The good lady wife is out of town this weekend, at the first ever reunion for her original college, which was sold to the Japanese after her sophomore year. (Oh, 1980s...you were wacky and no mistake.)
Took advantage of the absence to allow the girls to play Rock Band, she not being as fond of music at ear-splitting levels as some of us.
After searching the entire house, we were only able to come up with one drumstick, a shocking event, given that I spent the first half of my life attempting to never be more than a few feet from a drumstick at any moment.
Still, the facts were the facts: there were no other sticks to be found. So I grabbed the youngest and headed to Guitar Center to buy a pair of sticks, the first time I'd done so on this coast—I think the previous time I'd bought sticks was back in 2001, in preparation for my short-lived tenure with Gloria Deluxe, as we hit the road for a half-dozen rapturously received live dates in support of their then-newest LP, Hooker.
I slowly move past the plethora of guitars, each and every one of which seemed to be gazing at me with the saddest of eyes, just begging to be adopted. But I'm steely in my resolve, and we go back into the drums section. A kid asks if he can help, and I explain that I'm just there to buy some sticks, some 5As and, given that they're just for a wii game, the cheapest will do.
He grabs the cheapest and plunks 'em down on the counter. They've got a cardboard band around them, holding them together. I look up at the wall of sticks and notice that they're all already paired, wrapped in either plastic or cardboard.
He looks confused. "Well...yeah."
"Yeah. Have my entire life."
I look at him, effortlessly flaunting his 20 or so years on this planet. And I think back to the ritual of buying new sticks, how you'd ask for, whatever, Vic Firth 5Bs, perhaps, with the nylon tips. And they'd plunk a few dozen sticks down on the counter and you'd slowly roll each one back and forth a few times, to try to find a pair without even a hint of warp. Then you'd tap them against each other, to find the pair that were closest in tone. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you'd find three or four that were just perfect, and you'd feel like you'd found, if not the Holy Grail, at least a damn fine cup buried in the sand.
And this kid has no idea of how it used to be, and thinks I'm senile. And I don't just feel old, I feel ancient and decrepit.
Not much posting lately. Bizzy bizzy life intruding, most rudely. Also had a fever on Wednesday, a bit better on Thursday and Friday, but then a painful cough developed today. If it don't get better soon, it looks like I'm doctor-bound on Monday. That does not please me. Such is life.
I know that as an American I’m supposed to dislike lawyers. But I don’t. I love ‘em. Oh, sure, there’re the unscrupulous bastards who’ll give the entire profession a bad name, but of what profession can that not be said?
Besides stay-at-home dad/freelance comic book writers, that is.
I’ve noticed that even the most rabid of tort reformers don’t hesitate to sic a lawyer on someone the minute they think they’ve got a case (hello Rick Santorum, you heinous hypocrite, how are you?), even if that case might seem a tad tenuous to the eyes of an uninvolved party. When it comes to attorneys, it seems our entire nation has a whopping case of "do as I say, not as I do." Or maybe "one set of rules for me and another set for everyone else." Or I guess it’s just "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, especially if you can maybe make a buck or two million."
Anyhoo, I don’t know where this here clip falls into all that, except that even though I’ve never actually been to a deposition I suspect they’re not all nearly this interesting. If they were, you’d probably be able to sell tickets. I mean, that’s just a good time, Texas-style.
I love lawyers.
[Note: I’m not just professing my affection for attorneys simply because I know for a fact about 5% of my regular Left of the Dial readers are lawyers, but as a sidenote, please don’t sue me.]
Hokey smokes. Every time I think I’ve come near the limit of my ignance, new stuff pops up. Seems there is, in fact, no end to my ignance. That's just one reason I'm so fond of The Baby--she has no idea (yet) what a bonehead her dad is. I usually have about a year before my kids figure that out. I'm hoping for a year and a half this time. I'm guessing that means about eight months.
Anyhoo, this wikipedia entry is in honor of April 15th. And you thought you hated paying taxes. Jeeze.
The Bath School disaster was a series of bombings in and around Bath Township, Michigan, USA, on May 18, 1927, which killed 45 people and injured 58. Most of the victims were children in second to sixth grades attending the Bath Consolidated School. The bombings comprised the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history, claiming more than three times as many victims as the Columbine High School massacre.
The perpetrator was school board member Andrew Kehoe, who was upset by a property tax that had been levied to fund the construction of the school building. He blamed the additional tax for financial hardship which led to foreclosure proceedings against his farm. These events apparently provoked Kehoe to plan his attack.
On the morning of May 18, Kehoe first killed his wife and then set his farm buildings on fire. As fire fighters arrived at the scene outside the town, an explosion rocked the school building, killing most of the people inside. Kehoe used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers started gathering, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle, killing himself and the school superintendent and killing and injuring several others. During the rescue efforts, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school's south wing.
So we’ve got a bear in our neighborhood.
At least, that’s the rumor going around. I’m a little skeptical myself. I suspect people have seen the local llama
and gotten a bit freaked out and let their imaginations run wild.
But whatever. I could be wrong, I reckon. It’s been known to happen. Hourly.
More, likely, I think, given the plethora of flora in our little paradise, is that the bear is actually a relative of this cute and cuddly lil’ feller:
Monster Rabbit Devours English Veggie Plots
LONDON (AFP) - In a tale reminiscent of the last Wallace and Gromit movie, furious villagers in northeast England have hired armed guards to protect their beloved communal vegetable gardens from a suspected monster rabbit.
Leeks, Japanese onions, parsnips and spring carrots have all been ripped up and devoured by the mystery were-rabbit -- prompting the 12 allotment holders in Felton, north of Newcastle, to hire two marksmen with air rifles and orders to shoot to kill.
"It is a massive thing. It is a monster. The first time I saw it, I said: 'What the hell is that?'" the Northumberland Gazette newspaper quoted local resident Jeff Smith, 63, as saying on its website (www.northumberlandtoday.co.uk).
So you’ve probably seen them little online tests you can take to to determine what kind o’ animal or tree or whatever you are. Here are two of my recent results, just so’s you all know exactly what you’re dealing with.
|You are a Black Coffee|
At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty
You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it
Your caffeine addiction level: high
|You Are Austin|
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.
Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick
I am a little disturbed by how accurately I can be assessed with only seven questions.
There is freaky. There is scary. And then there is this:
Ohio Company Implants Workers With ID Chips
And in Ohio, a private video surveillance company called CityWatcher has embedded radio transmitter ID chips into two of its employees.
It is believed to be the first time U.S. workers have been electronically tagged for identification purposes.
Privacy activist Liz McIntyre said "There are very serious privacy and civil liberty issues of having people permanently numbered."
The company has planted the electronic chip into the upper right arms of two employees. The implants ensure that only those two employees have access to a room where the company holds security video footage for government agencies and the police.
The "radio frequency identification tags" are made by the U.S. company VeriChip. The technology allows a company or government to permanently track anyone embedded with an ID chip.
As a big fan of privacy and security, I’m glad that this company is taking serious steps to make sure those thing are being protected.
But I’d really, really, really rather these weren’t the steps. As the Chicago Tribune put it:
One indisputable answer in our increasingly technological society is that anything that can be done eventually will be done. And millions of RFID chips already are in use in the United States to track everything from pets to livestock to research animals to packages shipped by truck.
Implanting them in humans is just one more step. In 2004 the federal Food and Drug Administration approved an implantable microchip to store medical information right on a patient's person, as a means to reduce errors and improve treatment. About the same time, the attorney general of Mexico began use of implanted chips to control access of officers to high-security offices.
Ultimately, of course, government and the courts will be called upon to decide whether such technology constitutes an invasion of personal privacy and the right to free association.
Use of the chips was entirely voluntary in the Cincinnati case, but what if workers at, say, a large warehousing operation, were required, as a condition of employment, to have similar implants so the boss could keep track of them?
Most Americans would probably balk at such a requirement, but many also would be surprised to know that the Constitution does not include an express right of privacy.
A series of court decisions over the years have construed rights of privacy from the Bill of Rights as, for example, in the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees security of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" against unreasonable search and seizure under the law.
Some legal thinkers, however, including a couple now inhabiting seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, contend that no general right of privacy exists.
In the final analysis, a person's privacy is probably as much a matter of expectation as anything, and substantial vigilance will be required by the American public to maintain a right that is, or should be, more than skin deep.
This seems like such a precarious step onto that slippery slope. This is just way too sci-fi/Orwellian. It just feels so wrong.
What a couple days it’s been. Top Management had an appointment at the midwife’s and all was deemed Good. She’d gained quite a bit of weight over the previous two weeks, which is outstanding for My Petite Thing.
And then she came home and sat down. And jumped up two minutes later and ran for the bathroom. And almost made it in time.
Seems the Exorcist bug our pal Dave and his daughter had last week decided to visit our home.
Say what you will about having a little kid with cancer, but it surely prepares you for dealing with other people’s bodily fluids.
And a good thing, too. Practice makes perfect and by now I’m damn near hemi-semi-demi-god level. Because Max decided to join Top Management in spontaneously and violently evacuating her body of all liquid on a very, very, very irregular but frequent basis.
Too much information for y’all? I know it was for me.
Of course, just to make things ever so more interesting, our washing machine broke the day before. For the second time in eight months.
So none of the three oldest people in the house got more than about three hours of sleep on Monday night/Tuesday morning. Which led to an interesting observation: I am not all that much less functional on three very interrupted hours of sleep than I am on seven. And while the bar, admittedly, is not set all that high, that still struck me. Of course, the coffee may have helped, but it didn’t help that much, and I didn’t drink any more than usual.
I remember the feeling from my very first concert—Billy Joel in New Haven in 1984, I believe, on his Innocent Man tour. Had to get up for school about three hours after I fell into bed (what were my parents thinking? Or were they teaching me a lesson?), and realized my body didn’t seem to have had time to relax all the way yet—my pulse was still as elevated as it’d been and I was wide awake and jittery, and actually felt more alert than normal all day. Until about two in the afternoon, when I started walking into walls. Which wasn’t all that unusual. Still isn’t.
But as promised, this week’s bug was almost exactly twelve hours. It was like being sea-sick: as soon as that twelve hour mark hit, Top Management and Max both seemed to be like, "hey…didn’t I feel like death just a few minutes ago?" Of course, after their previous half-day, they weren’t exactly ready to go jogging, and so began the long process of bringing their tummies back up to speed.
But Top Management even let me sleep in a little extra this morning, being the one to get The Boy up (as she usually does when healthy), which meant he got to see his mom for the first time in thirty-six hours. And he’s much, much happier for it. He was pretty great, actually, for the most part. Sometimes he’d walk around softly moaning, "Mommy…" over and over and over and over, but that was about it. And The Rose blossomed, as usual—she loves to be needed, so the fact that she was my right-hand during this ordeal made her grow about eighteen inches. She’s Big when she’s Useful.
Now, of course, we’re just waiting for the rest of us to get it.
I know, this is kinda rambling. But, hey, it’s a blog. Aren’t they supposed to be full of rambling asides? I know I’ve read that somewhere.
I’ll be back tomorrow. And maybe I’ll tell you about the SUV that tried to run me off the road. In our own little development. Right by pal Sarah’s house.
Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.
But first…more coffee.
So for reasons too boring to get into (I know, you’re stunned to find that there’s anything remotely related to my life I’d consider too boring to post on Left of the Dial), I pretty much always write my Left of the Dial pieces down here in the office, but am unable to actually post them from this here computer. So I have to email them upstairs and post from there.
But as happens about ten percent of the time, the act of emailing the piece causes Outlook Express to quit, which means I have to restart the computer. Interestingly (or perhaps not), it happens far more often with Left of the Dial pieces than any other email. Coincidence? You make the call.
