Monday, March 31, 2008
From the NY Times:
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: March 22, 2008
Mary Meader, who as a spunky new bride in the 1930s took off on a 35,000-mile journey to advance geographic knowledge by making unprecedented aerial photographs of South America and Africa, died Sunday in Kalamazoo, Mich. She was 91.
Mary Meader in 1937 with the 20-pound camera she used to photograph South America and Africa from the air.
The saga began when Mrs. Meader, whose name was Mary Upjohn at the time, and her first husband, Dr. Richard Light, made plans to marry. They wanted to celebrate their union by approximating the highly publicized round-the-world flight he had made in 1934. She took flying lessons and learned Morse code to be her husband’s co-pilot, navigator and radio operator.
When they were planning their trip, soon after their marriage the next year, many parts of the world had still not been photographed from above. The American Geographical Society was encouraging photographic flights to build an archive of aerial views, and the couple’s idea was to fly over huge swaths of South America and Africa that had never been captured on film from the air.
“It just seemed like a great adventure — something I wanted to do,” she said in an interview with Encore, a magazine about Kalamazoo, in 2006. “Why? I’m not certain, other than we both knew we would be doing something that hadn’t been done before.”
The couple made what may be the earliest photographs of the ancient Nazca lines in Peru. The lines cannot be recognized as coherent figures except from the air. Seen from above, their patterns range from simple designs to stylized hummingbirds and llamas.
In Africa, Mrs. Meader’s photographs showed the stunning ice dome and crater of Mount Kilimanjaro and the serrated glaciated pinnacles of Mount Kenya in beauty and detail impossible in ground photography. She provided new views of native villages, urban areas and the Pyramids of Egypt, among many other subjects.
Her African pictures were published in a book written by her husband and published by the American Geographical Society. In reviewing the book for The New York Times in 1941, Mary L. Jobe Akeley called Mrs. Meader’s photos “superb.”
“They convey a sense of the vastness and grandeur of the continent,” she wrote.
Long after the historic trip, in 2005, Mrs. Meader was invited to place her signature on the American Geographical Society’s Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe, which her husband had signed at the time. In a tradition begun in the 1920s, the society asks noted explorers, like Robert Peary, Amelia Earhart and Neil Armstrong, to sign it. Mrs. Meader was one of only three invited to sign twice: she wrote her name across East Africa and across the Andes.
A citation said, “The stunning quality of her photography shows not only her skill and her artistry but her passion for conveying new knowledge about remote places on earth.”
Her photographs have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, including the first photograph of the peak of Mount Stanley in the Ruwenzori range, known since antiquity as the Mountains of the Moon. Previously, clouds had thwarted attempts to photograph it from the ground.
Rachel Mary Upjohn was born in Kalamazoo on April 15, 1916. She was one of 11 grandchildren of Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn Company, the pharmaceutical concern. She was a language major at Smith College, specializing in French and Spanish, but dropped out to marry Richard Upjohn Light, a neurosurgeon and former military pilot who was her first cousin. They eloped to Maryland because first cousins could legally marry there.
Dr. Light’s love of aviation began as a child when he watched the Wright brothers, friends of his father, on some of their early flights in Dayton, Ohio. His 1934 round-the-world flight enraptured fans of aviation and exploration.
His next goal was to duplicate on the first trip in the Southern Hemisphere what he had done in the Northern Hemisphere. His wife was delighted to accompany him. She gave birth to Christopher during flight training.
Aerial photography had become essential to military intelligence during World War I, and by the 1930s, some countries were prohibiting it to prevent the gathering of strategic knowledge. The Lights were barred from photographing Central America, Ecuador and Colombia, but were allowed to take pictures over Peru.
The Lights took off first in September 1937 from Kalamazoo in a Bellanca monoplane, its cabin lacking heat and pressurization. They sucked oxygen from a tank through wooden mouthpieces. Mrs. Meader wore a fur coat and boots as she shot pictures through an open window.
Since she weighed only 95 pounds, she braced the 20-pound camera on the window frame and secured it with a clothesline. She said she once nearly froze to death.
After photographing South America, they sailed across the Atlantic to Capetown with their plane as cargo. On a typical day in Africa, they would arise at 4 a.m. and fly until 11 a.m. After lunch, they visited the farms, mines and native settlements that would be photographed the next day. Weather often dictated their itinerary: they returned to Mount Kilimanjaro three times before finding the crater free of clouds, Encore reported.
