Daily Archive: 07/24/2013

Jul 24 2013

Amash – Conyers Action

I just love these last minute votes.  I’m convinced they hold them this way so we don’t have time to organize.

Yay democracy.

GOP insurrection heats up over surveillance

By David Sirota, Salon

Monday, Jul 22, 2013 2:56 PM UTC

In an attempt to prevent Washington lawmakers from having to publicly declare their position on the National Security Administration’s mass surveillance, will congressional leaders formally snuff out one of the last embers of democracy in the U.S. House? This is one of the big questions this week in Washington, as the Republicans who control the House are resorting to brass knuckled tactics in an effort to thwart one of their own.



As I learned from four-plus years working in the Capitol’s lower chamber during President Bush’s first term, the U.S. House of Representatives runs like a politburo did in a typical Soviet satellite state. Decisions about what even gets voted on – much less passed – usually happen behind closed doors, with a handful of party leaders handing down orders to the rest of the body’s loyal apparatchiks. That means most legislative drama can’t be seen by voters, and it means congresspeople rarely have to cast public votes on anything the House Speaker doesn’t want them to vote on. By design, this system (which differs from the Senate, where all members can force votes on almost anything) deliberately protects majority party House members from having to cast embarrassing campaign-ad-worthy public votes against the minority party’s proposals.



Assuming Amash and the bipartisan coalition around his amendment doesn’t back down, there should be little doubt that Permanent Washington and supporters of mass surveillance will soon pivot to the “support our troops” frame. As they always do, they will insist that any delay of any bill relating to the military – in this case the Defense Appropriations Bill – is akin to not supporting the troops. Appealing to the most cartoonish mantras of militarism to try to force the bipartisan coalition to back down, the assertion will be that Amash’s amendment is unpatriotic and treasonous because it might delay the passage of the bill, which would supposedly then leave American troops naked and unarmed on various battlefields across the world.



Amash’s amendment says the opposite – that Congress needs to have an open debate over that program. In the process, he and his bipartisan coalition have engineered a big moment in the fight over liberties and rights – and that includes Americans’ basic right to know where their own elected officials stand on issues as fundamental as privacy and mass surveillance.

Should lawmakers respond to such a critical moment by blocking a vote on the amendment and then passing a defense bill funding more surveillance, the harrowing message should be clear: Congress will be saying that We the People shouldn’t be permitted to see where our government officials stand on key public policy questions, but government officials should be allowed to continue surveilling, collecting and datamining the most intimate details of all of our lives.

Yet despite their best efforts there will be a vote- probably tomorrow.

Amash (R-MI) & Conyers (D-MI) offer amendment to curtail NSA, NSA against it, vote soon

by Gaius Publius, Americablog

7/24/2013 10:00am

If you want to make a difference, lobby your member. House member phone numbers are at the link. Please use it. And if there’s an extra phone call in your future, you might check out the names in this list. They’re lobby-able as well. So far we’re on the upswing and the tide is with us. Might as well use it.

Me, I’m scoring this vote, and I’ll publish the list of heroes and villains as soon as I have it.

You, please do lobby. I’ll tell you why tomorrow, but for now, just know it’s not useless to act. You won’t always win, but please, do act. Rush Holt’s bill repealing the Patriot Act is also coming; you can join those who are causing a scene, and feel very good about it at the same time. After all, the NSA already knows what you think about them, so there’s nothing to lose, is there.

Snowden’s Whistleblowing Creates Climate for Critical House Vote on NSA Surveillance

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday July 24, 2013 9:24 am

Introduced by Republican Representative Justin Amash and Democratic Representative John Conyers (both from the state of Michigan), it would restrict the “federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public,” according to the amendment’s sponsors.

A press release indicating at least thirty members of the House support the amendment contends the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act) imposes reasonable limits on the federal government’s surveillance.” It “puts some teeth into the FISA court’s determination of whether records the government wants are actually relevant to an investigation, and “it also makes sure that innocent Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database” by attempting to prohibit the “type of government dragnet that the leaked Verizon order revealed.”

President Barack Obama, however, opposes this effort to curtail the power of the NSA. White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counter-terrorism tools.” And, “His blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.” (Notice the White House does not mention the name of the Democratic Representative who also introduced the amendment, misrepresenting the bipartisan support for this amendment.)

NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander also spent yesterday holding emergency "top secret" meetings with Republicans and Democrats to convince them not to restrict the power of the NSA to conduct surveillance that would broadly sweep up Americans’ communications.

