Thursday, March 31, 2005

Women Columnists

Susan Estrich stirred up a hornet’s nest among opinion writers for the “legitimate” press in a published email to Michael Kinsley, Editorials Editor of the LA Times. She was berating him for not publishing more women, namely her, bewailing the women he did publish did not speak with a “woman’s voice,” and wondered if his Parkinson’s disease had affected his ability to make sane decisions.

Writers of both genders jumped into this virtual brawl. Jonathan Turley who lost his father to the disease wondered if she might not have a notional disease called “Chronic Myopic Distemper.” Turley gets my vote for having the nicest way of saying “Total B***h.”

Burt Prelutsky’s piece was in entitled “In This Corner, Wearing Brass Knuckles, Susan Estrich.” Burt has been a comedy writer for years and his observations are hilarious.

J.R. Labbe, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who is a woman, wondered what a woman’s voice sounded like when it wasn’t spouting the female mantra; yipping lap dogs? Another comment in line with Professor Turley’s suggesting caninity.

Cynthia Hall Clements of the Lufkin Daily News assured us that women writers have opinions, too. Nothing like emphasizing the obvious there, Cyndi, but opinions aren’t limited to females who can write.

Billie Stanton, Tucson Citizen, led her piece with this headline: Female editorial writers should opine, not whine.

This is merely a sample, a lot of other writers have weighed in for this battle. Pretty juicy stuff, all in all.

While all this is entertaining, I think one — let me repeat that — one woman writer per editorial page is sufficient. After all, one writer per Op-Ed page who is always right is ample.

I ask you, have you ever known a woman to be wrong? If you did, I hope you didn’t let on or you would really have your ’ear in a crack.

I’m sure you remember the cogent observation: A woman always gets the last word. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argumnent.

Even Estrich refuses to admit stepping over the line, and defends — weakly — her verbiage, proving once more (was there ever any doubt) that she is indeed female and speaks with a “woman’s voice.”

Try It, You’ll Like It

Today is the 8th anniversary of my becoming smoke free. Good stuff, that.

Teri RIP

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Big Brother Vs. Vigilantes
The Keystone Kops In Arizona

The Mexican border with the states of New Mexico and Arizona is now the focus of attention from the highest levels. Dubya tells us the terrorists are coming.

What’s been going on there for decades is ready human trafficking. Impoverished Latin Americans (not only Mexicans) have selected that route to the land of plenty because it was so lightly patrolled that only the inept or the terminally hapless were intercepted and returned to Mexico.

Up until now this has been a small problem. The vast majority of the service economy of the Southwest is based on the people who have come here without permission of the proper authorities. They were once called “Illegals,” now they are merely “undocumented” and would have been eligible for driver’s licenses here in California had not Arnie intervened.

There is a Home Depot store a couple of miles from here, and on any given day you can find a hundred or so swarthy men dressed for and seeking day work. If there’s a green card in the bunch I would be highly surprised.

No one around here wants the illegals, undocumenteds, or whatever to go home. Who would wash our cars? Who would baby sit? Who would tend the gardens?

The problem is the with the middle class in Arizona. Uninvited workers, like the impoverished anywhere, will do what it takes to eat. Consequently there is petty theft galore along with drug smuggling. Petty theft is an irritant; drugs are anything but a laughing matter. This has been an ongoing concern of the local citizenry for decades.

Pleas to the Fed to enforce immigration law were met with lame excuses centering on budgetary constraints (or lunar radiation, maybe). At long last the citizens of the Southwest heard enough bull bleep from Washington and raised a body of volunteers who will provide their own side arms and transport. They have dubbed themselves “Minutemen.”

The Minutemen have announced plans to commence border patrol operations in Cochise County, Arizona, April 1.

Organized law enforcement is not about to put up with civilians presuming to tread on their turf. Just think, if civilians could stop crime there would be no need for law enforcement officers, judges, bailiffs, prison guards, court clerks, et cetera, et cetera. An entire industry called the Criminal Justice System would be in jeopardy if citizens could deter evildoers from breaking the law.

No one was concerned about the porosity of the border before the Minutemen became an idea that looked like it might gel. Suddenly there’s intelligence that terrorists will cross the border in strength and Dubya recentlty met with Fox of Mexico and Martin of Canada to talk of stopping terrorists entering from Mexico.

Why is this just now becoming a problem? How come we weren't plugging that hole in 2002? 2003? 2004? Did the intelligence community end their long snooze, hear about 9/11 and decide that most terrorists have brown skin and coincidently so do most Hispanics?

This mornings Yahoo news carried an AP article on the plans to add Border Patrol Agents to the area.

If dedicated terrorists want to come here they will probably come the same way the last bunch did; on regularly scheduled airliners. What needs to be kept in mind is the men who perpetrated 9/11 came here legally. They didn’t overtly become terrorists until it was too late to stop them.

Now, of course, the Fed has lists. Those lists kept us safe from that desperado, the arch-fiend Yusuf Islam, AKA Cat Stevens. A good thing that; once you’ve heard “Moon Shadow” a hundred times it will probably be enough.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Jesse Jetstream And The Cult Of Narcissism

It’s another of those rainy spring days. I may get dressed and go to the library later, but the morning has been given over to poking through the news items.

Burt Prelutsky’s article in Men’s News Daily is hilarious. I strongly recommend that you do not do as I did. I was drinking coffee at the time. Oh, well, I’ve been needing to laundry anyway.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has now insinuated himself into the Schiavo tragedy. It’s all over but the slow walking and sad singing and here we are with an opportunistic minister trying to get his sound bites on TV.

The issue has been decided in a court of law — several of them, in fact. Congress’ pandering to the Christian right and Dubya’s grandstanding have met with strongly expressed disapproval.

The CBS poll – which I previously mentioned and don’t trust as far as I can throw William Paley’s tomb stone – is supported by a Time poll which indicates that most Americans have deep disgust for their elected representatives for intruding into this deeply personal matter. Time’s poll indicates that a lot of the Christian right feel the same as their less religious countrymen.