They abandoned their original plan to continue their expedition to Asia, because their plane was damaged and Mrs. Meader was pregnant with her second son, Timothy. They returned home in February 1938.
The couple divorced in the early 1960s. In 1965, the former Mrs. Light married Edwin Meader, a professor of geography, among various callings. The couple became major philanthropists, giving millions to Western Michigan University, the University of Michigan and Kalamazoo charities. Into her 70s, Mrs. Light continued going to an elementary school to help children learn to read.
Mr. Meader died last year. Mrs. Meader is survived by her sons Christopher, Timothy and John, all of Kalamazoo, and Rudolph, of Ukiah, Calif.; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Many years later, Mrs. Meader thrilled at her memories, including the roar of lions on the Serengeti plain after the airplane motor was shut off. For Encore, she vividly recreated a typical conversation with her husband on the plane’s crackling intercom.
“Get the wing out of the way! Slow down!” she shouted. “My word, those elephants are huge.”
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The Bush Administration's disregard and flaunting of the Presidential Records Act is probably a lesser sin than many it has committed but is symptomatic of its flouting of the laws of this country. The question that must be asked is how much of its behavior can be traced to contempt and manipulation and how much can we attribute to general ineptitude.
Shortly after Mr. Bush took office, he ordered scrapped a custom archiving system that President Clinton had installed because of a Federal Court Order. Now by White House estimate, as many as 5 million e-mails might be missing. According to White House Special Counsel Emmet Flood in a 2005 study,there are 473 days without any e-mails recorded including critical days during the time when the Valerie Plame scandal broke.
Now Tony Fratto, White House spokesman says, "that there is no reason to believe that any e-mails were lost." He and the administration know that this is an outright lie. It is amazing that he can speak with a straight face. Both the National Security Archive and the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington have filed suit against the administration seeking these government records that are public property according to the Freedom Of Information Act.
This week a judge said that she would not compel the government to turn over e-mails that were"rightly or wrongly" sent on Republican National Committee Blackberries. It is illegal to use partisan political groups' equipment and servers for conducting governmental affairs but this was evidently done. According to Theresa Payton, Chief Information Officer for the White House, two thirds of the White House Workstations have been replaced and the back up tapes recorded over so there is no need to do any forensic investigation in looking for the lost e-mails or information.
This Administration is once again resorting to the bold faced lie in what is likely the most secretive presidency to date. From Dick Cheney's clandestine meetings with energy executives to the withholding of visitor logs by the Secret Service, they have cast a great veil over what was supposed to be public information. Their snide and callous disregard for law should not be unrecognized.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I heard some light bird pentagon p.r. flack opine the other day that this was actually a good turn of events. We have gone far enough with pissing off the sunnis so we can now start antagonizing the shia. And we can let the Kurds get fucked once again like we always do. Amazing that we let Turkey come in and do whatever they want to obliterate these "terrorists".
As most of us know, Iraq was a loose coalition of warring tribes that was created in the early 1920's after the fall of the Ottoman empire and probably not a very good idea to start with. The Turkmen got theirs and the Kurds got the short straw. For all the bleating about the Palestinian cause, it is so wonder that we hear so little from the arab world about the rights of the Kurds, who are heavily repressed in Turkey and elsewhere.
It leads me to think: this administration talks so much about winning but no one bothers to define the word. For many I talk to it's killing every last one of them. The old Curtis Lemay strategy. Save them by killing them. What exactly is a win? Do we think that the country will ever reach a stasis where they will be happy to live with each other in peace? I can not see it. I hope that I am wrong. Too many people strapping bombs on for their one way ticket to the eternal palm grove. These are not bad guys who ride into town with black hats. They are committed and they see us as occupiers and interlopers. I think that we get out and let the chips fall as they may. It is not worth any more american lives. These people have an alternate frame of reference and we are fighting against centuries of ignorance and a broad cultural divide.
Say what you want about the good old U.S. of A., the methodists haven't taken up arms against the baptists yet.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
It is time for the citizens of California to secede from the United States. Here's why:
Federal Voting Rights - California has a population of roughly 37,700,000 people as of June 2007. Wyoming has a population of roughly 515,004. We have 71 times the population of our sister state. Yet our 55 electoral votes are only eighteen times the three electoral votes of the plains state. We have a disparity of power in this country where rural populations are disproportionally dictating policy to the majority. This is evident in farm subsidy issues as well as other social differences with the heartland, which tends to be more evangelical and conservative.
