Friday Poetry: John Betjeman

Rob joins jo(e) and friends (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and no doubt many that I missed) in a new1 meme-y thing, Friday Poetry Blogging, that I like the look of.
Since his Collected is sitting on the desk in front of me, here’s Sir John:
The Cottage Hospital
At the end of a long-walled garden
   in a red provincial town,
A brick path led to a mulberry—
   scanty grass at its feet.
I lay under blackening branches
   where the mulberry leaves hung down
Sheltering ruby fruit globes
   from a Sunday-tea-time heat.
Apple and plum espaliers
   basked upon bricks of brown;
The air was swimming with insects,
   and children played in the street.
Out of this bright intentness
   into the mulberry shade
Musca domestica (housefly)
   swung from the August light
Slap into slithery rigging
   by the waiting spider made
Which spun the lithe elastic
   till the fly was shrouded tight.
Down came the hairy talons
   and horrible poison blade
And none of the garden noticed
   that fizzing, hopeless fight.
Say in what Cottage Hospital
   whose pale green walls resound
With the tap upon polished parquet
   of inflexible nurses’ feet
Shall I myself be lying
   when they range the screens around?
And say shall I groan in dying,
   as I twist the sweaty sheet?
Or gasp for breath uncrying,
   as I feel my senses drown’d
While the air is swimming with insects
   and children play in the street?

In a Bath Teashop


I encourage anyone who has been tagged with the “four things” doohickey to pass this back up the line; I think perpetrators should have to come up with four new things (at least in the first four categories) every time another victim passes it back!
Four books I’d buy a friend

  1. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  2. Narziss und Goldmund, Hermann Hesse
  3. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  4. The Moon and Sixpence, Somerset Maugham

Four books I’d buy an enemy (on condition they had to read ’em)

  1. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  2. A Million Little Pieces, that guy who was all over the news recently
  3. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
  4. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

Four pieces of music I’d miss if I went deaf

  1. Tabula Rasa, Arvo Part (played by Shaham/Anthony)
  2. In A Landscape, John Cage (played by Stephen Drury)
  3. Are You The One (That I’ve Been Waiting For)?, Nick Cave
  4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd

Four pieces of music that make me want to gnaw out my own eardrums

  1. Do You Believe, that Cher thing
  2. Popcorn (I like it, but what an earworm)
  3. anything with a breakbeat
  4. anything by Kenny G

Four pet peeves

  1. people who stand right in front of “No Smoking” signs, smoking
  2. people who stand at the front of the bus when there’s room to move back
  3. the phrase “very unique”
  4. Kenny G

Four things I like that other people commonly find weird or horrible or both

  1. vegemite
  2. Neil Diamond
  3. stale cookies (pre-fungus, though, of course)
  4. high humidity on a hot day

Four popular things that I think are weird or horrible or both

  1. oysters
  2. snow
  3. reality television
  4. Kenny G

Spousal unit, I’m looking at you!


I would be safe from this kind of thing, down here at the far end of the blogosphere’s long tail, but for the spousal unit and her irritating habit of having sociable friends. I appear to have married a popular person. How’d that happen?
Anyway, grrr, but I pretty much cannot say no to my wife, so:

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. streetside hot dog seller
  2. janitor
  3. proofreader/copyeditor for scientific mss
  4. research scientist

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Lilo and Stitch
  2. Cool Hand Luke
  3. Jesus of Montreal
  4. Lawrence of Arabia

Four places I’ve lived

  1. Madang, Papua New Guinea
  2. Gracemere, Australia
  3. Sydney, Australia
  4. Portland, Oregon

Four TV shows I love

  1. Firefly
  2. Wonderfalls
  3. A Touch of Frost
  4. PBS’ Now, before it was gutted

Four places I’ve vacationed

  1. Kuwait
  2. Jersey (Channel Islands)
  3. Amsterdam
  4. Northwest Island (on the Great Barrier Reef)

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. rice and beans
  2. vegetable soup (spousal unit’s version)
  3. cheese, tomato and onion sammiches
  4. saag paneer

Four sites I visit daily
my Bloglines account keeps me in touch with some 200 sites; here are four I particularly recommend:

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. wherever the spousal unit is
  2. Brisbane, with some friends I miss very much
  3. Northwest Island
  4. Amsterdam

Four bloggers I am tagging
I’ll have to think about this some more. I’ve decided not to pass it on, for reasons made clear in the next entry.

Thanks, Digby. I needed that.

Twenty-five. Twenty-five senators with something resembling principles. That’s all we got.
Fortunately, we also have Digby. I mean it, if you’re down about the Alito debacle (which is to say: if you live in the US, were paying any kind of attention and are not dead from the neck up), go read this post. It’ll help.
Update: MoveOn has a handy letter you can send to the twenty-five (not twenty, as I originally wrote!) senators who stood up. It’s as important to encourage congresscritters when they do the right thing as it is to excoriate them when they don’t, so please take a moment and send a note of thanks.

