Monday, May 24, 2010


The oil horror movie down in the Gulf of Mexico epitomizes all that is wrong with this country and the world these days. Obama is just a silver-tongued minstrel, selling us empty hopes and dreams, just like the man from Hope, who had his own problems when it came to drilling where he didn't belong. It's enough to make you puke.
Everyone knew the fail safe clamps weren't fail safe. Internal documents between Transocean and BP spelled that right out. Transocean warned BP that the rams might not ultimately stop an explosion or a leak. BP said that was okay because they had god on their side, or at least the Department of Interior.

And then BP testified last week under oath that they didn't know jack about eliminating the redundancies. Apparently, even lying under oath is no longer a problem in the brave new world of Amerika.
I distinctly remember reading that as our Vice President, Dick "Evil Empire" Chaney ordered that deep sea oil exploration be fast-tracked in the name of energy independence. Permits became pro forma. And who ultimately screwed the pooch here? Oh yeah, it was Chaney's company Haliburton that didn't do the tighten up when they capped the well with the cement plug. Meanwhile, Chaney goes to work each day at Haliburton and takes shots at the Democrats, while George the Third, sits down there in Texas chewing on his cud and dreaming of the Iraq oil fields.
BP has got the whole thing rigged. They may not know how to protect their oil rigs from blowing up and spewing oil all over the Gulf, but they definitely know how to contain the story about the disaster. First, they control the scene. Second they have the Coast Guard at their disposal and can keep any curious second guessers at bay, including CBS and CNN. And third, they lowball and lie their way through every day.

Remember when the oil rig first blew? They said there was no spill. Then they said it was “only” 1,000 gallons a day. Then it was 5,000 a day. Then it was 25,000 a day. Then it was – well god only knows how much. They promptly promised us they had a foolproof plan to stop the flow. That bought them a few days. Then when the mighty cap didn't work, they came up with an even better little baby cap. I don’t know what the hell happened to that pipe dream. Then came a mile-long straw that is sucking more oil than BP claims is gushing from the ocean floor. Next up, Haliburton to the rescue with the killshot cap – which was what they were supposed to do in the first place so none of this ever happened. The final solution is a new well, which will be ready next week, next month, by August – take your pick.
Meanwhile, there are eight separate investigations going and Congress is going to spend millions getting to the bottom of this terrible disaster, even though no one has subpoena power.

The impacts of the dispersants that are being injected into the gushing oil is completely unknown. But we do know that they are solvents, so imagine if it was, let's say turpentine, only a lot worse. How do you think that will affect the wildlife?
And the ironies abound, starting with the oil drifting back to Port Fourchon, the staging area for the oil industry. And while the environmental groups have been wringing their hands for the past week, it turns out that many of them gratefully took BP's oil-stained money over the last few years, gladly painting the company green in return for lots of greenbacks. Louisiana's odd Governor, Bobby "I Want To Be President" Jindal was the poster child for small government, and now he wants the federal government to be the big daddy who bankrolls every crazy idea that he and his Cajun crackers can devise, starting with dredging sand barrier islands to block the oil. God definitely has a sense of humor.

You want the truth? Here's the truth. The marshes are toast. And any of the poor critters that come in contact with the oil are goners. Sure, there will be class action lawsuits out the yin-yang and the lawyers will feed off the oil like ravenous bacteria. But you can say bye-bye to the bayou for a long, long time. Oh yeah, and shrimp is about to get really, really expensive.
In the end, this will be nobody's and everybody's fault, like playing pin the tail on the oil slick. The oil barons will simply be too big to fail. Next time they will be much more careful. Promise. Would they lie?

The ultimate irony is that the only thing that will ultimately save the Gulf environment will be a kick-ass hurricane.

