“We need people who are strong gun advocates to say, ‘No more.'” ~ Laura Dugan, associate chair at U. of Maryland’s Dept. of Criminology and Criminal Justice

“NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch tried to criticize diversity by showing an image of characters from the children’s series Thomas & Friends wearing KKK hoods. Loesch shared the image to mock the show’s addition of a female train from Africa.”

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold . . .” ~ Dana Loesch, NRA Spokeswoman from speech at 2018 CPAC

Monday afternoon, cloudy and very humid, 86 degrees.

So I decided that I should try to finish my companion post on the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and NRATV (here is link to Saturday’s post). Honestly, I feel that writing about it is one of the best things that I can do in response to the most recent gun violence massacres. I don’t know how effective my forum actually is as regards getting some kind of message out there, but if I don’t try, then I shouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m pretty much removed from access to marches until I have a working vehicle, but I have to at least try to participate however I can.

I realize that Mitch McConnell, in not forcing Congress back into session, is probably hoping things will die down before Congress resumes, that the recent violence will not be so fresh in people’s minds, which means that calls for reform can be glossed over with more important things, like continuing to benefit from an influx of Russian cash into his home state of Kentucky. But I’m hoping that the American people will not be lulled back into complacency so easily this time, that the three mass killings in less than two weeks will continue to be a raw wound that gnaws at us so that the momentum for reform doesn’t stall.

And so I will continue to write and to post.

“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO
NRA EVP/CEO with Russian agent Maria Butina (I didn’t even get into how the Republicans have blocked the SEC probe into Russian money filtered through the NRA. For more info, click on the picture, which is linked to the Newsweek article.)

I have to say that I, for one, am incredibly glad that there were no weapons in schools when I was teaching middle school. Having been personally involved in three (yes, three) altercations, I can only imagine what would have happened if one of those kids had been able to grab someone’s gun. It actually gives me chills to contemplate it.

Most of the outrageous things that Wayne LaPierre predicts never come to fruition, like when he declared that there was a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” Or when LaPierre stated that in a 1995 fundraising letter that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would give “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

I’ll give him this: The man loves his rhetoric.

But we don’t need any more rhetoric. We may not even need an assault-weapons ban as it’s so easy for manufacturers to work around it as they did in the 90’s. But could we at least discuss seriously universal background checks and restrictions on large capacity magazines? Poll after poll show that the majority of Americans are behind these reforms. I mean, come on—when you hunt, do you need a magazine that holds 30 rounds? There won’t be much of that quail left if you unload your magazine into it.

Just saying.

Some of the weapons found inside Las Vegas shooters room Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept/AP

I also think that places like Wal-Mart and others should have limits on how much ammunition can be purchased at one time. Now before all of you survivalists out there scream at me (not that I think there are actually any in my audience), I know that you stockpile ammo for the zombie apocalypse. I also know that you buy your supplies gradually over time. It’s the people intent on doing harm who go in and buy 1,000 rounds, like the Las Vegas shooter in 2017. He purchased 720 rounds from just one dealer. It needs to be harder to get so much ammunition because right now, there are no limits, and the NRA fights any time a state tries to impose such limits.

Admittedly, the irony is that the Las Vegas shooter passed his background check for his weapons, which included 23 guns, including a handgun in his hotel room and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite, Nevada. But he didn’t have to pass any kind of check for the ammunition that he had, which allowed him to commit the largest mass shooting in the country’s history.

Anyway, enough of my stream of consciousness on all of this. I had wanted to feature info on the NRA’s now defunct TV station, which was yet another vehicle by which millions of dollars of the organization’s money were spent, but the last post was so darned long that I had to break things up—and they’re both still too long . . .

“They [mainstream media] are the rat-bastards of the earth. They are the boil on the backside of American politics.” ~ DANA LOESCH, political commentator/NRA’s national spokesperson, on NRATV

During the NRA’s 2019 annual meeting Oliver North was forced out as president amid reports of infighting and budget deficits and accusations of financial improprieties, including money the organization spent on NRATV, which aired a particularly embarrassing segment in September of the previous year (see image above). In addition to his role as NRA president, North was hired by Ackerman-McQueen in a seven-figure contract to produce content for NRATV.