Last chance: call THESE senators today.

I was all set to work my way through news, press releases, blogs and so on in order to find where the crucial votes lay on the Alito/filibuster issue — but Bob Fertik has already done the legwork.
Here’s an even briefer version of Bob’s post: call THESE senators (the post below contains instructions for doing so for free):
Democrats who will vote for Alito (i.e., traitors):

  • Ben Nelson (D-NE) 202-224-6551, fax: (202) 228-0012
  • Tim Johnson (D- SD) , 202-224-5842, fax: (202) 228-5765
  • Robert Byrd (D- WV) , 202-224-3954, fax: (202) 228-0002

Democrats who won’t vote for Alito but won’t support the filibuster:

  • Mark Pryor (D- AR), 202-224-2353
  • Ken Salazar (D- CO) , 202-224-5852
  • Kent Conrad (D- ND), 202-224-2043
  • Bill Nelson (D- FL), 202-224-5274
  • Daniel K. Akaka (D- HI), 202-224-6361
  • Mary Landrieu (D- LA), 202-224-5824
  • Byron L. Dorgan (D- ND) 202-224-2551

Democrats who won’t vote for Alito but are undecided about the filibuster:

  • Joseph Biden, Jr. (D- DE) , 202-224-5042 (will vote for filibuster but only once)
  • Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D- AR), 202-224-4843
  • Joseph Lieberman (D- CT), 202-224-4041
  • Thomas Carper (D- DE), 202-224-2441
  • Daniel Inouye (D- HI), 202-224-3934
  • Tom Harkin (D- IA), 202-224-3254
  • Evan Bayh (D- IN), 202-224-5623
  • Barbara Mikulski (D- MD), 202-224-4654
  • Carl Levin (D- MI), 202-224-6221
  • Mark Dayton (D- MN), 202-224-3244
  • Max Baucus (D- MT), 202-224-2651
  • Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ), 202-224-3224
  • Robert Menendez (D- NJ), 202-224-4744
  • Jeff Bingaman (D- NM), 202-224-5521
  • Jack Reed (D- RI), 202-224-4642
  • Patrick Leahy (D- VT), 202-224-4242
  • Maria Cantwell (D- WA), 202-224-3441
  • Patty Murray (D- WA), 202-224-2621
  • Herb Kohl (D- WI), 202-224-5653
  • John Rockefeller, IV (D- WV), 202-224-6472

Republicans who might do the right thing:

  • Lincoln Chafee (R- RI), 202-224-2921
  • Olympia Snowe (R- ME), 202-224-5344
  • Susan Collins (R-ME), 202-224-2523

If your State Senator is not on that list, call them anyway — calls from a constituent always carry more weight. If any of the above are your representatives, consider also calling their local offices (Bob’s post has the contact details). It’s also worth a call to those Dems who are going to support the filibuster, to thank them:

  • Barbara Boxer (D- CA) , 202-224-3553
  • Dianne Feinstein (D- CA) , 202-224-3841 (1,)
  • Christopher Dodd (D- CT), 202-224-2823 (1,)
  • Richard Durbin (D- IL) , 202-224-2152
  • Barack Obama (D- IL), 202-224-2854, fax: (202) 228-4260
  • John Kerry (D- MA) , 202-224-2742
  • Edward Kennedy (D- MA) , 202-224-4543
  • Paul Sarbanes (D- MD), 202-224-4524
  • Debbie Stabenow (D- MI) , 202-224-4822
  • Harry Reid (D- NV) , 202-224-3542
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton (D- NY) , 202-224-4451
  • Charles Schumer (D- NY) , 202-224-6542
  • Ron Wyden (D- OR) , 202-224-5244
  • Russell Feingold (D- WI) , 202-224-5323

Tell your Senators: NO to Strip Search Sammy! We’ll even pay for the call.

Call your Senators, and then no matter where you live call Ben Nelson (who has said he will vote for Alito): if confirmed to the Supreme Court, Alito will be a disaster for progressive politics in this country for the next four or five decades.
Here’s how to do your part in the last-ditch effort to prevent this disaster (the spousal unit and I will pay for the call):

1. find your senators’ phone numbers: look here or here
2. call 1-800-323-6263 (for English) or 1-800-323-6269 (for Spanish)
3. the voice will ask for your PIN; dial 2785446232
4. the voice will ask you to dial the destination number; dial your Senator and let him/her know you’re watching, and you expect him/her to do the decent thing and vote against Samuel Alito’s nomination.
5. call Ben Nelson on 202-224-6551 (Washington) and let him know that if he votes for Alito he will betray his party and his country.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, here’s Barbara Boxer to explain:

