A Line That Goes Here That Rhymes With Anything

So I’m tooling around FDL and I read this cheery post by Christy Hardin Smith. La la la la Obamas plant a garden at the White House hooray!

The Obamas will plant a garden at the White House, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during WWII. Now that is some change I can fully believe in:

And then I made the mistake of clicking through to the happy article about the happy visit to the White House of some wholesome common sense and I fully expect to see Alice Waters dancing on a table, and I read these words in this order in the motherfucking Washington Post:

President Obama famously learned the political perils of being too familiar with “elite” vegetables such as arugula.

I’d worry more about Obama learning the political perils of being too familiar with “elite” vegetables like Timothy Geithner, who may yet turn out to be a member of the Animal Kingdom. Jesus Donkeypunching Christ, “elite” vegetables? “ELITE” VEGETABLES?

Okay, let’s take this slowly for the They Come Out Of A Can crowd: when seeds and fertilizer love each other in a certain way, in the presence of water and dirt and with sunshine and time, little sprouts turn into bushes, trees and vines that flower and fruit, and – voila! – vegetables ripen, from the lowly potato – though not the potatoe – to majestic corn. Arugula is freaking lettuce. Everyone’s eaten lettuce. Italians everywhere have just decided not to invite the reporter to dinner, fearful of exposing Ms Jane Black to an “elitist” wheat dish called macaroni.

In an unrelated bit of eye-opening hogwash, someone “owns” Colorado’s rainwater, and has for more than 100 years.

But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on [Kris] Holstrom’s property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It’s a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states’ water laws.

Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.

“If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. “We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop.”

Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource.

“Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river,” Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. “Everything always starts with one little bite at a time.”

What what what? What what? An insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource – I read that over and over. Stealing water from the sky. Stealing it. From the sky. What in glamorous tarnation is going on in that man’s head?

Organic farmers and urban dreamers aren’t the only people pushing to legalize water harvesting. Developer Harold Smethills wants to build more than 10,000 homes southwest of Denver that would be supplied by giant cisterns that capture the rain that falls on the 3,200-acre subdivision. He supports the change in Colorado law.

“We believe there is something to rainwater harvesting,” Smethills said. “We believe it makes economic sense.”

Collected rainwater is generally considered “gray water,” or water that is not reliably pure enough to drink but can be used to water yards, flush toilets and power heaters. In some states, developers try to include a network of cisterns and catchment pools in every subdivision, but in others, those who catch the rain tend to do so covertly.

In Colorado, rights to bodies of water are held by entities who get preference based on the dates of their claims. Like many other Western states, Colorado has more claims than available water, and even those who hold rights dating back to the late 19th century sometimes find they do not get all of the water they should.

“If I decide to [take rainwater] in 2009, somewhere, maybe 100 miles downstream, there’s a water right that outdates me by 100 years” that’s losing water, said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer.

State Sen. Chris Romer found out about this facet of state water policy when he built his ecological dream house in Denver, entirely powered by solar energy. He wanted to install a system to catch rainwater, but the state said it couldn’t be permitted.

“It was stunning to me that this common-sense thing couldn’t be done,” said Romer, a Democrat. He sponsored a bill last year to allow water harvesting, but it did not pass.

“Welcome to water politics in Colorado,” Romer said. “You don’t touch my gun, you don’t touch my whiskey, and you don’t touch my water.”

Romer and Republican state Rep. Marsha Looper introduced bills this year to allow harvesting in certain circumstances. Armed with a study that shows that 97% of rainwater that falls on the soil never makes it to streams, they propose to allow harvesting in 11 pilot projects in urban areas, and for rural users like Kris Holstrom whose wells are depleted by drought.

Could Michelle Obama install some rain barrels, too?

Seriously, last weekend, I stood at the customer service counter the Lowe’s on Route 18 in East Brunswick, NJ and explained to five different employees, with various titles on their Hi, I’m ____ name tags, that I would like to be able to walk into their embarrassingly huge garden section and walk out with rain barrels. I need at least four of them, I explained, and to have them shipped to my house would cost as much as a fifth rain barrel. I would prefer, I repeated and repeated, to pay Lowe’s for rain barrels and leave. Not one of them saw there might be some profit to Lowe’s to carry the very specific thing a customer was asking to buy four of. No, really.

Manager: At corporate, they don’t think it’s a good idea to carry something we might sell only once a year.
Tata: Water is expensive. This is a good guard against drought, and you have a lot of small farms around here.
Manager: Maybe you could try our website.
Tata: Did you not hear me explain about the shipping charges? I want to be able to come here, pick out the kind I want, pay you and leave. I want to be able to look at them and see them before they are at my house.
Manager: Some things are just decided at corporate.
Tata: Well, they decided wrongly.