No More North or Cox . . .

In June, the group’s chief lobbyist and head of political operations, Chris Cox, was suspended and then later resigned following allegations that he and North attempted to extort LaPierre. In legal filings, the NRA contends that North conspired with Ackerman and McQueen, Cox, and board member Dan Boren “to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman lucrative, de facto control over its largest client.” The NRA contends that North called LaPierre’s assistant in April and allegedly threatened that Ackerman McQueen would reveal information about the CEO and the organization’s finances that would “cause maximum reputational harm,” according to the NRA complaint.

The following timeline of the fight between NRA and its advertising agency comes from Media Matters:

  • September 7, 2018: Loesch showed Thomas & Friends characters with KKK hoods on during her NRATV show.
  • March 11, 2019: The New York Times reported that several board members “questioned the value” of NRATV following Loesch’s segment.
  • April 12, 2019: The NRA files a lawsuit against its ad agency and producer of NRATV,  Ackerman McQueen.
  • April 17, 2019:  A Trace article written in partnership with The New Yorker exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, including that the group “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and currently spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, or training.
  • April 24, 2019: NRA updates its civil lawsuit complaint against Ackerman McQueen, saying Oliver North “double-dipped by drawing a salary” from the group and the ad agency.
  • April 26, 2019: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre accuses North of trying to extort him.
  • April 27, 2019: North is forced out on the third day of the annual meeting.
  • April 27, 2019: NRA suspends its top lawyer. Following North’s departure, Steve Hart, a longtime lawyer for the NRA board of directors, was reportedly suspended.
  • April 27, 2019: New York attorney general opens an investigation into NRA’s tax-exempt status.
  • April 29, 2019: NRA elected Carolyn Meadows to succeed North as  its newest president; Meadows is on the board of an organization that maintains the largest Confederate monument in America.
  • May 2, 2019: Questions arise about LaPierre’s travel expenses.
  • May 6, 2019: Meadows claimed Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female.”
  • May 15, 2019: Leaked documents show “lavish” spending for LaPierre despite poor conditions for NRA staff.
  • May 22, 2019: NRA files a second lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen requesting $40 million in damages.
  • May 23, 2019: Ackerman McQueen files countersuit against NRA asking for up to $100 million in damages
  • May 29, 2019: Ackerman McQueen submits a notice to terminate its contract with the NRA, leaving NRATV’s future in question.
  • June 2, 2019: The NRA admits “the concept” of NRATV “remains under review.”
  • June 3, 2019: Ackerman McQueen claims the NRA is preventing them from cooperating with Senate Finance Committee subpoena.
  • June 6: The NRA subpoenaed North and two other board members.
  • June 7: NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said, “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you.”
  • June 9: Post reports that the NRA “bought nearly $3.1 million in ammunition and other supplies” from Crow Shooting Supply, run by former board member and president Peter Brownell.
  • June 10: Daily Beast reports that NRA told North to pick a side.
  • June 19: Ackerman McQueen warns NRATV could be shut down within days because NRA owes the ad agency nearly $1.7 million for promotional work.
  • June 20: NRA suspends its second-in-command after an alleged failed coup attempt against its chief executive. In a lawsuit filed on June 19, the NRA alleged that text messages and emails show top lobbyist Chris Cox and another board member discussing their efforts to oust NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
  • June 25: NRA pulls the plug on NRATV.

“A heinous act of mass murder — either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago — will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO, from a 2013 op-ed

The 10,000 square foot mansion the LaPierres wanted the NRA to purchase for them in 2018

“They’re sending out requests for money, saying they might go bankrupt in their legal fight with New York. They’re going through all of this drama of saying they need money, while they are spending money on all these things that can’t even be justified.” ~ ROB PINCUS, Gun Rights Advocate

Saturday evening, sunny, and warm, 83 degrees.

I’ve been working on this post since this morning, and it’s now after 8 p.m., so I’m dog tired and hurt all over. Just thought I’d share that tidbit.

