Thursday, March 29, 2007

“enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia”

Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a column in Truthdig the other day. In “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’” he outlines how our government, the media, and those he calls “terror entrepreneurs” have contributed to this bullshit about a war on terror. Terror is a technique of warfare, not an enemy. The constant hammering and yammering about a war on terror has succeeded only is creating a culture of fear, he wrote.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own—and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaida cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

The “terror entrepreneurs” are the experts on terrorism (alleged) who have a profit motive for their own tactics of terrorizing the American public by painting horrific scenarios of death and destruction. As if the three terrorist attacks in the US since 1993 weren’t enough to give us the heebie-jeebies. The brainwashing of America has given rise to absurdities. When we were in Washington DC for our honeymoon, it was depressing to see barricades around our federal buildings and monuments—they are so completely stupid and so unpatriotic. We’ve turned into a nation that cowers—and that’s something we never were. And it’s all fed by the powerseekers and greed:

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois apple and pork festival.

Besides the government feeding our paranoia (“Report suspicious activity”)

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

Brzezinski writes that sooner or later, we’ll come to our senses and be embarrassed by all that we gave up and all that we inflicted on others in the name of security. He’s probably right, but how long will it take? It took more than three years for the majority Americans to get fed up with the occupation of Iraq and we’re still not out of there and Iraqis and Americans are still dying for nothing. Brzezinski pleads for common sense, for someone to lead us by proclaiming enough is enough. I hope. We need to start focusing on real threats to our national wellbeing, such as climate change and healthcare costs. Why can’t the terror entrepreneurs make their money blabbing about how to fix real problems that we can actually solve? How about brainwashing us into competition with our neighbors to have the lowest carbon footprint in the neighborhood? Yeah, right.

posted by lee on 03/29/07 at 01:43 AM
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Monday, March 26, 2007

bad kitty helps himself

Twitch likes to jump into the dryer and warm laundry baskets, boxes, empty wastebaskets. Pretty normal cat stuff. But Slink jumps into the fridge. He tries to climb right up on the shelves and checks out what looks good to eat. Here he managed to get the lid off the can of cat food and was having a good munch. If I shut him in the fridge, he wouldn’t care. As long as there’s food. Twitch doesn’t try to climb into the fridge. Maybe we should deworm the bad kitty again. (Click image to enlarge)

Slink helps himself - bad kitty

It turns out that the bad kitty likes vanilla ice cream so much he’s willing to fight Ginger for bowl-licking rights. Here they look like they’re about to engage in a battle royale on Stanley’s lap. Stanley ended up giving Slink a teaspoon full and gave Ginger the bowl—Ginger would’ve been bereft if she didn’t get her leftover molecules of ice cream; it’s her JOB to clean the bowls out! (Click to enlarge)

Ginger and Slink face off over the ice cream bowl -- Stanley in the middle

posted by lee on 03/26/07 at 02:26 AM
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absolutely amazing

We’ve been watching Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel this evening. What we’ve seen this evening is stunning. I told Stanley that this series would be the impetus for me to push getting high-definition tv if the sets were remotely affordable now.

Some of the footage shot in the ocean, such as when the dolphins herded a school of fish closer to the surface and the sea birds dove 60 feet to get at the dolphins’ catch—I gasped. I didn’t know birds dove that far under water. And the blue whales and aboreal and snow leopards and the dogs hunting impala in the Kalahari ...

Just watch it. It’s running frequently, on the Science channel as well. Below is a picture from Planet Earth: Oryx in Namib Desert (click to enlarge):

Planet Earth Discovery Channel Oryx in Namib Desert

posted by lee on 03/26/07 at 01:34 AM
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

daily life a hundred years ago

Was pointed to a photo blog by theMezz (a very comprehensive link-a-rama) today that I found fascinating. I’m not sure of the “who” behind it, but it’s a collection of photos, well, here is what the “About” for Shorpy.com says:

“Shorpy.com is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We’re starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site’s namesake.”

It’s fascinating what people do for a living, I think, and even more so what kids did before child labor laws were passed. On this site there is a photo of one teenager who worked 17 hours a day every day and yet was hauled before a judge for being incorrigible at home which, his parents suspected, was due to his cocaine habit (this was in 1913). Here is one compelling photo from the site, that of a trapper boy:

trapper boy from shorpy.com

The caption reads: Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Virginia coal mine at 75 cents a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. September 1908. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. Shorpy.com is a website by the Juniper Gallery of Fairfax, Virginia, which provides vintage prints and the prints are struck by David Hall of Plan59—a purveyor of mid-century illustration which I am going to poke around in next (there goes another hour of my life ... ) And then I need to figure out why a PHP page isn’t rendering ... oh wait, it’s Saturday!

posted by lee on 03/24/07 at 03:36 PM
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

life-size images online

And they even load fairly quickly! Interesting application of Google maps. Very interesting.