The Liars Are "Very Concerned" Program They Lied About Will Be Defunded

By: emptywheel

Tuesday July 23, 2013 10:11 pm

Buried at the bottom of a broader story on opposition to the Amash-Conyers amendment, CNN offers a very solicitous account of the White House statement opposing it, making no note of how absurd the entire premise is.



CNN does, however, provide James Clapper and Keith Alexander an opportunity to give their readout of the TS/SCI briefings they gave Congress.

In spite of reporting describing it as a lobbying session, these noted prevaricators claim their job wasn’t to persuade, it was just to answer questions.



Sort of gives you the impression they failed to persuade, huh?

But if their mission was really to “provide information” and “get the facts on the table,” then what have all the unclassified briefings been about? Is this claim they were only now “providing information” yet another indication that they were, perhaps, misinforming before? Again?

That, to me, is a big part of this story: that two men who have lied repeatedly about these programs felt the need to conduct Top Secret briefings to provide information that hadn’t been provided in the past.



This program is problematic for several reasons: it is overkill to achieve its stated purpose and it violates the intent of the Fourth Amendment.

But add to that the trust those overseeing the program chose to piss away by lying about this collection repeatedly in the past.

If Amash-Conyers does pass (and it’s still a long-shot unless each and every one of you manages to convince your Rep to support it), it will be in significant part because Clapper and Alexander abused the trust placed in them.

Update:

Amash-Conyers Fails 205-217

By: emptywheel

Wednesday July 24, 2013 7:00 pm

In one of the closest votes in a long time for civil liberties, the Amash-Conyers amendment just failed, but only barely, by a vote of 205-217.

The debate was lively, with Mike Rogers, Michele Bachmann, and Iraq verteran Tom Cotton spoke against the amendment; Amash closely managed time to include a broad mix of Democrats and Republicans.

Jul 24 2013

Hoarding Commodities: Big banks making a buck off of…a can of soda?

In the New York Times late last week there was a report how Goldman Sachs is manipulating aluminum commodities that is costing American consumer billions of dollars. This is how it works:

The story of how this works begins in 27 industrial warehouses in the Detroit area where a Goldman subsidiary stores customers’ aluminum. Each day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses. Two or three times a day, sometimes more, the drivers make the same circuits. They load in one warehouse. They unload in another. And then they do it again.

This industrial dance has been choreographed by Goldman to exploit pricing regulations set up by an overseas commodities exchange, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The back-and-forth lengthens the storage time. And that adds many millions a year to the coffers of Goldman, which owns the warehouses and charges rent to store the metal. It also increases prices paid by manufacturers and consumers across the country. [..]

Only a tenth of a cent or so of an aluminum can’s purchase price can be traced back to the strategy. But multiply that amount by the 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the United States each year – and add the tons of aluminum used in things like cars, electronics and house siding – and the efforts by Goldman and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years, say former industry executives, analysts and consultants.

All In host Chris Hayes spoke with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) about the newly revealed practice by Goldman Sachs to skirt price regulations on a product we use every day-aluminum-costing American consumers billions of dollars and it ain’t just aluminum.

U.S. Weighs Inquiry Into Big Banks’ Storage of Commodities

by Gretchen Morgenson and David Kocieniewski, New York Times

The overarching question is whether banks should control the storage and shipment of commodities, and whether such activities could pose a risk to the nation’s financial system.

But other crucial issues are expected to arise as well. Among them is how Wall Street’s push into these markets has affected the prices paid by manufacturers and ultimately consumers. Another is whether Goldman and Morgan Stanley have operated their storage facilities at arms’ length from their banking business, as required by regulators.

Goldman has exploited industry pricing regulations set by the London Metal Exchange by shuffling tons of aluminum each day among the 27 warehouses it controls in the Detroit area, The Times reported on Sunday. The maneuver lengthens the storage time and generates millions a year in profit for Goldman, which charges rent to store the metal for customers, the investigation found. The C.F.T.C. issued the notices late last week, and it was unclear on Monday whether the agency or other authorities would open a full-fledged investigation into banks’ activities.

Senate Scrutiny of Potential Risk in Markets for Commodities

by Edward Wyat, New York Times

The hearing, convened by the Senate Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection subcommittee, came as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and others face growing scrutiny over their role in the commodities markets and the extent to which their activities can inflate prices paid by manufacturers and consumers. The Federal Reserve is reviewing the potential risks posed by the operations, which have generated many billions of dollars in profits for the banks. [..]

Several witnesses at Tuesday’s hearings warned that letting the country’s largest financial institutions own commodities units that store and ship vast quantities of metals, oil and the other basic building blocks of the economy could pose grave risks to the financial system. The ability of those bank subsidiaries to gather nonpublic information on commodities stores and shipping also could give the banks an unfair advantage in the markets and cost consumers billions of dollars, the witnesses said.