NRA Insignias/Getty Images

So you are a proud member of the NRA. Fine, truly. It’s your right as an American citizen to belong to anything you choose. I may not agree with you, but that’s my right as an American citizen. We get to disagree about things. Again, a free and open society allows for that. Here’s hoping we continue to be a free and open society for many years to come, a society that endorses freedom of the press and your right to be a safe gun owner.

But allow me to elucidate for you a few NRA facts about which you may be unfamiliar, a few facts about exactly how the NRA spends your membership dues. You may be surprised . . . or maybe not. But first, a few background facts about the organization.

“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house . . .” ~ Lt. Col. Allen West, Ret., NRA Board Member, in a blog post (May 14, 2019)

NRA Background Information:

  • The NRA was co-founded in 1871 by William Conant Church and Captain George Wood Wingate. Prior to 1970, the organization was primarily non-partisan, but during the 1970s it became increasingly aligned with the Republican party.
  • This nonprofit group (501c4) has an annual revenue of around $400 million and enjoys tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization. As such, it is not required to disclose its donors. It is, however, required to file a tax return declaring its revenue sources, which includes membership dues.
  • Wayne LaPierre was appointed executive vice president in 1991 and still serves as CEO. But did you know that LaPierre’s early career included working for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia? Irony, huh?
  • Nine US presidents have been NRA members. In addition to Grant, they are: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (who resigned in 1995), and Donald Trump. Three US vice presidents, two chief justices of the US Supreme Court, and several US congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments are members.
  • NRA membership dues after 2018 hike: Regular membership fees when not running promotions: annual $45, two-year $75, three-year $100, five-year $150 and lifetime memberships $1500, 60 monthly payments of $25 (Interestingly, these rates differ depending upon which site you are exploring, but I got my information directly from the NRA site.)
  • Since 2013, the NRA has cited is membership as being around 5 million.
  • According to Newsweek and multiple sources, the NRA’s membership typically gets a boost after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • The NRA received twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors in the seven days after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting than it did in the seven days before the shooting.
  • Even though a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the days after February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting showed 97 percent of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks for gun purchases, the NRA still opposes such legislation.
  • According to Rick Newman on Yahoo Finance: The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. Required disclosure forms show spending of $5.1 million on lobbying and $54 million on elections, or $59.1 million total.
  • According to an article by Mike Spies in The New Yorker, the NRA has “reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, but it has substantially increased its spending on messaging.”
  • The NRA receives most of its income—$164 million in 2016—from dues paid by its  members, and contributions, including money donated to its political-action committees, brought in another $104 million in 2016.
“I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants . . . ” ~ Andy Lander, former NRA employee of 13 years in an open letter

Facts of which you may be unaware regarding questionable NRA membership totals and expenditures by the upper echelon of the organization:

On NRA membership, real and not-so-real:

  • Banners of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and Dana Loesch outside at the organization’s annual convention in Dallas in 2018 (Justin Sullivan/Getty) Does anyone else find these banners slightly frightening? No. Just me?

    A Newsweek review of the tax exempt records, known as 990 filings (full text of 990 from 2015 here, and 2017 here), shows wild fluctuation in membership numbers from year to year, but also an overall decline in membership revenue between 2007 and 2016.

  • According to an article in The Trace, there was a  “22 percent drop in membership revenue—from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017. Dues from members accounted for just 40 percent of the NRA’s total revenue in 2017 — the lowest percentage in a decade.”
  • Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist, said the group uses a few other tricks to pad its numbers: counting lifetime members who have died, counting annual members whose memberships have lapsed in the 13 month: “one method he and his colleagues used was to continue counting annual members on its rolls even after their membership lapsed, at least for another month, in hopes they would renew.”

On the big, big costs associated with keeping the EVP/CEO:

  • NRA EVP/CEO Wayne LaPierre: I want it all . . . now . . .

    CEO Wayne LaPierre, gets paid very well. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.