The first is from the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society: a life-size image of a blue whale. It is noisy (sounds like waves—I think the sound is waves anyway). Here is the press release that explains what it’s all about.

And now on to fine art. HAL9000, which is a company that I think provides digital imaging and retouching services (the font is so small it’s a farce), has a 4xfull-size image (8.6 gigabytes—yes, that’s gigabytes!) of Gaudenzio Ferrari‘s painting (fresco?? the details don’t say) of the life of Jesus on a partition (?) in Santa Maria della Grazie in Varallo, Italy. (Yep, a fresco, according to Wikipedia.) Go to the HAL9000 site and click on the link (you can turn off the music, which is rather loud and annoying).

Now back to the salt mines (I read about the above in the http://www.evolt.org webdev list, so it really is work-related ... )

posted by lee on 03/22/07 at 02:30 PM
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Monday, March 19, 2007

why i don’t support obama

Barak Obama could have campaigned for Ned Lamont. He didn’t—he supported Chickenhawk Lieberman. He will have to be the only Democrat left standing against a Republican I cannot stomach in order for me to pull the lever for him. Unless he’s on the ticket as vice president. If he was so anti-war, he should have been working hard to get Ned Lamont elected. So I suspect Obama believes in political expedience: has he staked out any unpopular (with lefties and progressives) positions?

 

posted by lee on 03/19/07 at 07:33 PM
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four years

Is four years too long.

posted by lee on 03/19/07 at 07:31 PM
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

dick cavett on the war

Dick Cavett, who was my favorite “talk show” host (interviewer, really), has a column in the “Times Select” section of the New York Times. I look forward to his columns—the way he writes leaves me sorry I finished so quickly and eager for more. He, along with Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, are I think are three of the voices that most need to be heard by Americans. Yet the New York Times puts their columns behind a barrier that most people can’t afford: the annual subscription price. I don’t know why they do this—they could put the recipes and business news and sports news and a lot of other content behind this barrier and allow public access to the voices that really need to be heard by all—the would be true public service worthy of a great newspaper. Or what once was a great newspaper.

Last week, Dick Cavett wrote a column that really struck me. I’ve been thinking a lot about this folderol about McCain and Obama having to apologize for saying soldiers’ lives are being wasted in Iraq. Retreating from the word “wasted.” When the truth of the matter is they ARE being wasted. As are the lives of all those Iraqis killed since we invaded. But read this excerpt from his February 28, 2007 column “What My Uncle Knew About War” [subscription required]—

I have a statement: Anybody who gives his life in war is an idiot.

I guess I left off the quotation marks to let the words have their full effect. They aren’t mine, but I’m related to them. They’re my Uncle Bill’s words, and his credentials for uttering the remark are a shade better than mine.

He may well have been the sole Marine to have survived driving landing barges on three bloody invasions in the South Pacific. I asked an old Marine vet once how rare Bill’s survival was. He was gifted of speech: “I’d say survivors of what your uncle did could probably hold their reunion in a phone booth and still have room for most of Kate Smith.” (We’ll pause while youngsters Google.) “My guess is that your uncle is unique.”

Bill said that aside from knowing that any minute was likely to be your last, the worst part of the job was having to drop the landing barge’s front door so the guys could swarm out onto the beach. Despite the hail of bullets against that door, he had to drop it, knowing that the front five or six guys would be killed instantly.

The phrase Bill hated most was “gave his life.” That phrase is a favorite of our windbag politicians; especially, it seems, the dimmer ones who say “Eye-rack.”

“Your life isn’t given,” I remember him saying, “it’s brutally ripped away from you. You’re no good to your buddies dead, and when the bullets start pouring in you don’t give a goddamn about God, country, Yale, your loved ones, the last full measure of devotion or any other of that Legionnaire patriotic crapola. You just want you and your buddies to see at least one more sunrise.”

Bill also served on land and experienced something so god-awful that he thought he would go mad: “Tom [his best friend] and I were trotting along, firing our rifles, and I turned to say something to Tom and his head was gone.” (Bill had great difficulty telling this. I guess I felt honored that he had not been able to speak of it for years.) He said the worst part was that while still holding the rifle, the body, now a fountain, continued for four or five steps before falling. He hated to close his eyes at night because that ghastly horror was his dependable nightly visitor for years — like Macbeth, murdering sleep.

By sheer chance I was out on the sidewalk in front of Bill’s house (we lived next door) when he arrived home from the war. I wasn’t even sure it was Bill at first, he looked so much older.

I blurted, “Hey, Bill, welcome home.” He was two feet from me but neither saw nor heard me. I knew the phrase current then. Bill was “shellshocked.” Not the current “post-traumatic stress disorder” or whatever the P.C.-sounding phrase is today. For the first six months he was home, he slept in the yard.