California the Economic Giant - California is the first state to reach 1 trillion in Gross State Product. We produce 13% of the Federal Gross Domestic Product. We are by most indices the 7th largest economy in the world. We are the largest producer of goods as well as the largest agricultural producer. We pay over 250 billion in federal taxes a year or 14% of the national burden yet only make up 11% of the national population.
Balance of Payments - We receive only 79 cents in federal monies for every dollar we contribute. In 2003 we sent 58 billion more dollars to the feds than we received in kind. Current numbers are harder to figure. California spends 10.5 billion dollars annually in paying for the incarceration, medical care and education of illegal immigrants. After subtracting the estimated tax contributions of said aliens, economists figure that the number drops to 9 billion. The feds only give us negligible support on this federal problem. Yet the Bush administration wants to reduce their aid to the State of California Alien Assistance Program or SCAAP by 85 million this year and eliminate it entirely in 2009.
Innovation - We are always steps beyond the national curve in technological advances; the internet and modern day computing were both conceived here. Socially and culturally, many of the most important movements in music, art, cuisine and literature were born in the golden state. We tend to be a more tolerant state and more open to new ideas.
Historical Precedent - California was actually initially a separate nation, hostile to both Mexico and the United States. Modern day California was established in 1769 when Cabrillo established the first mission in San Diego. It became a U.S. Territory in 1847 when Mexico surrendered to General Fremont but not before several wars were fought by the "Californios" against the United States. These include the Battle of Los Angeles on September 30, 1846 and the Battle of San Pasqual and the Battle of Dominguez Rancho. In addition there were battles in Temecula, La Mesa and Rio San Gabriel. The Californios were a multi ethnic group with no allegiance to any foreign power. John Sutter helped lead the fight in the north.
Federal Unresponsiveness - Washington has thwarted the will of the people and our representatives on a myriad of issues including Medical Marijuana, Clean Air, National Parks Management, etc. We need to demand that Federalist policies do not abrogate the will of the people of California.
The point is that as Californios we have had a distinct feeling of Independence and sovereignty from the time of our state's inception. The Bear Flag revolt on June 14, 1846 separated us from Mexico and gave us our first flag, a Grizzly Bear with the words California Republic. We need to consider a return to our roots.We need to demand accountability from the federal government and fairness in dealing with the economic problems created by their ineptitude and malfeasance.
Robert "Native San Diegan" Sommers
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
If I was to nominate a profile in courage this week, it would probably go to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for withstanding the brutal blows from the Hillary machine. With each passing week, the character deficiencies of the presidential triad becomes more apparent.
Richardson was accused by Clinton attack dog James Carville of selling out Madame Hillary for thirty pieces of silver, like Judas. The symbology of the message was rich during the christian holy week. Bill worked in the Clinton Administration in two positions, as U.N. Ambassador and Energy Secretary and was genuinely torn in his allegiance. I respect him and his decision. Richardson was my initial choice for president, he, Biden and Dodd having trumped the field in experience. He has thought long and hard about who would be the best person to lead this country out of our current disaster. I have heard rumblings by party apparatchiks that he also is apparently fond of the ladies.
Hillary is increasingly looking like the old party machine candidate, while Obama's message seems to resonate with the young and the dispossessed. And with those who have a genuine hope for a change in this country. If we want to talk about real betrayal, let's look at Bill Clinton and all that he squandered for progressives and centrists in this country. I applaud his genuine achievements, both domestically and internationally, but his brazen infidelity and arrogant narcissism seem to be his lasting legacy. Every time he opens his mouth, his grand desire to return to the seat of power is more evident. It will be a very crowded oval office for any vice president if we are unlucky enough to have Hillary elected as our leader. She, like Barack Obama, has limited experience governing, but acts like it is her predestined right to assume the Bush Clinton Bush Clinton monarchial mantle.
After being caught in a bold faced lie regarding her supposedly coming under sniper fire in Bosnia, we are told that Madame Hillary misspoke. When does a misstatement cross the threshold into outright prevarication? A long while ago.
On the Grand old side of the ledger we have John "We'll spend another 100 years in Iraq" McCain. He has always been one of my favorite Republicans and a person I really admire on a lot of fronts, especially the way he bucked Bush on Campaign finance. However, I have lost my respect for him since he caved in to the administration on the Torture/Waterboarding issue. Of all people, he should have stayed strong. The CIA Ops who ran the program admit it was torture. What moral high ground have we ceded and what will our answer be when the next american is caught and tortured? I think that our moral indignance will surely fall on deaf ears.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a laborer after immigrating to Israel from Russia, has succeeded where dozens have failed, solving the elusive "Road Coloring Problem."
