Tuesday, May 31, 2005

LET THE SCHOOLS BE RENAMED AND THE STATUES SCULPTED

LET THE SCHOOLS BE RENAMED AND THE STATUES SCULPTED

If today’s reports are true, one of the greatest American heroes of all time has been identified.

“Deep Throat” – the mysterious source who leaked details of the criminal activity and the coverups at the Nixon White House to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – has been identified as W. Mark Felt, formerly the second-in-command at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Felt, 91, told his family of his activities three years ago, according to the interview appearing in the current issue of Vanity Fair (a magazine that I never read, but may need to add to my subscription list).

News reports say that neither Woodward nor Bernstein will confirm that Felt is “Deep Throat,” claiming they have promised to reveal their source’s identity only after the source’s death.

The irony here is that Felt was pardoned in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan for having directed FBI agents to conduct surveillance of antiwar protest organizations without a warrant.

Perhaps it was that illegal activity that compelled Felt to spill the beans on the various criminal activities that surrounded the breakin of the national Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in 1972 through the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974*. Felt himself told his family that he always viewed the act of leaking information as less than honorable.

Even for good purpose.

I personally believe Felt is a hero. Nixon’s arrogance – despite accomplishments that even garner applause from this liberal’s corner – led him to abuse his power and create a huge Constitutional crisis. It didn’t help any that his Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, was an extortionist when he was Governor of Maryland, nor that Nixon seemed to have very little use for the average American. What he was doing – using Internal Revenue Service records to attack his enemies, paying off burglars with hush money, obstructing justice by firing Attorney General after Attorney General until Robert Bork finally fired the Special Prosecutor – was hardly the type of behavior in which a man in the most important office in the world should engage. No matter what Bill Clinton did – and none of it comes close to the disdain for the American public or the office of the president displayed by Nixon – Nixon was the proper president to force from office.

I date the 1960s as the period of time between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. If you want to understand me, you’ll also realize those were my formative years, the years I learned that evil people can destroy good people, that good nations can wage evil wars, and that being president just makes you the biggest crook. That era led eventually to the election of Jimmy Carter, the most idealistic president we have ever had, and, sadly, one of the least effective. Had we not sought such idealism, perhaps the Iranian revolution would not have been so stark, and the years since 1979 such a roller coaster straight to hell.

I spoke earlier of the irony of Felt’s own criminal activities. This past weekend, we saw the film Kingdom of Heaven. In it, the title character (and I’m pathetically ill-informed as to how much of this film is historically accurate, as are most of us in the western hemisphere) is warned that he perhaps should do a little evil to create a larger good (in this case, kill a soon-to-be king who will wage a poorly thought out war against the Saracens in order to avoid a certain bloodbath that will lose Jerusalem from western control). The protagonist chooses the path that does not involve murder, and the world goes to hell – not only immediately, but ever since. And yet, to believe this would have been the better course – that the end justifies the means, that to do a greater good a small evil is acceptable – means that I have to accept that perhaps Richard Nixon should have been permitted to serve out his term. Without the gaping wound of Watergate, Carter probably never would have been elected, and perhaps then, Reagan might not have, either. How would Gerald Ford have handled the Iranian revolution and, had it occurred, the American Embassy hostage situation? Would a new president in 1980 have still presided over the disintegration of the Soviet Union? Would Democrats have held the White House for 16 of the past 24 years, and not the Republicans?

It’s impossible to say. But I’ll say this: If Nixon had just kept his nose clean, we’d probably all have been better off.

“Follow the money” is what “Deep Throat” told Woodward and Bernstein. Sadly, that’s still true.

*I did not have to look this date up. It is as important to me as other great dates of the past century, such as July 20, 1969 or June 6, 1944.

Interesting story on presidential pardons here.

HOW TO IMPROVE A REALLY BAD MOVIE

HOW TO IMPROVE A REALLY BAD MOVIE

I know this is months late, but we finally saw Elektra tonight. It was horrible from the very first frame. Clearly, nobody thought much about character motivation or viewer sympathy. (“Hi. Meet me. I kill people. Root for me!”)

