Ramblings and Revolutions

I think, therefore I'm dangerous.

What Price Justice?

Warren M. Anderson, 92, died peacefully in a Florida nursing home Sept. 29. His death went largely unnoticed and unreported for more than a month, until the New York Times published his obituary on Oct. 31.

The name’s probably unfamiliar to most Americans. Anderson lived a quiet life for the past 28 years, intentionally staying out of the limelight, the Times reported.

But in India, it’s a different story.  Many Indians regard Anderson as nothing short of a mass murderer.

What was Anderson’s alleged crime? Being the CEO of a  U.S.-based multinational corporation responsible for the worst industrial disaster in history — the 1984 Bhopal gas leak.

On the night of Dec. 2, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India, released a cloud of toxic methyl isocyanate  (MIC) gas, killing thousands and severely injuring hundreds of thousands more. Estimates of the number of people killed that night range from about 3,800 to more than 20,000. And many more have died following severe lung damage and other organ failure over the ensuing 30 years. Others have lived with MIC-induced illnesses and disabilities.

Anderson flew to India just days after the deadly release and was promptly arrested.  Released on bail, he left the country and flew back to the United States, never to return to India. He retired from Union Carbide less than two years later.

Despite calls for his return, Anderson was never extradited to India, where he would have faced homicide charges. News of his death has brought fresh outrage in Indian news outlets, with Bhopal victims and their families claiming justice wasn’t served, with many suggesting that Anderson “rot in hell.”

Union Carbide paid the Indian government $470 million in 1989 to settle claims from the accident. The cause of the disaster was never determined. Indian activists blame poor maintenance and outdated equipment at the plant. Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical) blames sabotage by disgruntled workers. The truth likely will never be known.

But for those calling for Anderson’s head on a platter, how responsible was he? At the time, Union Carbide operated more than 700 industrial plants worldwide. Should the CEO have known that one plant was in a dangerous condition?  Should he be held responsible, even though he didn’t cause the release of toxic gas? To what standard should we hold corporate officers running legal businesses at the highest levels?

Before you say “of course not,” put the shoe on the American foot. Should Tony Hayward, the chairman of BP at the time of the 2010 oil spill have been jailed? Should the man who said “I’d like my life back” after 11 people lost theirs on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded have to do time in the United States?

I’d argue that it’s a dangerous claim to make. Neither Anderson nor Hayward directly caused the deaths the accident victims. And while anger and a cry for vengeance may feel good in the moment, they tend to lead to unsatisfying conclusions. Jailing Anderson — or Hayward — wouldn’t have brought back the lives lost. It wouldn’t have healed the injured, helped the economy or cleaned up the environmental damage.

In the case of large-scale disasters, perhaps there simply is no justice, for anyone involved.

Words of Wisdom

We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

We Haz Kittehs!

What else would you expect on National Cat Day?

A Box Of CATS large A Box Of CATS   Very Cute Kitty Cat Pictures

The Power of Nature

It’s easy to get caught up in the amazing things we create in our modern world.  The microprocessor has revolutionized transportation, the way we communicate, architecture, medicine, every aspect of our lives.

Yet every once in a while, we’re reminded of the greater — and unstoppable — power of nature.

As this is written, lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano is advancing at a rate of 10 to 15 yards per hour toward the Hawaiian town of Pahoa.  The town is being evacuated as the lava slowly moves toward the center of it.

The lava is likely to destroy the town. There’s no way to stop it. It’s a slow-motion disaster in the making.

Ultimately, whether it’s tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, floods, snow or volcanoes, we’re at the mercy of the elements. Kinda puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?

Of course, that’s not to say we can’t harness it. We tame the water and wind for power. We depend on snowfall for winter recreation.  But we must never forget that level of power demands the utmost respect.


Ah, Florida!

Florida, my adopted home state is, um, shall we say, unique.

Maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the flat terrain, maybe it’s something in the water. But SOMETHING makes this place more amenable than most to the downright weird.

Case in point — we had a fellow right here in town who tried to walk out of Walmart with a big screen TV. He asked store personnel to remove the security tag, saying he’d paid for it (he hadn’t). Security was called

So far, so good. But then things got weird.

While being questioned, he wandered over to a food display and began eating chicken — about $3.47 worth, according to police reports. And he told the police he was going to take the TV to the in-store restaurant to watch sports.

Our local newspaper also reports today that several items were reported stolen from a local home, including a rifle, a flat-screen TV (popular items for thieves here, it seems), a guitar autographed by Blake Shelton — and a live goat.

