Still, repeat that phrase "Sen. Bill Cassidy" a few times and see if ol' Mary doesn't begin to look a little better.) Actually, I guess you can put a price on that opportunity: $1000.

Since according to Philip's lead, it was "a fundraiser benefitting Vitter's gubernatorial run this year," suggesting that the haul wasn't being split between the senators, I guess your $1000 would only have bought a tiny chunk of the governor-to-be. (Aren't you glad to know that there's talent like this waiting in the wings to slide into incumbent Gov. Booby Jindal's chair?) If you want to buy a piece of Senator Cassidy, you'll have to wait till he does a fund-raiser. I guess last night his people were building up their Rolodex.

As Philip notes, the choice of Popeyes for the catering, in addition to highlighting this great Louisiana delicacy, looked to be "a smart move for the fundraisers . . . cut[ting] down on overhead," reserving more of your $1000 for Diapers Dave's run at the governorship.


Philip decided to do some checking, and for some reason called a Popeyes in Louisiana ("just west of New Orleans, a few blocks from the Mississippi River") rather than one in the D.C. area,  where the food would actually have been purchased, "to see exactly how much their meals cost."
The manager that we spoke with gave us costs for some of the most popular items: $6.41 for the two-piece meal; $7.06 for the chicken tenders. She pitched the onion rings, which not all stores have and not all make fresh daily (small, $2; large, $3.80). She ran through the available sides: gravy on potatoes, Cajun rice, corn, green beans -- all $1.95, unless you get the meal.
For some reason Philip is really hung up on that $1000 price tag, though it seems like a pretty standard amount for a D.C. fund-raiser, and it's almost a bargain compared with the "Louisiana Bayou Weekend and Alligator Hunt," with Senator Vitter as "special guest," thrown back in September 2013 by the Fund for Louisiana's Future, a super PAC whose "goal was to support Vitter and his views." That was a cool $5000.

In any case, Philip got the curious idea of seeing how much Popeyes eats you could buy for $1000. I can't think why. If they had been serving more normal fund-raiser fare -- say, plates of banquet-style rubber chicken or roast beef, would he have tried to find out how much of that stuff you can buy for $1000? Surely the point about the $1000 is how much you net once you allow for the cost of the food plus all your other event costs. And, as we've established, keeping the food cost low should have meant more was left for the gubernatorial campaign after all the costs were paid.

Still, Philip did the math. He asked the Louisiana Popeyes manager he spoke to "how she'd spend $1,000" at her establishement, and "she figured she'd do $500 of each of the two most popular meals," which would have looked something like this:



Of course, as Philip notes, "that's not the catered rate . . . just the rate if you actually went into that store in Louisiana and dropped $1,000 at the register (don't try this, for the manager's sake). He adds: "If you're curious, it's 70,600 calories, 3,788 grams of fat, and 234,120 milligrams of sodium, just for the chicken." Well, yes, that would be the nutritional information if you ate all of the chicken. I guess that would be one way of getting your $1000 worth, if you don't place much value on rubbing elbows with Senators Vitters and Cassidy, or supporting the former's race for governor. In that case attending a fund-raiser for the purpose seems like a curious choice.

Still, Philip is determined to find "another context" for the $1000 price, and seeing as how he's done the math, we might as well follow along:
Louisiana doesn't have its own minimum wage law, so it's subject to the federal minimum wage. Assuming Popeye's employees make that $7.25 an hour, the $1,000 price tag for tonight's event would cost one of the people making the food about 138 hours of salary -- three-and-a-half weeks.

Or put another way: It's 1/37th of the median household income in Orleans Parish in 2013 -- meaning that the price tag for the fundraiser is about 9.8 days of income.
Yes, um, okay. I think we can probably agree that not many folks back in Orleans Parish planned to make the trip to D.C. for the fund-raiser last night, or for that matter would have shelled out the $1000 if the do had been held back home. I guess I'm just not following this, so let me just ask one last question --

DID THE SENATOR USE COUPONS?


