We transferred my grandmother yesterday from the Clinic to the Hospice House facility of the Hospice of the Western Reserve. It's a gorgeous space, right on the shore of Lake Erie, surrounded by spring blooms, and a wonderful program, with music therapy and art therapy and two 300-gallon fish tanks stocked with the best Lake Malawi has to offer. My grandmother would really enjoy it there, were she to have the capacity for awareness, and I myself am considering contracting a terminal condition just so I can move in. But as it is, it's all a bit wasted on both of us.

I was considering taking in a book to read to her, both based on [livejournal.com profile] midnightsjane recommendation that I talk to her and on the Angel episode "A Hole In The World," in which Wesley, by reading A Little Princess to the dying Fred, transforms his public perception from a creepy psychopathic stalker who's a little too fond of firearms into that of a sweet, loving guy who's way too fond of firearms. But I'm very afraid that my grandmother's favorite book is this.
At the end of her post on the new horror story from the war on terror, Unfogged's new blogger Alameida highlights the following assessment of guilt:
"He was probably associated with people who were associated with al Qaeda," one U.S. government official said.
Guilt by association -- that works, right?

I'm glad to know that our national security establishment has discovered that most useful of tools, the Bacon number.
I have just had what may be the geekiest dream in history. I was reading Matthew Yglesias's new book (which I think had to do with how the Left throws better parties but the Right throws parties with maximized strategic value), and I was going through the endnotes. After a long section of citations from Star Trek: Voyager, I came across the story of how Gordon Dickson once surgically altered the corpse of Terry Carr's dog to cover up its death by stabbing, a story apparently most authoritatively recounted in the 1999 SpeedIF entitled We vaguely appreciate that this may be hard to justify in the morning . . .

I so need to get a dreamlife . . .
OK, so I keep reading the comments about President Bush deliberately putting his father and Bill Clinton in situations which in slashfic are cliched set-ups for confessions of love or rampant sex, and I'm trying to identify them all for my own satisfaction. The one I have so far:
On Thursday night in Houston, Mr. Bush boarded an official blue-and-white Boeing 757 jet with "United States of America" on its side in Houston and flew to Los Angeles to pick up former President Bill Clinton.

By 10 o'clock, the two were headed toward Phuket, Thailand, to make their first appearance to help raise money for tsunami victims on Saturday afternoon local time.

From there, the former presidents were scheduled to visit Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Sunday and Sri Lanka and the Maldives on Monday.

Neither of their wives, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Barbara Bush, were on the trip.

"It's just the two guys," Jean Becker, Mr. Bush's chief of staff, said.

Ms. Becker said before leaving on Thursday that she did not know where Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton would sit on the plane, or whether they would have separate compartments, but that both would be up front.

"I know there are couches and beds, and they'll figure out the sleeping arrangements when they get on the plane," she said.
(Honkin' big apologies to [livejournal.com profile] londonkds. And to everyone else, too, really.)
The reason I prefer Caribou Coffee over its dominant competitor, Starbucks, has nothing to do with politics and little to do with aesthetics (but who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?), and much to do with the fact that Caribou will knock ten cents off of my order if I can correctly answer a trivia question. It's like appearing on a very tiny game show, and it's one of the definite though small pleasures of my day. Today, however, I looked up at the chalkboard and was shocked to read the following:
February is Black History Month!
Trivia -10¢
What is the name of the slave with whom Thomas Jefferson had an affair & produced children?
I thought this was in spectacularly poor taste. As a trivia question, it's fine; as a Black History Month trivia question, it's a bit insensitive. But I bit my tongue and answered -- and then tried to stay polite while enduring the barrista's congratulations for being the first person all day to answer correctly.

Ten cents is ten cents! My soul will grow back tomorrow.
I learn from one of the new Agitators that Jon Ronson, author of the amusing romp with terrorists Them, has come out with a new book about bizarre US military projects.
One operation details President Clinton's order for a Psychic Spying Unit to find the Loch Ness monster using telepathy. The operation cost 15 million pounds, which in today's dollars translates into over $28 million.
Though, to be fair, the dollar was much, much stronger during the Clinton administration.