No word on what the goat was planning to do with the TV.

And a few miles up the road from us, a woman apparently became upset when a blood center wouldn’t let her donate plasma. Of course, being the perfectly rational person she was, she reacted in a mature fashion.

She intentionally drove her Honda sedan into the building — 40 FEET into the building.

Guess you could say she was out for blood.

Holy Cow!

Falling 136,000 feet? 26 MILES?!? Breaking the sound barrier in free fall?!?

Wow! Well done, Mr. Eustace!

Details here.


The Trouble With Music …

So the New York Times has reviewed the new album by a certain country singer busily engaged in the business of leaving her roots behind and moving to a pop sound.  She shall remain nameless here, but for those interested, the album comes out next week.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

… [O]n “[album name]” she uses her voice — processed more than ever — in different ways than before… [added emphasis mine]

This is a singer who demonstrated on national television a few years back that she couldn’t harmonize worth a darn in a live performance with a certain legendary ’70s diva. A singer who pretty much owes her professional existence to AutoTune.

“Processed more than ever” is exactly what’s wrong with too much contemporary music. And no, I’m not referring to just the current crop of vocalists. There were packaged, sanitized, uninspiring, DULL artists and bands in the ’70s too.

What we need is more originality, more quirkiness. More Adele, and Amy Winehouse and Keb’ Mo’ and Black Keys.

We need more authenticity. Less “process.”

In other words, AutoTune must die.


Farewell to a Legend

I never met Ben Bradlee. Never had the opportunity to work for him. But he influenced my decision to become a journalist.

Sure, there were other factors and influences. The Louisville Courier-Journal, when the Bingham family owned it. The scrappy little newspaper of my hometown.  Lou Grant, both as Mary Tyler Moore’s boss and as a curmudgeonly newspaper editor.  (He became my fashion icon as well, to the later chagrin of my wife and coworkers.)

But I grew up in the era of Watergate. It really was the first political issue I paid much attention to. By the time of Nixon’s resignation, I was entertaining the idea of becoming a journalist. Bradlee, as the editor of the Washington Post, and reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward had me hooked on the idea.

By the time I got to college,  The Post had become a daily reading requirement for me in the library.  Under Bradlee’s leadership, it was bold, fearless, everything I always expected a newspaper to be. Better yet, he was a larger-than-life figure, a swashbuckler, a raconteur, a scion of Washington.

In short, he made the gritty business of newsgathering glamorous. He was journalism’s James Bond.

But that’s selling short his massive accomplishments. Bradlee took a backwater metro and remade it into a powerful force for truth, a news source to rival the mighty New York Times.  When he and publisher Katharine Graham took on the federal government to win the Supreme Court’s approval to print the Pentagon Papers, it set a precedent crucial to journalists to this day.

And of course, Watergate. Bradlee’s willingness to support a couple of green reporters breaking the biggest stories of their careers, information that helped bring about the only resignation of a U.S. president in history, can’t be undersold.

There were other triumphs as well. He introduced the Style section to the post, a provocative new way of looking at pop culture — and high culture. He went out of his way to seek diversity in the newsroom. By all accounts, he was beloved by those who worked for him.

And now he’s gone at the age of 93. He lived life to the fullest.

As the digital age progresses, there aren’t likely to be more lions of print journalism like him. When any citizen with an internet connection can break news, there’s less need for a strong leader, with an equally powerful institution behind them. And that’s unfortunate, for I fear we’re losing something in the more impersonal era.

But for Bradlee, and for those fortunate enough to have read the Post when he was in charge, what a time it was.

It took a few more years than I anticipated, but I eventually was able to become a full-time journalist. It’s a title I wear with honor, because people like Ben Bradlee made it honorable.



What do you call a snobbish criminal walking down the stairs?












A condescending con descending!

Beware the Furniture!

With all the hysteria about Ebola in the news recently, you’d think Americans were dropping in the streets from the dreaded virus.

Guess what? We’re not. So far, we’ve had ONE death from Ebola in this country, and that was a patient who became ill after being infected elsewhere. TWO nurses have been infected, both of whom took care of that patient. They’re both recovering.

Ebola is scary, sure. But it’s far from the most dangerous thing we face every day.

Here’s a fun fact — Nearly 30 Americans die every year from furniture falling on them.  So why aren’t we more anxious about armoires or terrified of tables?

Check it out:



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