Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
"A modern Republican foreign policy recognises that there is still evil in the world, people who hate America and the ideas for which it stands.
"Today, we face enemies who are hard at work to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with the missiles to deliver them. The United States must remain vigilant and have the strength to defeat its enemies."
Typical claptrap in the neo-con form. The standard canard that people hate America for it's ideas (presumably referring to "democracy" and "freedom") is ridiculous. Reagan promoted those same ideas and he wasn't attacked for them. So what has changed? Perhaps a failed foreign policy promoted by at least 2 presidencies? Oy, what a thought: they hate us for our ideas like imperialism and a failure to reign in Israel!
Quote from Zoellick via the Independent.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
A perspective on the Iraq war which acknowledges that many troops want to stay and win the thing, though there may be nothing worth winning.
I don't usually promote paid software here, but Sunbelt has a good deal going right now for Counter Spy.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Archie called me with the news last night. I was working, so he had to leave a message. "You're probably going to start avoiding my calls," he said and began chuckling. Hardly. I'll call him back today and touch base with him. We had interactions with Harold together and separately.
It probably wasn't the first time that I met Harold, but it was the first time that I ever had a lengthy conversation with him that has provided me with a tale to pass along to you. Ellen and I had begun dating and she invited me to her parent's house for dinner. Harold, Marge, Ellen's sister Claire, and her husband Ron were all there when we walked in. It was a typical meal prepared by Marge: simple and delicious. Soup, salad, and bread were the courses.
The rest of the family were gathering by the table when we walked in. Ellen and I went to the adjoining kitchen and grabbed our plates, utensils, and food. Ellen asked, "Do you want a small spoon or a large one?" Given a choice, I always choose the small spoon. At restaurants or formal dinners, I use the larger soup spoon. But at informal dinners, such as this one, I'll use the small one. Why? I don't like to slurp out of big spoons. It's a preference of mine from back in my childhood.
Ellen and I joined the others at the table. Harold was at the head of the table, steering conversation about work and business associates and friends. Claire, Ellen, and Marge were kind and introduced me to the conversation by asking me questions and changing the direction of the topics so that I could join in.
At one point, about halfway through dinner, Harold was apparently staring in my direction. Someone asked him what he was thinking about. Harold replied, "I'm just sitting here wondering...Richard, you're using a small spoon. Why?"
"Ellen offered me a choice of spoons. I chose to use the smaller one rather than the soup spoon."
"Yes, but why? Why use the small spoon instead of a soup spoon?"
"I don't know, exactly. I've always preferred using a small spoon."
"Why? Soup spoons are made for eating soups; not small spoons."
"If you'd prefer me to use a soup spoon, I'll be happy to do so. I didn't mean to offend."
"No, no. That's fine. I'm just trying to understand here..."
At this point, Ellen, Marge, and Claire had all begun giggling. I think it was Claire who jumped into the conversation to try and rescue me from Harold's questions. "Dad, what's the big deal? Ellen offered him a small spoon and he took it?"
"It's no big deal. I'm just trying to understand why, when a perfectly good and well designed utensil like a soup spoon is not the choice of Richard when he eats soup. I'm just curious as to why?"
Harold was staring at me the entire course of the conversation. I was becoming flustered. I didn't know what to say or how to react. Naturally, I eventually said the wrong thing. "I don't know why? It's just my preference."
"Well, there's got to be a reason that it's your preference," continue Harold. "Why do you prefer to eat with a small spoon rather than a soup spoon?"
"I don't know. I suppose it's because I don't like to slurp soup."
"Hm. Well, why is that? Soup is made to be slurped. A soup spoon is designed to bring enough soup to your lips so that you can slurp it. Slurping it, in turn, cools down the soup. So why not use a soup spoon?"
By this point, Harold's daughters and wife are laughing and wonder what is going on. Clearly Harold was not going to accept the "I don't know" excuse. As far as I was concerned, Harold had pinned me into a corner. I didn't understand why I was being grilled in such a manner. Oh, Harold was polite and he was just generally curious (it had nothing to do with me dating Ellen), but I felt on the spot and flustered.
"Well, why not use the proper tool for the job?" asked Harold.
After a pause, trying to quickly come up with an answer and left wanting, I blurted out with a note of sarcasm and humor in my voice, "Because I don't have a big mouth?"
Ron, who had been quietly enjoying his meal, put his spoon down and wiped his beard. I could see a look of astonishment and a smile appear before the napkin covered his lips. Claire, Ellen, and Marge all burst out laughing. Ellen, in particular, got this deep belly laugh.