The panderers just thought they were pandering and it blew up in their faces. If that poll truly indicated the feelings of the electorate, a lot of law makers had better get the old damage control machines working full time. If elections were to be held tomorrow, a lot of ’em would be looking for new jobs.

The questions that weren’t asked and should have been:

  1. “Have you had enough of all this high drama?”
  2. “Can we pray for the people affected and move on?”
  3. “Can’t news editors find something else to publish?”

I’d bet a big nickel on a majority of yea votes on those three.

Now along comes Jesse attempting to stir the pot some more. Rabble rousing among the unstable people gathered at her hospice.

Terrible timing, dude.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The good weather has gone elsewhere. That little bit of sunshine was a most welcome visitor., but now the wind is gusting, rattling the windows in this old apartment, and more rain is forecast. As if that weren’t good reason to stay indoors, Mercury is retrograde.

Retrograde Mercury is an astrological condition occurring three times a year and lasting about three weeks each time. My tongue-in-cheek glib explanation is that it is three weeks of Mondays. That’s also the title of a novel I will finish . . . one of these days.

This condition is where phone calls, emails, and faxes go astray, traffic lights fail, fender benders occur, and people are struck with some sort of preoccupation that causes forgetfulness.

Both the climatic and astrological conditions are enough to keep me indoors, working crosswords and reading blogs. Mercury has decided to not go along with my insignificant little plans. OWW can’t get on to the blogger site, and the LA Times has decided that I really don’t need to work their crossword today.

That’s not much of a problem in the cosmic scheme of things, but there are crosswords to be had on the NZ site Stuff. The problem with that is one must learn to organise one’s colour programme lest there be a terrible odour.

Oh, well. Hurry, Mayday!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Our Little Identity Crisis

The national preoccupation with the legal battle between the parents and husband of Terri Schiavo has lured both houses of congress into ill considered action and had the president looking to be a bigger ass than usual.

CBS, not the most trustworthy of news services, has conducted a poll in which, if it can be believed, reveals the disgust the majority of Americans have with both congressional and presidential actions.

The unfortunate woman’s impending demise has become a self-feeding circus, fueled by the actions of the Fed and the governor of Florida. The chaos ruling outside the hospice where she lies prevented one woman from reaching her dying grandfather’s bedside before he passed on and a man was arrested for offering money for the murder of Michael Schiavo and an un-named judge who has been involved in the legal battle.

The story has made its way to other countries. My New Zealand pen pal had this to say in a recent email:
I have to say I was appalled when I saw Dubya smirking at the TV camera, having decided to interfere in what should surely have been a family/judicial matter. Pandering to the bible belt, no doubt.
She’s got his number.

The brightest spot in this sad affair is the re-affirmation of our system of government. Congress thinks it ordered the Federal courts to review the entire case. They might have, and if so, the courts rightfully ignored legislation and continued to find the issue belonged to the state of Florida. Specifically to the Florida courts which have been unanimous in their opinions that Terri Schiavo’s future is in the hands of her husband, Michael, and the parents have no say in the matter.

Her condition is a tragedy brought on by misdiagnosis. My heart goes out to her family and I will pray for their anguish to be comforted, but I have nothing but contempt for the political opportunists who prolonged this agony. One has to keep in mind that they are the idiots who thought invading Iraq was a good idea.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Too Much Of A Good Thing Is A Great Place To Start

I was doing a little surfing towards Russia and Central Asia to see what’s up with the Kyrgyz revolution when an article in MOSNEWS caught my eye. It’s about the virtual avalanche of religious sects that have poured into or been homegrown since the breakup of the USSR.

It’s well written and well worth reading. Here is an excerpt:
The Church of Scientology, Jehovah witnesses, the Church of Christ, you name
it — it all came to Russia after 1989. After observing western
missionaries, Russia’s own religious entrepreneurs have started cooking up their
own little cults. A bit of Russian Orthodox, a pinch of Slavic paganism, a
handful of mysticism, then add some mass-culture phenomenon like the Snow Man,
UFOs, a medicinal teaching about the panacea of baking soda, and you have a nice
religious sect, ready for operation.

Texas City

April 16, 1947, dawned cloudy and chilly in Beaumont, Texas. It was a good morning to be indoors and in class. I was in second grade at Magnolia Elementary on Doucette Ave at the time. There was never any choice about being in class; corporal punishment for wayward brats was still very much in vogue in those days.

Air conditioning was a fairly recent advent before World War II when Magnolia was built. The school didn't have it, instead there were high ceilings along with large windows that opened at both top and bottom so as to deal with Texas Gulf Coast heat.

I remember those big windows suddenly rattling violently for several long seconds. We were all startled and wondered what had happened. I found out after school. Texas City, some sixty-five miles off, had blown up.

In those days I was something under 4’ tall and so a mile to me was an almost unimaginable distance. Sixty-five of ‘em . . . well. An explosion that rattled windows that far away . . . what could have done that?

I wasn’t the only one wondering. The Air Force Strategic Air Command at first thought Texas had suffered a nuclear attack. What had gone off in the first explosion was at least 1,850 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer aboard a former Liberty ship with a French crew. The fertilizer was for the farmers of Europe. The ship became 14 million pounds of shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye.

No one knows when the pier side warehouse holding more AN went up. Maybe then, maybe hours later when the next ship blew up. Hundreds dead, thousands injured, hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed, two ships atomized, a port destroyed along with nearby petroleum refineries and chemical plants. A big mess. A big, expensive mess.

It would appear that it’s happened again on a smaller scale. There have been fatalities, but nothing on the scale of ’47. That’s the good news. The bad news is 3% of the nation’s gasoline comes from the BP refinery that blew up which will drive prices up by 10%. I just love the mathematics of energy. Don’t you?
A Fall From Grace

The Sun is shining! Something of a treat here at the south end of San Francisco Bay. Maybe the soggy hills around here will dry out before they slide down upon the neighbors downhill.

I have dawdled over coffee, cross words, and the morning news. I have a list of people who have written amusing things recently. J.R. Labbe, Burt Prelutsky, Jonathan Turley, Maureen Dowd, and Susan Estrich in particular. I was Google searching on their names when I came across a blog entitled “News Hounds.” (I’ll have to get a new version of Strunk & White to see if the names of blogs should be italicized alá newspapers.)