I am reminded of the advertisement the CIA ran in my college newspaper for its summer internship program. It listed fields of experience they were interested in: philosophy was not one of these. "Remote viewing," on the other hand, was. I remember thinking at the time that remote viewing was something abstrusely technical, involving perhaps satellites or ultrasound or thermal imaging; certainly something you could major in only at CalTech or MIT. Little did I know that remote viewing was actually out in Uri Gellar territory. I know that some people have trouble accepting the softer side of the CIA as presented by Alias, but maybe there's something to the fascination with all the Rambaldi stuff. Maybe that's the true secret of the post-William Colby, pre-Porter Goss CIA; it was just a bunch of crystal-swinging, incense-burning new-agers . . .
Certainly, in these divisive times, there is one thing we can all agree on: the Nazis really hated Jews and gays. Right?

Uhhh . . .
I met two members of Una-Unso, a neo-Nazi party whose emblem is a swastika. They were unembarrassed about their allegiance, perhaps because last year Yushchenko and his allies stood up for the Socialist party newspaper, Silski Visti, after it ran an anti-semitic article claiming that Jews had invaded Ukraine alongside the Wehrmacht in 1941. On September 19 2004, Yushchenko's ally, Alexander Moroz, told JTA-Global Jewish News: "I have defended Silski Visti and will continue to do so. I personally think the argument ... citing 400,000 Jews in the SS is incorrect, but I am not in a position to know all the facts."
Hang on a minute . . .
Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”
I look forward to further revelations that the Confederate States of America were secretly run by a cabal of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Pope.
Justice League Unlimited just totally ripped off "Soul Purpose".

Rick James has died at age 56 of natural causes. Though one would assume with Rick James that it wasn't so much natural causes as a long, polyrhythmic concatenation of extraordinary causes.

I was thinking about Rick James a few days ago, even before I heard of his passing, as I was reflecting on "lost albums," those records which were made but never released. Certainly the lost album I most wish to hear is the album James made with his mid-sixties Toronto band The Mynah Birds. The Mynah Birds were, with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, one of Berry Gordy's first salt-and-pepper signings in his attempt to find an interracial group that could, like Booker T. & the M.G.'s, bridge the gap between soul and rock markets. The group came down to Detroit and recorded an album, but the album was stored away after it was revealed that James, the group's lead singer, was at that point AWOL from the US Navy. Gordy always demanded that his artists maintain a certain image of wholesomeness, and he suggested to James that he go and serve his debt to society; there might be a place for him at Motown when he had fulfilled his other responisibilities. It took James twelve years to return to Motown; in the meantime, his bassist and guitarist, Bruce Palmer and Neil Young respectively, decamped for California where they hooked up with Stephen Stills and formed Buffalo Springfield. At least one person who has heard the album has called it "Holland-Dozier-Holland with twelve-string guitars." Others have said that you can't hear much of Young's guitar on it at all -- of course, I'd rather listen to the Funk Brothers anyday.

A different album has recently reappeared from the mists of memory: the album John Kerry made with his high school garage band The Electras (certainly one of the three or four greatest surf bands ever to come out of New Hampshire) will be hitting stores soon. From what I've heard of his bass playing, Kerry is competent if unremarkable; of course, he recorded the album in 1962, well before John Entwhistle and Larry Graham emerged with the idea that a rock bass player could be more than competent if unremarkable. Tom Feran (who ends his column with a pun unbefitting a former editor of The Harvard Lampoon) asked a local Cleveland DJ and a local garage band to review the album; their reaction could be summed up as "Kerry was a root note bassist - pretty simple, but that's what you're supposed to do with that style." Entertainment Weekly got The Hives to offer another review:
The bassist is a solid foundation, a good person. Maybe bass players don't have the strongest leadership qualities, but they are good at negotiating, they have a basic fairness, which is very important if you're gonna run a country.
All of which I'd be fine with at this point. But though I don't want to seem overly enthusiastic about Kerry, I do have to point out that occasionally the bass player turns out to be Bootsy Collins.

Bootsy's Rubber Band: "Psychoticbumpschool (Live)" (YouSendIt.com)
Are they separated at birth or just both former students at the same Shaolin monastery?