So, belly up to the bar my Creole brothers & sisters, it's time to pick your poison.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Most folks around Annapolis rarely go to Washington – maybe an occasional trip to a museum or to see the cherry blossoms – but other than New York Avenue and Monuments Mall, the rest of DC is a mystery.
I go into our nation’s capital pretty regularly and I have led many urban walks around places like Foggy Bottom, Sixteenth Avenue, and the Maine Avenue seafood market. But the one section of Washington that has always been terra ingognita for me is Southeast. The very name conjures up burned out tenements and street corner drug deals. I have often taken Kenilworth Avenue into town and driven by Benning Avenue thinking, “What would happen if I broke down and had to go looking for help over there?”

Well, my opportunity to find out came in early April when I was invited to be a part of the Cheery Blossom Anacostia Eco Tour. My friend Greg Drury, from Wholeness for Humanity, was teaming up with, Ed Brandt, from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the theme of the ride was: “One Bike Ride Closer To A Unified DC”.

The itinerary was intriguing: a 15-mile bike ride through the Anacostia Watershed.
The state of Maryland officially lists the headwaters section of the Anacostia, in PG County, as a scenic river, but my limited glimpses, usually from the seat of a passing Metro train gliding past Kingman Island near RFK Stadium, was of a trash-strewn, mud flat, oil-sheen mess.

Here was my chance to see the Anacostia up close and personal.

We began our trip at the new US Department of Transportation Building over by the Navy Yard. I had ridden my bike there last Fall, when the National’s new stadium was still an erector set hole in the ground surrounded by shabby shacks and vacant lots overgrown with weeds and littered with broken glass. In six short months, this sporty economic engine had magically transformed the blighted area into high-rise glass office buildings and trendy restaurants.
Our group was comprised of government wonks, crunchy young environmentalists, and DC bike police. The police were there to protect several DC big wigs.
We headed off with our trusty police escort, like George Bush on parade. When we came to intersections, the police stopped traffic and we pedaled through like dignitaries.
The area northwest of the Anacostia is mostly mixed neighborhoods where soccer clinics brought people of all races and colors together to watch munckins kick white balls across scraggly playgrounds. We visited the Virgina Avenue Community Garden where neighbors plant vegetables in a large field by the freeway.
After a stop at Judy’s Solar home, we pedaled back to Nationals Park for a grand tour of the nation’s newest baseball stadium. During our little excursion, our guide Maggie explained that this will be the first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified green ballpark in the country because of its energy-efficient lighting, 6,300 square-foot green roof, electric golf carts, bike racks, and unique underground water filtration system.
We left the shiny glass baseball palace and headed across the busy South Capital Street Bridge, dodging busted bottles and zipping cars. We were suddenly on the Anacostia River Trail, paralleling the muddy river and looking at small marinas, colorful fishermen, Navy ships, and stone-still herons.
We stopped at the Urban Tree House, where the Student Conservation Association (SCA) teaches urban children about the environment. As part of the Great American Cleanup local school kids were picking up trash along the banks of the Anacostia.
Our next stop was Marvin Gaye Park, where we visited a farmers market located in a building covered in glass murals made from pieces of colored glass, celebrating flowers, fish, and DC’s king of soul.
As we rode through Southeast, fifteen white folks on bikes, we got plenty of stupefied looks. But everyone was friendly. Many people laughed and waved.
What struck me the most was how pretty most of the neighborhoods were. This was no ghetto. In fact, Annapolis Gardens and Obery Court in Annapolis look worse than any place we rode by in Southeast. The houses were modest and a bit rundown, but folks were planting flowers and cutting their grass just like around Annapolis on a spring Saturday.
As I rode my bike across the Benning Road Bridge, past those places that had always looked so scary from a distance in my car, I realized that it is this chasm of the unknown that makes us fear the Southeasts of the world.
And I heard the encouraging words of Amchat Edwards, the dreadlocked young black man, leading the cleanup at the Urban Tree House. “The Anacostia flows into the Potomac, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
So I guess you could say we all really share the same watershed.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

I recently was honored to help lead the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride through Annapolis, as part of a four day series of rides known as the "White House to the Lighthouse", beginning at the White House and ending in Annapolis. The goal of the ride is to rehabilitate severely wounded soldiers in mind and body.