A mathematical mystery that has baffled the top minds in the esoteric field of symbolic dynamics for nearly four decades has recently been cracked by a 63-year-old former security guard.
Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a laborer after immigrating to Israel from Russia, has succeeded where dozens have failed, solving the elusive "Road Coloring Problem."
The conjecture essentially assumes that it is possible to create a "universal map" that would direct people to arrive at a certain destination, at the same time, regardless of their original location. Experts say this proposition, which seems to defy logic, could actually have real-life applications in the fields of mapping and computer science.
"In math circles, we talk about beautiful results -- this is beautiful and it is unexpected. Even in layman's terms it is completely counterintuitive, but somehow it works," said Stuart Margolis, a colleague who recruited Trakhtman to Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
He said the discovery was especially remarkable given Trakhtman's age and background. "The first time I met him he was wearing a night watchman's uniform," he said.
The "Road Coloring Problem" was first posed in 1970 by Benjamin Weiss, an Israeli-American mathematician, and a colleague, Roy Adler, who worked at IBM at the time.
Weiss said he believed that given a finite number of roads, one should be able to draw up a map, coded in various colours, that would lead to a certain destination regardless of the point of origin.
For eight years, he tried to prove his theory. Over the next 30 years, some 100 other scientists attempted to as well. All failed, until Trakhtman came along and, in eight short pages, jotted the solution down in pencil last year.
Bodhidharma left his robe and bowl to his chosen successor and each patriarch after him left theirs to their own. Gunin was the fifth such patriarch. One day he announced that his successor would be he who wrote the best verse expressing the truth of Zen. The learned chief monk of the monastery took brush and ink and wrote very elegantly -
The body is a bodhi tree
The soul is a shining mirror
Polish it with study
Or dust will dull the image.
No other Monk dared compete with the chief monk. At twilight Yeno, a lowly disciple who worked in the kitchen, passed through the hall where the poem was hanging. He read it and picked up a brush and wrote in his crude hand -
Bodhi is not a tree
There is no shining mirror
Since all begins with nothing
Where can dust collect?
The patriarch called Yeno to his room that evening."I have chosen you as my successor. Take my robe and bowl. But the other disciples may wish to harm you. Leave the monastery while they are asleep." When the chief monk learned the news, he took off after Yeno. At midday he found him and tried to pull the robe and bowl out of his hands. Yeno put the robe and bowl down on a rock by the path. "take them, they are only symbols. If you want the things so much, please take them." The monk eagerly reached down and seized them but found that they were as heavy as a mountain. "Forgive me, he said at last, will you teach me?" Yeno replied,"Stop thinking about mine and yours and tell me, What did your face look like, before your parents were born?"
Friday, March 21, 2008
One of the greatest photographers of our time, Philip Jones Griffiths, died wednesday. He was a photojournalist who took pictures from the edge. His stark pictures were politically neutral but illustrated the inequities of power and the ravages of war. Some were surreal, showing people's lives moving along normally in the most absurd of conditions. The current Aperture Magazine has a wonderful interview with Griffiths which can be accessed online at www.aperture.org/jonesgriffiths.
Below is his obituary from the International Herald Tribune:
Philip Jones Griffiths, a crusading photojournalist whose pictures of civilian casualties and suffering were among the defining images of the war in Vietnam, died Wednesday morning at his home in London. He was 72.
The cause was cancer, said Richard Hughes, an actor and activist who befriended Griffiths in Vietnam.
The book that grew out of Griffiths' reporting there, "Vietnam, Inc.," is considered a classic, and its publication in 1971 helped turn public opinion against the war. Its harrowing pictures — of a blackened burn victim, a thin woman's body splattered with blood, a South Vietnamese boy in soldier's fatigues, his head tiny beneath a huge helmet — were the kind not often shown in newspapers. And Griffiths, a pacifist and passionate opponent of the war, never considered himself a traditional war photographer.
"I saw myself as producing a historical document," he said in 2002 interview on the Web site Musarium.com, adding: "Journalists should be by their very nature anarchists, people who want to point out things that are not generally approved of."
"It's by criticizing that society that humanity has made progress," he said.