There is a kernel of a good plot in here, of course. No matter how crappy the film, there’s always a good reason it got made. In this case, it’s the story of the little girl. Had the movie been titled something like, “Growing Up To Be A Kung Fu Queen,” then we wouldn’t have been so annoyed at the character Elektra is in the beginning, and would have accepted her role in helping to become the next It Martial Artist.

So, ultimately, there was no one to care about and so no matter how nice the special effects are, it sucks.

But while we were watching it, it occurred to me that the casting director could have made one good choice to instantly make the movie more watchable. Instead of Terence Stamp as Stick, picture Christopher Walken, delivering his lines as only he can. Say, from Gigli, or The Rundown. Or maybe “The Continental.”

And then, maybe, Roseanne Barr as Elektra. That would have helped, too.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

DISCUSS AMONG YOURSELVES

DISCUSS AMONG YOURSELVES

One thing I like about the blogverse is that you can keep linking to interesting thoughts from people whom you don't know.

Today's example comes from Glenn Hauman, whose thought-provoking blog subject was highlighted on Bob Greenberger's Notes From A Final Frontiersman.

Subject: May 19, 2005 was the same number of days from September 11, 2001 -- 1,346 -- as it took the entirety of the US involvement in World War II (December 7, 1941, "a day that will live in infamy," to August 24, 1945, V-J Day).

In less than four years, Franklin D. Roosevelt took a nation struggling to stay out of the war inflaming the globe and led it to victory against two enemies of enormous industrial capacity and great determination.

I hate to compare apples to apples, but George W. Bush has taken the United States and told it to just send money, go about your normal business (except for surrendering your Constitutional rights and kowtowing to the religious right), and, in one of the most cynical examples of political sleight-of-hand ever, set us off on an imperialistic mission in Iraq instead of tracking down and bringing to justice the SOB responsible for the September 11 attacks. The United States emerged from World War II as an acknowledged leader in the world, a nation respected despite its flaws. The United States of George W. Bush is disrespected and dismissed everywhere except for 10 Downing Street and the handful of troops from nations smaller than Manhattan.

You know, the news radio we listen to in the morning here switches to talk at 9 am, and before I could turn it off the other morning, the host asked the question, "Do you feel like you're at war?" He was expecting, and received, answers of "no." But I was thinking about that the rest of the day. It has been at least half a century since the US was at war and it really meant something to the nation as a whole. Even Vietnam, which war threw the nation into a tizzy with the draft and the evening news body counts, never struck me (in my youth) as a war that occupied Americans. There were no rubber drives, nor rationing, nor war bond sales as there had been in World War II. There was no declaration of war. (There hasn't been a real declaration of war since 1941.) Yes, the neighbor kid went, and served, and came home, filling us younger boys with unplesant stories of what war really is about, but by the time of Nixon and Ford, Vietnam had already been swept under the rug, and Nixon gave us something else to look at besides how poorly the American-trained troops in Vietnam were faring against Ho Chi Minh. Since then we've pummeled the crap out of a lot of real estate on the other side of the world, but never so much that we've made it a national mission. It's always been some president's little back-pocket war.

Half-measures always wind up being ineffective. I fear that, more than 1,346 days after September 11, that is the true legacy that George W. Bush will be leaving us.


GEEKS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS STUPID!

GEEKS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS STUPID!

Oh, just read this and supply your own joke.


Friday, May 20, 2005

THE BEST SONG OF THE YEAR

THE BEST SONG OF THE YEAR

I have been hearing the new Bruce Springsteen song Devils & Dust on the Seattle radio station to which I listen, KMTT.

I first heard Bruce Springsteen in the late summer of 1975, which is probably when most folks did. Yes, he'd released Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (one of my favorite album titles ever, by the way), but Born To Run burst through the radio play of the day like a cruise missile through wax paper. Springsteen appeared on the cover of both Time and Newsweek simultaneously. I just got very tired of it and the legions of my George Washington University compatriots drooling over the Catholic boy from New Jersey with the Jewish name and the album cover that made him look Middle Eastern.