You will think less of me for this, but my friend Jim and I, noticing how poor Bill jumped at sudden sounds, thought a firecracker might be in order. Bill’s training kicked in by reflex. He hit the ground so fast it looked like film with frames removed. And, lacking the standard-issue shovel, he started digging with his hands. He never knew who did it. As for Jim and me, I trust that this will be deducted from our shares in paradise.

Isn’t it the excellent combat chronicler Paul Fussell who gets credit for the phrase “the thousand-mile stare”? It described the look of the haggard soldiers coming back from their first battle as the eager, fresh-faced kids — which they had been a few days earlier — filed past them on their way “in.” By definition, both groups were the same age, but there were no young faces in the returning group. They looked more like fathers than sons.

It amazes me that this bungled war can still be considered controversial. Who are the 28 percent anyway, who think that George W., the author of this mess, has “done a heckuva job”?

The other word Bill hated was “sacrifice.” Sacrifice is something you give up in order to get something in return. What good are we getting from this monstrous error? Cooked up as it was by that infamous group of neocons (accent on last syllable) who, draft-averse themselves, were willing to inflict on the (largely unprivileged) youth of this country their crack-brained scheme for causing democracy to take root and spread like kudzu throughout that bizarre and ill-understood part of the world, the Middle East.

What service is this great country getting out of all this tragedy, other than the certainty that historians will ask in disbelief, “Was there no one to stand up to this overweening president?”

I cringe at the icky, sentimental way the president talks about what we owe to the people of plucky little Iraq. You’d think we all grew up ending our “Now I lay me down to sleep…” with “… and please, Lord, be good to Iraq.” They detest us now, along with just about everybody else. Personally, I don’t give a damn what happens to Iraq, and don’t think it’s worth a single American life. Or any other kind. Haven’t philosophers taught us the immorality of destroying something of infinite value — like a human life — in order to achieve a possible good? I guess not.

For weeks the word “cause” has rolled around in my head, attached to an elusive quote. I found it. It’s from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” (as distinct, I suppose, from Paris Hilton’s “Henry V”) and it’s the part where the king, in disguise and unrecognized, sits at a fire listening to some of his men discuss the next day’s battle and what it means to be fighting in a good cause. One says, “But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, ‘We died at such a place,’ … their wives left poor behind … their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle. … Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it.”

I think it’s time for the Democrats we sent to Washington do what we really sent them to do: impeach Bush.

posted by lee on 03/10/07 at 03:02 PM
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Sunday, March 04, 2007

a very bad kitty indeed

image

It’s hard to tell from this shot (click to enlarge), but Slink trashed yet another plant. It was hard to get it all in—the mess and the cat. We don’t have any solid evidence that he actually did this (rather than Twitch), but he looks pretty smug. It took Stanley a while to clean up this mess, too (thank you, Stanley). The spider plant had been limping along inside (it thrived on the porch), suffering mainly from having cats chewing the tips off. Now it’s a sorry, sorry bedraggled mess. I guess I’m going to have to put aluminum foil in all the plants. So far, he hasn’t tried to dig up any of the houseplants in the kitchen window or the living room—but I think it’s just a matter of time. I think we might have to go to Home Depot and get some of those rocks that cats don’t like to dig in. It would be too ugly to have aluminum foil in all the houseplants. He’d probably find a way around that, anyway. Slink is such a weird cat. He drinks milk out of Stanley’s glass and eats off Stanley’s plate. He doesn’t so much arrive as he explodes on the scene. And he disappears faster that I thought possible. So far, he hasn’t tried to get out the door when we let Ginger out—like Twitch does—but I give it a month ... CLIMATE CHANGE There is an article in the New York Times about how the maple syrup industry is in trouble in Vermont. I read this a couple of days ago. Then I watched the news about the tornados down south—arriving a few weeks earlier than “normal.” Then, last night I was looking over the latest issue of Consumer Reports, which lists all of the new cars, vans, trucks, and SUVs coming out. CR reported the miles per gallon of each vehicle. They’re going down rather than up, it appears. Even the smallest non-hybrid cars seem to be getting terrible gas mileage. The best is the Scion, which gets 30mpg. So, if you can’t afford a hybrid but you want to buy a new car that destroys the environment the least, you’re pretty much limited to the Scion. It also amazes me how people with kids are pretty clueless when it comes time to get the kid a car. Friends of ours bought their daughter a Jeep, I forget which model, but one the big honking low-mileage numbers—like a 17-year-old in Fairfield County really needs a big vehicle with 4-wheel drive. Or any vehicle, for that matter. They got her the kind of Jeep that sucks gas and rolls over easily. They worry about her getting into a good college so she has a good life but they don’t stop and think of how they’re contributing to her not being able to have a good life no matter how well educated she is because when she is older, the climate will be unbearable. Very short-sighted for such smart people. And yes, it is my business—it’s my planet too and I have nieces and nephews that deserve a chance to survive to a ripe old age as much as our friends’ daughter does. Maybe most people are still caught up in that “Americans can do anything once we set our minds to it” mindset. I used to believe that—if there was something that need to be done we would somehow step up to the plate. Lick global warming and all that. But I don’t believe that any longer. The ability might be there, but the will has disappeared and I doubt it’ll be found before we reach the tipping point. Then I start to worry about the ability still being there when I see that people who’ve gone through our educational system can’t even spell a four-letter word properly or master basic punctuation. I’m going to go play with my bad kitty.