While critical of the way the United States was conducting the Vietnam war, Griffiths also included in his book many humanizing images of American soldiers at a time when they were often being demonized back home. One of the most stark showed an American offering a canteen of water to a Vietcong fighter who had survived a stomach wound for three days, holding in his intestines with a cooking bowl. A similar scenario is played out in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film "Apocalypse Now."
"There were some bad GI's who did terrible, terrible things," Griffiths said in a lecture at the Frontline Club in London in January "But for the most part they were kids who were confused. They were not the enemy, to me." The enemy was usually governments and bureaucracies, he often said, and he saw photography as one of the best means to bear witness against their failings.
"Virtually the whole of society believes in what they believe not by direct experience but by what they've been told," he said. "We photographers are in this exalted, privileged position of actually going out to find out for ourselves, and that's why we're so dangerous. Because we were there. We saw what happened."
Griffiths was born in the small village of Rhuddlan in Wales, and came to photography only after an aborted career as a pharmacist. While working at a drugstore in London, he asked to be put on the night shift so he could take pictures during the day to try to sell to newspapers.
"Never underestimate the power of boredom," he said in an interview in January with the British newspaper The Independent.
He told a Welsh interviewer in 2004 that "coming from a country being swallowed up by its neighbor gave me a natural sympathy for the Davids over the Goliaths of this world."
Griffiths was deeply influenced by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, a founder of the photo agency Magnum, where Griffiths became a longtime member and served as president from 1980 to 1985. Besides Vietnam, Griffiths reported from dozens of other countries. He covered the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and worked in Cambodia from 1973 to 1975.
In 1996, a retrospective of his work, "Dark Odyssey" was published, and in 2001, "Vietnam, Inc." was reprinted by Phaidon Press, with a new introduction by Noam Chomsky. In 2004, Griffiths published a photographic examination of the death, deformities and suffering caused by the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Griffiths is survived by two daughters, Katherine Holden of London and Fenella Ferrato of New York and Damascus. He never married, telling one interviewer that he refused to sign papers that would allow "bourgeois society to dictate my emotions."
The kinds of pictures that became "Vietnam, Inc." were often difficult for Magnum to sell to publications, and at times Griffiths was so low on money that he considered leaving Vietnam. But in 1967 he managed to take pictures of Jacqueline Kennedy in Cambodia in the company of a British aristocrat rumored to be her romantic interest at the time; the proceeds from that paparazzi coup allowed him to continue his war photography.
In interviews, he said that he realized early on where his journalistic priorities lay. A London newspaper editor once told him to remember to answer the five basic questions in every photo caption — who, what, why, where and when. Griffiths said the first two and last two struck him as merely perfunctory.
"It's the one in the middle that counts," he said. "To me that's our task, to say 'Why?' "
From the Guardian:
In a recent interview Jones Griffiths explained that he had learned to conquer his fear on the frontline: "I've had a hood put over my head [in Vietnam] and been taken out to be shot. When my executioners cocked their rifles and fired, they missed. Obviously I was scared, but kept thinking this was a more dignified way to go than dying in a car crash. I didn't piss my pants and I'm very proud of that."
The estate of Mr. Griffiths is in limbo after protracted negotiations with the National Library in Wales.
This from the Western Mail:
Mr Jones Griffiths had previously said that he wanted to avoid leaving the matter open after his death.
He said, “I don’t hate dying, I hate loose ends. It would be nice to have it all sorted out so that instead of going to a hospice I could go to an exotic beach, smoke opium whenever the pain got too much and live on a mango and papaya diet.”
Thursday, March 20, 2008
One day they're baking you cookies and serving you a warm glass of milk, and the next thing you know they're whacking an old guy with a tire iron and trying to collect his life insurance. Is there anything more tragic than Grannies gone bad? In the twilight years when they should have been swigging Geritol, these two harpies are now staring at the gallows. And they blame the boomers for society's ills...
Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt and their alleged victims Kenneth McDavid (L) and Paul Vados (2L)
Two elderly women are to go on trial in Los Angeles today for fraud and murder after taking out millions of dollars in life insurance policies on two homeless men, then allegedly drugging them and running them over with a car.
Prosecutors say that Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, and Helen Golay, 77, lifelong friends, hatched a plot to befriend Paul Vados, an elderly drifter, and house and feed him in exchange for his signing a life insurance policy. The women are said to have then duplicated the man’s signature and taken out at least a dozen more insurance policies.
In 1999, two years after the insurance policies were taken out - when insurance companies relax their vigilance about suspicious claims - 73-year-old Vados was found dead in a dark alley, apparently the victim of a hit-and-run accident. There were no witnesses. The women cashed in the life insurance policies, claiming to be Vados's relatives or friends.