Brad DeLong points out that the Bush administration, bastion of laissez-faire that it is, has announced new tariffs on shrimp imported from China and Vietnam. Bush, of course, has a long history of using trade regulation to political advantage -- I think he's campaigning in Ohio as the workers' friend by mentioning that he imposed tariffs on imported steel and in Michigan as the workers' friend by saying that he lifted those same tariffs. However, I just don't know what advantage he expects from this decision. Are Louisiana and Mississippi suddenly swing states?

I have to come to the reluctant conclusion that this is not at all related to electoral advantage but is instead one more example of rampant theocracy.
A few entirely random thoughts:
  • Libertarian-standing-tall Jim Henley calls "libertarian"-on-his-knees Eugene Volokh out for his complaint that the Supreme Court has created the possibility that "our enemies may use our freedoms against us." At the end of his post, Henley refers his readers for more to presumptive neoliberal Brad DeLong, the Social Democrats and academic Marxists over at Crooked Timber, and that extradimensional crustacean with plans for world domination, Fafblog's Medium Lobster. Politics really does make for strange blogfellows.

  • While driving down a rural highway in Michigan today, I saw a rickety shed made of saplings strung together with a hand-painted sign attached to it. I only read the top part of the sign, which must have read in full "Hunting blind for sale," but my urban/suburban conditioning led me to expect from the first lines that the complete message would be "Hunting blind can cost lives. Be sure to hunt only with a properly trained guide dog." I suppose, though, that the sign would be effective only if it were in braille.

  • The top story in the Arts section of Wednesday's New York Times treats the new bevy of skyscrapers going up over London. In my last couple of trips to London I've been flabbergasted by the new arrivals on the skyline -- I had thought that there was a municipal regulation preventing buildings from standing taller than the city's most famous and revered landmark. The article is accompanied by a spectacular computer rendering of the Thames behind Tower Bridge, surrounded by all the proposed new skyscrapers (though the Vortex, my favorite of the batch of unrealized buildings, is not to be found, the Times taking a more skeptical view than the Guardian on this issue at least).

    Walking between [livejournal.com profile] rahael's house and her local supermarket, one must take a pedestrian bridge over one of the major motorways. This bridge affords a great view of the Gherkin, London's most recent hot skyscraper; on a clear day I could see even St. Paul's and the Millennium Eye. Rah and I got into an unintentional habit of timing our return from grocery shopping to coincide with sunset, though our last shopping expedition had us leaving the store just as the summer rainstorm ended and the sky was filled with a gigantic double rainbow, arching clear and completely across the eastern sky.
[livejournal.com profile] nzraya has a flight of fancy on her trip down memory lane:
A passing thought...

...and, I'm sure, a far from original one. But, having spent a fruitful morning going through an old videotape of MTV's 80s-retrospective programming in December 1989 (SO GLAD I taped that stuff, because half of what they put in as most characteristic of the '80s has gone well and truly down the memory hole now), I can't help but ponder, wistfully, the following question:

What if the December 8, 1980 assassination attempt against John Lennon had failed, and the March 30, 1981 assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan had succeeded?
I love counterfactuals. Let's see . . . George H. W. Bush has nearly as much of a first term as John Tyler. Freed from the constraints of Vice Presidential subservience to Reagan, he reverts to his 1980 support of abortion rights and leads the most Arab-friendly administration since Eisenhower's. His retinue of Rockefeller Republicans and foreign-policy realists alienate the Christian Right, which makes overtures to the blue-collar Catholics who had formed the bulk of the "Reagan Democrats" and to socially-conservative African-American Baptists. Pat Robertson leads a new Christian crusade for social justice. A booming economy, buoyed by Bush's moderate fiscal responsibility, propels Bush to a commanding victory over the newly black-friendly George Wallace, but in 1988, his Vice President (Howard Baker) must face a vital young Democrat who is extremely hawkish, pro-Israel, and is second to none in his credentialing as a campaigner for values and decency. In the clash of the Tennessee titans, Al Gore prevails, becoming the youngest President in American history.