Harold smiled at me and said, "You could've fooled me." He paused for that to take effect and then followed up with, "In fact, I think you just proved yourself wrong."
Marge patted Harold's arm and said, "OK, boys, we've had our fun. Enough is enough. Harold, do you want dessert?"
Harold looked at Marge with a face that spoke of innocence. "Marge," he began in protest, "I was just trying to understand why our guest, Richard..."
Marge was having none of it. "The conversation is moving on. What would you like for dessert? I have ice cream..."
Ellen got up from the table. She was still laughing. "You asked for it, Harold. And so did you, Richard. Now, vanilla or butternut?"
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
"I don't think so."
"I was dreaming of Ellen. I think I had a full memorial service."
It was an interesting coincidence. I, too, dreamed of my departed friend. Clearly my mind was processing her death. In my dream, Steve, Archie, and I met at Ellen's apartment. Of course, Ellen didn't live in an apartment, let alone in the one we first shared, but this is dream territory. The inside was completely different and larger than our old space. Archie, Steve, and I shared a joint and spoke about our love for Ellen. We had been told by her mother to come take away any keepsakes we wanted before the cleaners arrived. The cleaners were going to box the rest up and donate it to charity. We spent a couple of hours chatting, poking around, crying, hugging, comforting. Unexpectedly early, the cleaners showed up with Ellen's mom and her sisters. We panicked and began scurrying around for the items that we knew we wanted - the ones we really came for. Archie found a disk, a small sculpture, and a book. Steve found an ashtray, a book, and a photo. I grabbed a vase that I dreamed that I gave Ellen, a photo, a CD, and several bottles of wine which I took to share with friends for an after-wake wake.
Soon after this I woke and not long after that found myself listening to your dream. Yours was different than mine, but the feeling of letting go persisted in both. Were we letting go of Ellen? Were we dealing with her memory - separately, but simultaneously? Were we dealing with each other? I accept coincidences, though I don't always like them. Like most human minds, my mind likes to form relationships and tie things together. Some times those connections are warranted, but just as often they are not. It is the miracle and curse of the human condition.
So, what to make of this coincidence? Both of us, in dreams, during the same time of the morning, dreaming of a friend and our mourning of her? Perhaps, I thought, Ellen was reaching from beyond and pulling us together, reminding us of how we need each other and how we connect so well, more often than not.
This atheist doesn't really believe that tale. Yet, it was beautiful and it brought tears to my eyes. Ellen has brought me many tears this week. A spiritual cleansing? Something worth meditating on further
Monday, May 21, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Archie and I spoke on the phone several times this week. We both loved Ellen a great deal. Archie introduced me to her back in the early to mid 80s. I passed along a story to Archie that he could tell at the memorial service. I'm posting it here for posterity.
In the early 1990s Ellen was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. At the time this disease was just being heard of and some doctors did not believe it existed. I can attest that it does exist. Ellen had troubles at times staying awake. She'd fall asleep at her desk, come home and fall asleep. She'd sleep all night and most of the day. It was frustrating and debilitating.
During this first attack of the disease I spent a great deal of time with Ellen. I was going to school, attending classes and working on the college radio station and newspaper. After classes, I'd often pop over to Ellen's house to check on her. We'd cook dinner together or I'd cook or bring something over. We'd watch movies or television, often with Ellen falling asleep in the middle of the program or even conversation. I understood and it didn't bother me in the least.
At one stage, early in the disease, a radio station in Detroit began a promotion called "Garden Party at the Whitney". The Whitney is a venerable restaurant in Detroit housed in an old mansion. It's in a rather surreal location as most of the area around the house is typical of Detroit - bordered up, run down, or torn down building sites. Ellen and I thought that attending this radio even would be a fun way to poke around the restaurant without splurging for dinners.
When we arrived we found out that there was a cover charge of $10. This turned both of us off and we nearly turned away. However, it was a beautiful day - the sun was out, but it wasn't too hot - and we had driven downtown already and rush hour was upon the area - so we decided to go in. A singer-songwriter who was on tour at the time was playing in one corner of The Whitney's garden. A few people were gathered around him, but clearly most people were there to stroll, enjoy a drink, and mingle.
Ellen and I found the bar pretty quickly. We were both wearing sunglasses. We each had on a suit jacket with padded shoulders (not matching otherwise). Back then, my hair was long and pulled back into a pony tail. Ellen and I hung around the bar and chatted for a bit. Before long someone walked up to me with his hand extended and said, "Hey, I haven't seen you in ages! How's it going?"
"Great," I said. "How are you doing?"