I feel kind of silly hoping simple, obvious things can go right.

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I’ll Give You Everything I Have In My Hand

Why bother disguising your racism when you can parade is all over the front page?

“People here are afraid of the police,” said Terry Willis, vice president of the Homer branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. “They harass black people, they stop people for no reason and rough them up without charging them with anything.”

That is how it should be, responded Homer Police Chief Russell Mills, who noted the high rates of gun and drug arrests in the neighborhood.

“If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names,” said Mills, who is white. “I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested.

“We’re not out there trying to abuse and harass people – we’re trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear.”

This is bullshit cowardice, as everyone knows deep down, and it never, never ends well.

On the last afternoon of his life, Bernard Monroe was hosting a cookout for family and friends in front of his dilapidated home in this small northern Louisiana town.

Throat cancer had left the 73-year-old retired electric utility worker unable to talk, but family members said he clearly was enjoying the commotion of a dozen of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren cavorting in the grassless yard.

Then the Homer police showed up, two white officers whose arrival caused the participants at the black family’s gathering to fall silent.

This is pretty bad. The chief wants black people to be afraid when they see cops. Well, mission accomplished:

Four witnesses said he was sitting outside his home in the late afternoon on Feb. 20 — clutching a large sports-drink bottle — when two police officers pulled up and summoned over his son, Shawn.

Shawn Monroe, who has a long record of arrests and convictions on charges of assault and battery but was not wanted on any warrants, reportedly ran into the house.

One of the officers, who had been on Homer’s police force only a few weeks, chased after him and reappeared moments later in the doorway, the witnesses said.

Meanwhile, the elder Monroe had started walking toward the front door. When he got to the first step on the porch, the witnesses said, the rookie officer opened fire, striking Monroe several times.

“He just shot him through the screen door,” said Denise Nicholson, a family friend who said she was standing a few feet away. “After [Monroe] was on the ground, we kept asking the officer to call an ambulance, but all he did was get on his radio and say, ‘Officer in distress.’ “

The witnesses said the second officer picked up a handgun that Monroe, an avid hunter, always kept in plain sight on the porch for protection. Using a latex glove, the officer grasped the gun by its handle, the witnesses said, and ordered everyone to back away. The next thing they said they saw was the gun next to Monroe’s body.

“I saw him pick up the gun off the porch,” Marcus Frazier said. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ The cop told me, ‘Shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ “

Homer police maintain Monroe was holding a loaded gun when he was shot, but would not comment further.

Oh. My. God. These people aren’t even good at being bad. They’re just racist fucks. Fortunately, because they’ve attracted the attention of the Feds.

Now the Louisiana State Police, the FBI and the Justice Department are swarming over this impoverished lumber town of 3,800, drawn by allegations from numerous witnesses that police killed Monroe without justification – and then moved a gun to make it look like he had been holding it.

“We are closely monitoring the events in Homer,” said Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Louisiana. “I understand that a number of allegations are being made that, if true, would be serious enough for us to follow up on very quickly.”

You know where we might apply some stimulus funds? To hiring investigators and prosecutors to protect us from jackbooted thugs of all kinds, but especially from thugs passing for public servants. I can’t wait to watch the judicial system turn the incarceration industry inside out and put bad cops on the inside.

Pass the Tanning Butter

Last week, I ordered CD versions of the first two B-52s albums because how did I only have those in highly stationary vinyl? I can’t play that in my car! Every time I hear Rock Lobster turns out to out to be the happiest six minutes of my life. Shouting about red snappers snappin’ on my way to work practically constituted therapy because when I got there, my department expected a visit from Human Resources. My co-worker’s funeral is Saturday morning. I have regrets I don’t want to voice before we play that trust game that involves crowd surfing without a band. Yesterday, people around me swarmed her desk and cleaned it out, which I realized was too soon for me when I couldn’t breathe for an hour and a half. This may be startling, given my extreme beauty, but I don’t look great in just any shade of blue. This morning, building maintenance finally responded to an earlier complaint about ants along the cubicle wall ten feet from my desk, so at 10:30 this morning, my department hosted a grief counselor and an exterminator.

Teary hilarity did indeed ensue.

Heard We Haven’t Been

DON’T LAUGH!

Man: I can’t believe this! Can you get the cream out of the can after someone uses it for whippits?
Pete & Tata: No.
Man: While my daughter was in the shower, the boys sniffed out all the gas. Feel this!

