Monday, February 28, 2005

A Near Comedy of Cynicism

Politics in the middle east have always dismayed, and if they weren’t so homicidal would be the stuff for which O. Henry (the writer, not the candy bar) became famous.

Who can forget Yaser Arafat sashaying into the UN General Assembly wearing a pistol on his hip? By so doing, he painted himself a villain there and then.

Later as he was losing grip on the disparate factions making up the PLO, he appealed to his archenemy, Israel, to recognize him as the “legitimate” head of the Palestinian people, which they did. My thoughts at the time were “How’n the hell did that ever happen?”

Israel has the weirdest politics imaginable. There are two major parties, neither of which enjoys a clear majority and many small splinter parties. After each election both the larger parties pander to the smaller parties to form a coalition government. That gives tiny minorities huge sway in government policy.

The Palestinian Authority, the ruling body for the Palestinians is also made up of splinter groups, denying any sort of consensus in making peace with Israel.

If a Palestinian thinks rapprochement has gone far enough, he straps on a few kilos of Semtex and goes to find his portal to Paradise. If an Israeli is likewise convinced, he murders the Prime Minister.

That’s a couple of major players, but lately the focus has shifted north to Lebanon. A former PM was spectacularly assassinated by a road side bomb and the finger was immediately pointed at Syria which has a 15,000 man military occupation force in the country.

Whereupon the US demanded Syria remove them, and a number of European countries took up the hue and cry. Israel later blamed Syria for instigating the most recent suicide bombing, therby intensifying the clamor.

Syria obviously for the moment seems more concerned that the US will invade rather than denouncements from Jerusalem or Beirut. As a peace gesture it immediately arrested and handed over a couple of dozen Iraqi fugitives whom they claim to have just discovered. The former members of Sadam’s regime had taken shelter in Hasakah, Syria, a city of 200,000, situated 30 odd miles from the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The US and Iraqi military forces have known about them for some time. In early January, Major General AlShahwani, Chief of Intelligence, named the fugitives, their location, and claimed them to be the leadership of the Sunni insurgents who are merrily murdering as many Shi’ia and westerners as they can get suicide bombers to go after.

In the meantime, Lebanese who are incensed at the murder of their former PM have forced the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. Syria is backing away from the situation as quickly as possible while mumbling words to the effect that the change of Lebanese government is an internal matter while at the same time loudly crying that a US led invasion is imminent.

Syria will have to wait their turn, as NKorea, Iran, and Venezuela also expect us to invade. Right at the moment we don’t have anyone to invade with. The Girl Scouts won’t be available until after their cookie drive, and the Army marching band is polishing instruments in anticipation of their annual IG inspection.

This almost reads like a Joseph Heller novel, but the people who are dying daily in Iraq remove any hint of humor in this sad situation, the tongue in cheek rhetorical question from one of Ike’s cabinet members, “Why can’t they solve their problems like good Christians?” notwithstanding.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Witch Hunt in Kansas

I was skimming through the news on Yahoo this morning and came across a disturbing article detailing the Kansas Attorney General’s attempts to obtain complete medical records of several dozen girls who had abortions in 2003. That was the year that 78 girls under the age of 15 had abortions according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Sixteen is the minimum age for consensual sex there.

The ardent pro-life AG, Phill Kline makes the point that statutory rape needs prosecuting, hence the need to access the medical records. The equally ardent pro-choice Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, and several women lawmakers have weighed in against the AG according the KC Star. (Reg. Req’d)

The entire investigation which is several months along had been kept under wraps by prosecution friendly courts applying seals and gag orders. That is, it was under wraps up until the point the clinics which had their records subpoenaed appealed to the state Supreme Court. (Whoever gave state courts the power to abrogate the first ammendment in situtions of this nature needs the rethink their American Values.)

Now the issue is out in the open with several Kansas newspapers and television stations, as well as the LA Times carrying articles on the matter. The National Organization For Women has joined its voice to the growing controversy. Their president, Kim Gandy, has characterized Kline’s secretive methods as “ . . an outrageous violation of privacy.” She went on to say, "These people don't know their personal and private information are at risk. It's as if these women are being treated as terrorists or worse."

(I'm rarely in agreement with any NOW pronouncement. This might even be the first time ever. The AG has chosen to use tactics that are questionable even when applied to cases of national security and have no business being employed against teen age girls and their families who have nothing in common other than the need to have a distasteful, but legally protected, medical procedure performed.)

Also in the contentious mix are organizations on both sides of the abortion issue. Another complicating factor is at least one of the clinics involved has provided abortion services to clients from out of state.