Prosecutors say that the plot worked so well the women did it again - this time crushing 50-year-old Kenneth McDavid to death in 2005. They had 23 life insurance policies on his life, prosecutors say, bringing their illicit earnings up to nearly $3 million (£1.5 million). "It sounds like Arsenic and Old Lace but it doesn't have Cary Grant," Shellie Samuels, the Deputy District Attorney, said.
Prosecutors plan to call Jimmy Covington, another homeless man whom they say the women targeted, to give evidence of their modus operandi. Detectives have found at least three more men on whom the pair allegedly tried to take out life insurance. All are still alive.
The pattern of injuries suffered by the two victims is said to suggest that both were lying flat on their backs when they were run over, with crush wounds on their head and chest, rather than on their legs as happens in a typical collision.
"This victim [McDavid] was laid down and run over," Deputy District Attorney Truc Do told a pre-trial hearing last week, adding that a post-mortem examination had found alcohol and sedatives in McDavid's bloodstream. Empty vials of prescription drugs were allegedly found in Golay's bathroom cabinet. Clumps of McDavid's hair and pieces of flesh were found clinging to the undercarriage of a new Mercury Sable car that prosecutors will argue the women bought under false names.
The pair were arrested in May 2006 after a Los Angeles police officer mentioned McDavid's unusual head injuries to a colleague, who by chance remembered the earlier case of Vados.
A CCTV recording of the two women apparently falling out may also be used as evidence. It was filmed secretly when they were alone in a Los Angeles police department interview room during a gap in questioning. In it, Rutterschmidt allegedly mentions Vados and asks Golay: "Why did you make all these . . . extra insurances?"
She goes on: "You were greedy. That is the problem. That's why I get angry . . . I was doing everything for you."
Golay's lawyer has filed a motion for the CCTV footage to be ruled inadmissible, saying that FBI agents did not follow proper procedure during their arrests.
Opening statements are due to begin today at the trial of the women, who have been held apart since their arrest and are forbidden to contact each other. They appeared in court last week in identical black trousersuits, the dye grown out of their grey hair.
The district attorney's office said that the women's age would not be an issue. "It's not the age that counts, it's what they do. And we intend to show in court what their actions were," said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons, adding that people of similar age had been convicted in murder trials before.
Prosecutors did, however, decide last year not to seek the death penalty because it takes a minimum of ten years to appeal against capital punishment. Each faces up to 160 years in prison without parole if convicted, so if they are found guilty they will probably spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
The case, with its murderous parallels to the vintage Alec Guinness black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, has prompted interest from Hollywood.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Our current national debt as of yesterday was $9,414,563,701,197.54. Our current deficit is 219 Billion, however this number is misleading as our president funds the Iraq and afghanistan wars through emergency spending bills which don't show up. The debt, which is principally owed to China, Japan and the U.K. is increasing by approx. $1.69 billion per day or $75 million an hour. I heard a figure recently of how long it would actually take a human being to audibly count to 9 trillion and it ran into the millions of years.
I must note that Bill Clinton, for all his carnal peccadillos, left the country with a 127 billion dollar surplus. Of course a surplus was unfair to americans in this administration's eyes and so we started this tax cut fiasco and here we are. How do you like it?
I am sort of laid up with a bad back. I was taking out the trash and bent down and bang! Its amazing how things can just be going along so swimmingly and then kapow! Teaches me to do housework...
Leslie and I got up at 4 in the morning Sunday and drove up to the Long Beach Flea Market. She drove, I snored. We got our start in the antiques business like many people did, on the pavement at some godforsaken swap meet in the middle of the night. And many of the faces have never changed. Eventually you get pulled out of there with a tag on your toe. We used to do 35 a year out of our need to survive. It was fun for a while but the quality of the goods is getting worse and worse in this age of instant knowledge courtesy of the net. I will never forget the time Leslie dropped a cement cylinder used to weight down the tent corner on her foot at 3:30 a.m. Broke several bones and I knew that we couldn't continue doing shows like that. We took some chances and moved into a different sphere. Still miss the crazy camaraderie - like a Grateful Dead family of junkers.