As the years wind down, the Republican party becomes more and more the party of the Northeast, Great Plains and Southwest, while the industrial Midwest and the South define the Democrats. In 2004 the country faces a great drama when the Democrats nominate the ticket of Clinton-Buchanan against the Republicans' favored Rodham-McCain.

Meanwhile, John Lennon's 1984 movie Remember Me To Harold Lloyd is considered the greatest film disaster of the decade. A pair of phoned-in duets with Lionel Richie do not help his critical standing. By 2004, Britain collectively smirks when he makes a guest appearance on the Sugababes' single "Imagine (There's Disco Heaven)," and critics everywhere admit that the recently deceased George Harrison was the true genius of the Beatles.
Interesting juxtaposition:
Bush did apparently reiterate the firmness of the June 30 handover of sovereignty to Iraqis and likened it to riding a bicycle.

"He talked about 'time to take the training wheels off,' " Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) said. "The Iraqi people have been in training, and now it's time for them to take the bike and go forward."
-- Washington Post.
President Bush suffered minor abrasions after falling off a mountain bike while cycling on his Texas ranch on Saturday, the White House said.

The 57-year-old Republican president had cycled 16 miles of a 17-mile afternoon bike course when he toppled over while riding downhill on what the White House described as soil loosened by recent rainfall.

"He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, his nose, right hand and both knees," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters.
-- Reuters.

And, for an ideological balance that you won't find here that often:
Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, "Did the training wheels fall off?"
-- Drudge, according to Josh Marshall.
Bush's rival in this year's presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry, who fell off a bicycle and grazed his hand earlier this month, wished the president well after learning of Saturday's spill.
-- The Reuters story linked above.

Just a quick reminder that nation-building is hard whether it's done with liberal or conservative intentions. Harder, I suspect, than falling off a bicycle.

ETA: Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber points out something interesting:
Last year, I fell off my bike, and had to have my arm in a sling for a couple of days. I don’t care, even a little bit, that Bush had a spill. It happens.

But if the White House is going to come out and blame the fall on “what the White House described as soil loosened by recent rainfall”… (Here’s the quote: “It’s been raining a lot. The topsoil was loose.”)

Well, I can check that. There hasn’t been any rain in Crawford all week. The last day with more than an inch of precipitation was May 1.

Again, not a big deal, but why would they say that? And do you share my suspicion that Caren Bohan, who wrote the Reuters report from Crawford, knows perfectly well that there wasn’t any rain?
This, if true, is disgusting:
Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.
(Bill Hill, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, May 15, 2004. Stolen from a commenter in [livejournal.com profile] marykaykare's journal.)

I attended a high school so liberal that I believe one could have been disciplined for praising President Bush. (Admittedly, times were different then, as were Bushes.) The concept of a school having a military liaison is so foreign to my experience that were the idea to be included in a nostaligic, corny film looking back at the 1950s it would would strain my credulity. Yet the idea that high schools contain martinets whose first impulse is to censor seems as natural as apple pie. Even my touch-feely principal, dedicated to letting his students learn in their own ways, once seriously suggested that he preapprove stories for my school newspaper. Of course, we had spent a fair amount of time in journalism class going over the relevant Supreme Court decisions, and weren't that happy with either Hazelwood or prior restraint. (Of course, the large majority of the newspaper staff had lawyers in their families.)

I still wouldn't describe my high school as censorious, though. This was in the days before the world wide web, when if someone had something he wanted to say but no one particularly interested in hearing it, he could still type up four or five pages of blather and masking-tape them up in inappropriate locations. They'd usually stay put until the janitor got around to cleaning the walls, and occasionally they'd even garner comments. It truly was the poor man's LiveJournal, at least for rich kids with an unbounded sense of privilege.