News Hounds proclaims it watches FOX so we won’t have to. That thought cheered me no end. Warmed the cockles of my heart, it did. As I was searching on “Jonathan Turley,” and knowing that Susan Estrich is a regular commentator on FOX, I thought it might be another blast in the Kinsley-Estrich war which has been joined by Prelutsky, Labbe, and Turley.

Not at all. FOX had him on as a talking head. Surprise! Surprise!

He was asked to offer commentary on the non-issue of the day, namely the controversy surrounding the termination of life support of Teri Shiavo.

I wonder why FOX picked him rather than call on Susan. Could our babe have put her proverbial paw in her mouth by trouncing Kinsley for not having a sufficient number of liberal women on the OP-ED? Then too, maybe the gate keepers at SPCA wouldn’t let her out in time to get to the studio and Jonathan got the gig instead,

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Waste Of Time

A couple of weeks or so ago, a friend sent along this url and some simple directions. To see Yeti make Penguin fly click the mouse and then again when Penguin passes into the strike zone.

You’ll need Flash Player.

Have fun, and don’t let the boss catch you.
Arrogance Times

My friend OWW, Pajamahadeen Extraordinary, takes umbrage at Tina Brown’s likening us bloggers to the DDR’s STASI. I think one should consider the source.

Earlier in the article she characterized a potential Hillary Clinton/Condoleeza Rice match up in the ’08 election as “two girls going at it.” (The phrase bears the connotation of mud wrestling in a girly bar, which, on reflection, would be an improvement over the ’04 campaign. But I digress.)

Tina, Sweet Thing, it has been a long, long time since Hilary Rodham-Clinton was a girl.

Something else I saw yesterday that was bothersome. It was a link from Yahoo News to Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times, March 17, blurb on the Blake trial. He claims the murder weapon was never found. (It was roundly reported by several sources that the WWII vintage pistol was found in a nearby trash bin.) Roeper also prattles on about Blake’s year in jail. Not so. Bobby-baby made bail. A tad steep at 1.5 meg, but he made it.

Back in 2001, a Chinese fighter pilot buzzing a Navy EP-3E Aries on patrol 70 miles from Hainan Island actually struck the Aries with his F8-II aircraft killing himself and setting off an international incident.

The press took up the hue and cry that a brave Chinese airman had defended his country unto the death from the incursion of an American spy plane. I expect that kind of crapola from the sensationalists in Europe, but what boils my buns is the NY Times referred to the Aries as a spy plane several times.

We have spy planes, most of which are remotely controlled, some are readily observable in their daily activities, and then there are the mystery birds roaring out of Area 51 in the hours of darkness. None of them are manned by navy crews or called “Aries.” The ship is properly classed as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

I sent the Times an email pointing out their error which was never acknowledged, nor did they ever correct their copy. Like I said, arrogance.

Now that blogging is making inroads in to what has been an exclusive preserve, people like Tina Brown are taking pot-shots intimating that bloggers are some sinister source. Maybe we are and maybe we aren't.

With models like these in the “legitimate” press, we pajamahadeen would have much latitude at worst and could be a huge improvement at best.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Another Battle Erupts

Maureen Dowd, the “token” Op-Ed columnist for the NY Times has set off another round in the testosterone vs. estrogen battles of Editorial Writers.

Commenting on a recent report that women are genetically more complicated than men, she sweetly added this little barb:

Research published last week in the journal Nature reveals that women are
genetically more complex than scientists ever imagined, while men remain the
simple creatures they appear.
Well . . . yeah. Beer, pizza, football, sex, and fast cars. What else is there besides faster motorcycles and more powerful hand guns?

Years ago, long before the Roman conquest of Europe and their introduction of what has come to be known as Christianity, there was a natural order to things. The differences between the sexes were brought into an elegant harmony over the centuries.

Women were the priests, healers, teachers, nurturers — the center of civilization, in other words. Men were given the dangerous jobs of hunting and fighting. Such a division of labor obviously left many fewer men than women. The Darwinian selection process at work.

Only the toughest, smartest, luckiest guys stayed in the gene pool. When it came time to make babies, they had their choice of women. They picked the comely and the talented.

The system worked well for millennia. Ideal for small bands of hunter-gatherers cum farmers-sedentary ranchers. Unfortunately, there was no conceivable way for small bands to stand up to Roman military prowess and so a way of life was lost.

Long after the Romans were beaten out of Northern Europe by hordes of Eastern invaders, the genetic heritage lived on. Overlaid with the Christian imprint of patriarchy and Roman militarism, Europe’s coastal nations conquered and ruled Africa, Southern Asia, Southeast Asia, North and South America, and Oceania for centuries.

That’s all going away now. It’s called progress.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

New Serenade

The weather has turned to spritz. It’s only a drizzle, but not something I want to be out in. A few days ago, I got Win Media Player operating well enough to program a day of entertainment.

I have scored and uploaded CDs from the following artists recently: Madeleine Peyroux, Jane Monheit, Eva Cassidy, Susannah McCorkle, Maceo Parker, Joe Henderson, Pee Wee Russell, Regina Carter, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Monty Alexander, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Art Pepper/Chet Baker, Charlie Haden/Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Dr. John. A total of over 17 hours. 17:30:11 if the display is correct.

I selected them all and activated "Shuffle." (MP has Repeat, as well) It was a great mix. Most jazz programs don’t have that quality of presentation. A good day for excellent fiction and good music. Not to mention some of that dynamite soup from Trader Joe's.

I did get an email from the San Jose library telling me I could now check out the ebook version of State of Fear, Michael Crichton’s new pot boiler. They allow 48 hours from the time the email is sent. It was dated Saturday evening and would be easy to miss in the case a subscriber was away for the weekend.

I had elected to download it in PDF back when I reserved it. The download didn’t go well. The library didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t allowing cookies. Once that was taken care of, it still didn’t work.

I checked my Acrobat version. I had V5 and V6 on this machine. I tried downloading V7, but that was a no-go until I uninstalled my present versions. I’m on SBC’s DSL and it still took a half hour to down load it and install it on my desktop which a 1.5 GHz Pentium.