We found very little - a nouveau poster of a lady for her store and some cypress knees for a buddy of mine, Gene Saunders, that carves perfect raptors out of wood. Ran into some old friends. We then had breakfast at Norms and drove to downtown Los Angeles to the Fashion Mart so that Les could order for the fall and winter. It's Fashion Week. Many shops in a huge building and they all know her and love her. Delectable food in every room - lots of sugar, I was flying high. Lots of beautiful girls, too. Not a ton of straight men pass through the hallowed halls so I was a bit of an anomaly and didn't mind the attention.
Not to offend, but didn't see as many tattoos as usual and kind of liked it. I see so many young girls(and boys) doing really brutal things to their arms and necks and wonder if they are going to have a post ink hangover one day and freakout. Lot more tattoos at the Vegas fashion shows. I think I may live in the epicenter and hope the wave flows the other way. Probably some deep seated jewish taboo rooted in my genetic coding.
Anyhow, the wife was driving and changed my seat position in my car and I had trouble finding the sweet spot again and the back rebelled. Flexorill, ice packs, stretching, nothing works so I am off to the chiropractor.
Monday, March 17, 2008
George Walker Bush has gotten a free pass from the vaunted leftist "mainstream media". Contrary to popular wisdom, the collective sins of this administration are on a par with any heretofore and almost Nixonian in scope and gravity. My mama always said to never attribute to malice what could better be explained by stupidity and what we have here may be a cheap cocktail of the two.
I have been running a quick tabulation or greatest hits of Bush malfeasance over in my brain and I offer them to you, my paltry readership, with my apologies. I am sure that I have forgotten quite a few and would welcome your corrections.
1. The War in Iraq. Current U.S. Casualty count as of 3/16/08, 5:32 p.m.est - U.S. Dead - 3987 U.S. wounded - 29,314, Iraqi casualties - 89,710. Now we were attacked on 9/11 by religious islamic zealots, based primarily in Afghanistan, Saudi and Pakistan, so what do we do, we invade Iraq, the country with the most secular freedom and woman's suffrage in the region, albeit one governed by a terrible murderous despot. A piece of crap much like Tito, but one of the few people able to rule a land governed by three major sects that hated each other. But Hussein had pissed off our president's dad, and we was fixin to give him a country boy whipping. Bring it on, make my day, blah,blah,blah. Brain injuries are at an all time high with our troops and the PTSD costs are potentially astronomic.
This protracted struggle will cost us about one to two Trillion dollars, according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist. Remember the 50 billion dollar figure bandied about by Rosy Don Rumsfeld, he of the "they will be throwing flowers at our feet school."
Costs and casualties aside, this thing shows no signs of abating. A person that is willing to strap on a bomb will not be cowed into ever accepting western style mores or occupation. We are breeding many more potential enemies with every accidental civilian casualty in Iraq and these people have a long memory.
2. The War on Terrorism - Fact: This administration has been the gang that couldn't shoot straight regarding terrorism. I recommend that everyone read Richard Clarke's book and the final Woodward Book. On January 25, 2001 Clarke sent a memo in which he called urgently for a Principal's review on Al Qida (sic). he mentioned sleeper cells and Usama Bin Laden. The Bush Administration did not have a meeting for another 9 months and by then it was too late. On August 6, 2001, the CIA sent a now declassified letter to the White House warning that "Bin Laden wanted to use domestic airplanes like missiles" and attack the White House, Pentagon and CIA headquarters. The NIC warned about this as early as 1999.
How is it that the administration portrays itself as so macho and effective when their record has truly been so miserable? I won't go into yellow cake and Niger and all the other crap that has been post mortemed to death. I just know that they must think we are really stupid. And we are.
If these guys had any real cajones, we would have gone after the Pakistani enablers of Bin Laden and the Saudi moneymen.
3. Bringing us back to Jesus - One of the gravest sins of this administration imho is the breaching of the wall between church and state. It has allowed us to drain the money out of the public school system in some cases, cut off federal money internationally to any countries or organizations that teach, god forbid, family planning, and channel charity donations through primarily fundamentalist evangelical churches. The Air Force Academy has been sued for proselytizing and trying to brainwash Jewish recruits. The Justice Department's ranks are swelling with green snot nosed lawyers from Regent University, Pat Robertson's own law school. Creationism and intelligent design have raised their ugly stupid head and are taught alongside science. I better stop...
4.The Supreme Court - The Federalist Society has managed to take over the body with it's corporation driven slant and its quest for original intent. Its a wonder that we have any laws regarding automobiles on the books since they may not have been envisioned by the founding fathers. Seven of our nine justices are Republican and appointed by the same. They delivered the election when Scalia felt it prudent to shut down Florida vote counting and disallow the "felon count" for the sake of the country. All of the talk of stare decisis is balderdash as well, we have come to see. Alito and the Trojan Horse Roberts are company men after all.