So whilst I’m waiting for the computer to restart, I pick up the acoustic guitar I keep in the office for just such all-too-frequent occasions. It was pal Dave’s but he wanted to sell it so Top Management surprised me with it for Father’s Day. She’s good like that. Very, very good. Far better at acquiring guitars for me than I am at actually playing them.
So I just sorta fiddle around and then find myself playing Green Day's "Basket Case." That’s the one that starts: "Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?"
I know. How inappropriate for me.
So I finish the song shortly after the computer finishes starting up and I put the guitar away. And I’m starting to write a defense of the Bee Gees’ work on the Saturday Night Live soundtrack to my Miles Davis email list when I realize Top Management is right above my head. From the sounds The Boy is making, it’s pretty clear that she’s changing his diaper. Also that’s just about the only time she’s right in that exact spot. Sherlock Holmes got nothin’ on me.
And then I notice that she’s singing "Basket Case."
Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I’m cracking up
Am I just paranoid? Oh no no no
My sweet, adorable wife, mother to a house chock full o’ younguns, happily singing punk in her beautifully clear country-tinged and conservatory-trained voice. While changing a diaper.
What does that mean? Is that punk? Or does that automatically shift the song itself, not just the performance, into the Not Punk category?
I think about this for a while. And there’s really only one conclusion to be reached.
There's feces involved.
But if Top Management’s thinking it’s time for a nose ring, eyebrow ring and tongue stud, well….yeah, that’d be pretty cool, actually. They’d match her tattoo that no one but me knows about.
So Top Management suddenly said to me today, "Hey! Happy Anniversary!"
Which are not words any hubband wants to hear out of the blue.
After watching me frantically wracking my brains for any hint of what I missed this time, she finally took pity on me (this time) and laughed. "It was one year ago today that you first posted on Left of the Dial."
Do you have to buy a blog a present? I’ve certainly put this one through enough that it's not entirely unwarranted.
So off and on today I’ve been wondering what to say on this momentous occasion. Inspiration was in hibernation but then as anyone who reads Left of the Dial on a regular basis knows, that’s not unusual.
Still, it was kinda neat to think back on the past year. Twelve months ago, I’d never have dreamt I’d be posting some of the stuff I’ve written this year. I mean, who the hell in their right mind posts about religion, politics, abortion? Clearly I’m not in my right mind. At least I never got around to finishing that piece on animal nookie I was working on.
So I was mulling some of this over this afternoon, thinking maybe I’d just skip the entire thing—I’m not big on anniversaries unless there’s something in it for me or, more important, unless I'm facing imminent death if I don’t make a huge to-do about it.
And then the washing machine broke.
For the second time in eight months.
So now I’m feeling grim. The perfect Left of the Dial mood.
And so in that spirit, I present to you a far more eloquent and inspired voice: Johnny Rotten.
Sex Pistols spit on Hall of Fame honor
By Chris Morris
The Sex Pistols have opted out on appearing at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The groundbreaking English punk rock group officially declined the honor -- to be handed out March 13 at a dinner and performance at the Waldorf Astoria in New York -- in a crudely scrawled, mispunctuated handwritten message posted on the band's Web site Friday.
" Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," the statement read. "Your museum. Urine in wine. Were (sic) not coming. Were (sic) not your monkey and so what?"
The statement slammed Hall of Fame voters as "music industry people," and excoriated the high price of attending the exclusive event -- $25,000 for a table, "or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery."
It concluded, "Your (sic) not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL."
Other 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame include Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd and industry executives Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.
Susan Evans, executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said of the band's announcement, "They're being the outrageous punksters that they are, and that's rock 'n' roll."
As has been noted elsewhere, Miles Davis and most of Lynyrd Skynyrd are also not expected to attend.
I do wonder, however, if the "so what?" question is a Miles reference. Wouldn't entirely surprise me, the cheeky buggers. Solidarity?
I’ve been skeptical of the Hall o’ Fame myself since the beginning, but willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because some great performances and speeches were given and because I’ve assumed that some of the acts have truly benefited from the exposure, even if only temporarily.
But $25k? Yeah, that’s pretty insane. That’s exactly why the Sex Pistols were needed in the first place. And why we could sure use their equivalent today.
In the meantime, I’ll sit back, listen to Never Mind the Bollocks and A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Street Survivors. And wait for the repairman to show up.
Thanks for comin’ along for the ride.
So. What would you do with $7,000,000,000?
I'm guessing not this:
The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.
New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.
Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.
But I mean, come on, yo. Them oil companies have fallen on hard times and…uh…
Wait a second.
Exxon Mobil Corp. set U.S. records for annual and quarterly profits Monday as it easily topped fourth-quarter earnings forecasts.
The nation's largest oil company reported net income in the fourth quarter of $10.7 billion, or $1.71 a share, compared to $8.4 billion, or $1.30 a share, a year earlier [...]
For the year the company earned net income of $36.1 billion, or $33.9 billion excluding special items. That's up 31 percent from the $25.9 billion it earned on that basis year earlier.
Yup. I can think of a powerful lotta things I could do with seven billion dollars. And yet not one of my Top Thousand would be to give it away to the oil companies. Seems to me they're doing just fine. Better than they ever have in fact. Less in need of
my our money than ever.
Oh, but those kids who've had their school lunches cut? Yeah, boy, seven billions dollars'll buy a peck of lunches for hungry kids. But, hey, screw 'em. If they were worth anything, they'd have lobbyists working for 'em and giving money to politicians.
Oh, that's right. They don't have those things because they're poor.
And because they're poor, they can't afford those things.
Interesting how that works out, ain't it?
And the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Except one thing's especially interesting about this particular rip-off:
That's our money.
All of ours.
Yours and mine.
The rich and the poor.
It belongs to the American people.
If oil companies want to make billions in profits off our land, often permanently despoiling that land in the process, I just don't think it's too damn much to ask that they pay us our fair share.
No. I really don't think that's too much.
Seven. Billion. Dollars.
What the--?! A word of the day? A freakin’ word of the day!?
But, but, but, Scott, I can hear
thousands hundreds dozens some a few maybe one of you mutter, we look forward to Left of the Dial to start our day off just right. We need some righteous indignation, we need ranting, we need raving, we need precious bodily fluids flying in a mindless frenzy of ethical outrage.
And I can understand that. I can. But there’s only so much outrage one man can dish out to even the wantingest of worlds. Hence today’s Word o’ the Day.
And it’s a good one. Yes it is.
I mean, look, words just don’t get much better’n this:
titivate \TIT-uh-vayt\, transitive and intransitive verb:
To smarten up; to spruce up.
It's easy to laugh at a book in which the heroine's husband
says to her, "You look beautiful," and then adds, "So stop
-- Joyce Cohen, "review of To Be the Best, by Barbara
Taylor Bradford," New York Times, July 31, 1988
In The Idle Class, when Chaplin is titivating in a hotel
room, the cloth on his dressing table rides up and down,
caught in the same furious gusts.
-- Peter Conrad, Modern Times, Modern Places
Titivate is perhaps from tidy + the quasi-Latin ending -vate.
When the word originally came into the language, it was
written tidivate or tiddivate. The noun form is titivation.
The modern spelling is definitely a big improvement.
So you see what I’m sayin’? Seriously, isn’t this a fine way to start your day? A spot o’ larnin’, and an invigoratin’ spot o’ larnin’ at that.
In fact, if I may be so bold, I do believe I have just titivated your life, even if only a bit.
A shot of titivation, from me to you.
Left of the Dial: titivation for your life.
Left of the Dial: titivating since 2005.
Left of the Dial: the internets’s Number One titivator.
Left of the Dial: titivatious!
Needs work. But we’ll get there.
Oh, and don’t worry. I’ll be back to frothing at the mouth on the morrow. Or maybe I’ll tell you a cute kid story. Or post a music review. One never knows. Even I don’t know until after I fire up the internets and see what I’ve posted; I tend to go into a fugue state when composing these puppies—which explains the rambling asides.
But they’re titivating asides.
This is totally insane:
Bush Administration Sells Port Security To Highest Foreign Bidder
The Bush administration has granted access to our most important ports to the government of the United Arab Emirates:
The Bush administration dismissed the security concerns of local officials yesterday and restated its approval of a deal that will give a company based in Dubai a major role in operating ports in and around New York City.
Representatives of the White House and the Treasury Department said they had given their approval for Dubai Ports World to do business in the United States after a rigorous review. The decision, they said, was final.
Dubai Ports World is buying the British company that currently operates the cruise-ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan, one of the biggest cargo terminals in New York Harbor, and terminals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other big ports.
Dubai Ports World is controlled by the UAE royal family.
The decision to grant the $6.8 billion sale to Dubai was made by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States.
Who sits on the committee?
The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Commerce, the Attorney General, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
The Committee is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury.
So Gonzales, Rice, Rumsfeld, Snow, and other Bush administration officials conducted a security review and decided—unanimously--that the sale did not post a national security threat.
How thorough was their investigation?
They did not conduct background checks on senior managers of the company, nor did they ask how the company screens its own employees.
You know, just in case a terrorist wants to infiltrate the company that now has unprecedented and unfettered access to our ports.
A reporter from the way-to-the-right-of-Rush-Limbaugh WorldNetDaily pointed out to Scott McClellan:
…the Arab Emirate was tied in many ways to the 9/11 hijackers and their deeds…
Even Rick Santorum (R-PA) has sent a letter to the President protesting the deal. Also, Republican Congressman Mark Foley had this to day:
"Six of our largest commercial ports are being handed over to a country that is seeking to be Iran's free trade partner and has been linked to the funding and planning of 9/11. If our ports are the most vulnerable targets for terrorism and if we are at war, as the President says, we should be overly critical of handing over management of our ports to any foreign countries, post 9/11. Instead, this was done in the dead of night."
Besides Schumer, (who was quoted above and who sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Snow), other Democrats are shocked at the deal--and are taking action:
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., told The Associated Press he will introduce legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from running port operations in the United States. Menendez said his proposal would effectively block state-owned Dubai Ports World from realizing gains from its purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. [...]
We wouldn't turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one, either," Menendez said.
So conservatives, moderates, liberals, and basically everyone on the political spectrum opposes this deal. About the only people who like the deal are those who enjoy walking in wildflower meadows hand in hand with super-rich royal families whose countries may incubate terrorists.
The bipartisan concern here is that we are handing the key to our nation's security to just such a foreign government. Not to a private corporation, but to a company controlled by a foreign state. No matter how good our relations are with that country, how can we ever justify letting another government control the security of our citizens?
Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has repeatedly contacted the administration to get answers to his concerns. The Bush administration has refused to respond.
– The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
– The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
– According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.
– After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.
two of the ports the UAE would now control are responsible for shipping almost 40% of all Army equipment used overseas, in Iraq and elsewhere--a foreign company would control the shipment rate of 40% of the US Army's equipment.
But wait! Hard as it may to be believe, there’s still more. The president has vowed to use his first ever veto if Congress tries to scuttle this deal. As a frame of reference, Nixon pulled out the ol’ veto 43 times, Ford 66 times, Carter 31, Reagan a whopping 78, Bush the Elder 44 times and Clinton on 37 occasions. GW? Not once. Not a single time.
He has not vetoed a single thing his entire time in office. But he says he's going to veto a move to prevent the United Arab Emirates from taking control of our ports.
To repeat: If Congress stops a foreign power from taking control of our ports, the president is going to veto that. The president is determined to turn control of our ports over to another nation.
The GOP controls both houses of Congress, remember. And he hasn’t vetoed a single thing in five years. Not one. So the next time you think anything’s screwed up in Washington, remember who has all the power, and therefore whose fault everything is.
But back to the topic at hand.
So Bush is going to veto any attempt to halt a foreign power who has ties to terrorism from taking over our ports. And his rationale? Those of us who care about national security? We’re racists.