Over the years I have not been a fan of Adobe products. Slow to open, difficult to manipulate and decidedly not user friendly. Acrobat V7 does a lot to dispel that disapproval. I installed a shortcut to the ebook file on my desktop. Doing a double click on it brings the document up, displaying the last page I left off at in a matter of 12 seconds. That’s getting better.

By comparison, I have some shortcuts to Baen titles in Word format on the desktop that open in 8 seconds if Word is already open and 15 seconds if it has to be opened., Then more keystrokes and time are needed to get to the place I bookmarked. Adobe wins that contest by 4 seconds and 2 keystrokes.

The display quality is still up for debate. I am accustomed to reading Baen novels on word which has very good graphic displays as does Acrobat, but the “view” of Word is much more versatile.

I will rate Acrobat 7 adequate and a huge improvement over V5 and V6. Right direction, guys. Keep on truckin’.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Entertainment Is Where You Find It

When it comes to celebrity trials in California, everybody is trying to make a buck.
Browsing through the Google news this morning, I came across an article in the San Jose Mercury [Regsistration Required] concerning a musician who sat in the jury box for 12 weeks at the Robert Blake trial. As a juror, he couldn’t share his thoughts with anyone, so he rewrote the lyrics, lyrics of some immediacy to the trial, for some of his rock band’s recent compositions. The resulting album is entitled “Judgement Day” and the band is Mission In The Hills. I’m still trying to run down the band’s website. I’ll put it here when I find it.

In another hilarious vein, Burt Prelutsky writing for the IntellectualConservative.Com, blasts Susan Estrich’s attack on Michael Kinsley, LA Times Editorial Page Editor. Kinsley has Parkinson’s Disease and Ms. Estrich opined that it probably affected his mentation. Prelutsky’s writing equals that of Jonathan Turley who also took a swipe at Estrich on this matter.

Prelutsky might have overstepped the bounds, however. As a prelude, he slammed the wealthy activist divorcees on West Side LA, then tore into Mme. Estrich before insinuating that her female law class students might not yet have mastered the ability to count.

Jeesh. Big mistake, that. You’re gonna have a gaggle of young women picketing your place. That will attract guys who will need to demonstrate their testosterone to impress the babes.

What around your place do you not want broken?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Saint Patrick’s Day

Part of my morning routine these days is working the downloadable crossword puzzles from the Houston Chronicle and the LA Times. I’m seldom stumped, but today’s Times got me.

After making sure I had enough mental juices going to maybe comprehend what I was reading, I scanned through the news articles on Yahoo.

One of the big news items out here on the left coast is Robert Blake’s acquittal for the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The LA District Attorney looks to be having a little trouble getting convictions of celebrities who do in the sluts who conned them into marriage.

In the case of celebrity trials, the published commentary can be highly entertaining. That was certainly true in this case. One of the links from the Yahoo story was to an LA Times Commentary authored by Jonathan Turley.

Turley has a way with words and I quote:
Bakley proved the best witness for the defense, a person whose very life seemed committed to creating reasonable doubt in defense of anyone who would end it.
Further on:
Bakley's history is being used to establish the classic defense: Someone else did it. The defense has tried to show that you could virtually throw a stick anywhere in L.A. and hit a couple of people who would have wanted to kill Bakley.
Turley’s admirable writing style sent me searching for other articles of his authorship.

His two day old article in Jewish World Review ridiculing Susan Estrich directly and feminism indirectly brought a chuckle. As both he and Ms. Estrich are lawyers, law professors, in fact, the battle joined looks to be better than any heavy weight prize fight I ever saw.

And here I thought the art of vituperation was passé here in America.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Do I Love Technology, Or What?

I am a member of 2 lending libraries; Santa Clara County by virtue of the fact that the Campbell City Library is part of the County System and the San Jose Library which just saw the merger of San Jose State University’s library with that of the City of San Jose.

Michael Crichton has written a new book; State Of Fear. The county has 20 copies of it, I am number 108 on the waiting list. Oh, joy! I am now more determined than ever to read it, so I thought I would check the San Jose Library.

I accessed the web site and requested it be put on hold and got back a big red error message telling me I couldn’t have it. As any literate Texan would ask, “Do Whuut?” (Texans are reputed to be the only people on earth who can put 14 vowels in the scatological four letter term meaning fecal matter.)

I can’t reserve a hard copy from the screen I was on, it’s an Ebook which is limited to 62 downloads a month. It being the Ides of March and late in the day at that, this month’s quota might be all used up.

The lending program did verify my membership data and asked for my email address so as to notify me when my time comes.

As this is a first attempt at downloading an ebook from the library, I’ll have to let you know how it goes as it goes.

I already buy some pretty good sci-fi soft copies from Baen Books. They’re reasonably inexpensive. 5 titles for $15. Can’t go wrong if 2 or more tickle your fancy, or fantasy, or whatever.

Between the excellent music streaming over the internet and the easy access to international news (MOSNEWS today had an interesting article on quality life extension via the use of stem cells), I may never sign up for cable or satellite TV again. At least not until the costs come waaay down. As DSL now costs less than $20 per (plus the ten or so for telephone service) month, and a ready-to-go, high performance PC can be had for less than a grand, television is sucking hind mammary.

The home video market place is in a flux. HDTV is the wave of the present, and standard broadcast is on its way out. The drawback is that a moderately priced, highly durable HDTV set is a major investment. CRT technology is on the way out, plasma is beautiful, but is very pricey and extremely fragile and subject to some seriously nitpicking fine print in the warranty and extended warranty. Rear projection is also on the way out. Picture quality can’t begin to compete with the newer technologies.

The LCD rear projection technology is the best bet for price versus durability. Sony puts out a 42” set that peddles for around $2K. But to put it to use, you’ll need either a satellite dish and a satellite receiver or a digital cable receiver. Figure another $300 capital costs and a minimum of $30 per month subscription fee.

Of course, if you now have bigger screen capability, you’re going to want to see your favorite movies. Add a DVD/VCR to your capital cost. And if you want the home theater experience, Sony will fix you right up with a 5.1 SACD/DVD system for another $1K.