My heart goes out to the young women whose adolescence has been deeply scarred by the heart breaking experience of having to abort an unwanted child. Some, of course, are victims of formerly trusted adults, but most likely the majority have indulged in a teenager’s curiosity with boys their own age which would make them as guilty of statutory rape as their partners.

These girls should have as much help and compassion as their families and communities can provide. The last thing they need is to have their young lives invaded by an overly ambitious, self-righteous, crusading politician posing as a Christian who publicly eats the fanatic hell fire and brimstone doctrine with a spoon.

Surely none have sunk to the degradation of Mary Magdalene who Jesus protected from mob execution by the admonishment, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They really do not need to be drawn into a fractious political battle as pawns.

If Kline was really sure of his ground, he would not have sought subpoenas for their clinical records, rather he would have obtained search warrants and had them seized by police at gunpoint. Even so, if he is successful in his quest for information, he will face the daunting task of getting the girls to talk. Again, in the case that the respective sperm donors were not of the age of legal consent, the girls are liable for prosecution and should decline interviews under fifth amendment protection.

Meth labs proliferate in Kansas like mushrooms in a cow pasture after a rain. That poison predictably will kill thousands of Kansans down the road. Let me suggest that all of Kansas law enforcement has higher priorities than pursuing this matter.

If this is something that piques your curiosity, Google’s search engine returned several news articles by using "phill kline" as the search object.

It’s Friday evening and I’d like to get out and catch a little live music, but can’t seem to find anything that excites me enough to bother with it.

I was tabbing my way through my favorites file under Music, when I came across a link to BBC. A while back, I had wound up there by accident and heard a blues show I thought was noteworthy. Describing how British Blues differs from American Blues is a challenge. Let’s just say that British musicians don’t seem to be as gritty as the domestic variety. My tongue in cheek characterization is that they sound like they had a bath and are wearing new clothes. Hard to be really blue in such circumstances.

Tonight I can’t locate their blues stream so I settle for what is supposed to be jazz. Sure enough the first cut up is The Benny Goodman Sextet doing a boogie woogie, but the DJ blew it by putting on the Doobie Brothers next. As they would say in Pflugerville, Texas, Do Whut?

Still in BBC, I surfed to another jazz stream and am now listening to Riley King doing “3 O’clock Blues.” It is a hoot to hear an elderly Brit announcer going on about the man, later known to the world as B.B. King, who brought blues to mainstream America. Brit rockers also helped a great deal, as you might know.

To ‘eck with it. I think I will groove on this stream and compose yet another diatribe to post here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Different Stroke

This came in recently and I just had to share it with the rest of the world.

A University of Texas Professor of Para-Psychology was giving a lecture to a freshman class.

He began by asking, “How many of you believe in ghosts? Raise your hands please.” Most of the kids raised their hands.

He then asked, “How many of you have seen a ghost?” A bit less than half raised their hands.

His next question was, “How many have had a conversation with a ghost?” Only a few hands went up in response.

He followed that with, “And how many have made love with a ghost?” At this, a single hand went up way in the back of the room.

“Please come to the front of the room and tell us about it.” The prof directed. The young man who made his way to the front was one of the boys from Hemphill.

“Tell us please, what was it like having sex with a ghost.”

“Ghost?” The young man stammered. “Dang, from back yonder I thought you said ‘goat’.”

An Interesting Difference of Opinion
(See story here)

A three judge panel of the Ninth District Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 2-1 ruling that a child molester who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in Nevada should have his conviction overturned.

The decision was based on a 2004 Supreme Court decision that the accused has the right to confront and cross examine witnesses against him in a court of law.

In this particular case, the Ninth applied the ruling retroactively to the 1988 conviction of Marvin Bockting. His then 6 year old step daughter had convinced police by way of demonstration that molestation had occurred and a physician had also agreed the child had been sexually abused. The problem came in the preliminary hearing when the child could not remember the incident or telling police of it. The jury convicted on allowable hearsay evidence. The Supreme Court threw out that concept.

Two other District Courts Of Appeal have used a narrower definition of the high court ruling. Their opinions are that the ruling applies to current and future cases, not retroactively. The issue is headed back to the Supreme Court if the Nevada Attorney General has his way.