No, seriously. That’s what they’re saying. Not that we've got concerns about our ports being run by another nation. It's because we're racists. Not intelligent. Racist. Never mind that for three years he's been raising the bogeyman of the terrorist coming to destroy our way of life, but now that it's inconvenient for him, he pretends that bogeyman doesn't exist any more.
His argument in support of this, by the by? It's that a firm owned by China already controls several of our ports. And no one's ever complained about that.
My prediction: they're going to now. Because now they—which is to say, we—know. Because if the American people had known that earlier, they would have gone nuts then. Now they know, so once this Dubai thing is scuttled, the Chinese deal is next. Because it's not racism. It's that folks understand that outsourcing national security is completely asinine. That we love Canada—who doesn't love Canada?—but we still don't want Canada in control of our ports.
Oh, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace? When asked about the deal, they both said they first learned of it this weekend.
That’s one hell of a thorough analysis done on this topic, no? Keeping the top two military fellas outta the loop. With that kind o’ prep, you can’t help but wonder how Katrina could possibly have been so bungled.
There are many things I cannot figure out. Quantum physics. Regular physics. Macro economics. Micro economics. Why anyone cares about Paris Hilton, much less is trying so hard to enable her to live her entire life without paying any taxes. Why Top Management digs me.
But of all the things I cannot figure out, the one I’ve been having the most trouble with recently is this:
What makes anyone think this administration is good on national security?
Every single bit of available evidence points completely to the contrary conclusion. 9/11, Iraq, Katrina and now this port situation.
Know how much the Coast Guard said after 9/11 would be the bare minimum to secure our ports?
Know how much has actually been spent on our ports in the past three years?
$0.5 billion. That’s right, one-half of a billion. $500 million. A total of seven percent of the bare minimum the Coast Guard said is needed to be minimally safe.
Some context—know how much we spent in Iraq every three days?
$0.5 billion. That’s right, one-half of a billion. $500 million.
In other words, we spend on port security in one year what we spend in Iraq every single day.
We spend on port security in one year what we spend in Iraq every single day.
Oh, and know what percentage of our cargo is scanned? Five percent.
You put that all together and there’s only one conclusion: they don’t give a damn about port security. And he who cares not about port security cares not about national security.
I know outsourcing is all the rage these days, but we outsource our port security? That’s completely insane—and keep in mind, although this Dubai deal is getting all the ink, it turns out we already were outsourcing our port security, not only to the aforementioned Chinese firm, but also to a private British firm (as opposed to the new deal, which involves a firm owned by a foreign government with, did I mention it? a history of ties to and support for al-Qaeda).
Hey, why not outsource our airport security? And why not outsource our border security? How’s about we outsource the Coast Guard while we’re at it? I’m quite confident there are other nations who’d love the chance to take over our Coast Guard operations. And why not? It really just isn't that different from outsourcing our port security. Next stop: the Air Force! And then the Navy!
So. Are the people in this administration all completely inept or are they simply totally disinterested? It’s impossible to say. The only thing that’s completely clear is that they are utter failures when it comes to national security. Even the prescription drug fiasco proves it: this is the gang that can’t shoot straight (cf Vice President Dick Cheney mistaking a man for a small bird and then hiding from the police, the press and, yes, even his boss).
They care about getting elected and making their friends richer. That’s it. That is the sum total of what they care about. And at that they’re exceptional. (Treasury Secretary John Snow, who signed off on this was chairman of a company which sold its port operations to this very same Dubai company for $1.15 billion just a few years ago, for instance. It’s nice to have friends in very, very high places.)
They don’t care about you. They don’t care about me. They don’t care about the United States of America.
All they care about is power and money.
Sometimes you start to lose faith in humanity. An act as simple as reading the newspaper or watching the evening news or sitting on your front porch and watching neighbors drive unsafely can do it. It happens. You wish it wouldn’t but sometimes it seems like the more you know about our species, the more horrified you become by their venality, their baseness, their lack of…well, humanity.
But then along comes a heart-warming story that can turn it all around and you realize just how much people are truly capable of.
Go. Read and be stunned. Be astonished. Be astounded. Be amazed and horrified.
And then come back here.
There’s just so much wrong there, no? The incredible blindness the mother shows towards simple morality—a morality she seems to think she understands, without grasping that deliberately turning your back on doing The Right Thing is even worse than simply not knowing what The Right Thing is. And, man, is she one suckass mother, huh? What kinda kid is she gonna be raising there?
But—and this is important—it’s a heck of a story, innit?
Now, the question is, should she post the name and address or not? I’m of the mind that she seeks some legal remedy first, getting the original ranger involved, as well as the cops in her town and theirs, and probably Hawaii to boot. And of course there’s always the media. It certainly seems like the sort of story that Keith Olbermann or, Sweet Jesu, horrifying as this is, Bill O’Reilly would love, not to mention the fine reporter folks up thar. Barring that, I say post awee, at least the name of the town. But I dunno, that may just be me giving into my baser nature, something I’m prone to a mite too often for a guy who pontificates as I do.
Also a large part of my nature is a healthy dose of skepticism. I’m not one hundred percent sold on this entire thing. Something’s off, I can’t help suspecting, either in the northern section of this story or down here, but I could be wrong.
And, if nothing else, I learned all about The Pig War thanks to this. You know ‘bout The Pig War? Turns out the US and Canada nearly went to war over the death of a pig. I kid you not (although perhaps I exaggerate ever so slightly). It included some of the folks who would go on to become mighty big names in the US Civil War, such as George Pickett and Winfield Scott. Man, I love the internets.
Special thanks to The Common Room for tipping me off to this. Please feel free to send near and far. And the next time our pals north of the border start going on and on about how superior to us they are (and, well, hell, they usually are), remind ‘em of this little episode. Then fire up the ol’ SUV, go hunt some wingless pigeons, accidentally shoot a friend in the face because you’re drunk, refuse to talk to the police and blame the victim for getting in the way of your shot. That learn them Canucks how to really behave.
A while back I got accused of tilting at windmills.
I’ve been thinking about that ever since. And I think it’s possible that not only was my accuser right, that I was indeed tilting like crazy, I think it’s possible that’s my single-most distinguishing characteristic.
I rail, I rant, I rave. And most of it is about stuff that I cannot possibly hope to change, that perhaps no individdle, no matter how smart or talented or rich or devoted or powerful could possibly hope to change. Not the president of the United States, not Bill Gates, not Tiger Woods, not Steven Spielberg, not Colin Powell, not Bono, not Bill O’Reilly, not even Oprah. And yet I go on doing it. It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result. Going by that, I’m clearly clinically insane.
I spew bile against people who drive unsafely in my neighborhood, about corrupt politicians, against filmmakers and comic book writers who can’t tell a coherent story, against dog owners who let their canines defecate in my yard, about "newscasters" with the IQ of a newt, about summer colds, about winter colds, about our ability to send a man to the moon but not to cure a cold, because of colds, about doctors who keep you waiting far too long for appointments and subsequent test results, about former artists who pimp their creations to commercials in exchange for filthy lucre, about politicians afraid to look at science and take it seriously if it might be politically inconvenient, about politicians afraid to look at cases involving morality and take it seriously if it might be politically inconvenient, about religious leaders betraying their followers, about businessmen sodomizing their stockholders and employees, about politicians betraying their constituents and the constitution, about reporters with brains but no balls, about reporters with balls but no brains, about corporations who don’t hesitate to make the world considerably worse just to fatten the already enormously bloated accounts of their board members and top executives, about the majority of folks in this country who can’t be bothered to get off their asses and do something, anything, to make the world slightly better, even when it’s as easy as voting.
And then I start really getting warmed up.
I despise hypocrisy and complacency and apathy. And so I tilt at these windmills.
I write to my elected officials again and again and again, getting nothing in return but form letters thanking me for expressing my worthless opinion to which they shall pay not the slightest attention. I write to corporations, lambasting them for the error of their ways and I receive coupons in the mail. I excoriate people on emails lists who say stupid things and who, rather than apologize when alerted to the error of their ways, attempt to defend their indefensible statements, and then I start in on those who leap to the defense of the original offender, before finally taking on all those who sat back and watched placidly and said nothing the entire time. I pontificate to my closest friends who smile patiently and bear it and quietly wipe my spittle off their chins. I talk the ears off my beloved Top Management (and, perhaps, The Boy—ah, yes, his hearing problems all become so clear now) who suffers it with the patience of Job. I rant my way out of a fantastic job at a top publisher. I seethe my way out of a prime job as a freelancer.
I am an idiot. A passionate one.
I do not pick my battles. I use a sledgehammer against sweet Godfearing folk who are simply uninformed about the environment when a lovetap would do. I find myself wide awake, suddenly, at 3:30 in the a.m., despondent, enraged, horrified by the notion that heinous cheater and certain felon Barry Bonds is not only still allowed to play baseball but is likely to break Hank Aaron’s record, thus sullying the game forever more. Rather than gracefully pointing out a dissenting opinion on a given topic, any topic, I bash and pop, thus eradicating any chance I might have had to bring about actual change.
I miss the forest for the trees and scream about those who do the same.
And those windmills are still there.
And so I tilt.
Well, I never.
What a notion.
First, a little background. I went to a small state school in Fredericksburg, Virginia called Mary Washington College. It was a second-, or perhaps third-rate school. But it had several things going for it.
1) It was in Virginia, which was the state in which I wanted to go to college. I was born in Dallas but mainly grew up in northern Connecticut, just about ten minutes from the Massachusetts state line, and I’d had just about enough of snow, thank you very much. But I didn’t want to go too far south, such as Georgia or Florida, both because those were a little too far from home and because I wanted warm but not boiling.
2) It had and, I assume, has one of the most beautiful campuses (campusi?) of any college ever. Brother Jay designed the student rec center there, and when he first saw the campus he thought it the very model of what a college campus should look like. He was right.
3) They let me in.
I don’t believe I can overemphasize the importance of that last one.
My grades in high school were what could charitably be called "pretty honkin’ awful." For some reason, we didn’t use the standard GPA that most schools used, but if we had, mine would have been somewhere around a 2.2, I’m guessing. Maybe a little higher. Possibly a little lower. They were not good. My senior year I got every single grade available, from an A to an F, except for two (a C-plus and a B-minus, I think). I was not a good student.
But I always tested well, and I did well enough on my SATs that MWC didn’t laugh at me when I applied. In fact, they did more than that. They, as I said, let me in. Since UConn was the only other school that did (Damn you, Harvard! Curse you, Yale!), I went to Mary Washington College.
Oh. Did I mention that it was an all-girl’s school?
‘Cuz it was.
By the time I attended, it wasn’t, of course. Not anymore. And hadn’t been for, oh, jeez…a long, long time. Six years, I think.
As you might expect, that led to something of an imbalance in the male/female ratio. A considerable one. My freshman year there were five girls for every guy.
No, no, no. Not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m just saying that if there were two dozen kids in a given class, probably four would be guys and the other twenty would be girls. Sheesh. Y’all are pigs. P-I-G, pigs.
Still, being that massively outnumbered had its benefits. For instance…well, actually, no it didn’t. Not in my case, at least. Each of my roommates? Yeah, it did in their cases. Not mine. But whatever. Curse you, Yale!
There was one good thing about it, though: they were so desperate for guys there (I’m speaking here of the admissions office so, again, I’ll have to ask you to please remove your mind the gutteral area), that they gave each male an extra hundred points on his SAT score. Just for being male. If that male also played a varsity sport, he got another hundred.
Amazing. Females are superior in every way yet the males were massively preferred there. See what I mean about it being at best second-rate? What kinda dumbasses were they that they didn’t even know who to let it?
I offer, again, as proof: me.
Anyhoo. The president of the college always had these delusions of grandeur. When he wasn’t busy living in his huge house, paid for by the college, as I understand it, or driving his huge SUV, again, as I understand it paid for by our little school, he was constantly saying that we should be acknowledged as a peer of UVa or the College of William & Mary. Which I thought went back and forth between adorable and ridiculous. Like, I am told, me.