Goldman Sachs isn’t alone in this game.

Not Just Goldman Sachs: Koch Industries Hoards Commodities as a Trading Strategy

by Lee Fang, The Nation

Worth noting: Koch Industries, a company often inaccurately described as simply an oil or manufacturing concern, is highly active in the commodity speculation business akin to the big hedge funds and banks like Goldman Sachs.

As Fortune magazine reported, when oil prices dropped from a record high in July of 2008 to record lows in December of that year, Koch bought up the cheap oil to take it off of the market. Koch leased a number of giant oil tankers, including the 2-million-barrel-capacity Dubai Titan, to store the oil offshore. The decrease in supply increased the price for consumers that year, while Koch took advantage of selling the oil off later at higher prices.

Koch Industries’ executive David Chang later boasted, “The drop in crude oil prices from more than US$145 per barrel in July 2008 to less than US$35 per barrel in December 2008 has presented opportunities for companies such as ours. In the physical business, purchases of crude oil from producers and storing offshore in tankers allow us to benefit from the contango market where crude prices are higher for future delivery than for prompt delivery.”

The company took advantage when the prices were low, but they also gained when the prices were high. A leaked document I obtained shows Koch among the largest traders (including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) speculating on the price of oil in the summer of 2008.

Elizabeth Warren Wants To Take This Goldman Sachs Aluminum Story And Run Right Over Wall Street With It

by Linette Lopez, Business Insider

Back in 2003 the Federal Reserve decided to temporarily allow banks to purchase commodities directly. That means oil, power, copper, aluminium etc. This September, that temporary regulatory relaxation is set to expire, and if it does, a big chunk of Wall Street’s business will expire with it.

And now that the ruling is up for discussion, Congress gets to weigh in. Wall Street be warned, if this hearing was any indication, the Senate is coming down on the side of culling the commodities business.

Warren decried the idea that banks would use “other people’s money” in pension and retirement savings “to pave the way for big banks to be able to control an electric plant or an oil refinery.” [..]

The witnesses didn’t just talk about prices either, they talked monopolies. Since her rise to prominence as a regulator and then a Senator, Warren has been saying that banks are getting too big, too interconnected, and too complicated. (Joshua) Rosner’s testimony corroborated that idea, and added to it the specter of  commodities controlling, allencompassing banking behemoths backstopped by the government (too big too fail).

It is more than past time to break up these banks and for the Federal Reserve to be more transparent in how it regulates the banks.

Jul 24 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Helen Thomas’s Legacy

In his refreshing appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association dinner, comedian Stephen Colbert showed a parody video in which he “auditioned” for the position of press secretary. In it, he refuses to answer a question from real-life White House correspondent Helen Thomas and spends the rest of the video trying to escape her dogged questioning.

It was a brilliant turn, not only for its skewering of a Washington press corps that was asleep while President George W. Bush took us to war in Iraq but for its implicit praise of the tenacious, shoe-leather reporting of Thomas, who died Saturday at the age of 92.

Born two weeks before women officially had the right to vote, Thomas broke glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a woman journalist, including by becoming the first female member of the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club. She fought, with characteristic perseverance, to join these organizations. It wasn’t because she saw being in the room as an end itself. Rather, she understood that she needed to have access to power in order to question that power.

Ruth Rosen: Why the Relentless Assault on Abortion Rights in the US?

Americans have grown more supportive of same -sex marriages, gun control, immigration reform and even taxes on the wealthiest individuals. Why, then, have the cultural and political wars over abortion accelerated?

Americans have become more liberal, despite the rise of the Tea Party and the election of some of their right-wing politicians.  Teenagers can now buy “morning after” emergency contraception pills without consulting a physician or a pharmacist. The Supreme Court recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex marriages. It also upheld the right of same-sex couples in California to wed. As of July 2013, there are now 13 states that permit same-sex marriages. Despite the gridlock caused by Republicans in Congress, more Americans than ever support gun control, immigration reform, same-sex marriage and taxes on the wealthiest individuals. This is why Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

Why then, does state after state attempt to restrict women’s access to abortion?

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz: As a Driver of Tar Sands Expansion, Keystone XL Fails President Obama’s Climate Test

In June President Obama laid out a plan for the U.S. to tackle climate change including a climate test for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. A new economic and environmental analysis from NRDC makes it clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the President’s climate test. Industry analysts agree that Keystone XL is a critical piece of the puzzle for the tar sands industry to build new extraction projects. Tar sands oil production causes the release of huge amounts of carbon pollution from its energy-intensive extraction methods and refining processes.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would add 935 million to 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere-a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions-over the 50-year life span of the project. Expansion of the very energy-intensive and costly tar sands are not in our national interest and the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should be rejected.