5. The Environment - Abrogate Kyoto, clearcut the forests, snowmobile Yellowstone, drill throughout the Colorado and Alaskan plateaus, weaken air and water pollution standards, deafen and kill dolphins and whales, indemnify industrial polluters,etc. need I go on?
6.Civil Liberties - see trust your government post.
I think I am spent - thank god - I could go on and on. Don't give the Grand Old Party a free ride.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Yucca flat is a barren part of the desert officially designated Area 9a of the Nevada Test Site. Between 1951 and 1962, the United States Government triggered 101 detonations at the NTS. This provided a real time laboratory for gauging the effects of radiation on our own soldiers. The principal question was "will they panic"? Unfortunately, the question of the effects on our troops' long term health was largely overlooked.
Operation Plumbbob was the sixth series of tests at Area 9a, and took place in the summer of 1957. It produced 20 nuclear tests and one very unfortunate misfire, a release of 58,300 kilocuries of radioactive iodine I-131, more than twice the amount produced in any other blast series. According to the book, I -131 is far from the most dangerous chemical released and makes up less than 2% of isotopes in fallout. However it is the only isotope that has been studied by the National Cancer Institute, and apparently only as it relates to thyroid cancer.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that the radioactive Iodine released from Operation Plumbbob will contribute at least 35,000 cases of thyroid cancer in America and 2700 additional deaths. This isotope has a half life of about 8 minutes. Strontium 90, a cause of blood and bone cancer, has a half life of 8000 years. The government has been unwilling to estimate the effects of the remaining 98% of the fallout.
Our current president has refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I will keep on taking pictures. Thanks to all for their generous support.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) - A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people’s private communications and financial information.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI continued in 2006 to badly mishandle letters that it uses to obtain personal records without a court order, according to a Justice Department report released Thursday.
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifes about oversight before a Senate committee last week.
The new report cites "issuance of NSLs [national security letters] without proper authorization, improper requests and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records due to FBI errors or mistakes made by NSL recipients."
Scalia’s Absolutely Wrong About Absolute Rights
April 9, 2003
Why have we as Americans ceded our civil liberties without a struggle? I have heard many people say that if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. But we are not very far removed from illegal spying by several administrations and wholesale political interference and spying by the FBI.
The damage done to both our international credibility and to our moral fibre by this administration is enormous. What will we say when our servicemen are inevitably captured and tortured and we cry out for protection from the Geneva Convention? Will we demand fair trials?
When Darpa announced that it would start data mining several years ago Americans were up in arms and supposedly the plans were shelved. Old John Poindexter lowered his head and vanished back to the land of Dr. Strangelove. My guess is that nothing was ever curtailed. To fight the terrorist bogeyman we have become our own worse monster.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Obama raises a different issue into the equation - race. Long the skeleton in the closet, pollsters have figured out that people say that race is never an issue but tend to vote rather differently. But Obama breaks the mold in this election, getting wide support across racial and partisan boundaries and I have some thoughts on the reason why. Call it the Tiger Woods syndrome. We want to have our leaders resemble ourselves and a multiracial candidate (or sports hero) has just enough of our genetic stock to make them palatable. Perhaps we will see a mulatto hermaphrodite in the next cycle and really test my theory.
I am always piqued when my republican friends suggest what a great candidate Joe Lieberman would be, for instance as a vice presidential running mate for McCain. Why wouldn't I love that they ask, for god sakes he's a jew. Our shared lack of a foreskin notwithstanding, I think he's a turncoat asshole who should go away. Why would I support a man who turned his back on his own once progressive agenda a la Zell Miller. What does his religion mean to me? Lieberman's super pious brand of judaism and my own twisted view of the cosmos are poles apart.
Speaking of tribalism and hypocrisy lets turn to the arabs. The Palestinians have been launching Qassam and Katushya missiles into Israel from Gaza. There is widespread support for this in the occupied territories. A recent supporter in the paper termed them harmless fireworks. Israel fights back and they are accused of collective punishment and harangued from all sides. Yet the radical islamic groups feel that it is perfectly fine to hijack the Achille Lauro ship and kill all the jewish passengers, bomb synagogues in Argentina and otherwise target "Zionist entities" around the world. Is that not collective punishment? I've got an idea - stop fucking bombing Israel and live your life in peace.