So a year or two back, outta nowhere, they announce that now that they’ve got a couple graduate programs, they’re going to change the name of the school. And that starting immediately they shall be known as…Mary Washington University, right?
That, you see, would make sense. It would have a clear connection to Mary Washington College. It would make it obvious that it has a grad school. It would sound pretty classy.
So they named it The University of Mary Washington.
Which is just so stupid.
I mean…I thought a lot about it. And what I keep coming back to is, that is just so stupid.
And they seemed to realize it really quickly too. I get the idea that a lot of alumni contacted them and wanted to know why they were so stupid. I gather this because The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College started sending out letters defending their stupiditity. Which, I can tell you from experience, doesn’t work. It just draws even more attention to your stupiditity.
They explained that as a peer of The College of William & Mary and The University of Notre Dame, they felt comfortable being the third member of this oh so exclusive collegiate club to adopt this otherwise rather unusual name construction.
I talked to, jeez…it must be five graduates of The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College and they all agreed that the new name change was really stupid and that, no, no one had heard that it was even being considered before it was a done deal. What’s more, only one of those five was me, so it was a pretty significant sampling.
Well, not so long after that, we get a call from The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College. Top Management smiles as she hands me the phone. I talk to the very sweet and chipper girl who’s confirming my address and doing all that busywork that we all know is only to get you in a good mood so you’ll be more likely to say that, yes indeedy, you’ll be pleased to give money to the school to pay for fuel for the president’s SUV rather than giving money to feed the hungry or help find a cure for cancer or somesuch foolish cause.
And we chat and I find out her major and all that good stuff. And then she asks me if I’ll give money to The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College. And I ask where the money’ll be going to. And she explains that it’ll be going to The University of Mary Washington. And I explain that, as I never went there, I will not. Since I’m not a graduate of The University of Mary Washington, I see no reason to give money to The University of Mary Washington, any more that as a graduate of The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College, I’d be likely to give money to The College of William & Mary and The University of Notre Dame. And that I don’t see that changing in the future.
She’s very, very nice and understanding and says that I’m not the only one who’s expressed similar sentiments although none of them have put it quite that way. So we exchange a few more pleasantries and I tell her I hope she’ll pass my opinions, pointless though they be, along and wish her a very nice night and semester. And that’s that.
And about four months later someone else calls and we go through it again. And it’s much the same. Another perky, friendly girl and we chat and I explain and she commiserates and that’s that.
And then tonight it happens again. And Top Management sighs as she hands me the phone. And the affable, energetic guy—we’ll call him Aaron, mainly because that’s what he said his name was—asks if I’m still at the same address, which clearly I am, and then goes into his spiel about my upcoming reunion.
Which, by the by, it really isn’t. I mean, technically it is, but only because I was on The Five Year Plan, which means that the class I came in with and which is the one I know the most people from, had their reunion last year. And, no, we didn’t go to that, either. It wasn’t in my house, so there wasn’t much chance of me going. Besides, The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College doesn’t even exist anymore. Have I mentioned that?
Anyhoo, "Aaron" explains about how my class has already donated X amount of dollars and would I consider joining them in this oh so noble cause? And I say, quite pleasantly, that no I wouldn’t. I explain that my school, The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College, doesn’t exist any more and because of that I won’t be donating any money, and since—
"I see," he says. And hangs up.
I look at the phone. I say, "Hello? Hello? Aaron?"
There’s no reply. If I had one of them old rotary dial phones, I would have jiggled the little cradle thing you hang the receiver up on, just like in the movies even though that never, ever, ever actually helped someone reconnect in real life. Not even once in the two point three billion times it was tried. But it’s moot anyway, because I was on a cordless phone.
"Did he just hang up on you?" Top Management asks in amazement.
"I believe he did," I reply.
We’re both pretty surprised by this since, while our tolerance for me may be higher than that of the general public’s, it didn’t seem like I was doing anything that’d crossed any line.
Fortunately, my cordless phone may not have a little thingie to jiggle (stop that), but it does have called ID.
So I hit redial.
And four seconds later, I hear "Hello, The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College."
And I say, "Aaron?"
And Aaron says, "Yes?"
And I say, "You hung up on me, man."
And he says, "You were being rude. And we have a policy that we don’t tolerate that."
Genuinely surprised and not a little puzzled, I say, "I was? Well…what did I say? What words did I use that might be considered profanity, for instance?"
And he says, "I’m not going to talk to you."
And he hangs up on me again.
Top Management looks at me in shock. I look at her in shock. And even in my shocked state of shockedness, I can’t help but notice that she’s really cute when she’s all knocked-up-like.
So I consider calling back and asking to talk to his supervisor. But I don’t really want to get Aaron in trouble, so I decide not to. And Top Management points out that he may very well be a volunteer. I suspect he’s on a work-study thing, getting minimum wage or a partial scholarship or something, but whatever. If he’s a volunteer, I can understand why his temper’d be a bit short, although that also means he kinda can’t get in trouble, because what are they gonna do, fire him from the job he’s doing for free?
So in the end, as so often happens with me, I decide to do nothing.
Except, of course, come down here and write about it on Left of the Dial. Where over seven hundred and fifty thousand people will read about it in the next week.
Okay, not really. But seven hundred and fifty might. At least three of them might even be graduates. And, yes, I’m only one of those three. Two at the most.
Oh, and The School Formerly Known as Mary Washington College had one other thing going for it.
They had Top Management.
Now, if they’d changed their name to The University of Top Management, well, now, that I could understand. Fools didn’t know what they had.
But I did. And I do.
So whatever its other failings, turns out I learned something there after all.
But they still ain't gettin' my money. Even if I had any.
So I’ve been ranting and raving—I know, I know, how terrifically out of character for me. But it’s been a bit more than usual lately and even if it’s all been completely, one hunnert percent justified—did I mention that the vice president of the United States shot a man in the face, has admitted he was drinking both before and after the shooting, and refused to speak with police until at least fourteen hours later? Did I mention that at any point? I wasn’t sure if I had—I can understand how it might get a tad wearing for even those who are enlightened enough to agree with me. So far there seem to be about a couple dozen of us who are all completely on the same page. It’s a start.
Anyhoo, here are some groovy links. I cannot guarantee they will make your life better over the next several decades, nor that they will get into a prime spot in the afterlife, but I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll make your life better while you’re watching them.
So. Some questions about this first one :
Are these guys spoofing? Or are they really this into the song? Because they’re phenomenal, and they keep at it all the way through. Great stuff. Their roommate, of course, nearly steals the show. What a performance.
Oh, and how long’d it take you to get the song out of your head?
And for something considerably different, there’s this.
I know, it’s been around a while. But it’s always worth going back to. I’ve probably played it twenty or thirty times. It’s simply gorgeous. I find that the video quality is improved considerably if you make the screen smaller. Just so's you know. Oh, and it might be interesting to keep in mind that the ukulele was one of George’s favorite instruments.
Well, here’s another in that series.
I know it’s supposed to be funny to take these films we all know so well and completely alter their mood with music and editing. And it is. But it’s more than that. It’s an incredible example of art and how the same piece can be transformed by context and how the art itself can be manipulated. There’s no artform where manipulation is more central to its very essence than film, and I think these are outstanding examples of that.
And finally, talk about going way, way, way back. This one’s from back in 2001; I know, practically prehistoric.
If I’ve got my history of it correct, it started with a mind-bogglingly terrible translation an animated sequence in a video game, Zero Wing, from Japanese into English. Tying some older Left of the Dial pieces together, this is a fine example of a meme. It’s also unaccountably disturbing, I find. If you’ve got the chance, watch it in a darkened room, and if you’ve got a slow connection, try to wait for the whole thing to load before watching so it flows smoothly. You don’t have to—the first time I saw it the thing stopped every seven seconds and I was still utterly transfixed. But it might make the experience more enjoyable for any of you what haven’t seen it before. If you’re interested, you can find out all about it at wikipedia, one of the handiest-dandiest sites known to humankind, even if it’s not completely trustworthy. Hey, who or what (besides Top Management) is?
So there you have it.
Absolutely no A bare minimum of rants but a maximum of raves for today. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled bitchfest. Or maybe I’ll post a warm and fuzzy Daddy-who-loves-his-kiddies story. You can never tell. I’m edgy. I’ve got an edgy edgy edge. Oh, and I’m still looking for a sponsor. Just so’s you know. It’s not too late.
Left of the Dial: the repository of detritus from the internets.
And no Iraqi sleeper quails.
That you know of…
Did anyone learn anything from Watergate? I mean, really. It’s clear Bill Clinton didn’t, for instance. Now it appears no one in this current administration, which includes folks who were actually in the Nixon administration, didn’t. And it sure seems like neither the press nor the public really did either.
The cliché is that "the cover-up is worse than the crime." And like so many cliches, this one would seem to have plenty of truth behind its well-worn façade.
For one thing, the press hates being lied to. It makes it an accessory in the spreading of disinformation. And they hate that. Of course, most people hate being lied to. It seems a pretty universal human trait. Alas, it's one that we can also dull ourselves to through repeated activity.
But here’s the thing: the cover-ups don't stop.
Politicians keep covering up. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are only two of the most obvious, given their visibility as presidents, as well as both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush during Iran-Contra and, of course, the aforementioned Richard Nixon. And in the past five (five! five!) days, obviously, Vice President Dick Cheney. But there are by all appearances a whole host of evildoers in the current administration who are doing the cover-up dance. And if they get nailed, they’re totally screwed.
Then you look at Ken Lay, who claimed recently that prosecutors have lied about the whole Enron thing and that, I kid you not, Enron was "a strong, profitable, growing company even into the fourth quarter of 2001." Really, KennyBoy? Because that’s the quarter y’all declared bankruptcy. So. Were you lying when you declared bankruptcy or are you lying now, you sack of shit?
Obviously there are oh so many other examples, in politics (Senator Frist, Congressman DeLay, good to see you both), in big bidniz (hello Diebold!), in the military (how are ya, Abu Ghraib?) and just in general life.
So here’s my question: if the cover-up is worse than the crime, why do so many people continue to cover-up? Why do we learn about cover-up after cover-up? Why do they keep doing it?
The only answer I’ve been able to come up with so far is pretty horrible. It’s this: they do it because they get away with it.
That must be it. That’s got to be the only explanation. The folks who’ve been busted at Enron for sodomizing their employees, their stockholders and virtually everyone in the state of California did so not because they’re stupid but because they thought they could away with it. And if they’re not stupid, what on earth made them think they could get away with it? Greed in and of itself is not enough to get someone to do something that'll land them in jail. Only greed mixed with a pretty good notion that it'll never be discovered.
So if the cover-up is worse than the crime, why are there so many cover-ups?
Because they get away with it most of the time.
Because they had in the past.
And because others must as well.
It’s the only answer. For every cover-up we know about where someone goes down hard, there’ve gotta be two, five, ten, a dozen, a hundred times where they have gotten away with it. What else makes sense?
So. The good news is: we’ve got more Katrinas and Enrons and Abu Ghraibs out there. Maybe tons more. But don’t worry about getting slammed by the horror of experiencing those things again. Because chances are, they’re happening right now, in our country and outside, in our name and in the dark of night. And we’ll never find out.
I speak, of course, of Vice President Dick Cheney. He who shot a man this weekend. And then didn't tell anybody.
In what conceivable way is it not news that the vice president of the United States of America shot a man?
Yet it was at least 18 hours before anyone found out. And that's only because the owner of the ranch where the accident took place called a local reporter. Neither Cheney nor his spokespeople said a word. And when asked, they continued to refer reporters to the rancher.
What the hell? The vice president of the United States of America shoots a 78-year-old man and they won't talk about it?