For somewhere in the neighborhood of $4k and a monthly payment of, say $40, you can have home entertainment with the limitations of TV programming or for a grand and the same $40 per month the world wide web is available and the only limitation is your lack of imagination and the options are growing exponentially.

What a wonderful time to be alive.
Cyclicity: What goes around comes around.

Two friends passed away of natural causes recently and their separate memorial services were held over the past two days. I have a little bit of an emotional hangover from the experience and would like to just have a mellow, smooth day. Like maybe listening to Andres Segovia music and reading love poems or something. Anything to get my mind off death and dying and that empty spot that has yet to be filled with new friends and experiences.

What I want and what I get are two different things. I was reading this morning’s national news on Yahoo. There’s been another multiple murder. In Dallas this time. An alcohol fueled altercation at a night club led to a street shooting which was witnessed by a police officer.

A few days ago, there was a multiple murder-suicide at a church gathering in Wisconsin. In Georgia, a violent prisoner overpowered a Sheriff’s officer on the way to the court room. Using her gun, he wounded her before shooting the judge, the court clerk, and another deputy to death. He is also suspected in the slaying of a Federal police officer.

So much for a day of soft music and Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnets.

This reminds me of times past; specifically the unrest ongoing as we became deeper and deeper embroiled in the Southeast Asian fiasco. Being something of an astrology buff, I checked the stars for what was going on “up there” on the day of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Sure enough, there’s a correlation.

So what else was going in August of ’64? Mario Savio was leading the free speech movement at Berkeley. Back in those days people using the F word in public were subject to arrest. Nowadays, it, along with several other previously proscribed obscenities, is in the common lexicon of grade school kids. Thanks, Mario. My life is better.

Women’s lib was on the march and there were bra burnings hither and thither. I never understood the logic of that, but then I have to admit to a lack of comprehension of feminine mentation in toto.

The hot social issue in the here and now is legalization and recognition of gay marriage. I’m not up on that issue either, and feel no pain at being ignorant on the matter.

Something else characterizing the mid-sixties was casual and seemingly mindless mayhem. Just like the events in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Here we are four decades on, involved in another war that will become a bottomless pit if some very astute thinkers are not given free rein to manage it. The images and verbal descriptions coming back from Iraq are disturbing. The news will affect some who will go over the brink and commit acts that would be unthinkable at any other time.

The one lesson I brought home from the Vietnam War is that when human life loses its value as mankind’s most precious commodity, all forms of debauchery and corruption are sure to follow. The longer the war the greater the degenercy.

We could be in for several more decades of this, and in the mean time Osama is sitting in his cave laughing his buns off. The Great Satan is beginning to look like the snake who ate his tail.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Creative Chill

I upgraded Win Media Player to V10 a while back, and I couldn’t get the bleeping thing to work to my satisfaction. I tried rolling back the rev, to no avail. I tried uninstall. Also to no avail, then went to the TUCOWS site and tried some of the shareware listed there. Those didn’t work either.

I mumbled dirty words about the insufferable arrogance of MS and forgot about using Win Media for any purpose.

Totally by accident, while blundering around at the behest of a security alert on one the blogs, I found a dialog box on Norton Internet Security indicating that Win Media was blocked from going to the tag site to fetch titles and icons for CDs I wanted to upload to my C drive.

Now that I have that sorted out, I am able to program my home entertainment much more satisfactorily.

I spent the day listening to blues in order to select tunes for a composite to haul around in the T’bird. V10 has some features not found in V9. F’r instance: While I was busy selecting the tracks I wanted, I stashed them in a file named New Blues Burn. That’s now the title of my composite CD, which also has the all the tag data.

Other than data manipulation faux pas from the new rev, I am on my way to being pleased with it.

To make it a perfect blues day I nuked some hotlinks for a sandwich and made up a pint of iced tea.

I had nothing to do, all day to do it in, and I did it reasonably well. Live on, Freddie, Stevie Ray, and John Lee!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Sticky Wicket of Regulating Blogs

Years ago I was an Air Force Staff Sergeant stationed in Oregon. Some of my squadron mates grew curious as to where mining claims might have been filed in the late 1800s. I drew the task of doing the research, so I hied myself off to the public library in Corvallis to view microfilm of the Portland Oregonian from those years.

The first thing I noted was that journalism exercised virtually no self-restraint at the time. One article derided a candidate for political office by comparing him to an N-word (African American) up a pear tree looking for coconuts. Pejorative terms that have now been largely unacceptable in print for most of a century. Highly offensive stuff, but protected by the First Amendment.

Over the years, freedom of the press has been roundly debated in the courts and a large body of case law has been developed. Journalists don’t have to disclose sources, even if the sources are lawbreakers, because journalism is constitutionally protected. Robert Novak published Valerie Plame’s name which is a breech of Federal statute protecting CIA officers, but has been able to claim constitutional protection when asked to reveal who leaked the information.

The issue has come up again. This time Apple Computer has taken a blogger, a 19 year old college kid, to court to compel him to reveal who leaked company confidential data on new products.

The defendant, Nicholas Ciarelli, is claiming to be an independent journalist and has asked the Santa Clara County Superior court to dismiss the Apple suit.

Here’s what the local newspaper has this to say:

``It's a large corporation that is trying to intimidate smaller journalists who are publishing something they didn't like,'' said Terry Gross, a San Francisco attorney who represents Think Secret.[Ciarelli's company]

Apple declined to comment Monday on Ciarelli's motion. The company argued in its suit that it is entitled to ``substantial damages,'' claiming Ciarelli has repeatedly misappropriated its trade secrets.

Ciarelli asked the court to dismiss Apple's case under California's Anti-SLAPP Law. The law is designed to protect individuals who are exercising their free-speech rights from frivolous lawsuits designed to silence them, called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

``Apple's lawsuit is an affront to the First Amendment,'' Ciarelli's motion states.

No matter what the local court rules, this one is headed to the supremes. (I have ten bucks even money that says the local court sees it Apple’s way.)