posted by lee on 03/04/07 at 03:27 PM
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the moon and the kitties

For sure, I thought, it would be cloudy and maybe even raining Saturday evening. Because I wanted to see the lunar eclipse, you see. But the skies cleared up in time to see totality. So we grabbed the dog and our jackets and the camera and went next door, headed behind the school so I could get a shot of the moon without the floodlights washing everything out.

Isn’t a great shot, and, of course, the moon looked much, much larger. The optical illusion that Stanley has explained to me more than once but I keep forgetting what he calls it. But it was a blood-red moon, very spooky looking and I loved it. This is about five or ten minutes past totality and I tried to get more but the battery died. (Of course.)

lunar eclipse, March 3, 2007, about 6:40 pm

To see good photos of the eclipse, go to the Eclipse Gallery at SpaceWeather.com. I’d like to learn how to do that. But I think we’ll have to get a good telescope first.

THE KITTIES
One cold day. Towels on the floor in the bathroom, being gathered for the laundry. A very soft, cozy rug. A radiator. It’s called “Heaven” in felineish. I think Twitch was telling Stanley to just go away when Stanley took this shot. And the best part of all for Twitch: no Slink to bug him. (click image to see a bigger version)

Twitch all cozy in the towels

Slink is a bad kitty. A very bad kitty. Almost every morning we discover how bad he is. It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t make such a mess. Huge messes for such a little cat—he’s only about 9 months only, weighs just 8.5 pounds. The photo below just gives a small view of the mess he made. These pots contain (contained) plants from the garden that I was trying to overwinter—we keep them on the floor near the back door. Slink dug out the plant that was in this pot and turned it into his bed. I don’t know how he managed to get the dirt so far away from the pot, but what a mess. The floor underneath those pots is not black with white specks—no. That’s all potting soil. That pot went outside. Then, a few days later, he dug up the Christmas cactus that you see here (click to enlarge).

Slink digs himself a new cat bed

Saturday, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, Stanley said: “Go look at your bathroom.” The little shit dug out yet another pot—which I THOUGHT was safe because it was pretty full of plants (vinca and lavender). A horrible mess. Stanley cleaned it up for me. I covered what was left of the vinca with a piece of aluminum foil, which is supposed to deter cats. They don’t like it, allegedly. Which goes to show, cats are aliens because don’t you use aluminum foil to keep aliens away? (Or is that just out of your brain?)

RAIN
If our new roof was going to leak at all, Friday would’ve been the day for it. We got 3.4 inches of rain by 2:00 pm. No leaks! How wonderful to have a sound roof at last! Now if we could just figure out how to keep the cellar from flooding, that would be good. Not sure how much water was down there, but Stanley was quite a while getting rid of it. Helene’s street (Richmondville, in Westport) flooded again—so much it made the evening news! She said the water was starting to seep through the car door when she drove (very slowly) home from the doctor’s office. It got into the mid 50s on Friday and Saturday! And Monday night, it’s supposed to get down into the lower teens, and even colder the next two nights. Bet we get some dandy potholes—potchasms.

STATUS
For those of you to whom I owe email replies, I’m sorry. I will answer you, I promise—just had a pretty intense week. Month. I’ve caught up somewhat with things, so now I’m only about two or three weeks behind for the non-urgent stuff.

Starting tomorrow, a great deal of my spare time will be spent catching up the bookkeeping so I can do the taxes next month. My annual bout of insanity. I always resolve to enter everything as soon as I get the statements, but I rarely do. So I’m paying for my procrastination, as usual.

When I’m finished with the taxes in April, then I can start paying attention to politics again and even start using my cameras again—which I miss a lot. Politics—I hope I’m ready paying more attention by then. Right now, I still get too enraged about things ... I feel a rant starting so will stop now and just go to bed. (Though it’s a lot of fun watching Slink try to figure out the safest way to get past the dog, which is what he’s doing now! Ginger is just watching him, snickering in her head, I think.)

posted by lee on 03/04/07 at 01:47 AM
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