What's with the delay? And what are the facts of the matter? We don't know. They haven't been forthcoming.
If this had happened six years ago, there would already be a special prosecutor on the case and investigations in both the House and the Senate underway.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the veep did it on purpose. But he shot a man. And that man's still in the Intensive Care Unit two days later.
That's right. They've been trying to spin it as "no big deal." Except that the victim's in his seventies. And it's been two days. And he's still in the ICU.
I've spent a fair amount of time in the ICU with two of my kids. And you know what? The folks there move you out as soon as they can.
There are a lot of things that are weird about this. The first, and least serious, is that once again the vice president was hunting on a game farm, which is about as much hunting as shooting ducks at a carnival. The animals aren't wild; they're raised on farms to be prey. This isn't about sport or feeding your family. It's about killing a small, weak and defenseless animal because you can.
But that's at most tertiary—it's a complete rebuttal to the fake image the nancyboy that is the veep likes to present, but whatever.
The strangest thing, of course, is the amazing recklessness the vice president showed. He was hunting birds, and using dogs to flush the prey. Which means you don't shoot anywhere near ground level. 'Cuz if you do, you just might shoot your dog. And that's generally considered a no-no.
Oh, and of course, you might shoot one of the people with whom you're hunting. That's also something of a no-no.
Unless, that is, you're the vice president of the United States of America.
The next thing that doesn't quite add up is that they're trying, inconceivable as this may sound, to spin it as though the victim's at fault. Which is certainly standard-operating-procedure for this administration—frankly, I'm amazed that they confirmed Cheney was the shooter, rather than blaming a rogue quail or perhaps a vengeful God, or that the old coot got shot because he was hunting with a pre-9/11 mindset. But regardless, it doesn't make any sense.
The victim was coming up on the party from behind—which is exactly how you're supposed to do it. The spin is that he didn't alert Cheney to his presence. Well, first of all, there were only four of them, so it's not like any of them should have had all that much difficulty keeping track of the other members of the party. And it's certainly not like he flew in from Wyoming for a surprise party and just showed up in the middle. He was there. They all knew he was there. As for not alerting them, what the hell? They were hunting! You don't yell out "hey, here I am!" when you're hunting, especially when you've all been there together the whole damn time. Oh, and he was wearing a bright orange vest. Which doesn’t resemble quail all that damn much.
This guy was supposedly almost a hundred feet away—some of the reports say thirty yards and some say thirty feet and maybe if Cheney or his spokespeople would talk to the media we'd have a clearer picture. Which may, of course, be why they're not talking.
Anyhoo, Cheney was using a gun with a thirty-inch wide shot pattern. And he nailed the old man in the face and chest. From up to a hundred feet away. Which means it was a half-decent shot. Or an unbelievably terrible one, considering he was hunting birds and therefore should have been aiming more than six damn feet off the ground and that he turned all the way around to fire directly behind him.
But the facts show without a doubt that he wasn't aiming higher. Which means, at the very best, that this manly-man is one seriously suckass hunter. Or, more likely, utterly negligent.
Which leads to the strangest thing of all about the story. The cover-up.
Most likely, of course, is that it's because the vice president of the United States of America simply doesn't say anything at any time because he's the vice president of the United States and he'll be damned if he's going to answer any more questions from any more damn nosy reporters.
The next most likely, of course, is that he'd been drinking.
That's right. I said it. This isn't some nutty conspiracy theory—this is common sense. Why else cover it up for eighteen hours? And refuse to be forthcoming for two full days even after it breaks? It's not like drinking in one of these situations is unknown. It certainly seems to be more normal than for four people to be out hunting, and have two of them be male and two female, and neither of the females be the wife of the very married male vice president of the United States of America. Not that I'm implying anything. Except that that might be another reason to cover it up.
I suppose it's also possible that instead of drinking, he just tripped and fell and the gun went off that way. Or he had one of his bi-annual mini-heart attacks. Those are both possibilities. But they seem less likely than Cheney simply having had too much to drink.
I don't know if it's normal to test for alcohol in one of these cases, but had this been an automobile accident it certainly would have been. So if it's not standard, it should be.
Fortunately, the veep, with his history of serious heart problems, always has an ambulance nearby. Or, in this case, relatively. Turns out it took the ambulance twenty minutes to reach them. Which is completely and totally implausible. There is no WAY Vice President Dick Cheney is out with a bunch of people with guns and medical attention is twenty minutes away. Not a chance in hell. And if that really and truly is the way it happened, inconceivable as it may be, that's also utterly negligent.
But to make it even weirder, the property owner said that it took the ambulance that long to reach them because they were out in the middle of nowhere and the roads weren't paved. Oh, but she was an eyewitness to the shooting. She saw it all. From the car she was sitting in at the time.
I kid you not.
Oh, and why, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, did it take so long to notify anyone? Mind you, President Bush was told within two hours, although bizarrely, it was several more hours before he was informed Dick Cheney was involved. What the hell is with that? What the hell did they tell him then? "Hey, Mister President, a guy was shot while hunting today, sir." "Um…okay. Thanks."
Anyhoo, McClellan explained the inexplicable time lapse by saying they wanted to "gather the facts" and that what they were primarily concerned with was to "help the victim." Which is very nice. And completely ridiculous. What, is the veep Marcus Welby, M.D. now? Was he personally stanching the copious blood flow from the myriad gunshot wounds he himself had inflected upon the poor old man nefariously posing as an undercover Iranian sleeper quail? Gimme a break. The vice president's ambulance crew helped the man. From that point on, there was nothing else for Vice President Cheney to do. Except to begin the cover-up. And, unlike his performance during Katrina, he didn't hesitate but immediately leapt into action.
As of when I'm writing this—late Monday afternoon—there's still been no official statement from Vice President Cheney. Nor has there been any statement from the victim or his family, or any photos of the victim to verify the claims that a man in his seventies getting shot was no big deal. The only one who's spoken so far is the property owner. And of course Mary Matalin. (Sans James Carville for once, thank God for small favors.) None of the other eyewitnesses have spoken to anyone. For that matter, exactly who the eyewitnesses actually were—who actually saw what actually happen when—is still completely unclear at this point in time.
The vice president of the United States of America shot a man. And the details are unclear two days later. Assume the most innocent scenario possible. Even so, does that sound kosher to you? Why don't we know what happened?
When MaryLou down the street gets married, that's nice, but that's not news. Ah, but if MaryLou is the daughter of the vice president of the United States, well now, then that is news.
And when Dick Cheney becomes the first sitting vice president to shoot a man in two hundred years? That's news. That's big damn news.
But he's still not talking. And there's no way to spin that and have it not seem mighty damn weird. And there's no way to explain the deafening silence on the stonewall than to realize that, once again, it's Double-Standard Time.
So I’m slowly waking up the other morning, as it my wont. Well, actually, that’s not true. I usually wake up suddenly, against my will, as The Boy shrieks with laughter downstairs at something one of his impossibly magnificent sisters has just done. Or perhaps he decides to play a snippet or two of Boulez on the piano. He’s got quite the repertoire and one never knows on any given morning how he’ll decide to jolt me back into consciousness.
But I generally hang out in bed for quite a while after that initial shock because I try not to move when my pulse is over 210 beats per minute. And because I’m a lazy bastard.
So on this particular morning, Top Management leaves The Boy in the ever-so-capable hands of Max and sneaks upstairs so we can cuddle for a few minutes and I can play pattycake with my newest daughter. I love doing that and I never seem to get to nearly enough.
So Britney and I are wrasslin’ when The Bean spots the three of us. She’s under the covers with us in a flash. Then The Rose notices that there’s snuggling going on and she’s been left out and that clearly won’t do. So now there’s quite a group of us.
But we’re all happy and warm and life is good. Then The Bean feels someone’s foot touch hers.
"Whose foot is that?" she asks.
The Rose, as is not unusual, is feeling obstreperous. "Whose do you think it is?"
The Bean ponders. "Is it yours, Mommy?"
"No," The Rose and Top Management both answer simultaneously.
"Hm," says The Bean, running down the list of possibilities. "Is it Daddy’s?"
"Noooo," answers The Rose, drawing out her answer in such a way as to imply that there’s now only one choice left.
"Is it the new baby’s?" asks The Bean.
"What?" replies The Rose, taken aback. "No!"
"Huh," says The Bean. I share her confusion. She thinks it’s the baby’s foot? The baby that’s currently residing inside Top Management? Yeah, she’s only five, but I thought she had a better grasp on anatomy than that. What the hell, though, I suppose my own grasp isn’t that much less tenuous.
"Is it Max’s?" The Bean asks.
"What?" The Rose replies again. "No!"
Now I’m even more confused. Max isn’t even in the room. I look at Top Management, befuddled. She looks at me with wide eyes.
"Huh. Is it Annie’s?"
"No!" shouts The Rose. Annie being Max’s beloved beaniebaby, The Rose’s agitation’s understandable.
Again, I look at Top Management, who’s still staring at me in amazement. What? I mouth silently.
She grins. "The Bean’s toying with her," she whispers.
What? No. No way. The Bean’s only five and that’s totally not her style.
"Is it…" The Bean says slowly, looking up. "The ceiling fan’s foot?"
"No!" scream The Rose, still frustrated but laughing now.
Top Management raises her eyebrows. I nod. Yeah, okay. Kinda hard to spin that any other way.
My little Bean, toying with someone, driving them insane. Just because she can. I was so proud.
"She so learned that from you," Top Management said after we’d sent the girls off to get dressed.
"Really?" I asked.
"Please," Top Management replied.
I thought about it and, yeah, I guess she did. I’m a really, really bad person that way. Always have been.
And it made my day.
The Rose is, unfortunately for her, almost exactly like me, poor thing, with the hair-trigger temper and the radical mood swings. And The Boy…oy. He’s like a short, thin and hard-of-hearing version of me, again with the hair-trigger temper and the radical mood swings.
But Max and The Bean are exactly like their mom, bless their lucky little hearts. Happy-go-lucky, brilliant, energetic, outgoing—there’s virtually no sign that I had anything to do with their creation. Though Top Management claims I did. Since I’m still a bit fuzzy on the whole procreation thang—I told you my knowledge of anatomy was pretty tenuous—I have to take her word for it. I think she likes my ignorance in this one instance. After all, I only wanted one kid, and if I could figure out exactly how we’ve ended up with 4.7, maybe I’d have more control over the entire situation. But for all I know, it’s somehow tied to, I dunno, breaking down cardboard boxes for a trip to the recycling center. Which, come to think of it, I only do about once every three years…hmm…
Anyhoo, for The Bean to have so mastered my hideously annoying sense of humor…well, it may not bode well for her later in life, but for now I’m just so happy to see that I’ve had some sort of effect on her. Oh sure, some fathers pass on, say, perfect pitch, or a natural linguistic aptitude, or an ability to solve quadratic equations sans paper. Some fathers teach their kids to throw the curve, or hit the curve. And some dads, the ones with their heads really on straight, teach their kids to be kind and patient and generous.
Fortunately, our kids have Top Management for that stuff. Me? Apparently I'm there to teach 'em how to get under someone's skin, how to needle people successfully, starting slowly and building gradually until you've got your needlee blind with rage. Maybe I'm there to teach 'em not to stray too far from their New Yorker roots. Or perhaps I'm raising a bumper crop of young attorneys. And if they never live in The Big Apple again or set foot in court, well, I guess I'm preparing them for the internet world they live in; if nothing else, these skills'll serve 'em well online.
You may recall that a few months ago, back when people in this country cared that hundreds of Americans died and, oh by the way, we pretty much lost New Orleans because of gross incompetence, there were jokes about selling it all back to France.
Turns out it wasn’t so much a joke.
Mayor: New Orleans will seek aid from other nations
By Michael Depp
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Shortcomings in aid from the U.S. government are making New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look to other nations for help in rebuilding his hurricane-damaged city.