"Couldn't be better! Job's going well?"
"Hey, we need to do lunch some time. Pick up the phone and give me a call, OK? I've got to run and get back to my guests."
"I'll call you, soon." With that, the guy was walking away. He chatted with his friends and nodded in my direction and waved. I waved back. Ellen asked who it was that I was talking to. "I have no idea," I told her. She laughed. "But you spoke to him as if you knew!"
This happened a second time. And a third time. By the third time Ellen had caught on. We were in a crowd of people who were shallow media and marketing folks. Obviously they were mistaking me for someone else, but who that someone was they weren't quite sure. It was entertaining for a while and I played along.
Eventually, we became bored with the game. What we really wanted to do was get a glimpse inside the restaurant. There was a large stairway that led from the garden to the house. One door was open into the house. We decided to walk up and peak inside. As we got inside, a member of the wait staff walked out of a door that led to a dining room. It looked lovely inside. Ellen and I wanted to go in, but we didn't want to disturb the diners either. To our left was another stairway that led upstairs. I suggested that we go up and see if there were diners up there and poke around a little.
When we got upstairs there was a rather large room. It was clearly a room for meetings or small banquets. A large table was in the center of the room. The table was set with a huge selection of cheese and crackers. A couple in the room told us that this spread was for guests attending the garden party. We were delighted and shocked. There were no signs indicating that food was up here. The cover charge suddenly made sense. We spoke with the other couple briefly before they were downstairs to the garden. Ellen and I had the room to ourselves. Seeing as neither of us had eaten since lunch and we were both on our third drink, we dug into the food.
Each cheese was labeled. We enjoyed trying each one and sharing them. Of all of the cheese there, the one that really stood out for us was Cotswold. Neither of us had tried this cheese before. Cotswold is an English double Gloucester flavored with bits of chives. It really is a heavenly snacking cheese. We continued to munch on other cheeses, but we kept coming back to the Cotswold.
At one point, Ellen grabbed me by the shoulders from behind. "Richard, stand right there. Don't move." I dutifully maintained my position though it seemed like whatever she was doing was taking Ellen an awfully long time. I had no idea what was going on. I assumed that she was fixing her clothing or something. Eventually, I heard some giggling and I felt her lean against my back jiggling something.
"Ellie, dare I ask what's going on back there?"
She started giggling louder. "It won't fit. The damn thing won't fit."
"Ellie, I probably don't want to know, but I'll ask anyhow: what won't fit where?"
At this I got a smack in the back. Ellen started laughing really loudly. She said, "You perve! The cheese! The cheese won't fit in my purse!" Apparently, Ellen had decided that she really liked the Cotswold cheese. She had taken it upon herself to nab the 3 pound wheel of cheese and put it into her bag.
At that moment, I heard footsteps from the stairwell. "Ellie, you had better get it into your purse quickly. Someone's coming."
"I'm trying, I'm trying. The damn thing. Hold on...I think I've got it. I just need a min.." All the while, Ellen's laughing harder and harder.
A couple showed up in the doorway. "Hello," I said. They replied in kind. Ellen grabbed my arm and poked her head around my side. She had that grin that she got whenever she was being childish and trying to pull something off. It was an innocent grin, but those of us who knew her knew better. The other couple didn't notice, though it was clear that they thought it was odd that Ellen never came around from behind me.
"Hi," said Ellen.
"Is this for the garden party?" asked the man.
"Apparently," I said.
"It's a terrific spread, isn't it?" asked Ellen.
"Yea, yea." agreed the couple. Then they took off back down the stairs, clearly not certain as to what they had walked in on.
Ellen got the cheese into her purse. We decided to take off. The music wasn't very good, the drinks were over priced, and hell - we had the best of the cheeses.
We went back to Ellen's house that night where we ate more cheese and crackers, enjoyed drinks at her place, and watched an old movie together. Ellen, of course, fell asleep during the movie. I fell asleep after the film. Fozzie, her dog, fell asleep between us on her sectional sofa.
The next morning, we split the take. Ellen shared hers with her family while I took mine home to share with my family. It's a fond memory of mine. This was so like Ellen - her vibrancy, her child-like whims, her spontaneity. I loved all of it. I loved her. I miss her.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Ellen's official obituary appears on the Detroit Free Press website. There is a guest book to sign for those who wish.