That was my freshman year. Then he took most of the rest of my time at college to come up with his followup album, and while everyone around me went nuts, I couldn't have cared less. But Springsteen's newest single (are they still called singles?) has captured me like no song of his ever has. Listen to it when you can. Download it from places to download it from, read the lyrics, and think about it. It's a song that crystallizes the horror and stupidity and futility and incorrectness of what the US is doing in Iraq, even more cogently than Born In The USA did about Vietnam. (Am I the only one amused by how people who don't bother to listen to lyrics believe that's a song about how wonderful the US is?) Anyway, I believe Springsteen has nailed it. If your politics match mine, perhaps you will, too.


Springsteen site here.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

HEADLINE OF THE DAY

HEADLINE OF THE DAY

I love a good headline. From today's New York Newsday: 'Sith Hits the Fans.'

HANOI JANE LIVES ON IN KENTUCKY

HANOI JANE LIVES ON IN KENTUCKY

If you want to see the new Jane Fonda movie, Monster-in-law, in Elizabethtown, KY… well, you can’t. The theater’s owner, Ike Boutwell, served in the military in Vietnam, and wants nothing to do with displaying anything featuring Jane Fonda.

The Yahoo! news story I just read about it describes Boutwell as "banning" the film, but that’s just another media error, just like any other time the cry of censorship is raised when a private enterprise makes a decision about how it would like to do business.

If it’s his theater, Boutwell can decide whatever he wants to show at it. Frankly, if I had a theater and could choose what to feature, I’m not sure Monster-in-law would be high on my list, either. (Of course, given the quality and originality of the fare available from Hollywood, I’d probably have a dark theater four days a week.)

Fonda is now reaping what she sowed, which is also fair. I won’t pay to see any film directed by John Landis ever since his negligence wound up killing Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Chen and Myca Dinh Le. (Yes, I know he was acquitted, but it’s also been demonstrated that movie production is more dangerous than mining, at least according to OSHA. Landis was responsible for what happened on his set.) But I would not pretend that the government has the right or responsibility to keep Landis from earning a living. (Nor would I want to be an actor or a crew member on one of his productions.)

That could bring me to the latest Bush Administration stupidity, which is its interference in the running of National Public Radio. NPR is being watched for signs of bias especially with regard to the Middle East, and there’s probably nothing that would make the Bushies happier than being able to alter the editorial judgment of NPR (or, failing that, using those editorial decisions as the basis for pulling funding).

But I’m talking about Jane Fonda and this guy in Kentucky. I say good for him. Neither Jane Fonda nor Jennifer Lopez need his money, he’s managed to garner some publicity, and, I’d wager, some goodwill in a town near Fort Knox. What I’d next like to see is him volunteering to put a Ten Commandments statue and a Christmas creche at his theater, so we know where to go to see them in Elizabethtown, KY and we won’t have to worry about using government funds to install such displays on government property there.

HOT FOR TEACHER

HOT FOR TEACHER

Yeah, when I was 14 I remember staring at a good-looking teacher or two. Burqas would have really pissed me off.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

MORE FEDERAL STUPIDITY... AND DRIVERS WILL STILL SUCK

MORE FEDERAL STUPIDITY... AND DRIVERS WILL STILL SUCK


So Congress wants to require states to require showing a birth certificate and a social security number in order to get a driver's license.

I heard someone describe this as "one-stop shopping for identity theft," and I'd have to say that sounds about right.

The idea is to standardize driver's licenses across the nation to create an identity card that will be useful for identifying passengers on airplanes. This piece of brilliance comes from Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who came across like a doddering fool in the television interview I saw. It's an attachment to the bill funding our continued military action in Iraq, which passed the Senate 100-0. By the way, govenors from both parties hate it. Here's a story about it from PBS.

But... suppose you don't drive? There are a lot of residents of New York City, for instance, who don't have a driver's license. Are you going to require that they get a driver's license, or even a state-sanctioned identification card? Will we need to learn how to Heil Hitler while we're at it? Isn't it only totalitarian regimes that require citizens to carry identity papers?

How about others? Are children now going to need identity papers? Are we going to prohibit resident aliens from getting driver's licenses?