Nagin, who has hosted a steady stream of foreign dignitaries since Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, says he may seek international assistance because U.S. aid has not been sufficient to get the city back on its feet.
"I know we had a little disappointment earlier with some signals we're getting from Washington but the international community may be able to fill the gap," Nagin said when a delegation of French government and business officials passed through on Friday to explore potential business partnerships.
Jordan's King Abdullah also visited New Orleans on Friday and Nagin said he would encourage foreign interests to help redevelop some of the areas hardest hit by the storm.
"France can take Treme. The king of Jordan can take the Lower Ninth Ward," he said, referring to two of the city's neighborhoods.
Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Bush administration has pledged billions of dollars to Katrina victims but five months after the storm, New Orleans remains largely in ruins.
Nagin said his message to President George W. Bush would be that the federal government needs to refocus on the devastated area.
"We need your undivided attention over the next six months," he said. "We need backup. We need for you to make the words that you spoke in Jackson Square a reality."
Nagin was referring to the president's September 15 address to the nation from New Orleans, in which he pledged "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes" to rebuild.
French Transport Minister Dominique Perben, leading the French delegation to a city that was founded by France in 1718, said, "This catastrophe has deeply upset the French people and the French government."
France, Perben said through a translator, "wants to be a long-term partner for Louisiana and New Orleans."
We can’t even take care of our own cities. The United States requires foreign aid for our own damn nation. Can you wrap your head around that? Seriously, could you have ever imagined such a preposterous scenario five years ago?
Heck of a job, Brownie. Heck of a job, folks who hired (and continue to pay) him.
So I’ve railed on several occasions about how bad the Rolling Stones suck. Mainly because they do. As my pal Lisa likes to say, they suck suck suckety suck.
But I’d heard from some very reputable sources that their latest album is their best in over twenty-five years. Now, admittedly, that’s damning with the faintest of praise. That’s like saying someone’s a better basketball player than I am. I mean, great. Stephen Hawking’s not. No one else currently living leaps to mind. And, frankly, I’d have to play a quick game of HORSE with Stephen just to verify.
So I reserved Bigger Bang from the library. If I’m going to bash someone, I like to do my homework and make sure I have some idea of what I’m talking about; hard as that may be for regular Left of the Dial readers to believe, it’s absolutely true.
Now, after watching Mick, Keef and The Boys play what may be literally the worst rock and roll parody I’ve ever seen at the Super Bowl, I was less than enthused when my copy of the album came in yesterday. But I’m a man of my word (for the most part), so here I am listening to it even as we speak. As I’m currently on a Sibelius kick, and the "new" Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall album came in at the library at the same, it wasn’t easy to pop the disc in. And yet I did. I suffer. Oh how I suffer.
And you know what? It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. It is.
Now, we’re grading on something of a curve here. Put up against their classic work, it’s utter dreck. Put up against their work of the past twenty-five years, it’s pretty damn good.
If they were complete unknowns, what would I think? It’s hard to disassociate yourself from the knowledge of who these guys are. I think I’d think it was really good, maybe listen to it a few more times and then play it at most twice more over the next twenty years. Mick’s singing is okay by his own standards but, come on. He’s no Prince or Kurt Cobain or Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder. And some of the lyrics struggle to be serviceable. And the style Charlie developed in the late 70’s of not playing the hi-hat on the two and four has grown unbelievably tiresome.
But some of the melodies are quite nice with the occasional surprising and neat twist. They’ve got a pretty sweet sense of groove. In short, they still have a good idea of how to rock. Which shouldn’t be surprising—when these guys were at their best, they rocked as well as anyone ever has. But it is surprising, since it’s been so long since they showed they still could.
So. To sum up: indeed, this may be their best work in nearly three decades. It’s far from essential, but it’s nice to see a master still have the goods. Let’s hope against hope that, Super Bowl to the contrary, this is the beginning of a rebirth and not a last gasp. I seriously doubt it, but I could be wrong. I certainly hope I am. Never enough good music in the world.
If, unlike the current administration, you don’t hate the brave men and women serving in our military and would like to help this guy who nearly lost his life fighting for us, you can go here, where they’ve set up a fund to help him pay for his body armor.
Soldier Pays for Armor
Army demanded $700 from city man who was wounded
By Eric Eyre
The last time 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV saw his body armor, he was lying on a stretcher in Iraq, his arm shattered and covered in blood.
A field medic tied a tourniquet around Rebrook’s right arm to stanch the bleeding from shrapnel wounds. Soldiers yanked off his blood-soaked body armor. He never saw it again.
But last week, Rebrook was forced to pay $700 for that body armor, blown up by a roadside bomb more than a year ago.
He was leaving the Army for good because of his injuries. He turned in his gear at his base in Fort Hood, Texas. He was informed there was no record that the body armor had been stripped from him in battle.
He was told to pay nearly $700 or face not being discharged for weeks, perhaps months.
Rebrook, 25, scrounged up the cash from his Army buddies and returned home to Charleston last Friday.
"I last saw the [body armor] when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I was being evacuated in a helicopter," Rebrook said. "They took it off me and burned it."
But no one documented that he lost his Kevlar body armor during battle, he said. No one wrote down that armor had apparently been incinerated as a biohazard.
Rebrook’s mother, Beckie Drumheler, said she was saddened — and angry — when she learned that the Army discharged her son with a $700 bill. Soldiers who serve their country, those who put their lives on the line, deserve better, she said.
"It’s outrageous, ridiculous and unconscionable," Drumheler said. "I wanted to stand on a street corner and yell through a megaphone about this."
Rebrook was standing in the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when the roadside bomb exploded Jan. 11, 2005. The explosion fractured his arm and severed an artery. A Black Hawk helicopter airlifted him to a combat support hospital in Baghdad.
He was later flown to a hospital in Germany for surgery, then on to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C., for more surgeries. Doctors operated on his arm seven times in all.
But Rebrook’s right arm never recovered completely. He still has range of motion problems. He still has pain when he turns over to sleep at night.
Even with the injury, Rebrook said he didn’t want to leave the Army. He said the "medical separation" discharge was the Army’s decision, not his.
So after eight months at Fort Hood, he gathered up his gear and started the "long process" to leave the Army for good.
Things went smoothly until officers asked him for his "OTV," his "outer tactical vest," or body armor, which was missing. A battalion supply officer had failed to document the loss of the vest in Iraq.
"They said that I owed them $700," Rebrook said. "It was like ‘thank you for your service, now here’s the bill for $700.’ I had to pay for it if I wanted to get on with my life."
In the past, the Army allowed to soldiers to write memos, explaining the loss and destruction of gear, Rebrook said.
But a new policy required a "report of survey" from the field that documented the loss.
Rebrook said he knows other soldiers who also have been forced to pay for equipment destroyed in battle.
"It’s a combat loss," he said. "It shouldn’t be a cost passed on to the soldier. If a soldier’s stuff is hit by enemy fire, he shouldn’t have to pay for it."
Rebrook said he tried to get a battalion commander to sign a waiver on the battle armor, but the officer declined. Rebrook was told he’d have to supply statements from witnesses to verify the body armor was taken from him and burned.
"There’s a complete lack of empathy from senior officers who don’t know what it’s like to be a combat soldier on the ground," Rebrook said. "There’s a whole lot of people who don’t want to help you. They’re more concerned with process than product."
Rebrook, who graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., spent more than four years on active duty. He served six months in Iraq.
Now, Rebrook is sending out résumés, trying to find a job. He plans to return to college to take a couple of pre-med classes and apply to medical school. He wants to be a doctor someday.
"From being an infantryman, I know what it’s like to hurt people," Rebrook said. "But now I’d like to help people."
I swear, sometimes I think there’s a mole high inside the Catholic Church, quite successfully attempting to tear down its moral authority, or at least the veneer of it. There is no other way to explain this one—which, by the way, has been reported all around the world, including in the New York Daily News. I checked, see, because I knew, I just freakin’ knew that this had to be a hoax. It just had to be.
But Sweet Jesu, it’s not.
I’m so pleased that they believe in the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." But given their recent (and not-so-recent) history, it’s stunningly tone-deaf. What’s more, given their bizarre and disturbing obsessiveness with homosexuality, it’d be nice if they paid a bit more attention to a real problem…like pedophilia. A nice step might be to root out pedophiles inside the Church, and to punish those who either protected pedophiles inside the Church or at least turned a blind eye to them.
Oh, and don’t go way the hell out of your way to associate with the world’s most famous pedophile.
Jackson in talks to set late Pope's prayers to music
By NICK PISA and RAYMOND HAINEY
SECRET discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and Michael Jackson to put the prayers of Pope John Paul II to music appeared to be in disarray last night after the singer fled members of the press who had got wind of the project.
Pope John Paul, who died last April, wrote 24 religious prayers and chants and Church officials now want to set them to music.
Jackson, recently cleared of child sex abuse charges in California, is seen as a prime candidate because of his worldwide celebrity status.
Yesterday, Father Giuseppe Moscati, of the Millennium Music Society, which specialises in church music and organises musical events at the Vatican, reluctantly confirmed the details.
Fr Moscati said: "We have the rights for the 24 prayers written by Pope John Paul.
"We had hoped the fact that we have been in contact with Michael Jackson would remain a secret. But sadly it has leaked out ahead of time. We are in discussions and trying to sort it out."
Fr Moscati dismissed Jackson's controversial past and insisted it was no barrier to him working with the Catholic Church. The priest said: "He was cleared and found not guilty by a jury.
"Michael Jackson is very interested in this project - we shall see what happens."
Last night it emerged that Jackson had secretly flown to Venice to sign a contract. But as news of his arrival leaked he fled the city and was thought to be on his way back to the United States.
He had arrived in Venice with his three children, but changed his plans after learning that photographers and reporters were waiting for him.
Jackson shot to superstar status with his album Thriller in the early 1980s. He also had a massive global hit with his famine awareness single We Are The World.
A source in Venice said: "We were all ready to put the deal to Michael Jackson but he was scared off when the news leaked out. As soon as he knew everyone was waiting for him and the project had been found out he disappeared. We don't know where he is now."
The Vatican deal would be Jackson's first musical work since his trial, as his image has taken a nosedive since his court appearances last year.
He has barely been seen in public and has retreated to his Neverland ranch in California as he tries to recover his respectability.
It had been suggested that he was considering a move to Europe, where his fan base - especially in France and Italy - is phenomenally loyal.
Last week he was seen in Bahrain, where he has also been spending time away from the media, dressed in full black Islamic robes and headgear as he tried to elude photographers.
He spent several days there before flying on to Germany, where he visited friends before travelling to Venice. Jackson shot to stardom as a child in the 1970s with his brothers in the Jackson Five, before hitting new heights as a solo performer.
He has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and has been married twice.
But Jackson's status as one of the world's biggest stars was rocked in 1993, when he was accused of child molestation involving Jordy Chandler, then aged 13. Prosecutors did not pursue the case after the alleged victim refused to testify.
But Jackson, who maintained his innocence, settled a civil action raised by Jordy's family. It is thought he paid out more than £5.7 million in an out-of-court settlement.
The Catholic Church has also been rocked by worldwide allegations of sex abuse by priests. In the United States, the Church has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to victims of abuse, with the diocese of Covington in Kentucky last year handing over £68 million to child sex abuse victims.
In 2002, the archdiocese of Boston reached a £5.7 million settlement with victims of paedophile priest James Geoghan. The following year, the archdiocese was forced to sell £57 million of assets to fund legal settlements for more than 500 abuse victims.