This was my third year guiding the thirty-five wounded vets around the narrow streets of Annapolis and I feel blessed to be a part of such an inspirational mission. Half of our riders have lost at least one limb, and many have lost both legs and ride specially designed tricycles. For most of the riders, this is their first foray back into normal life and their first test is a hard one indeed.

They began their journey with a 20-mile ride through Washington and Arlington Cemetery. Day two found them riding through the streets of Baltimore, hosted by Under Armour and ending with a Orioles/Yankees game. Day three was a hot and difficult 33-mile ride from Andrews Air Force Base to Annapolis, with a crab feast at Mikes’s sponsored by Boston Scientific. And the final day we did a 21-mile romp through Annapolis, ending at Armadillos, where Brendan the owner pulled out all the stops for the tired riders.

This year we had two amputees who had lost their legs less than two months ago in Iraq. To see these brave men and women cope with their traumatic injuries is to make one realize how blessed we are to be healthy and whole. And when you see these proud vets riding their hearts out, you find yourself often crying with both joy and sadness.

But this is not a pity party. None of the riders want you to feel sorry for them. The Soldier Ride is a journey that leads from the hospital bed at Walter Reed to a brave new life in wherever they call home, and they want only respect.

The logistics of a Soldier Ride are mind-numbingly complicated. U-Haul is the major sponsor and they provide the trucks that haul the bikes and gear around and service the riders at every stop.

TREK bicycles provides helmets, shirts, and tricked-out bikes for those riders who can handle a standard bicycle.

But how can a person who has had their legs blown off ride a bike?

There are two vendors who supply the basic prototypes: ICE Trikes out of Great Britain and Catrike out of Florida. These are low-rider tricycles with hand cranks outfitted with special breaks, gears, and steering column.

The bikes are then handed off to a company called Creative Mobility out of St. Charles, Illinois, owned by a Hallmark Hero named Hal Honeyman. Hal started his business in 1975, and when is son Jacob was born with cerebral palsy he began a quest to give his handicapped son a way to be like other kids and ride a bike. This led him to design special $2,000-$5,000 bikes that allow mobility for anyone, no matter their disability.

"Every person we run into has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and our job is to find their strengths. They might be able to use their arms, or legs, or any portion of that, and we identify the things that they can use to get out and ride and be successful."

There are eight regional Soldier Rides around the United States each year and Hal attends every one and tailors the bike for the needs of each soldier who is like a unique fingerprint and presents a special technical problem. Hal works with the physical therapists at Walter Reed, making sure that the bikes fit properly for every wounded warrior.

At the end of our final ride on Saturday, Hal asked me about the Alex Hailey/Kunta Kinte Memorial at the City Dock. I took him over and explained Annapolis’ slave trading past and we looked at the story boards which told the tale of lost lives and perseverance. It was a story Hal could relate to.

"Every day that I come to work or do a Soldier Ride, I get to see someone become mobile. And mobility opens the doors to independence and greater self-esteem."

We both started to cry.

The Soldier Ride will do that to you. It teaches you that no matter what curves life throws at you, you can’t give up.

I asked Hal if he had ever encountered a veteran who was so badly maimed that he couldn’t be outfitted on a bike?

"Only one. We have a veteran at Walter Reed who has lost all or portions of all four limbs. We haven’t figured out how to get him on a bike yet. But we will."

Let us all hope and pray this valiant soldier can ride with us next year in Annapolis.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Most weekends when I'm not sailing, I go hashing. No, I’m not talking about quick jaunts to Amsterdam. The hashing to which I refer is a bit off the beaten track, but it’s totally legal.