Online, Popeyes has coupons customized to the customer's most convenient store location, and I'm sure no one would think less of Senator Vitter if he couponned to trim the costs for last night's do. On the contrary, who wouldn't admire his frugality? (If there's a limit to how many coupons you can use per order, his staff could have broken it into a couple of hundred orders, or however many were needed.) The senator might have saved enough to pay for an extra hooker session or two.
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So this is what confirmation hearings are going to look like in the new Thug Senate

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Dana Milbank says: "The case against [AG nominee Loretta] Lynch deflated faster than if the New England Patriots had run the hearing."

by Ken

So now we've actually seen what the confirmation process is going to look like in a Senate under the control of thugs and mental defectives. I guess it's about what any reasonably informed person would have expected; it's just more revolting to actually witness. And this is a case where most of the loonies, actually noticing how exposed they were, tried to back off.

To start with a bit fo reality check, here's some of what Dana Milbank has to say in his Washington Post column today:
GOP case against Loretta Lynch falls apart

By Dana Milbank

Loretta Lynch had them at Jim Crow.

Senate Republicans had delayed confirmation hearings for President Obama’s attorney general nominee until they took control of Congress — giving them a chance to use the nomination to protest Obama’s immigration policy and other actions by Obama and the outgoing attorney general, Eric Holder.

But those who figured they could take out their frustrations on Lynch had misjudged her: The nominee has a long and impressive résumé as a no-nonsense prosecutor, and she managed at Wednesday’s hearing to be both assertive and anodyne in her testimony, expert in the law but opaque about controversial legal matters. As important, Lynch, with the help of committee Democrats, painted an unassailable biography: This daughter of a fourth-generation minister and a segregation-fighting mother from the South would be the first African American woman to be the nation’s top law enforcement official.

The case against Lynch deflated faster than if the New England Patriots had run the hearing.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) toned down his prepared statement as he read it. “I, for one, need to be persuaded that she will be an independent attorney general,” he read, but he then departed from the text and added, “I have no reason to believe at this point she won’t be.” He read a long list of complaints about the administration’s actions but then ad-libbed, “As far as I know, Ms. Lynch has nothing to do with the Department of Justice problems that I just outlined.” . . .

WASHINGTONPOST.COM DID ITS STAR
RIGHT-WING HATCHET HEAD NO FAVOR . . .


. . . by popping in a presumably automatic link, to a November post she wrote called "Let the new Senate confirm Loretta Lynch. " Since the only factoid she could process in the skuu space traditionally occupied by a brain is IT'S ALL OBAMA'S FAULT, she puked up this:
[I]t seems President Obama would rather start an unnecessary fight than get his way and get along with Republicans. A case in point is his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch. . . . Barring any surprise revelation, one strongly suspects she will win confirmation in the new Senate. (Republicans have much bigger fish to fry than getting into a standoff over a female, African American nominee.)

But Obama won't wait, it seems. He would rather jam her through with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in charge than treat the new Senate with a modicum of respect. . . .

Confirmation hearings serve other legitimate purposes aside from approving nominees. . . .

YES, AND NOW WE KNOW WHAT THOSE
SO-CALLED LEGITIMATE PURPOSES ARE


It's to set the stage for a spectacle like yesterday's SJC confirmation hearing, to allow hysterical, IQ-free thugs to wallow in their own psychotic, imbecilic filth.

Giving the new Senate every imaginable benefit of the doubt, "a modicum of respect" is by conservative estimate a million billion quadrillion times more respect than this tub of human waste could ever dream of laying claim to.
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Michael Moore offers right-wing noisemakers a crash course in what it means to really support U.S. servicepeople

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-- from Michael Moore's Facebook page [click to enlarge]

by Ken

I've been paying as little attention as I could decently get away with to American Sniper, and so I'm coming late to the brouhaha caused by Michael Moore's forceful expression of disapproval. Since the American Right has now sunk to a level of cretinousness and pathological dishonesty surpassed only by its loudmouth savagery, and since Michael Moore is one of their perennial bugbears anyway, this seems to have produced one of those famous Right-Wing Noise Machine psychotic breaks, all centered, naturally, on the person of Michael Moore.