Here’re the main things I took away from Superbowl Forty:
Some bozos on a political blog were mentioning how they were rooting for the Steelers because Pittsburgh’s such a blue-collar team, whereas any team from Seattle must be soft, a bunch of latte-sipping pansies. And I thought, you gotta be kidding me. The second-string kicker on the Seahawks would kick the living shit out of some lardass sitting his basement pontificating about FISA. And, yeah, I’m including myself in that group. Some folks have no perspective. When you’re talking about a "soft" NFL player, you’re talking about a guy who, if you ever actually met him, would likely be the toughest human being you’d ever known. So shut up. And get outta the basement.
Those idiots weren’t quite enough to get me to pull for Seattle. But they came close. Still, I’m mighty pleased for Bettis, Cowher, Rooney, Ward and the rest.
Roethlisberger is going to be a great quarterback for a long time, injuries permitting, but he didn’t get all the way into the endzone on that play. Not even freakin’ close.
What the hell is with clock management and the Superbowl? Is it that much tougher than the regular season? Two years in a row now the losing team has totally screwed it up. Bizarre.
The Rolling Stones suck live. They suck. Suck suck suckety suck. Sweet Jesu, they are the most overrated live band ever. They. Suck.
This was the first time in over ten years I’d watched any of the much-hyped Superbowl commercials. And, yeah, okay, they really were pretty good. But not good enough to keep me from channel-surfing at one point. Found 60 Minutes, which was doing a piece on Sting. Turns out ol’ Gordon Sumner earns $2000 a day in royalties. And that’s just on the song "Every Breath You Take." Wow. Showed a few clips of him with The Police. Amazing to remember when he used to be cool. Still, I’d take his easy-listening stuff over the Stones any day. Maybe that’s because They Suck.
So I’ve been re-reading a biography of Jean Sibelius. As with Bach and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and so many others, this brilliant composer had a patron. In fact, he had several. What’s more, the government of Finland actually began sponsoring him, correctly realizing that he was one of their true national treasures.
I don’t think I’m either up for that or down with it, but the patron bit sounds pretty groovy. So, showing my appreciation for history, I am now accepting applications for the official position of Left of the Dial Patron.
No corporations need apply, of course, unless they understand that they’ll get shredded on a regular basis just to show that money has not diluted or dulled my razor-sharp wit nor my edgy, edgy edge and general distrust of authority. Individuals, however, will be treated with considerable respect, as anyone sagacious enough to have sponsored me will therefore have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the individual in question obviously has outstandingly fine taste, something for which I have the utmost respect.
What’s more, if the level of patronage is high enough, you can be the patron of not only Left of the Dial but, indeed, the entire Scott Peterson oeuvre. You’ll be thanked in all my future writings and I’ll even consider taking specific commissions—so if you want a novel dedicated to you and I’ve got an idea for a novel (and I’ve got at least three that are dying to be written—and, alas, I’m entirely serious), I’ll move that up in the queue.
Want a picture book? I’ve got several ideas and with you allowing me to ignore some of the mundanities of everyday life—such as finding paying work so I can pay the bills—I’ll hop on it post-haste. I’ve not much talent in the way of poetry, though I love it, but I’d be willing to take a stab at some haiku or limericks. I used to love writing short stories and vignettes and would be more than happy to try my hand at such forms again. Graphic novels, screenplays, teleplays: the sky’s the limit and it’s all on the table, provided the financials work out favorably.
Now, in the interest of honesty, I’ll have to say upfront that there are no guarantees on this—after all, I’m a writer, not a trained monkey. It’s possible that the muse will simply refuse to visit and that try as I may, try as I might the well will run dry just as I’m searching for the perfect rhyme to cap off my little ditty about orthopedics. But I will guarantee my best effort. And if you’re reading this, you know what that looks like. (Wow, talk about the ol’ soft sell…)
I’ve got several hundred regular readers of Left of the Dial and surely many of you have sufficient cash flow to enrich our great nation and indeed the entire civilized world in this manner. After all, if you’re not fabulously wealthy, what are doing spending so much time reading this site? So of course you are. Don’t bother denying it. Just get together with your accountant, figure out how much you can comfortably afford to shift out of those offshore accounts in order to support my wit and wisdom, add another ten percent just to be on the safe side, and let’s talk.
Bach’s cello suites, Beethoven’s middle quartets, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony and my novel The Sight (currently half-finished and not only a most excellent page-turner with significant emotional depths but also quite likely the ability to bring permanent peace to the Middle East…not to oversell or nothin’). You could add this timeless masterpiece to the world’s collection of great works. And, you know, that ain’t an offer that comes along every day. So what are you waiting for? Do you really wanna get outmaneuvered by The Donald (again?) on this? Of course not.
Operators are standing by.
What country are we living in? Because it sure doesn't seem like the same one I was born in.
And I was born in Dallas. Which may sometimes feel like a different country—or maybe a different planet—but is in fact very much a part of the United States of America. I know this for a fact because the Dallas Cowboys are America's Team.
The infamous Cindy Sheehan was arrested on Tuesday night by The United States Capitol Police for wearing a t-shirt which said: 2245 Dead. How many more? She’d been invited to the State of the Union address as a guest of a member of the United States House of Representatives, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California.
Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee was also removed from the gallery because she was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom."
"They said I was protesting," [Young] told the St. Petersburg Times. "I said, ‘Read my shirt, it is not a protest.’ They said, ‘We consider that a protest.’ I said, ‘Then you are an idiot."’
They told her she was being treated the same as Sheehan, who was ejected before the speech.
Both were considered by police to be "protesting." Sheehan was not given a chance to cover up her shirt before she was arrested and did not resist in any way. Young was not arrested. In fact, it’s clear she was only removed because Sheehan had been and they needed to appear to treating both women equally unfairly. Since Young was not arrested, however, despite calling the police officers idiots, obviously they weren’t treated equally unfairly.
Now the Capitol Police department is asking the U.S. attorney’s office to drop the charges against Sheehan—which carries a sentence of up to a year in prison—since, apparently, even if she were protesting, she didn’t actually break any rules, much less any actual laws.
What’s more, back in 1971, in Cohen v. California, the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to arrest a man who wore a "Fuck the Draft" t-shirt into the courthouse.
But even more recently, and more to the point since it involved the Capitol, in 2000 in Bynum v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd
the District Court found the regulations applying 140 U.S.C. § 193 -- the section of the U.S. code restricting activities inside the Capitol -- to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Bynum involved a Reverend who was threatened with arrest by Capitol Police while leading a small group in prayer inside the Capitol. The Capitol Police issued that threat on the ground that the praying constituted a "demonstration."
As the Bynum court explained: "Believing that the Capitol Police needed guidance in determining what behavior constitutes a 'demonstration,' the United States Capitol Police Board issued a regulation that interprets 'demonstration activity,'" and that regulation specifically provides that it "does not include merely wearing Tee shirts, buttons or other similar articles of apparel that convey a message.
So. To sum it all up: anyway you cut it, the Capitol Police screwed up last night. Big time.
But what on earth could have lead them to react this way?
Oh. Maybe there was some precedent?
* In August 2004, John Prather, a mild-mannered math professor at Ohio University, was removed by security from a presidential event on public property because he wore a shirt that promoted John Kerry.
* On July 4, 2004, Nicole and Jeff Rank were arrested at a Bush event in West Virginia for wearing T-shirts that criticized the president. (About the same time the Ranks were being taken away in handcuffs, Bush was reminding the audience, "On this 4th of July, we confirm our love of freedom, the freedom for people to speak their minds." Gotta love irony.)
* In August 2004, campaign workers removed a family from a presidential event in Michigan because one woman, a 50-year-old chemist, carried in a rolled-up T-shirt emblazoned with a pro-choice slogan. She later said, "I just wanted to see my president," and brought the extra shirt in case she got cold.
* In July 2004, Jayson Nelson, a county supervisor in Appleton, Wis., was thrown out of a presidential event because of a pro-Kerry T-shirt. An event staffer saw the shirt, snatched the VIP ticket, and called for police. "Look at his shirt! Look at his shirt!" Nelson recalled the woman telling the Ashwaubenon Public Safety officer who answered the call. Nelson said the officer told him, "You gotta go," and sternly directed him to a Secret Service contingent that spent seven or eight minutes checking him over before ejecting him from the property.
* In October 2004, three Oregon schoolteachers were removed from a Bush event and threatened with arrest for wearing t-shirts that said "Protect Our Civil Liberties."
In each instance, the "accused" had tickets to see the president. Moreover, none were disturbing the peace, disrupting the event, or causing a ruckus. Their crime was their shirt.
That is not America.
That is a police state.
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
—President Ronald Reagan
October 18th, 1986
Well, now, isn’t this weird? I mentioned some Words of the Day which’d been highlighted in Left of the Dial over the decades, one of which was the fine if somewhat ubiquitous (can something be only somewhat ubiquitous?) word "meme."
At which point someone emailed me, asking about "meme." Claimed to be a regular Left of the Dialer (Left of the Dialian?) and yet to have missed the "meme" memo.
So I checked. And it seems that I wrote about "meme" back in mid-November but never actually posted it. How odd. But now you can probably understand why my phone kept getting turned off back when I lived in NYC—I just kept forgetting to pay the bill. What the hell, there was no one I felt like talking to anyway.
Therefore, with little further ado, I present for the first time a repeat of a golden oldie making its long-delayed debut:
I give you…meme.
What is with the word "meme" these days? I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting it—or at least someone using it. Okay, so I don’t actually swing dead cats. That much. Any more. But if I did, boy…
Jeez. Now I lost my train of thought. And I’m hungry.
Ah, yes, of course. Meme. Knew if I just waited a few moments it’d come back. It’s funny that way. Read a blog, read the word. It (almost) never fails. Meme is the new black. And soon that concept shall be the new meme. It’s floating out there, in the ether. Almost like a…well, like a meme.
If you’re one of those rare but highly-cultivated individdles who reads few blogs, perusing only Left of the Dial with your morning cuppa, trying desperately to overlook the rambling and asides and rambling asides, you may not have run across the word meme. Allow me, then, to introduce you. Because, after all, this is a blog. And therefore I must use the word "meme."
meme (me¯m) noun
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.
[Shortening (modeled on GENE) of mimeme, from Greek mime¯ma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate. See mimesis.]
An idea, thought or piece of information that is passed from generation to generation through imitation and behavioral replication. Coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," memes and memetics are the cultural counterpart to the biological study of genes and genetics. Using the evolution analogy, Dawkins observed that human cultures evolve via "contagious" communications in a manner similar to the gene pool of populations over time.
It is, incidentally, pronounced "meem." And, yes, that does actually count for quite a bit in its favor.
Pretty groovy—the magnificence that is Left of the Dial, boiled down to one handy-dandy rectangle.
Or maybe that's depressing. I can just post one of these puppies every so often and y'all can skp the hard work of actually reading LotD a regular basis. Just glance at the word cloud and you get the gist.
No, I was right the first time; it's pretty groovy.
Oh, and here's the link, in case you too wish to reduce your life's work to a little box.
I’m sorry to have to tell you that, but I’m afraid it’s true.
Top Management asked me to dig though some of the bags we have tossed in a corner down here in the office. She whispered that there was a coloring book in one of them.
Well, it turns out she was mostly right. There are actually a bunch of coloring books, picked up one or two a time on those rare occasions when we were out and about and saw one we thought would particularly tickle The Bean, who loves coloring books twice as much as her two older sisters combined. More than they love(d) coloring books, that is, not more than she loves her sisters. You’re following me, right?
So I decide against the Clifford and the Dora and even the Justice League and I grab the Veggie Tales. And I go to the door of the office, where The Bean has been trying valiantly to wait patiently for the thirty seconds this difficult decision has taken. And I hold out the coloring book and I say, "Would you be interested in this?"
Her mouth drops open and her eyes widen as she stares in wonder at Bob and Larry on the cover. Then she slowly reaches out to take this unexpected bounty from my hands, as though I might pull it back at any second. Which I suppose says a lot about my sense of humor and how well she knows me.