“An exhilaratingly fun combination of running, orienteering and partying where bands of harriers and harriettes chase hares on four-to-six mile-long trails through town and country, all in search of exercise, camaraderie and good times”: That’s hashing, according to The Half-Mind Catalog.

I belong to the Baltimore-Annapolis Hash House Harriers, BAH3 for short. We run every Sunday at 3pm. We’ve run every Sunday for almost 20 straight years. Every Sunday, come rain or shin, ice or Hurricane Isabel. The cost is $6, to cover the beer, water and snacks.

Our group prides itself on being a “drinking club with a running problem ... where there are no rules.” Ritual is another story, for hashing is all about ritual.

The ritual began, or so the story goes, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, in 1938, with some bored lads in the British foreign service who wanted to run around the local countryside and have a few cold ones along the way. They named their group after the Royal Selangor Club, the Hash House where they ate most of their meals, which were relentlessly bland. They brought the tradition from their days English public schools, where games of paper chase or hare and hound runs dated back as far as the 18th century.

After World War II, hashing began to spread around the globe, like beer running downhill. Today, you’re likely to find a hashing group, or kennel, in most cities of any size anywhere you go. A week doesn’t go by when BAH3 doesn’t have visiting hashers who are doing business or vacationing in the area. In the last few, we’ve had a geezer from Sheffield, England; an American expatriate from Bangkok, Thailand; a Key West boat captain; and a Bostonian lady with a black lab.

Hashers come from all walks of life, but they tend to be eccentric free spirits. Most kennels are evenly split between men and women. People in the military are big fans of hashing, and there is even a Baghdad kennel in the Green Zone — with neer beer, of course.

Southern Maryland now has its own kennel, out of Solomons. SMUTTy Crab HHH was founded Dec. 12 by Jim ‘Major Private Tickler’ Baker. It runs every third Saturday at noon. Learn more from Dan ‘Wind Up Toy’ Price at ; 301-342-5562.

Kennels operates pretty much the same, wherever you find them. I was welcomed to my first hash as a virgin and referred to as just Steve. Some five hashes in, I had revealed enough about myself to be named. Everyone who hashes regularly has a name, which travels with them wherever they hash. Most can not be printed in a family newspaper. I got lucky. My name is May’oral Fixation, because I work in politics, smoke a pipe and can’t keep my yap shut. Many hashers wear customized choke collars with their names spelled out in little colorful beads.

A BAH3 hash might take place in Patapsco Valley State Park or downtown Annapolis. Where ever we go, we like it shiggy. That means we want to run through the nastiest terrain possible: steep slopes, slippery swamps, greenbriar and poison ivy thickets, raging rivers, muddy streams, rocky hillsides, slimy stormdrain tunnels under I-97. Bring it on. Blood, bruises, and broken limbs are badges of honor, though not required.

It’s up to the hare of the week to decide where we will play. Several hashers usually team up to hare, sending out the driving directions via e-mail and posting them on the group’s website. From their starting point, the hares lay out a trail, using flower or chalk, temporary signals that vanish with the next rain.

The pack sets off en masse following the trail until they come to an X, which is a check. Here the game gets tricky. Falsely marked trails force the pack to work together like dogs trying to find the right scent. When three consecutive marks are found, the pack is off again to the call ON-ON! The checks make it impossible for the faster running devils to get ahead because they have to check the false leads and find the right path while the slower harriers catch up. At about the halfway mark, the hare meets the group with beer and water.

It’s not about competition and there are no losers or winners. In fact, whoever finishes first must carry a brick the next time to slow them down.

On Palm Sunday, I hared at Rockburn Branch Park for the group’s 1,040th hash. The trail included the usual shiggyfied fun. For two hours we could forget all the troubles of crazy, stressful lives and just act like little kids again, getting lost in the woods with our hashing friends.

And in the end, we did our usual “circle-up”, drank beer, made fun of each other, and sang ribald songs until it was time to go back to the real world.