All lawyering aside, the victim should now be well into her twenties. Why not turn the scum bag loose, re-arrest him and see how the defense lawyers fare with an adult on the stand? What would work out even better would be to hold him in general population in a county jail during the trial. My guess is he would be extremely happy to get back to prison where people like him are protected from other inmates.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

It Is A Cold And Rainy Day

I have a couple of good books from the library and am spending a blustery, rainy February Saturday staying dry and listening to the very excellent blues show streaming from KKJZ, Cal State Long Beach. Sean Heitkemper, the announcer, has touted the premium tickets for the Long Beach Blues Festival several times. The one upcoming (Labor Day Weekend) is the 26th annual festival. They’re held at the CSULB athletic field.

That got me to thinking and wondering about the upcoming good-weather festivals which go on from late spring to well into the fall here in California.

One of the sites I have bookmarked is Sonoma Tunes guide to California blues festivals I spent a half hour or so leafing through all the festivals I plan to attend and looked over the ones I would like to attend.

On the “will do” list is Fountain Blues Festival here in San Jose, the Hayward-Russell City Festival in Hayward, and the Central Valley Blues Festival in Merced. On the “more-than-likely likely list” are the Santa Cruz and San Francisco Blues Festivals.

On the “I’d like to” list are the Doheny Heritage Festival at Doheny State Park, Dana Point and the Russian River Blues Festival.

All-in-all, my favorite is the Central Valley Blues Festival held at the Merced County Court House Park on the Saturday and Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend. The venue is delightful, the music great, and the side attractions have proven superb over the years.

This past year, the premier band at the festival, the J.C. Smith band augmented by four incredible Chicago blues men, held forth at a local blues and jazz club from ten to midnight on Saturday night for a modest $5 cover charge. The place was packed and the band played on. One of the richest musical experiences I can recall.

My next favorite is the Hayward-Russell City Blues Festival held in City Hall Plaza in Hayward. The mainstay of which the is Bay Area Blues Society which has many productions throughout the year. If you visit their website, do yourself a favor and have your sound enabled.

I also like the Fountain Blues Festival even though it is only a one day affair. It is usually held Mother’s Day Saturday, but this year it is scheduled for the following weekend.

Santa Cruz Blues Festival is always fun, but the weather can be iffy on Monterey Bay that time of year. One can expect and had best be prepared for fog blowing in off Monterey Bay at 40 knots and/or broiling sun, but the music is good.

Attending anything in San Francisco for an out-of-towner is a major undertaking. Parking is at a premium, even out in the Marina District. Over the years I have found parking in an asphalt covered middle school playground for ten tax deductible dollars per day, which leaves a 6 block walk. I have seen some truly entertaining acts there in years gone by which made the effort worth it.

In addition, the SF Blues Festival is held on the Great Meadow of Fort Mason which is situated on a slightly sloping hill that is oriented east to west. The west is the low end where they put the stage. If you get tired of watching what’s happening on the stage you can always watch the fog bank ebb and flow around the Golden Gate Bridge.

Listening to, thinking about, and writing about the blues this afternoon has cheered me no end. Lay on, winter rain, I am snug in body and mind.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Free Speech? Well, maybe. Depends On Whether You’re PC

Ward Churchill and Lawrence Summers are in hot water for supposedly saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Churchill likened 9/11 World Trade Tower victims to Nazi mass-murderer Adolph Eichmann and Summers sees “innate differences” between men and women to explain why proportionately fewer women find their way into upper mathematics and science. There have been storms of protest and threatened firings for airing their opinions.

Churchill is shielded from such repercussions by virtue of the fact that he is a tenured U of Colorado prof, but Summers, President of Harvard, hasn’t that safety net. Their respective situations seem to be guiding their public statements. Churchill has told everyone to sit on it and has stuck to his guns. Summers is apologizing to anyone who will listen. Kissing you know what at every opportunity.

While both hold unpopular opinions, Churchill’s point of view is very likely shared by a goodly number of Native Americans, while Summers’s rings true for me who has spent a few decades in the high tech work places here in Silicon Valley. I think that if HR directors here were polled, the fact may be that Summers is absolutely correct.

My guess is that if the cause of feminism requires that men do not hold or voice positions contrary to the NOW party line, it is not a worthwhile cause.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Spyware and Worms

My friend, OWW, does go on today about all the crapola that can be picked up from playing on the internet.

True. All true. I have a couple of freebie mail accounts on Yahoo. To access these accounts, I am required to enable cookies. I did that this morning to check the mail. There were two I needed to answer, so I was on Yahoo for maybe 20 minutes with cookies enabled.

After finishing up with their mail program, I put the privacy bar back up (disabling cookies) and then ran LavaSoft® Ad-AwareSE, the freebie spyware detector. I had six infections courtesy of Yahoo.