He hands Pete the can. Pete shakes it and hands it to me. That guy is talking a blue streak. I shake the can. It’s light, all the pressure’s gone and the contents sound liquid. Someone’s gonna get it!

Man: How can you tell what they did? Can you look at their pupils and see?
Tata: After about a minute the buzz disappears.
Man: Because one of them is upstairs in sunglasses.
Tata: Well, it is 8:45 p.m. Who could blame him?
Man: I’m really mad! They wouldn’t do this at their mother’s house.

He is also, by the way, on the phone with his girlfriend.

Man: Tata says we can’t look at them and tell. (To us) What about the cream? How do I get that out?
Pete: Nope.
Tata: It’s garbage, dude.
Man: I can’t – like – open it somehow and re-whip the cream?
Pete & Tata: Noooooooooo.
Man: Their mother’s going to be seriously pissed. Can you believe this?
Pete: I used to have a tank of nitrous as tall as your son.
Tata: My friends and I tooled around town with the Executive Whippit Travel Kit. I couldn’t be mad about this if I tried.
Man: How many brain cells do you think they killed?
Pete: Oh, about twenty martinis’ worth. Don’t tell their mother.
Man: I wouldn’t if they’d just stop lying about it.
Tata: Sure, because that works out well for kids.
Man: They keep saying it was like that. Could it have been like that?
Tata: Look, I was a bad kid. I have given every excuse and I’ve heard every excuse.
Man: Tata says she was a bad kid and gave every excuse. What about Tiffy’s strawberries?

He keeps talking as he walks away.

Tata: He’s mad about the wrong things.
Pete: Yeah. He’s not right. More wine?

Across the Clouds I See My Shadow Fly

Discovered this day in 1781: Uranus.

Herschel’s music led him to an interest in mathematics, and thence to astronomy. This interest grew stronger after 1773, and he built some telescopes and made the acquaintance of Nevil Maskelyne. In the spring of 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, using a homemade telescope in the back garden of his house in New King Street, in Bath. He called the new planet the ‘Georgian star’ after King George III, which also brought him favour; the name didn’t stick, however: in France, where reference to the British king was to be avoided if possible, the planet was known as ‘Herschel’ until the name ‘Uranus’ was universally adopted.

Color me impressed. I’ve discovered many things in my various backyards: lightning bugs, a high school ring, unexpected pet poop – but never a planet. Perhaps if we spent more time on our patios, additional planets would reveal themselves. You see, whatever’s spinning out in space has done so for essentially all eternity. We just don’t see it until we’re ready.

Tata: Just so you know, I’m likely to drink a bottle of wine tonight and turn up tomorrow looking like dog chow.
Lupe: You were exceptionally lovely on Monday so we’ll average it out.

Pete and I are planting meaty beefsteak tomatoes. I plan to name them all Herschel in hopes of noticing tomatillos I don’t remember planting but must have been there all along. Today is also the anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese, who was a person and not just a famous tragic figure. Less and less will be known about her as time passes, the people who knew her take to the ether and she is swallowed by lore. Rosemary, as Ophelia said, “rosemary for remembrance.” Ophelia wasn’t talking about memories, but that gets lost, too. And basil. I like basil. Last night, Jon Stewart tore up one side of Jim Cramer and down the other after a protracted series of tearings up and down. I had waited so long to see just such a thing, just such a series of things, that at first I didn’t realize what I was seeing. After a moment, I remember thinking Jon would let him get away, as Jon has let so many before. Then I saw I was wrong, as I often am. Jon was out for blood. Jim was defenseless and mewling: a bully challenged often cries. It was always going to be thus, but now we are ready. We are ready to see the Masters of the Universe reduced to bitter tears.

You Heard the Music of the Night

Every afternoon for a few years now, she and I would shut off our PCs, gather up our stuff and walk out of the library together. We talked about everything and nothing. We would take deep breaths and describe the weather, the season, a distant fire or a budding tree we smelled on that breeze. Her nose was better than mine, but mine is pretty good. Each breath held stories from far and near, and we considered them during the walk from the library to the street, across the street and up the sidewalk, where we parted company every day. Yesterday, I heard secondhand that a brain scan revealed no activity, which signaled the end of speculation. When I put on my coat in the afternoon, she had not asked, “Are you ready, m’dear?” and never would again. I walked to the curb and crossed the street without looking, and cried all the way home. What with all the not-looking, it’s kind of a miracle I didn’t get flattened by a semi.