Mary Bottari and Rebekah Wilce: ALEC in 2013: Rightwing Legislative Group Fuels Race to the Bottom in Wages and Worker Rights

Just How Low Can Your Salary Go?

At least 117 bills introduced in 2013 fuel a “race to the bottom” in wages, benefits, and worker rights and resemble “model” bills from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of ALECexposed.org.

As working Americans speak out for higher wages, better benefits, and respect in the workplace, a coordinated, nationwide campaign to silence them is mounting — and ALEC is at the heart of it. ALEC corporations, right-wing think tanks, and monied interests like the Koch brothers are pushing legislation throughout the country designed to drive down wages; limit health care, pensions, and other benefits; and cripple working families’ participation in the political and legislative process.

Emily Masters: As the NSA Follows You, We Follow the Money

Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has witnessed the rapid growth of an intelligence-industrial complex that fuses government and corporate power. According to the Project on Government Oversight, $300 billion a year is now spent on a “shadow government of private contractors.” At the center of this arrangement is an interlocking web of current and former high-level government officials, major corporations, D.C. think tanks and other inside-the-Beltway operators who have benefitted from the rise of the surveillance state. Here are a few of the most notable: [..]

Bryce Covert: Is This the Big Moment for Better Work/Family Balance Policies?

Those of us who have been pushing for better work/family policies know the story of how we almost had universal childcare all too well. In 1971, Congress passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act on a bipartisan vote. It would have meant the first step toward a universal childcare system, offering all parents a free, high-quality place to send their kids while they worked. As Nancy L. Cohen reports, Congress authorized five times what it currently spends on Head Start to finance the program.

Then, before President Nixon signed the bill, the evangelical right staged an intense backlash as part of the brand new culture wars, which wormed its way into Nixon’s ear through special assistant Pat Buchanan. Nixon ultimately vetoed the bill, saying it would “commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach.” Thus the “family values” crowd was born and the bipartisan idea that the government should support working women by taking some of the parenting burden off their shoulders died.

Zoƫ Carpenter: Senate Poised to Raise Interest Rates on Future Student Loans

The Senate will vote this week on a proposal to change the way the government sets federal student loan rates, in the hopes of ending weeks of stalemate.

Don’t be fooled by any triumphant rhetoric. The plan the Senate is voting on-to peg interest rates on federal student loans to the financial market-promises low rates in the short term, and nearly guarantees that they will rise above current levels in a matter of years. [..]

The fix on the table now is permanent, and it allows both parties to dodge blame for the sudden rate hike that occurred July 1, when subsidized Stafford rates jumped from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The plan does bring rates back below 4 percent for Stafford loans in the coming year, benefitting new undergraduates quite a bit.

But it won’t keep the rates below that threshold for long; instead, the Senate plan puts rates on track to exceed 6.8 percent in only four years.

Jul 24 2013

On This Day In History July 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 24 is the 205th day of the year (206th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 160 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, Machu Picchu discovered

American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.

Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.

Hiram Bingham theorized that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. More recent research by scholars such as John Howland Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

Johan Reinhard believes Machu Picchu to be a sacred religious site. This theory stands mainly because of where Machu Picchu is located. Reinhard calls it “sacred geography” because the site is built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture and in the previous culture that occupied the land. At the highest point of the mountain in which Machu Picchu was named after, there are “artificial platforms [and] these had a religious function, as is clear from the Inca ritual offerings found buried under them” (Reinhard 2007). These platforms also are found in other Incan religious sites. The site’s other stone structures have finely worked stones with niches and, from what the “Spaniards wrote about Inca sites, we know that these (types of) building(s) were of ritual significance” (Reinhard 2007). This would be the most convincing evidence that Reinhard points out because this type of stylistic stonework is only found at the religious sites so it would be natural that they would exist at this religious site. Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca llaqta, a settlement built to control the economy of conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station. Different types of crops could be tested in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces; these were not large enough to grow food on a large scale, but may have been used to determine what could grow where. Another theory suggests that the city was built as an abode for the deities, or for the coronation of kings

Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few outsiders knew of its existence.

Jul 24 2013

Chris Hedges: Betrayal by the Liberal Elite

In Part 5 of a series of interviews by Paul Jay of Real News Network, journalist and author, Chris Hedges discusses how the Democratic Party and the so-called Liberal Elite betrayed the people they said they would protect. He talks about how that changed with Bill Clinton and has gotten worse with Barack Obama.