More On Blogging

I was doing my usual surfing this morning and hit the Guardian Unlimited website which now features blogs. British re-enactors are going a step further than the domestic variety which stages battles from the revolutionary and civil wars. They’re going to be doing mounted jousting for the first time in over half a millennium. The people are armored but the horses are not, which doesn’t seem fair. I mean why not give the smartest creatures on the field the same protection as the idiots who ride them? Story

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh, Sugar!

My first wife had an aversion to foul language. Where most of us guys, particularly present or former service members would use a four-letter scatological expletive, Jennie would say. “Oh, Sugar!”

Blogs should, in my opinion, remain free of foul language. I would, however, prefer scatology over euphemism for the headline of this piece, as a matter of fact. Oh, Sugar! Twice.

What has me concerned is an article dealing with firearms purchases. The GAO at the request of Senator Lautenberg, D-NJ, looked into the matter to see if terrorists were able to buy guns. It turns out that the AGO report said they had.

The purpose of background checks for firearms purchases is to preclude felons, non-citizens, mentally ill, and those who have been served with restraining orders in the past three years from legally obtaining weapons.

I had a passing brush with a restraining order back in the late ‘90s, not that it was granted, but I was put in the position of having to argue my innocence to a single judge rather than have the state prove its case before a jury of my peers.

What the judge’s decision swung on was the fact that he and I have similar appearances. Tall, slender, full heads of gray hair, and erect carriage. He was looking for a reason to accept my argument, and having had a number of successful stints in sales, I put on a good close.

No restraining order — just a simple keep away order for a year. Big time redundancy, that. I had seen enough of that Sweet Young Thing to last a life time. But I digress.

The point is that it could have just as easily gone the other way. Then, if I wanted to purchase a firearm, I would have to go through one expensive bear (not the word I would have chosen here, either) of an appeals process with absolutely no guarantee of being successful.

The looming change in firearms purchases will preclude anyone who is listed as terrorist or has terrorist affiliations or belongs to a violent gang.

Not if you are convicted of a crime, or been found mentally incompetent, or a non-citizen, or been served with a personal restraining order. All you have to do to not be eligible to exercise your second amendment rights is have your name on a list.

Who makes up the list? To be sure you will never know the name, or have channel for appeals.

The concept of Federal list makers is truly worrisome. Remember Yusuf Islam? He was once known as Cat Stevens who made mellow, soft rock records like “Moon Shadow” and “Peace Train.” He later turned away from public performances and converted to Islam.

The Fed forced an airliner destined for NY to land in Maine, took him off of it and deported him because his name was on a list. Who made the list? Who knows? The Fed’s attitude is coming across as we are the government and we don’t have to explain a thing or be accountable.

So look out for those lists. They’ll get you and you can’t shoot back.

This story does end on an upbeat note however. London’s Sun and Sunday Times took up the knee jerk hue and cry. Yusuf Islam hauled them into court where he was awarded “substantial damages” and legal costs. Story

To show what kind of terrorist he is, he says he will donate the money to tsunami relief.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Dumb Laws

My friend, OWW, invites us all to visit a website detailing dumb laws at municipal, county, state and federal level.

I had to giggle at Temple, Texas, allowing the summary hanging of rustlers, and my eyebrows went up slightly when I read that it is illegal to give or receive oral sex in San Francisco, but the one that cracked me up was the Florida law making sexual relations with a porcupine an offense.

Maybe my Family Values have been tainted by lengthy residence in California, but I think porcupine sex should be legalized and taxed. Besides, the porcupines could probably use the money.
Zanier And Zanier

They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad.
Lyrics from B.B. King’s Stormy Monday

Last Monday Iraqi wackos killed 135 people. Today’s count was mere 33. Someone suggested they’re running out of suicide bombers. That point of view is substantiated by the news reports that the Baathists are supporting efforts to recruit fighters from Europe.

The Russians are now taking a page out of my note book. RIA Novosti reported that Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the upper house’s Foreign Affairs Committee, expects the Kurds to break away. At the moment they’re dickering with the Shi’ites on forming a government that will for all intents and purposes leave the Sunnis out in the cold. The Sunnis were in a snit and boycotted the elections. Too bad, guys.

The Kurds have been autonomous since the end of the first Gulf War, and have gotten the hang of self rule. The only bunch in the whole God forsaken place that can make the claim.

Syria is pulling back in Lebanon and Hezbollah, a band of Shi’ite thugs funded by Iran (do we owe those turkeys a nuke, or what?) is singing, “Please don’t go.” Weird, that. The Baathists who rule Syria are ostensibly Sunni (when anybody is looking). Sunnis are busy killing Shi’ites in the second country over.

Closer to home in Italy, Giuliana Sgrena, a writer for the commie rag Il Manifesto claims she was deliberately targeted in a road side shooting where the negotiator who won her freedom was killed by US Forces at a roadblock. You might be on to something there, Giuliana. There not being any other commies around, your fat ‘ear makes a tempting target.

Closer yet, a Venezuelan online paper VHeadline takes a swipe at Assistant Secretary of State Ray Noriega in no uncertain terms. The art of vituperation is alive and well south of the border. Too bad that American papers haven’t come across like that for the past century. It is very entertaining rhetoric.

At home, Dubya has named John R Bolton, an in your face critic of the UN, to the post of — drum roll here — US Ambassador to the UN. Condoleeza Rice favorably compared him to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

In your dreams, Brown Sugar. He’s not nearly as smart as Moynihan nor as fetching as La Kirkpatrick, although he has a cuter moustache. I'll bet that's why you picked him for the job.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Kill ‘em all — Let God Sort ‘em out.

Tee shirt caption attributed to US Army Special Forces in Vietnam that supposedly found its origins in:

Tuez-les tous; Dieu reconnaitra les siens.

(Kill them all; for God knoweth them that are His.)
Arnaud-Armaury, Cistercian Abbot, When asked at Beziers on July 22, 1209, what should be done with the 20,000 captives, some Cathars, others devout Catholics.

The Cathars, none are thought to be left alive now, were a Christian sect that did not pay homage to Rome. Pope Innocent III wasn’t about to tolerate the competition, so he commanded the local officials to snuff them out – root and branch. One baron who demurred in making war on his own subjects was excommunicated and turned off his ancestral properties.