Worse, will any of this protect us from the idiots on the roads? You know... the jerks who turn left and don't quite make it all the way across the double yellow line in the new direction? Or maybe those people who tailgate you in the right lane when you're doing the speed limit? The ones who do 5 mph below the speed limit in the passing lane? The ones who don't know how to parallel park? Or who can't put their SUVs into a single parking spot at the mall's parking lot? The ones who don't know who goes next at a four-way stop? Who don't know what the yield sign means?

No. So this thinking fails two ways. Add three if you include the fact that identification is always easy to forge. Make it four: You're going to love waiting hours or days for your new driver's license.

What was it that Shakespeare wrote? "A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing"? Of course, he couldn't get an identification card today either. Actually, more apt is the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, more and more my favorite founding father: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW ART, BUT KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE

FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW ART, BUT KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE

Going up for auction soon in England: Chimpanzee art.

See link with arthere.

The artist is a chimpanzee named Congo, who made the painting in 1957, when he was about 4. The reporter whose story was released by AP and published at the ABC News website could not confirm whether Congo was still alive, although apparently the chimp stopped painting after about two years.

His work is expected to fetch somewhere between $1,130 and $1,500 at the June 30 auction to be held at Bonhams in London.

The art must be good; apparently, Pablo Picasso owned one of Congo's paintings. I will admit that the painting shown at the ABC News website impressed me, but what do I know about art?

"I would sincerely doubt that chimpanzee art has ever been auctioned
before," said the Bonhams director of modern and contemporary
art, Howard Rutkowski. "I don't think anybody else has been crazy
enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is
completely mad." Apparently Desmond Morris -- who wrote one of my favorite books, Manwatching, which describes human behaviors from an animal behaviorist's point of view, and may best be known for The Naked Ape, where he first explored human behavior from a zoologist's point of view -- put on a display of chimpanzee art back in the 1950s. In fact, a quick Google search will reveal that one of Morris's books is called The Story of Congo, so we aren't talking about just some guy who bought a chimp at the local yard sale.

According to th ABC News story I linked to above:

Congo quickly learned how to handle a brush and pencils, instead of knocking them over or trying to eat them. He painted within the boundaries of the sheet of paper, never allowing the paint to spill over the edge, and appeared to know when he had finished a painting by refusing to pick up his brush or pencil over the work.

And, like I say, I actually like the chimp's art. Maybe I'll buy one and hang it next to the cat hotel painting we bought in Miami several years ago.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

SCHOOL KIDS NEARLY GET THEIR PANTIES IN A BUNCH

SCHOOL KIDS NEARLY GET THEIR PANTIES IN A BUNCH


Red-faced PTSA officials quickly removed what they thought were roses from a sale table at a school fundraiser when it was pointed out that they were in fact red lace panties folded to look like a rose.

The woman who bought them at a discount store thought they were nothing more than roses. A school employee who had once been given such a package had to convince the woman that they really were inappropriate for middle-schoolers to buy for Mother's Day gifts.

You can read the story here (registration required).

There are several lessons here.

The first is that school employees in Miami have pretty hot sex lives, apparently. The second is that some of the folks involved in the PTSA in Florida apparently have received their educations in Florida -- which would explain the inability to recognize panties. But perhaps the most important lesson is this: These people are educating children.

Friday, May 06, 2005

THIS WOULD BE FUN, WASN'T IT?

THIS WOULD BE FUN, WASN'T IT?

If there ever was proof that time travel doesn’t exist, I always thought it was that folks haven’t bothered to time travel and see us. Wouldn’t you like to go back to a time and place in history and see how it was?

My spouse forwarded this story my way about a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student organizing a time travelers convention this weekend.

He figures it’ll be a one-shot, since there really only needs to be one.

So, if you’ve got one of those chronomobiles sitting in your basement, go fire it up and attend the conference.