But I don’t. And her little fingers close around this incredible offering and she breathes out softly, "Ooooooh…." More air than words.
Then she spins and sprints to the stairs, the coloring book hugged tightly to her chest. And just before she gets to the first step the pressure becomes too great and she lets out a little squeak, stunningly high-pitched, an expression of pure joy. Or maybe she’d just stepped on a mouse.
No, I checked. It was all Bean. And she’s mine. All mine. (Although I sometimes deign to share her with Top Management.)
Two dollars and ninety-nine cents very well spent. Even when you include the tax.
So I tuned in a few minutes late to the Sunday talk shows this morning. Senator Bill Frist was on Press the Meat (yes, I know, I still often exhibit the sense of humor of a fifth-grader) and it was amazing to think that just a year ago he was considered a frontrunner to be the next president of the United States. He’s done. He was just awful. I actually felt terrible for him, he was tanking so badly.
So I switch over to This Week with George Stephanopoulos, marveling as always at the advanced lifeform that is George’s positively awesome hair, just in time to hear Senator Barack Obama expressing his concern for Bob and Doug and their families. Not having any idea what this is all about, I wonder if something has happened to The McKenzie Brothers.
The next guest is Senator Chuck Hagel—and I think he may have replaced John McCain in my heart, which means he’s guaranteed not to get the nomination—and he too says his thoughts and prayers are with Bob and Doug and their families. Now I’m really wondering what I missed.
I find out about twenty minutes later. First This Week does their "In Memoriam" segment, where they play sad music and show all the famous people who died this week. And then they flash the names of all the members of the military who died during the past seven days. I make a point of putting down my coffee and just watching this segment and when Top Management’s home she joins me. It takes about a minute to read their names, check their ages, see where they lived. It’s a tiny thing but, as stupid as this sounds, I want to make sure someone who has no personal connection to these men and women who gave their lives in support of our nation takes a small bit of time to think about them and their sacrifice. I don't have any illusion about this having an effect on anything. Except maybe me.
There were around twenty names this week, which seems to be about the average. And while it seems that most of them are in their late teens or early twenties, I’m often surprised at how many of the fallen are in their late thirties or forties.
Anyhoo, at that point George invited ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz onto the set to talk about the Bob and Doug situation. Turns out it was Bob Woodruff, the co-anchor of World News Tonight, and cameraman Doug Vogt, both of whom were injured by an IED in Iraq today. Martha, who always reminds me of a very attractive blonde yippy dog, seemed quite upset; her voice shook as she said that they were both in serious condition and that Bob was currently in surgery.
They talked about it for a few minutes more and then it was time to go. George said that, of course, ABC would keep us all up to date on this story throughout the course of the day.
And I thought…why? Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible for Bob and Doug’s families, I do. As the father of 4.7 children, I can't help but feel horrible for the families of anyone who gets injured or killed.
But 17 Americans died in Iraq just last weekend, and I didn’t hear any of the guests on any of the talk shows last weekend or this express their sympathy to their families. Why not?
It’s obvious why not: because they were just anonymous soldiers. They weren’t famous anchormen. And we pay attention to the famous and we ignore (or nearly do) those grunts who enable the famous to do their jobs.
The story is still breaking as I type this so I don’t know the details, but what I do know is that Bob and Doug were travelling in a convoy and their Humvee got hit by an IED and that apparently they took some gunfire. I do know that there were other vehicles in the convoy and other people in the vehicle with them. What I don’t know is if anyone else was injured. There were at least a dozen other people in that convoy and at least two other people in their specific vehicle. Were Bob and Doug the only two injured? We don’t know. ABC’s website doesn’t tell us. Why not?
We know why not.
Don’t misunderstand me: I feel for both Bob and Doug and their families; their loved ones must be in incredible agony right now. And neither of them had to go, and both knew the risk: they’d both been in Iraq before and both either been injured or nearly so—on a previous trip, Doug was sitting next to an ABC producer when that producer was killed. So they knew the risk and decided to go anyway. That’s pretty damn ballsy and I give both of them major props.
So it’s not that I’m criticizing them in any way. I’m just pointing out that what they were doing was no more heroic than the 17 soldiers who died last weekend. And that those 17 soldiers and their brothers-in-arms are, for all intents and purposes, invisible and anonymous. But the good-looking, rich, famous and powerful Bob Woodruff isn’t. Something like a third of military families qualify for food stamps. I'm quite certain Bob Wooruff's family doesn't.
Maybe a little more balance is called for. But don’t give Bob or Doug any less attention. Instead give a little more attention to people like Maj. Stuart M. Anderson, 44, of the 3rd Corps Support Command; Maj. Douglas A. Labouff, 36, Capt. Michael R. Martinez, 43, and 1st Lt. Joseph D. deMoors, 36, all of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment; and 1st Lt. Jaime L. Campbell, 25, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chester W. Troxel, 45, Spc. Michael I. Edwards, 26, and Spc. Jacob E. Melson, 22, all assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment.
They all died two weeks ago in Iraq. But not one United States senator mentioned them on Meet the Press or This Week with George Stephanopoulos. And that’s just not right.
Why do I have the feeling that most Americans who lose a court case don’t get to go sixteen years without paying up?
Well, ain’t that America for you and me? Somethin’ to see, baby…
America's Biggest Deadbeat
By Carl Pope
Yes, that would also be the world's richest corporation -- ExxonMobil.
Sixteen years ago, the Exxon Valdez tanker split open in Prince William Sound and caused America's worst oil spill. Exxon immediately rushed to the people of Prince William Sound and promised that it would "make them whole." Exxon may have done a poor job of hiring its tanker skippers, but it did a great PR job of making promises after the disaster.
Of course, the corporate giant had lawyers even slicker than the oil it had spilled. After a long trial, a federal jury ordered Exxon to pay of $5 billion to 32,000 plaintiffs. Thanks to its lawyers, though, Exxon has been able to pursue endless appeals in the years since that ruling. The case is now stuck in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with an oral hearing set for tomorrow. Meanwhile, 2,000 of the original plaintiffs have died since the first court ruling. It's hard to "make someone whole" after their life has ended (and their relatives have no standing in the case and cannot benefit if and when Exxon finally pays up).
While Exxon has ducked behind the courts and legal foot dragging, the economy of Cordova, Alaska, has not recovered. Fishermen tell us that, at the time of the spill, the salmon and herring markets were the strongest in the history of Cordova's fishing industry. The fishing-support industries were strong too. The year before the spill, for example, Phil Lian's commercial-fishing equipment shop had more than $2 million in sales. That figure plummeted to $32,000 in the season after the spill.
Okay, so I had a different post all set to go until Top Management pointed out to me today’s Word of the Day. So my regularly scheduled harangue shall simply have to wait until tomorrow. I’m sure you’re all on pins and needles. Well, if I had my way, you would be.
Not really. I just like to try out tough talk now and then to see if it fits. Not yet, apparently. But I’ll keep plugging.
Anyhoo, here’s today’s Word o’ the Day:
wunderkind \VOON-duhr-kint\, noun;
plural wunderkinder \-kin-duhr\:
1. A child prodigy.
2. One who achieves great success or acclaim at an early age.
Now, being the wondering sort, you’re probably wondering just why Top Management pointed this word out to me. Surely it can’t be because, unlike, say, "godwottery," "meme," or "quiddity," the word is generally unfamiliar to me and mine Left of the Dial readers.
Not a’tall. It’s that Top Management and I went to see our yearly film last month; this year ‘twas The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And outstanding (if not perfect) it indeed was. And amused were we to hear the voice of our much-liked Alanis Morissette singing over the credits at the end.
Until she got to the chorus.
Top Management turned to me and said, "She didn’t just sing—"
"No," I agreed. "She didn’t. She can’t have. We must have heard wrong. Must’ve been some other word."
So there we sat, waiting for the line to come ‘round again. And indeed it did. And indeed there it was again.
She sang the word "wunderkind." Only she pronounced it as though it were an English word and not the German word it is. In other words, she sang "won-der-kind," with the last syllable rhyming with "mind" or "find," rather than "skinned" or "chagrinned."
Now, I can understand pronouncing the first letter as a "w" rather than the more accurate "v"—sometimes you gotta bend a bit not to sound like a right prat, as my British brethren might (or might not) say. Saturday Night Live once did a great skit with Jimmy Smits over people so massively going overboard to correctly pronounce some common Spanish words, and who hasn’t rolled their eyes at a coworker saying "croissant" as though she’s from Provence? (Although perhaps that’s a bad example since maybe it’s pronounced entirely differently in Provençal.) But still—mangling that last syllable the way Alanis does is simply beyond the pale.
Ne’ertheless, I held out some dim hope that we might be mishearing it somehow, that it was some other word we were mistaking for "wunderkind."
Until the credits scrolled further. And we saw that it was the name of the damn song.
Okay. Pretty unambiguous there. So I call up my Canadian friend Tim, just to, you know, be all fair-like and make sure that this wasn’t some unique way of pronouncing the word north of the border, maybe a remnant from World War II or something, a slightly less-stupid version of our Freedom Fries.
Nope. Tim just laughed.
Then a certain, and certainly marvelous, sister-in-law suggested that Alanis was trying to play off the notion of being "kind," as in generous and warm.
It was a nice try on T-Baby's part, and appropriately generous and warm to boot. But no going. Alanis just got it wrong. Hideously, embarrassingly wrong. Look, she so grossly misunderstood the meaning of the word "ironic," should it really be any big surprise that she doesn’t know how "wunderkind" is pronounced?
How does that happen? I mean, it’s not uncommon for people, especially bright folks like Alanis who are likely to be largely autodidactic, to have read words and not actually know how they’re pronounced.
When I was but a lad I assumed that "origin" was pronounced basically the same way as "original" and why not? And I once mispronounced the word "indefatigable" to a vice-president, again, assuming it sounded basically like "fatigue." When Top Management was but a lass, she thought "monotonous" was pronounced with its emphasis on the third syllable (which, actually, works better—it does make the entire word sound more monotonous—but they didn’t bother to consult me before setting the pronunciation in stone). Max recently pronounced "addendum" with the accent on the word "add," and understandably so. Friend Karen once suddenly hesitated in the middle of saying something to utter the next word hesitantly: "in-satie-able?" Like many voracious readers, she’d only read the word, in this case "insatiable," but never actually heard it said aloud. Interestingly, this is one of those rare cases where your average young American male in the 1970s and 1980s may have had a leg up on The Superior Gender when it came to slightly esoteric knowledge.
But Alanis is surrounded by people supposed to be looking out for her best interests. So how’d this go by? Did none of them know either? I find that hard to believe. Or maybe it was a bit too late before someone realized—too much time and money had already gone into it? Does she simply have YesMen around her? Were they too embarrassed or timid to correct her?
Or did someone tell her and she decided she didn’t care? That seems both most likely and least likely to me. And yet I can’t really think of anything more (or less) plausible. I cannot believe she would have done it that way from the beginning had she known how it was pronounced, and yet I cannot believe the song would have made it all the way to the mastering stage without someone saying something.
And please don't misunderstand: I really dig Alanis. No snarkiness intended—I dig her music and I dig what I know of her as a person. But this whole thing is just...well, it's just plain weird.
Or maybe it’s just that this is the perfect way to start your day. I know it was for me.
And with excellent reason. It is all that is pure and true in this world wrapped up in one magnificent three minute bundle. It encapsulates the emotion of Capra, the depth of Ford, the energy of Hawkes, the introspection of Scorsese and the technical mastery of Spielberg. You may never be quite the same after viewing it, but fear not: you will be better for it. Oh, yes. You will be better for it.
When this world treats you hard and cold, remember this video and be warmed by the goodness inside each and every human being.
But none more so than in this man. This man with love for all humanity, and one heck of a sense of humor. No wonder my brethren love him so.