Hence, the good Abbot came to command the army to suppress the “heresy.”

I use this particular example of Christians killing other Christians simply because of a different take on what the scripture says, or maybe the use of a different version of it. I could have picked any of dozens examples; Ulster, the Huguenots, the Puritans, the court of Elizabeth I, the Reformation, the Mormon expulsion, et cetera.

What I am trying to illustrate is religious beliefs seem to touch a primal part in some humans where it is not only justified, but saintly to take the lives of fellow humans because they believe that’s what God wants them to do.

Christians aren’t the only people who do this, as you might know, if you have been keeping up with the news from Iraq and Pakistan. Sunnis are blowing away a few hundred Shi’ia every week. The difference between the two parallels the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Shi’ia believe the only valid Islamic clergy are lineal descendents of the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law, Sidina ‘Ali. The Sunnis are at odds with this concept.

The two sects worship differently and celebrate different holidays. The differences are enough to justify slaughter of otherwise innocent people in great numbers.

The reason I’m on this particular kick this morning is a conversation I had a while back with my friend, OWW, who defected the Golden State for ‘gators and ‘skeeters in Jawjuh. He holds that Persian Shi’ia and Arab Shi’ia have sufficient differences to preclude an Iraqi Shi’ia union in post-occupation Iraq. Curious, I looked it up on the 'net.(Where else?)

I’ll stick with my predictions; Post-occupation Iraq will split three ways. Shi’ia, Sunni, and Kurd. The Shi’ia will find accommodation, maybe even a union with their coreligionists in Iran, which will add considerable petroleum resources to a nation inimical to Western interests at a time that oil is becoming very dear to industrialized nations.

Nations needing oil, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, and Japan for instance, have been known to export goodies to baddies who are on the proscribed list. A fracturing of Iraq will more than likely provide a windfall to the Mullahs. My guess is it will be used to accelerate the Iranian nuclear weapons program. With all that oil under their control, they can call the tune in a number of places.

The minority Sunnis will have no choice other than courting annexation by Syria. They really won’t have much to take with them. Their land has been worn to near uselessness by five millennia of agricultural cultivation. There are no known petroleum reserves on their land, and to complete this less than pleasant picture; other mineral deposits or stands of timber are negligible.

(Here is where a parallel can be drawn. The reunification of Germany; where a prosperous industrialized state was drug down by their backward countrymen who brought along obsolete industry and land polluted by both industry and agriculture, as well as a burgeoning welfare state. It is now fifteen years since that glorious November when the wall came down and the problems served up by the former DDR are nowhere near being solved.)

Up towards the northern Iraqi frontier, the Kurds will not find accommodation with the Sunnis after having seen the populations of several of their small towns wiped out by chemical weapons inflicted on them by the Sunni dominated Baathists. They will probably try to find their own way.

Turkey, which has viewed “coalition” efforts, particularly Operation Iraqi Freedom, with a jaundiced eye, is truly concerned at the prospects of an oil rich Iraqi Kurdistan. (The Kirkuk field is thought to be significant.) The Turks have a restive Kurdish population of their own who harbor dreams of independence. A well funded (read “well armed”) government on their border who wishes to reunite with kith and kin could be seen as a major problem. A real pain in the ‘ear.

The wild card in this deck is the Kurdish population in Iran. Iran has easy relations with neighboring countries. There was a time when they were at odds with Taliban dominated Afghanistan due to the extremism of Talibani religious practices as well as the Taliban execution of eleven of their diplomats. That doesn’t mean that they have not provided refuge for both individual Talibani and Al Qaeda operatives. There doesn’t seem to be friction between the two these days.

None of Iran’s neighboring countries, save Pakistan, have any reason to love us. The only reason Pakistan does is they had a choice of being bombed back to the stone age alá Afghanistan or supporting US efforts to run down Osama. Individual Pakistanis don’t give a fig for us, just their government.

The point here is the Iranians will welcome their Iraqi Shi’ia coreligionists and treat with the Kurds. If the Kurds come across to the Mullahs as anti-American, I can see where Iran will find sympathy with a Kurdish client state that supports the breakaway movement of Turkish Kurdistan.

Turkey is struggling to become European. At the end of WWII they had the Red Army on their borders in Soviet Armenia and Soviet occupied Bulgaria. Add to that the Soviet Black Sea fleet all of which were in the undisputable grip of Uncle Joe Stalin. Without some big time deterrence, he was perfectly capable of launching an attack in order to realize the long-held Russian dream of a warm water port. The prospect was enough to scare them into joining NATO and the EEC.

They have since come to appreciate the prosperity generated thereby. An externally supported civil war funded by petroleum revenues has the potential of dragging the whole of Asia Minor and some of the Balkan states into the chaos. It’s almost unimaginable that NATO ally Greece will come to Turkey’s aid. That would remove geographically advantageous staging areas from use by those who would come to their aid.

It’s fairly easy to look back and see (thanks to the ‘net) the actions that brought this condition about. Fixing this mess is beyond the political will of any nation or “coalition” of nations.

One thing about it, the 21st Century is off to a hell of a start.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Bully Boy AGs

Years ago, fifty-five percent of Californians voting approved an initiative to legalize marijuana use, possession, and cultivation for medical purposes.

The proposition read this way:

· Exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana.
· Provides physicians who recommend use of marijuana for medical treatment shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege.
· Declares that measure not be construed to supersede prohibitions of conduct endangering others or to condone diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes.
· Contains severability clause.

Then Attorney General Dan Lungren, who was an ambitious politician, had worked hard to establish a helicopter-borne Narcotics Task Force to go after cultivators in rural areas.

One of the problems facing state level law enforcement officers was apathy at the local level. A number of sheriffs had much better things to do than go after dope growers, because the income from cannabis plantations kept a number of counties solvent.

There was program called CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) which had unenthusiastic, half-hearted, or no support at the local level. But our boy, Dan, was a go-getter with eyes on a higher office. It took some doing, rough-shod doing at that, to get local sheriffs aboard Lungren’s bandwagon, but at last it was done. CAMP now had some teeth.