… after reviewing the hearing record and the record of his statements, writings and rulings over the past 24 years, I am convinced that Judge Alito is the wrong person for this job.
I am deeply concerned about how Justice Alito will impact the ability of other families to live the American dream — to be assured of privacy in their homes and their personal lives, to be secure in their neighborhoods, to have fair treatment in the workplace, and to have confidence that the power of the executive branch will be checked.
As I reviewed Judge Alito’s record, I asked whether he will vote to preserve fundamental American liberties and values —
Will Justice Alito vote to uphold Congress’ constitutional power to pass laws to protect Americans’ health, safety, and welfare? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
In the 1996 Rybar case, Judge Alito voted to strike down the federal ban on the transfer or possession of machine guns because he believed it exceeded Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause. His Third Circuit colleagues sharply criticized his dissent and said that it ran counter to “a basic tenet of the constitutional separation of powers.” And Judge Alito’s extremist view has been rejected by six other circuit courts and the Supreme Court. Judge Alito stood alone and failed to protect our families.
In a case concerning worker protection, Judge Alito was again in the minority when he said that federal mine health and safety standards did not apply to a coal processing site. He tried to explain it as just a “technical issue of interpretation.” I fear for the safety of our workers if Judge Alito’s narrow, technical reading of the law should ever prevail.
Will Justice Alito vote to protect the right to privacy, especially a woman’s reproductive freedom? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
We have all heard about Judge Alito’s 1985 job application, in which he wrote that the constitution does not protect the right of a woman to choose. He was given the chance to disavow that position during the hearings — and he refused to do so. He had the chance to say, as Judge Roberts did, that Roe v. Wade is settled law, and he refused.
He had the chance to explain his dissent in the Casey decision, in which he argued that the Pennsylvania spousal notification requirement was not an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion because it would affect only a small number of women, but he refused to back away from his position. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, found the provision to be unconstitutional, and Justice O’Connor, co-writing for the Court, criticized the faulty analysis supported by Judge Alito, saying that “the analysis does not end with the one percent of women” affected… “it begins there.”
To my mind, Judge Alito’s ominous statements and narrow-minded reasoning clearly signal a hostility to women’s rights, and portend a move back toward the dark days when abortion was illegal in many states, and many women died as a result. In the 21st century, it is astounding that a Supreme Court nominee would not view Roe v. Wade as settled law when its fundamental principle — a woman’s right to choose — has been reaffirmed many times since it was decided.
Will Justice Alito vote to protect Americans from unconstitutional searches? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
In Doe v. Groody in 2004, he said a police strip search of a 10-year-old girl was lawful, even though their search warrant didn’t name her. Judge Alito said that even if the warrant did not actually authorize the search of the girl, “a reasonable police officer could certainly have read the warrant as doing so…” This casual attitude toward one of our most basic constitutional guarantees — the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches — is almost shocking. As Judge Alito’s own Third Circuit Court said regarding warrants, “a particular description is the touchstone of the Fourth Amendment.” We certainly do not need Supreme Court justices who do not understand this fundamental constitutional protection.
Will Justice Alito vote to let citizens stop companies from polluting their communities? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
In the Magnesium Elektron case, Judge Alito voted to make it harder for citizens to sue for toxic emissions that violate the Clean Water Act. Fortunately, in another case several years later, the Supreme Court rejected the Third Circuit and Alito’s narrow reading of the law. Judge Alito doesn’t seem to care about a landmark environmental law.
Will Justice Alito vote to let working women and men have their day in court against employers who discriminate against them? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
In 1997, in the Bray case, Judge Alito was the only judge on the Third Circuit to say that a hotel employee claiming racial discrimination could not take her case to a jury.
In the Sheridan case, a female employee sued for discrimination, alleging that after she complained about incidents of sexual harassment, she was demoted and marginalized to the point that she was forced to quit. By a vote of 10 to 1, the Third Circuit found for the plaintiff.
Guess who was the one? Only Judge Alito thought the employee should have to show that discrimination was the “determinative cause” of the employer’s action. Using his standard would make it almost impossible for a woman claiming discrimination in the workplace to get to trial.
Finally, will Justice Alito be independent from the executive branch that appointed him, and be a vote against power grabs by the president? Judge Alito’s record says NO.
As a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, he authored a memo suggesting a new way for the president to encroach on Congress’ lawmaking powers. He said that when the president signs a law, he should make a statement about the law, giving it his own interpretation, whether it was consistent with what Congress had written or not. He wrote that this would “get in the last word on questions of interpretation” of the law. In the hearings, Judge Alito refused to back away from this memo.
When asked whether he believed the president could invade another country, in the absence of an imminent threat, without first getting the approval of the American people, of Congress, Judge Alito refused to rule it out.
When asked if the president had the power to authorize someone to engage in torture, Alito refused to answer.
The Administration is now asserting vast powers, including spying on American citizens without seeking warrants — in clear violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — violating international treaties, and ignoring laws that ban torture. We need justices who will put a check on such overreaching by the executive, not rubberstamp it. Judge Alito’s record and his answers at the hearings raise very serious doubts about his commitment to being a strong check on an ‘imperial president.’
In addition to these substantive matters, I remain concerned about Judge Alito’s answers regarding his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton and his failure to recuse himself from the Vanguard case, which he had promised to do.
Perhaps the most important statement Judge Alito made during the entire hearing process was when he told the Judiciary Committee that he expects to be the same kind of justice on the Supreme Court as he has been a judge on the Circuit Court.
That is precisely the problem. As a judge, Samuel Alito seemed to approach his cases with an analytical coldness that reflected no concern for the human consequences of his reasoning.
Listen to what he said about a case involving an African-American man convicted of murder by an all white jury in a courtroom where the prosecutors had eliminated all African-American jurors in many previous murder trials as well.
Judge Alito dismissed this evidence of racial bias and said that the jury makeup was no more relevant than the fact that left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections. When asked about this analogy during the hearings, he said it “went to the issue of statistics… (which) is a branch of mathematics, and there are ways to analyze statistics so that you draw sound conclusions from them…”
That response would have been appropriate for a college math professor [No it wouldn’t! Shit, I expect better than this from a Senator, especially Boxer –senn], but it is deeply troubling from a potential Supreme Court justice.
As the great jurist and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in 1881, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience… The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.”
What Holmes meant is that the law is a living thing, that those who interpret it must do so with wisdom and humanity, and with an understanding of the consequences of their judgments for the lives of the people they affect.
…I conclude that Judge Alito’s judicial philosophy lacks this wisdom, humanity and moderation. He is simply too far out of the mainstream in his thinking. His opinions demonstrate neither the independence of mind nor the depth of heart that I believe we need in our Supreme Court justices, particularly at this crucial time in our nation’s history.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