The Liberal Elite has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend



The transcript can be read here

“Barack Obama can get up and say all the right things, but in the end, you know, it’s Wall Street and the corporations that are pulling the strings on the puppets,” he says.  [..]

“When you have the figures like Obama who continue to speak in that traditional language of liberalism and yet cannot respond to chronic unemployment, underemployment, you know, foreclosures, bank repossessions, and everything else, and in fact are running a system where the assaults against the underclass are only getting worse, then what happens is there becomes a deep disdain for not only liberal ideology but traditional liberal institutions-you saw the same thing in Weimar-so that when there is an uprising, oftentimes people want nothing to do with not only liberal elites, but the supposed liberal values, quote unquote, that these elites were purportedly espousing,” Hedges says.

“And that is a very real danger,” he continues, “because when you have figures like Obama that present themselves as traditional liberals and yet are unable to be effective in terms of dealing with the suffering and the misery of the underclass, that-and this is what happened in Yugoslavia-that when things exploded, you vomited up these very frightening figures-Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudman-in the same way that the breakdown in Weimar vomited up the Nazi Party. And that’s what frightens me, because we don’t have the movements, the populist movements on the left, and because we live in a system of political paralysis.”

Jul 24 2013

Chronic Tonic- Riding The Storm Out

Originally published at VOTS

As some of you know, my younger son is on the autism spectrum. One of his big issues is thunderstorms. When he was a toddler, he mostly ignored them, and as he and his brother got older, they would sometimes come sit by me, or come jump in bed with us during a bad storm, but I think most kids do that. Starting last year, Dan started to get really freaked out by storms. He would go into meltdown mode, start worrying a tornado was coming to get him, and there would be hell. I had to figure out a way to get him through the damn things.

See, Dan loves to read and be read to, and we had books for anxiety and books for me to know if he gets what he’s reading, but I thought I needed something a little bit different, something special. When I was a child my mother had given us a Reader’s Digest collection of stories for young readers, there was a story in there called “The Devil’s Hide” by Parker Fillmore. It is a gruesome, yet delightful story of how a young man named Erkki makes a deal with and gets the best of the Devil. The only problem? The book is out of print.

A couple of days later I am talking to my sister on the phone. I tell her about the storms and ask her, does she remember that story? Does she! She has it. What? Yes, she also loved that story so much that she wanted to read it to her daughter, so a couple of years earlier she had gone in search of the thing and found it, paid too much for a raggedy copy, and was now willing to pass it on to me. I couldn’t believe my luck. I hope Dan goes for this the way I think he will.She delivers the book into my hot little hands. It is old, its binding is naked, and pages want to float away, but all of the story is in there. I hide my faded red treasure to await the next storm.

I don’t have to wait long. A gentle rumbling and Dan is winding up for it and I say, “Hey, how about we save the day.” This distracts him, throws him off balance, as his curiosity overcomes his anxiety, I add, “I have this very ancient book here with a very special story inside about a boy named Erkki…” And both my boys follow me to the sofa and settle in on either side as I begin to read. It is quite the grisly tale. Erkki watches as his two elder brothers, each in their turn, go out to make their way in the world, and come home missing a patch of their hide, lost to the Devil over a bargain on who will lose their temper first. Naturally, Erkki, being the hero of the story, sets out to succeed where his brothers have failed and does so in a somewhat grim yet hilarious manner, vexing the Devil mightily the entire time.

Now the storm was over by the time I was halfway through the story, but Dan had no idea of it. He was too busy giggling at me sputtering and choking back the Devil’s rage as I tried not to lose his bargain for him too early in the tale as Erkki wreaked havoc in his life. By the time the story was done, the storm was long gone and Dan was completely at ease. I said:   “Well, I guess that storm didn’t stand a chance against us, huh? We didn’t need to pay any attention to that show-off, we had better things to do.”  He smiles at me and agrees, “”Yeah, we really did it, we saved the day!”

Sometimes storms last longer than the story and we may have to grab some Shel Silverstein so we can continue reading, and last fall when Sandy hit and we lost power for a week, that was rough. He had a bit more anxiety there for a while after that, I can’t say I blame him, didn’t that suck for all of us? Yeah, it did. But, overall, he’s doing great. Now it doesn’t even have to be “The Devil’s Hide,” it doesn’t even have to always be reading. Have you ever seen a nine year old save the day by singing along with a YouTube of These Eyes by The Guess Who? It’s awesome.