Pictured above: Ellen and Archie at what I believe is a summer day in Detroit during a Formula One racing event. As I recall, the 2 of them went downtown with some other folks to see the races. I had to work. I was to meet up with everyone that evening at St. Andrews Hall to watch local band Rebel Heels play their record release party (they had just been signed to a major label). I got to the hall early, hung out with the band (I knew them and wished them a good show), hung out with DJ Diana - spun records and drank vodka, and danced. Eventually, Archie showed up - exhausted after a day in the sun and drinking. He barely kept his eyes open for the show. No one else made it that evening, but I had a good time.
As Archie said when looking at these pictures: "Oh my god! I've got hair!!! And look at those glasses!" Indeed. And look at that smile on Ellie - so typical.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Basically, what the idiots at the White House are proposing (he must be confirmed by the Senate and I hope that they don't) is that this 3 star general both report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as leap from over them in rank and become the coordinator and runner of the war. He will trump them and may well trump Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose actions to date haven't won him favor in the administration.
“We needed to get the right concept, the right man — or woman — and we have,” the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, who led the search, said in an interview on Tuesday evening.How disingenuous of this fuckwad! They've approached a half dozen people, including 5 star generals who, when they retired, outranked their candidate AND actually had more responsibilities than their candidate who have all turned them down when offered the job. Some of done so publicly! And, yet, now they have the right man (and DON'T get me started on the "right woman" remark since we all know that the top brass at the military is a penis posse).
What does General Lute get out of this? My guess is that he's simply thinking ahead towards his civilian career. He gets a short term position that boosts his prestige in the eyes of the neocon nuts which will no doubt result in lucrative jobs and speaking engagements in the future. He likely wasn't going to be promotable in the Pentagon, saw that his future was limited there and began thinking about how to move elsewhere. This gives him the opportunity to leap over those above him and lays the groundwork for that new future.
But, he's got to deal with the idiots in the White House. He's probably a sycophant and will push their policies over what he might see as good sense. Things are only going to get worse on both fronts. Current White House strategy calls for not getting out of Iraq until long after the next election at which time Lute will be fired. It's going to continue to get ugly and that won't bode well for General Lute, who might find himself wanting to sing a different tune come 2008.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
My meditations are with her, now.
In Dearborn, MI, a cop seizes pot from a suspect, but rather than turn it in he gives it to his wife who bakes it in brownies. Then, he freaks out and calls for help, explaining that he's dieing. Um, he resigns, but won't have charges pressed.
Image from Wild Gas Masks.
Israel is planning on more settlements in Jerusalem and sinking peace talks at the same time. Not that there was any real effort made in peace talks recently.
The White House has withheld documents from Congress regarding the firings of U.S. Attorneys. National Journal has the documents and they were provided by a senior person within the executive branch. This thing continues to look like a bigger scandal. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has commentary on Gonzales' testimony to House members yesterday. TPMmuckraker has many videos from the testimony.
New evidence is said to have been unearthed about Japan's use of sex slaves in WWII. I just posted this link for the commenter who continues to argue contrarily about this even though his own links posted to absolve Japan of the use of coercion do nothing of the sort.
Wolfowitz drama continues to play out into next week. Ho, hum, we all know the ending. I hope this series is canceled soon.
Bats fly differently from birds. Long known, but new insights into how.
Here's a Contrarian study that won't get publicized in the U.S. due to our hysterical attitudes about drugs and alcohol: Kids in homes that introduce alcohol consumption properly don't indulge in binge drinking at nearly the same rate as homes that deny
Aspirin found to cut bowel cancer. Hm, the simplest, cheapest drug is such a wonder.
It used to be that sex required an R rating by the MPAA. Sex was even more horrific than violence in the board's eyes. Now, smoking is being added to the list. Here's an idea: get rid of the Board and have reviewers inform parents of the contents and let them decide.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
From VoteVets.org. It should be noted that the general speaking is John Batiste, a life long Republican.
In Somalia, an undeclared front on Bush's war, forces are tearing the veils off of Muslim women and burning them in an attempt to locate fundamentalist insurgents. That's going to make a lot of friends.
Hit & Run has a post up about the Bush administration's need to have a czar for everything. My screed against czars is here. I think Bush wants to name himself Czar Czar Blinks.
Read how Delaware towns are fleecing taxpayers - legally - by getting grants from Fatherland Security for equipment that gathers dust most of the time. I'd be a lot happier if the equipment was either never made or gathering dust all of the time. Usually when it does get used the result is that it's used for raids against non-violent drug offenders. No offense to Delaware as this has been widely reported as occurring throughout the U.S.
When Anti-Coice people choose abortion. Great tales of hypocrisy.
Hm, it seems that the CIA recently undertook a "significant covert action" without first informing Congress and that is against the law. Naturally, the CIA claims it was an "oversight".