The Poe Toaster tradition continues, but if random assholes have their way it won’t for much longer:

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) — Continuing a decades-old tradition, a mystery man paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by placing roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer’s grave to mark his January 19 birthday.
Some of the 25 spectators drawn to a tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore for the ceremony climbed over the walls of the site and were “running all over the place trying to find out how the guy gets in,” according to Jeff Jerome, the most faithful viewer of the event.
Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said early Thursday he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor’s ceremony.

What is wrong with these people? What kind of worthless mouthbreathing Morlock is willing to spoil, for all time and for everyone, something unique, odd, touching and wonderful — merely to satisfy an overstimulated monkey-mind that will move on to the next shiny soundbite in less than a minute? It’s not even real curiosity, it’s something grubby, selfish and hyperactive, an infant’s “meeeeeeeeee!” high on MTV, a sick conviction that a personal Right to Be Entertained trumps everything.
Hat-tip: Ivy; news stories abound here, mostly rehashes of the same release. Once again, AP writer Brian Witte has good coverage
Oh, and I never did manage to get permission to publish the photo of the Toaster, but someone else either did, or didn’t care. I don’t suppose it matters much, so here.

Again with the wow and the ooh and the aaah.

stardust1.jpg NASA produces a relatively steady stream of accomplishments which give me serious goosebumps. Earlier I pointed to Voyager reaching the limits of the known, and before that to the astonishing mission of Stardust. Now Stardust has completed that mission successfully, with its collection capsule, pictured at right, touching down safely and on target yesterday.
Stardust-Trajectory-red_250.gif Think about it for a moment: seven years ago, the Stardust team launched a small robot into space, intending that it should travel 4,600,000,000 kilometers to rendezvous with a 15-km wide chunk of frozen dust travelling at more than 20,000 km/hr, photograph it, catch a thimbleful of its tail and then return that sample safely to earth — and it worked. All of it. The little capsule (it weighs about 125 pounds) is safely in a NASA cleanroom, Stardust is on its way to a permanent orbit around the sun, and a few grams of space dust will be revealing some of the universe’s secrets as the analyis (in which, incidentally, you can be involved if you want to) continues.
There aren’t words for this feeling, there really aren’t. Damn.

Strip Search Sammy

If you live in the US, you know that the Senate hearings regarding Samuel Alito’s appointment to the Supreme Court are underway. I’ve noted before that Alito is a dyed-in-the-wool asshole. Inter, no doubt, alia, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, NARAL and People for the American Way all have petitions you can use to let your representatives know that they must do all they can to stop this self-serving, woman-hating lickspittle to the rich and powerful from being appointed for life to the most powerful court in the land. Please take a moment to sign one, or, preferably, all of them.
I’m with Rafe: this is IT for the Dems for me. If it comes down to it, they must filibuster. The nucular option is going to be hanging there all Damoclean and shit until they fight that fight anyway.