As for me…

TOP 10 TIMES & PLACES I’D LIKE TO VISIT

o Texas School Book Depository Sixth Floor, November 22, 1963.
o Canton Airport on the day Thurman Munson should not have flown.
o Building of the Pyramids, ca. 3000 BC.
o Jimmy Hoffa’s last day.
o Marilyn Monroe Bungalow on the day she died.
o The seat next to Steve Bartman during the 2004 NLCS, Game 6 (so I could pull him back).
o Amelia Earhart’s last flight.
o Airport security in Boston and Newark on September 11, 2001.
o The Prophet Muhammad’s burial.
o Christ’s tomb on the third day.

IS THIS NEWS? STARBUCKS BANS SPRINGSTEEN

\ IS THIS NEWS? STARBUCKS BANS SPRINGSTEEN



I can only guess that it’s Bruce Springsteen’s people who publicized this, but it may have been the flacks for Starbucks.

Starbucks isn’t going to sell Springsteen’s new acoustic album, Devils & Dust, because one of its songs makes graphic reference to anal sex in a whorehouse.

Now, while that isn’t exactly my favorite topic, the guy has a right to record what he wants, especially if his record company is willing to distribute it. And, despite Starbucks’ growing participation as a music retailer, it’s still a coffeehouse. I’d think Springsteen would be lots more worried if Barnes & Noble or Tower Records declined to sell the CD. I’d also think Springsteen truly doesn’t give a furry flip, considering he’s probably still having a hard time spending the royalties from Born To Run, never mind the rest of his oeuvre. And he’s never wanted to use his music commercially, anyway.

So, all told, either Springsteen or Starbucks or both is making PR macchiato out of day-old drip. And neither you nor I are richer, though we’ll probably give more money to both of these commercial giants soon.

PROOF BUSH FIXED THE FACTS

PROOF BUSH FIXED THE FACTS

Bruce Faber -- who will also caution you that the US real estate market is in sad shape, by the way, those of you about to re-refinance your homes -- forwarded this article to me. It confirms that George W. Bush intended to invade Iraq no matter what, and that the facts were whipped up to (as Jean-Luc Picard would have said) "make it so."

The author, Ray McGovern served 27 years as a CIA analyst and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour.

Here is the opening from the website TomPaine.commonsense:

"Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."

Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see those words in black and white—and beneath a SECRET stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, were ordered by their countries' leaders to "fix facts" to "justify" an unprovoked war on Iraq. More often than not, we have been greeted with stares of incredulity.


My objection to the invasion of Iraq is longstanding. Most cynically I had viewed it as Bush's attempt to keep us from noticing that he was losing the War on Terror. But to come to grips with the likelihood that he had a secret agenda is amazing.

Faber, in his comments in the forwarded email, asks, "It was treason. It should be dealt with as such. Can somebody please explain to me why we have to keep pretending that this did not happen?"

Unfortunately, we all know the answer. Major corporations own all of the news media, and they're all pumping money into the GOP (when they're not distracting us with smoke and mirrors and runaway brides and Michael Jackson's trial).

And, despite my view, I have to be fair and mention this: Prior to World War II, Franklin Roosevelt was of the belief that the US desperately needed to be involved, but most Americans wanted nothing to do with another foreign war. Roosevelt was even forced to promise "again and again and again" that he would not send American soldiers to fight in Europe.

So... if Roosevelt was right, is it possible that Bush is?

And if so... what about the upcoming North Korean nuclear test? I have to ask, living downwind and all...


THESE STORIES HAVE TO BE RELATED...

THESE STORIES HAVE TO BE RELATED...
Chlamydia Outbreak Kills a Dozen Penguins

'Whore College' Offers Hands-On Training


After all, they're both from San Francisco...


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

SOMETIMES YOU'VE GOT TO READ THE FORWARDS

SOMETIMES YOU'VE GOT TO READ THE FORWARDS

Sent to me as part of a number of maxims by my cousin Joe. I really like this one, even if I disagree with the ones about the Bible in school (you may read below):

How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?

This occurred to me again yesterday while I was describing to Tom Peyer how suddenly John Kerry went from barely registering to being the overwhelming favorite during primary season last year.

But it now occurs to me: The problem is that we don't remember that we choose from among 51 to be Miss America. The District of Columbia gets slammed again!