He had serious ambitions to be on the national ticket as Dole’s running mate and campaigned hard to be noticed by the pols in the bigs. Busting medical cannabis users before legalization was one of his favorite headline grabbers. But to no avail, he was passed over by the Republican National Committee.

Then in ’96, Proposition 215 became law. Dan claimed that he had no intention of paying heed to the will of the people, continuing to enforce the old marijuana laws against one and all. He was sure the citizens just needed to come to their senses on the cannabis issue.

The State House beckoned two years on. The immensely popular Pete Wilson was the outgoing Republican governor, who had given the GOP a positive image. Lungren easily won the GOP Gubernatorial nomination in ’98 primary against a lackluster field of nobodies, but got his clock cleaned in the General Election by Democrat Gray Davis.

Gray Davis is one of the dullest people you could hope to meet. When he talks, insomniacs find sleep irresistible. A serial killer could have beaten him. So why didn’t rising Republican star, Dan Lungren wax his ‘ear?

The answer is this. He beat himself. The Democrats never raised the issue of his enthusiastic marijuana enforcement which was highly ballyhooed by the AG’s office. Most of us here in the Golden State saw him as being mean to sick people as local TV news carried images of loadies being carted off to jail from raids on Medical Cannabis Clubs.

A vote for Davis wasn’t so much a vote for Davis as it was a vote against Lungren. Shot himself in the foot, our boy did.

Kansas AG Phill Kline is another rising star in the Republican party who is pushing his luck by harassing women who have had the unfortunate experience of needing abortions and the clinics which legally provided them.

You might want to talk to Dan, Phill, before you take action that will have you perceived as being an overbearing jerk. The GOP National Committee will see just how popular you are at home and drop you like a hot potato if you have the slightest negative image.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Syria’s Dilemma

Someone blew Rafik al-Hariri away on St. Valentine’s Day. Not exactly a household name, his. A former PM of Lebanon who had resigned in disgust at Syria’s intransigence on the issue of withdrawing 15,000 troops from the Bekaa Valley. Syria has occupied it since 1982 which was in the midst of the Lebanese Moslem vs. Christian civil war which stretched on for 15 years.

The particularly brutal murder, an instant cause celebré, angered both Lebanese Christians and Moslems who seldom find agreement on any issue. They immediately blamed Syria for the massive blast which took the lives of 17 others. The resultant hue and cry was heard and echoed by the US, several European countries, as well as Russia. Today’s (3/3/05) news carries articles to the effect that Saudi Arabia has told Syria to withdraw.

Whether Syria had anything to do with the crime is debatable. Roadside blasts with a total indifference to “collateral damage” hasn’t been their style of removing difficult opponents. The MO is however precisely that of the Baathist-Sunni thugs who have taken thousands of Iraqi and hundreds of coalition lives over the past couple of years in the Iraqi guerilla campaign.

The Baathists sought and gained refuge in Syria as organized Iraqi resistance crumbled during the assault phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It took them a while to get organized, but once they did, an effective and deadly guerilla campaign was orchestrated against Shi’ia and Coalition Forces.

The international pressure resulting from Al-Hariri’s murder brought Syria to the conclusion that their Iraqi guests had maybe over stayed their welcome and turned 30 of them over to Iraq’s military. One of those was Saddam’s half-brother. All were wanted to answer questions on the crimes perpetrated by Saddam’s regime.

Up until that point, Syria had denied, repeatedly and vociferously, that it was harboring Iraqi fugitives. It has also denied receiving and hiding Iraqi WMD. I don’t think many gas centrifuges found their way across the border, but distillation and incubation equipment germane to bio-chem warfare would be easily truck transportable.

It’s time for Assad to come clean. Something for him to keep in mind is this; Saddam kept pleading that he didn’t have WMD, but was invaded anyway.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Some More Of that Kansas Witch Hunt

State Attorney General Phill Kline has subpoenaed the complete and detailed medical records of ninety women from two un-named clinics providing abortion services.

In his public pronouncement on the matter, he blows a smoke screen by claiming to be after statutory rapists of girls as young as ten years old. His subpoenas, however, make no mention of age and are only targeted at the records of 90 women who underwent late term abortions in 2003. Neither the circumstances of impregnation nor ages were specified in the subpoenas. Late term abortions are closely regulated in Kansas and limited to women who would be grievously harmed by carrying to full term.

It does not sound like a search for rapists to me. More like publicly embarrassing 90 unfortunate women who found it necessary to terminate their pregnancies. You can bet your bippy that the clinics are squeaky clean and documented to gnat’s ‘ear. Well within the law, that is.

What’s really bothersome about this whole thing is the court issuing gag orders and sealing records effectively making his “investigation” secret. It would have remained so had not lawyers for the clinics filed appeals with the state supreme court. The Wichita Eagle broke the story, whereupon Kline began blowing smoke about notional statutory rapists and running on about how the state Justice Department could be trusted with sensitive records as they have conducted other investigations of a like manner.

Sure, dude. You are sooo trustworthy.

Had the story not made the news, the women whose records are in contention
would have had no notice that they are subjects in an investigation until the Storm Troopers pounded on their doors.

What’s really a travesty here is the lack of compassion for these women. Women who have undergone the heartbreaking and psychologically traumatic experience of having to terminate young life. No matter what their reasons or motives, the hurt must be profound.

It looks like what we have here is a lying, self-serving lawyer who is grandstanding to the fringe pro-lifers and a conniving judge who allowed his underhanded attempt to attack legally protected medical practices and practitioners.

The pro-life fringe sees nothing wrong with bombing and shooting people who choose to provide services to women who desperately need them. Let us hope they don’t take a page out of the other terrorists’ handbooks by crashing airliners into clinics or blowing away their targets with roadside bombs.

Fortunately, this is merely a war of legal writ spiced by words from New York to LA — so far.

Kline has made himself laughing stock, and the same holds true for the State of Kansas if the body politic does not renounce him. Also, someone in the legislature should go after the judge or judges embroiled in this despicable mess with bills of impeachment.

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