Please keep in mind that Yahoo has issued many, many press releases deploring spyware, and yet they do it. Sounds a bit like Baptists going on about booze, what?

On another note, My email client is MS Outlook. This morning I attempted to send a document from MS Word to one of my friends and the operation was aborted because my Norton Antivirus detected the presence of the Netsky worm in the missive.

That was a little confusing as I had just run a NAV scan the day before with nothing of the sort indicated on my entire computer. I closed the Word app. Later when I checked mail, there was a unopened email from my ISP, SBCGlobal, that an uncleaned attachment on an unsolicited email contained the Netsky worm. After deleting it and all the spam that didn’t get picked up, I was able to send the document as an attachment.

Back to OWW’s column. I opened the link to SpyBot, and would you believe, the first thing that registered was an article deploring a competitor ripping off their name to sell crapola that doesn’t work.

It would appear that the rip off artists and digital vandals are alive and well. Not safe mind you, until the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.
To Be Or Not To Be Is No Longer The Question

One of the metaphors of the past was “Gone the way of the passenger pigeon.” Meaning something extinct, obsolete, or otherwise passé. The passenger pigeon was the most numerous avian species in the 19th Century. It was something of a table treat and was shot out of existence before the end of the century. Ornithologists captured the few remaining individuals in hopes that a captive breeding program would restore some semblance of the once magnificent flocks, but alas, to no avail. The last bird passed over in 1914.

Here’s an excerpt from the online Smithsonian Encyclopedia:
Early explorers and settlers frequently mentioned passenger pigeons in their writings. Samuel de Champlain in 1605 reported "countless numbers," Gabriel Sagard-Theodat wrote of "infinite multitudes," and Cotton Mather described a flight as being about a mile in width and taking several hours to pass overhead. Yet by the early 1900s no wild passenger pigeons could be found.

It would appear, however, that extinction will soon be rendered moot. The Australian Museum has announced it will no longer pursue the cloning of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, not because the science of the project has proven unfeasible, but because the specimen DNA from a pup pickled in alcohol 136 years ago isn’t up to snuff.

The movie, Jurassic Park, treated us to what looks to be near-future non-fictional science, wherein dinosaurs extinct for some 60+ millions of years were recreated using DNA found in the digestive tracks of flies from the period which had been preserved in amber.

It would appear that if it is feasible to clone complex mammals like a sheep in the case of Dolly or an omnivorous marsupial, it will not be too long before some of my long lost heroes can be raised from the dead. I just hope their immune systems are up to dealing with modern diseases, as bacteria and viruses have continued to mutate all that time they’ve been resting.

But, the more I think about it, the better I like the idea. Can you imagine going to a concert to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ronnie Van Zandt, Duane Allman, and Jimi Hendrix playing on the same bill? If anybody is getting up a fund to do this, I have ten bucks.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Letting It All Hang Out

US Marine LtGen James Mattis has been called on the carpet for some off hand remarks wherein he claimed it was fun to shoot people, particularly men who beat women. Mattis has a distinguished combat record and is highly revered by Marines.

The Commandant of the Corps and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Joints Chiefs Of Staff, both of whom are four stars, obviously approve of General Mattis’s sentiments but somehow conveyed minor displeasure with the exact wording of the general’s comments.

There was also disapproval expressed on the part of some Arabs.

. . . the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties group, wants the Pentagon to go further and discipline Mattis.

"We do not need generals who treat the grim business of war as a sporting event," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement. "These disturbing remarks are indicative of an apparent indifference to the value of human life."

Something Mr. Awad might keep in mind is that Marines seldom shoot anyone who has America’s best interest at heart. For my part, I believe that people who like what they do usually do a better job. Therefore, it is gratifying to read of an American hero who takes such delight in his work.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Noteworthy Quotation

I was scanning through this morning’s national news on Yahoo when I came across an article about the fight at a girl’s basketball game in Prattville, AL.

The fight started among students of rival schools and quickly spread. What caught my eye was the following:

"Initially, there were 30, then it started spreading like cockroaches," said another parent, Joanne Heningburg.
I had to laugh at that. It has been a decade or two since I lived in the south. So long, in fact, that I probably wouldn’t use the same metaphor. It did bring to mind the fact that routine requirements for successful living are somewhat more numerous than in Silicon Valley. One of them is frequent spraying for cockroaches lest the infestations run one out of house and home.

As far as the fight goes, there are some people in jail, some people going to jail, and a CNN crew wrapping up shooting.

Prattville is now as famous as Matewan, WV.

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