  • A comprehensive article in Business Insider states that “in 2017, the most recent year available, NRA paid LaPierre a salary of $1,366,688, plus an additional $67,289 in ‘other compensation from the organization and related organizations,'” according to the company’s 2017 990 tax form. That brings his total compensation that year to $1,433,977.
  • In 2015, the NRA paid a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment to LaPierre, which will become even more startling later in the post.
  • La Pierre will continue to earn a salary even after leaving the NRA. State records show that LaPierre’s contract “provides for consulting services and personal appearances upon the end of his employment, at an annual rate that starts at his currently contracted final base salary and is later reduced.”
  • An article on the NPR site by Tim Mark states that “of the more than 600 organizations that Charity Watch tracks, LaPierre is the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the country.
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary.” ~ Marc Owens, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises

A Pro Publica article contends that in July 2018, a half-dozen of the organization’s accountants produced a document detailing the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by the audit committee tasked with conducting NRA fiscal oversight. The audit committee document was part of an effort by NRA accountants last year to address a broad array of questionable transactions and business arrangements that they believed could threaten the organization’s tax-exempt status.

The “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top NRA vendors and executives. Violations of the organizations procedures and policies included hiring staff without HR knowledge, reimbursement of living expenses beyond HR policies.

The transactions involved top NRA executives, favored vendors, and consultants, including Josh Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff. The organization’s 2017 tax filings revealed that Powell had racked up more than a hundred thousand dollars in personal expenses—including a housing allowance—paid by the NRA.

That being said, it appears that the biggest infractions came from the very top.

On LaPierre’s Questionable Expenses:

  • A leaked document shows that LaPierre likes his clothes—for purchases dating back to 2004 From the Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills the total for designer suits was $274,695.
  • Fox News reports that the CEO billed the group’s outside ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

    went on vacation just after the Sandy Hook, CN, massacre of school children
  • Among the travel expenses billed to the NRA’s former ad agency are more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas.
  • The Fox News article also states that “The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. (The NRA is now in litigation with its former ad agency)
  • LaPierre charged the NRA’s ad agency $39,947 for a private jet to Eleuthera just three days after the Sandyhook Massacre and then $29,100 for a plane from Nassau, Bahamas, to Dallas, Texas.
  • But it wasn’t all vacations and travel expenses for LaPierre and his spouse: The NRA also spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel and lodging expenses for hair and makeup artists for Susan LaPierre.
“This is like the worst kind of corporate waste because buying the house does nothing to advance the interests of the NRA. How can you explain that? It’s not like he’s been underpaid.” ~ Daniel Kurtz, New York attorney specializing in non-profit law

About that nine-bathroom house on the golf course:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that in 2018 LaPierre was in talks with the NRA’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, to facilitate the purchase of a 10,000 suqare foot house in Dallas that was priced at $6.2 million at the time: “The discussions about the house purchase occurred early last year, shortly after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Mr. LaPierre was concerned about his security and was interested in another residence besides his publicly known address in northern Virginia.” (Oh irony, thy name is LaPierre…….)
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, did quibble with one design detail, according to an email The Post reviewed. She thought the men’s closet may not be large enough.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight.”
  • An aside: Before the big falling out and all of the drama, Ackerman and McQueen had a 38-year relationship with the NRA, and in 2017 (the most recent available records), the NRA paid the ad agency and its affiliates over $40 million. This relationship could be a post all by itself, and that’s not even getting into the whole Ollie North aspect.
  • Ackerman says they were setting up an LLC, WBB Investments, for LaPierre so that his home buying would not become public.
  • Even though the NRA claims that not a dime of its money was spent on the proposed purchase, a good faith check for $70,000 was in fact wired to WBB Investments towards the home’s purchase.
Check from NRA to WSB Investments, LLC for $70K

And finally, did you want that coffee with or without the retirement option:

Remember that insignificant sum of $3,767,345 the NRA paid into LaPierre’s retirement fund in 2015?

NRA Annual Meeting
  • According to the NPR article, a copy of 2019 National Rifle Association pension documents obtained from a source showed that the NRA’s pension obligations were approximately $134 million at the beginning of this year, but they had only set aside $93 million to meet those obligations.
  • FYI: There are 786 people in the NRA’s pension plan, of which 223 are currently employed by the organization. The company has underfunded pensions affecting hundreds of former and current employees—even as LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosures.
  • An article on The Trace states that even though hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to a number of NRA executives, board members, and vendors through sweetheart deals and opaque financial vehicles, to cut costs, the organization froze contributions to employees’ pension plans and even eliminated free coffee at its headquarters.
  • Perhaps the coffee cutback is only a reflection of the bigger cash problem facing the NRA. In May, they sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claiming that the state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA “tens of millions of dollars” in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages.