I'm grateful to Daily Kos's Intheknow for getting me up to speed on the subject ("Michael Moore disses Fox News and Right Wing Critics in the best way"), including a link to a Raw Story account of Grade A Fox Noise craziness.

So Michael M stands accused of (gasp) not supporting the troops, about as heinous a charge as can be leveled against an American. Of course there's a teeny-tiny irony here, in that the brain-dead right-wing savages leading the assault are almost to a creature low-life lying doodybags who have spent every second of their verminous existences doing nothing to support the troops except run their filthy mouths off. These are people who, after all, cheered their putrid guts out when the Bush-Cheney-Rummy gang sent American troops into a pointless war in Iraq without basic protective equipment to be killed and maimed -- and then when they came home, as the right-wing war-mongers always do, turned their backs on them.

Michael M, fortunately, isn't one to sit and suffer psychotic lying imbeciles gladly, especially not when they pollute matters that really matter to him -- of which, as it happens, supporting the troops happens to be one. And he fired back on his Facebook page. And, God bless him, he didn't just fight back on the ground that, unlike his attackers, he actually supports both active-duty servicepeople and veterans in a whole range of ways that he's never had occasion to talk about publicly. He pounded the politically tougher but crucial point that he has consistently supported the troops by fighting having them put pointlessly in harm's way.

Here's just the start of the list Michael offers of what he does to support the troops:
** I have an aggressive affirmative action policy specifically to hire Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at my film production company, my movie theaters in Michigan and my film festival. I have asked other businesses in my town (and nationwide) to join with me on this. http://www.traverseticker.com/…/michael-moore-asks-business…. A vet was an editor on my films "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko" and a vet (who served in both Iraq AND Afghanistan) is the projectionist at my flagship theater in Michigan (to name a few).

** I also ask people to post a sign I designed and have made available: "I Shop Where Vets Work". Here's my policy and the poster: http://www.statetheatretc.org/veterans#opening (Can someone at Fox News send me your posted affirmative action program to hire Iraq and Afghanistan vets?)

** Since I opened my movie theaters in northern Michigan, this has been my admission policy: "Admission to all movies at my theaters is FREE, 365 days of the year, for ALL active duty military and their families."

** I allow local veterans support groups to use my theater to meet for PTSD issues, I host quarterly PTSD summits, and I've hosted a conference to start a jobs movement for vets in our town.

** I have raised tens of thousands of dollars through my website for groups that help veterans and wounded warriors: http://web.archive.org/…/20140829053240/http://fa…/soldiers/

** In the early years of the war I made all my books and DVDs available free of charge to all service members through BooksForSoldiers.com
(A later point notes that his books "were the #1 requested books by troops" via BooksForSoldiers.)

Here are a few more:
** I will NOT do business with vendors who don't have a policy to hire vets.

** I regularly post blogs from troops http://www.ivaw.org/blog/ivaw-featured-michael-moore and I show and support many movies about what they've gone through in the past 12 years at my theaters.

** My movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11" - #1 selling/#1 rental on all military base PXs

** When my father passed away this year, in lieu of flowers I asked that donations by made in my dad's name to the veterans group, Veterans for Peace. Enough money was raised so that the Vietnam Vets chapter could build a home in Vietnam for a family still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. It's being dedicated in my dad's name.
And then there's an interesting one concerning American Sniper itself:
** I am currently showing "American Sniper" at my theater that I helped restore and that I program and help run in Manistee, MI. Not because I like it, but because, unlike the other side, I'm not a censor. I trust smart people and people of good heart will know what to do. You can't have a conversation about what Clint Eastwood is up to if you haven't seen what it is he's up to. And regardless where u are on the political spectrum, you'll see that every character in Clint's film comes out dead or permanently damaged. This ain't no John Wayne rah-rah pablum. Eastwood made maybe the greatest western ever - "Unforgiven" - but now it's sad seeing him talking to an empty chair on a stage or making an Iraq movie that Rolling Stone this week called, "too dumb to bother criticizing."
And finally Michael says (again, click to enlarge):


If you think I'm going to try to top that, you're wrong.
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