I had been occasionally expressing myself in this way as early as Junior High School, where I do remember running into one actual martinet who decided that my anarchist placards for the "Lunacratic Army for Penultimate Societal Emancipation" (always proceed from acronym to nym) was an incitement to communism, although I was a fetal capito-anarchist and my exemplar at that point was Thomas Jefferson (and the whole thing was a complicated jape at my Latin teacher anyway). Much of my eighth grade year was spent in shouting matches and this was no exception; I engaged this self-appointed bulwark against the forces of anarchism in a loud discussion of free expression and the First Amendment. I was for them. He taught social studies, too. Oh well, I have been led to believe of late that a few bad apples do not indict the entire institution.
Speaking of the Department of Defense taking steps to control the free flow of information, Mark A. R. Kleiman points out that the Pentagon has forbidden employees from reading the Taguba Report.

Basic math

May. 8th, 2004 07:30 pm
I might be getting transferred within the next week to anotehr post. At the very least, KBR is not allowing any private computers on their system for the next ninety days. There might be one other option, but if you don't hear from me for a while...God, I don't know what I'll do about the kitty.
Many of the incriminating photographs appear to have been taken on a digital camera by a soldier in the 372nd Military Police Company who is now facing a court-martial. From there, they appear to have circulated among military personnel in Iraq via e-mail and computer disks, and some may have found their way to family members in the United States.

[ . . . ]Digital cameras have become so ubiquitous in the military that many relatives of personnel in the 372nd and other units in Iraq said they routinely received photographs by e-mail.

Update: This may be overblown. [livejournal.com profile] ginmar explains.

Abu Ghraib

Apr. 30th, 2004 06:06 pm
I am saddened and sickened by the news from Abu Ghraib (scroll down to "Appalling" if the permalink isn't working). I realize that between the news from Virginia, Sinclair Broadcasting Group's craven show of disrespect for our troops, and some singularly awful news from one of the brightest and funniest people on my friends list, this has been lost in a tumult of crappiness over the last twenty-four hours. (I am slightly heartened that the comments threads at some stalwart warblogs have been universally condemnatory of the actions of our troops -- even to the point of awakening some sympathy within me for those young men and women who find themselves in a situation they are ill-prepared for.) It comes as no surprise to me (or to Henley and Silber) that the first casuality of war is the belief in a unitary humanity, but I crumble at the sight of it so clearly demonstrated.

My typical reaction to anything overwhelming is a quip, a humorous distraction, a mollifying jape. This really deserves better, but I am not capable of better, so I'm just going to take some really cheap shots at Glenn Reynolds. (Who does express a suitable outrage at the story.)

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #1

PHOTOBLOGGING: Here's a gallery of beautiful photos from Vietnam.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #2

RYAN BOOTS has his weekly roundup of the Iraqi blogs, which he's calling the Carnival of the Liberated. It's a must-read.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #3

ARE WE GOING TOO SOFT IN IRAQ? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I'm reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.
Fred Clark, the Slacktivist, makes me laugh quoting the results of a poll of Delaware residents:
The poll found broad support for full-day kindergarten for all children, which is available in only a few Delaware school districts. But the consensus broke down when it came to paying for all-day, with some saying they wanted "government" funding, others saying the "public or taxpayers" should fund it.
Bwah! I assume that far more people would prefer that the government pull the funds from its magical dragon hoard of dwarven gold than that the taxpayers should have to pony up the cash.

To be fair, in Delaware, as Clark alludes to, "the government" may be equivalent to "people driving through the state on I-95."

And also "the estate of Al Lerner," which I have long (since 1995) felt has a lot to pay for when accounts come due.

(ETA: Yeah, I feel no compunctions about going back and correcting my stupid spelling errors after people point them out to me.)
I'm capable of believing most anything about the current administration that doesn't require me to don a tin-foil hat, so I have little problem with Richard Clarke's accusations of indifference to terrorism on the part of Bush. Indeed, it squares with the understanding I've had since The New Yorker profiled the late John O'Neill back in January, 2002. But what is most important to my credulity is that I've never seen all of season two of Alias. For, when I catch Clarke on TV and close my eyes, I hear Victor Garber. The vocal resemblance is remarkable; in fact, noting a facial resemblance requires as little squinting at Clarke as does the Mask of Agamemnon. Because I've only really watched season one of Alias, this resemblance brings to mind ruthless efficiency, cold calculation, and a resistance to emotion, but not a willingness to endanger national security to screw over one's ex-wife.



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