So that’s just a capsule of how the NRA gets and spends some of its money, and granted, this post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. What I take away from this is perhaps three things: Bloating at the top of organizations seems to be universal, and those in charge tend to forget all of the people they stepped on to get there. Second, the original mission of the NRA has been lost (advancing rifle marksmanship). Gun education and safety falls somewhere in the bottom of priorities.

And finally, and this is good news for those of us who really are against the organization’s upper echelon and the out-of-touch messaging, their belt tightening has affected their political spending:  The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates in 2018—less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016 (emphasis mine).

(The above information can be found anywhere on the internet, but I’ve tried to use as many sources as possible so as to be thorough and as unbiased as I can be when discussing the NRA. I’ve also sought the original documents that were leaked on the web. All links are included unless a statement is considered common knowledge.
Tomorrow’s companion post will focus on the downfall of NRA TV.

 

“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.” ~ Toni Morrison, from Song of Solomon

My favorite image of Toni Morrison (Bettmann/Getty Image)

“And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing. I am the sound of my own voice singing . . . I am not complete here; there is much more, but there is no more time and no more space . . . and I have journeys to take, ships to name, and crews.” ~ Toni Morrison, from the jacket cover of The Black Book

Sunday afternoon, sunny, warmer, 86 degrees.

We recently lost an icon in the literary sphere: Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019). Novelist, essayist, editor and professor emirutus at Princeton University, Morrison (88), was the only African American writer and one of the few women to have received the Nobel prize for literature (1993). Among her other awards were the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988 and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977.

The Guardian‘s obituary offers a comprehensive look at her incredible oeuvre, and The Boston Herald ran an op ed by Joyce Ferriabough Bolling on August 11 that focuses more on Morrison’s incomparable literary abilities: “The quiet power of her prose was like a tsunami sweeping you to other dimensions — and sometimes you never saw it coming.”

Newsweek published an article that includes some of the renowned author’s best quotes. Here is a selection from her 1993 Nobel Prize lecture, powerful words that are incredibly significant still today:

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

Barack Obama presents Toni Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012

. . . Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.

More later. Peace.


Remembering Toni Morrison (PBS NewsHour):

When the color of the sunset is intensely orange, in 2-3 days time, a typhoon will come. ~ Ivatan folk belief

I think that this is just amazing:

Source:

Then comes the thunder a’rumbling,
Then comes the lightning flaring,
And then downpours the heavy rain.
But the lightning is my torch, the thunder beats
the cadence of my steps,
And for my walking cane the rain…!
– Traditional Ivatan poem

All over Batanes, the signs came days before the storm. The residents of the northernmost Philippine archipelago — even the ones without radios or televisions — could sense the typhoon’s approach. The hermit crabs began scuttling away from the beach. The moon looked full, but dull. Old folks complained of reawakened aches and pains in their joints. In Uyugan, a coastal town of 1,200 people, a friend called fisherman Alex Ibay with an urgent piece of news: The water buffalo was out.

Ibay, 49, remembered his grandfather’s simple warning about the islands’ severe weather: “Just be ready.” He taught Ibay to look daily toward the promontory called Disiay south of Uyugan, where the island’s main throughway, National Road, wrapped around a cliff. If a lone water buffalo looked out from Disiay over the water — forgetting, for a time, its grazing and its herd — a destructive typhoon was on its way to Batanes, one that would require the islanders’ best preparation. If the water buffalo was not there — if his friends were mistaken — Ibay could relax.

Ibay looked out toward Disiay on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. There it was: a brown water buffalo, unmoving, staring toward the ocean as if in vigil.
Ibay rushed to his motorcycle and drove north to the capital, Basco, the only town in Batanes with internet cafés. There he read that three days earlier, some 1,500 miles north, scientists at the Japan Meteorological Agency already had begun to watch a tropical depression roiling 800 miles east of Manila, the Philippines’ capital. The weather forecast, sent by the JMA to the Philippine weather service, PAGASA, confirmed what Ibay suspected: An ominous blue and red mass spun west toward Batanes. Its international name was Usagi. PAGASA named the storm Odette.

The Philippines has long been at the heart of the Pacific’s typhoon belt. Now, with the warmest decade ever recorded in human history, the seas east of the archipelago have experienced the highest degree of sea level escalation in the world: 60 centimeters, or three times the global average. With more water at the ocean’s surface, pushed by stronger, hotter winds, typhoons are becoming more monstrous. By day’s end, Typhoon Odette, which was rapidly intensifying, would be reclassified as a super typhoon.

Alex Ibay motorbiked from the internet café home to Uyugan. He and his fellow fishermen met near the port and agreed; they would bring their wooden fishing boats ashore, and, using the protective methods of their forebears, cover their hulls with the thick, heavy fronds of coconut leaves. Local officers at Batanes’ branch of the National Council of Indigenous Peoples have given a name to the indigenous methods of reading the arrival of a storm, one passed down through generations: ethnometeorology.

The people of Batanes, like Ibay and his grandfather, are the Ivatans. The Ivatans rarely fear or deny the storm. They have built their lives around their preparation for nature’s unpredictability. They know how to read nature’s messages and have minimized risk by building strong homes, always having a month’s worth of food on hand, and obeying commands to evacuate or remain inside for typhoon warnings. Their history and mind-set show that the people of Batanes are of the storm, shaped by the storm’s demands, rooted to their soil even as strong winds and rains buffet their fates. With lives made near unforgiving waters, Ivatans’ stories of unbelievable survival are far more common than unspeakable tragedies. For the Ivatan people, to die in a storm is so unnecessary, it’s nearly shameful.

How To Survive A Super Typhoon

                   

Ivatan Laji Poem

Whose face do I behold mirrored
Upon the warm water I am about to drink?
I dare not drink that the vision I may prolong!

If I die, bury me not
At the Cross of San Felix: bury me
Under your fingernails, that I may
Be eaten along with every food you eat; that I may
Be drunk along with every cup
of water you drink.

In the original Ivatan:
Muyin para oinu si tauri a maoiaoanu
Du chinuhat ko a danum oia di ku s’di pachilupa
Ta pakaynaynamen ko a mavuya?
As anu madiman aku, oia ivuvun mo ava yekn
De asked nu kuku mo ta pachisuvusuvuay
Ko du kanen
mo a mahutu as pachidiludilupay ko
Du inumen mo a danum.

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Jon Stewart had some great moments this week. Here are two of my favorite clips:

“True Defective” on the latest GM news:

Interview with actor Peter Dinklage from “Game of Thrones”:

From the weird but true department:

newsweek:

Created by London-based industrial design students Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier, and Guillaume Couche, the Ooho is a blob-like water container made out of an edible algae membrane.

The design is inspired by how liquid drops form and how egg yolks work. The container is created using a culinary technique called “spherification” and the water is held inside by a double gelatinous membrane. The gel around the water is created from brown algae and calcium chloride.

MORE: Edible Water Bottle Could Save The Planet

 

Everything about the dog on the right reflects how my life has been going, from the untamed hair to the feeling of complete incompetence in the face of a challenge:

And finally, how I’ve felt about pretty much everything I’ve had to deal with this week:

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Music by Leagues, “Walking Backwards”

Newsweek’s Women of Impact

                  

Click here to see the write-ups on these amazing women from all over the world, like Eleni Gabre-Madhin of Ethiopia, or Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court prosecutor. These women rock.

“The three basic interests in any woman’s life are Romance, Her Home, Herself.” ~ McCall’s Advertisement, 1933

“Nor is it wise, when she is occupied with the solemn ritual of a manicure, to launch into the problem of what to do about breaking Johnny of his new tendency to swear.” ~ McCall’s Advertisement Appearing in Newsweek, June 17, 1933

Damn, Corey. I’m in the midst of the solemn ritual of my manicure. I don’t care if the washer is overflowing, the dog threw up, and the boys are arguing over the last piece of pizza. Leave me be, or I might get the vapors.

My, my, my. Life was so much easier when people told us who to be, how to act, when to think, what to do . . . And advertising today is different how, exactly?