Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's Official...I'm Old
I'm at that stage where I need to be wearing eyeglasses most of the time. When I drive at night without them, visions of van Gogh's "Starry Nights" swirl before me. Late night tv watching has gone past the stage of squinting; any further smooshing of my eyelids and they'd be closed. I can't hold the newspaper far enough in the morning, so I've taken to taping it to the wall and stepping back, back, back gradually, until I can read the words clearly.
I've considered laser surgery for a while. Then my cd player started skipping and jumping and hiccupping. The techy at the store said that's what happens with lasers; they either need adjusting after 4-5 years or they're shot and need to be replaced completely. I know. I know. There's a difference between the lasers used for eye surgery and the ones that read your cd' me the difference and see if you don't start having your doubts. A fellow at work swears by the laser surgery he's had. It also cured his allergies. Truly. The eye surgeon nor his allergist can explain how that happened. He does have some facial tics now. And he's started listening to Celine Dion. Makes for nervous early morning discussions at the coffee corner.
So, I've opted for keeping the glasses. To make sure that they are always handy (cuz I refuse to wear those senility chains around my neck to keep the glasses hanging around my neck, as if proclaiming "I'm really old and where are my???...oh, here they are.."), I've opted to own more than one pair. You know, have them around and handy. I wait for the optician to have one of those twofer sales and then I scoop up a pair of pairs. I have four now....I think.
One pair's at work.
Another's in the car.
A third's by the computer.
And a fourth, they're somewhere else important.
But, you can see why I have other pairs around. You see, I couldn't really be that old since I have this eyewear thing so well planned and laid out. Now, if I could only find that fourth pair...

So, in the midst of conducting my eyeglass inventory, I ended up by my dresser. Pulling clothes and cedar chips out of the dresser, I got involved with the disposition of my jeans. Since, a lot of my clothes were rammed into the dresser, it was a bit difficult to extricate any one garment without pulling out a trail of other clothes. Quickly forgetting my previous task of remembering where that fourth pair of glasses were, I dumped out the drawer of blue jeans.
There were some pants I had not seen in a long time. 32 waists. That was more than a decade ago. 30 waists. I think Carter was in office. Making three piles, I sorted.
One stack was "Wearable Immediately".
Another pile was "After that Promised Weight Loss".
The last stack, and it was the biggest, was "Not in Your Lifetime, Buddy". At this point, I should have gone back to searching for the glasses. Instead, I started counting the items in each pile.

So, it is official. Two items in the "Wearable Immediately" pile. Three pairs (well actually four...that 4th has got to be around here somewhere) of eyeglasses. The score is 3 (or worse, 4) to 2 for the old guy. That's three (or four) pairs of corrective lenses to 2 pairs of jeans that fit. Time certainly doesn't wait for no man. So, it's massive weight loss time. Or, I could misplace some additional glasses....

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Logically running toward a ridiculous Conclusion
A posting @ Futurepundit ties in well with this previous weekend's NFL draft, also known as "Bringin' back the good ol' days of The Trading Block". I'll leave the slave/master issue to other (more) eruditically inclined. The age issue of the draft is what I'm after. Quoting from the posting noted, the following question is posed.
Are human beings born pure, as Rousseau argued, and tainted by the world around them? Or do babies arrive bad, as St. Augustine wrote, and learn, for their own good, how to behave in society?
Mr. Eric Anderssen & Ms. Anne McIlroy, writing in the Toronto Globe & Mail, summarized research conducted by one Dr. Richard Tremblay @ Universite de Montreal who was seeking one possible answer. Short conclusive answer? Dr. Tremblay has demonstrated that the "ability to feel rage exists the moment human beings take their first breaths....(by the) second year, aggressive behaviour peaks in temper tantrums and (the child) will commit one act of physical aggression for every four social interactions. (Hmmm, sound like any type of behaviour that is actively encouraged in adults?)
By their third birthdays, children have the motor skills to perform any of the acts of aggression an adult can. But (emphasis added) at just that age, aggression begins to drop.
From a logical & practical sense, this means your typical college football draftee is....a pansy.
An idea.
Start a league with age limitations of 2 through 4.
No signing bonuses will be necessary; just 2 years' supply of cereal (sugar packed, of course) and clothing.
No coaches are necessary.
Simplify the rules.
Maybe extra padding in the helmet.
And keep the Moms away...this is a Dad thing. Bonding, mentoring..whatever you want to mis-label it as. If this works out, hockey can be another sport to investigate.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pat Tillman has been killed in action in Afghanistan today. He had given up a lucrative NFL contract with Arizona and volunteered to serve, with his brother, as an elite US Army Ranger. This was one interesting guy. Graduated from AZ State in 3 1/2 years with a 3.84 GPA. Was a top-notch saftey in the NFL. Left it all because of his conscience; his brother was in Afghanistan serving as a US Army Ranger and he couldn't bear the thought he was playing a game while his brother was playing The Game. This guy could have done anything he wanted to. The timing is bizarre. The NFL Draft is tomorrow. Hwo will the NFL react;will they do their usual strained attempt at empathy? How will the draftees and their agents react? Eli Manning and his whole crew is moaning about being picked by San Diego. Come on! Get some perspective on how lucky you are to be picked number one...and how lucky you are to be paid to play a game for money...and how lucky you are to be alive. Mr. Tillman has set an incredibly high standard for doing the right thing in the NFL. No half time show necessary to point this out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

How's your conscience look?
Being from the "old country" (which isn't as old as I'd originally thought (see Michael Blowhard on "Genesis Updated" , but is certainly older than this country (USA)), certain visuals are cached in the noggin. These pictures are cued up when my mind is forced by circumstances to get itself out of its daily doldrums and do some moral calibrating. When these moments come up and the ol' moral compass gets pulled out of my backpocket, I tend to see a semblance of these two elderly Slavic women perched behind my left ear, checking out which direction my conscience is pointing.
Notice the arms on hip pose. The placement of their arms is important; sometimes all I visualize are the right angles of the limbs. The general expression is, "So, what are you going to do (or say, or provide..)? And if I hesitate or I don't know, mental "batine" are ready to be administered with the reliable wooden spoon. Don't ask, it's a Croatian thing.
Sometimes, recussitation of one's take on things is needed and there's nothing like a slap, in a figurative way, to set things in motion.
You kick your lawnmower (the machine..not the person), when the motor stalls or just doesn't engage.
You hit your monitor to get those bits & bytes moving a bit faster.
This is the same thing.
The logic is if administration of some batine worked wonders on a stalled mule, than the mental picture of that slap should get the lazy moral ass in your head up and going in the right direction.
Life with these visions of conscience has been..interesting. I've noticed that the number of these starice at any one point of a moral dilemna is in direct proportion to the hardship at hand. Most times, I luck out and have only one giving me the malocchio. Once in a blue moon, a coven of starice gather, just waiting for me do the wrong thing. And if the wrong thing is done ("wrong", being determined after the unfortunate decision), it was always easier to personalize my conscience into the form of a 5 ft (1 meter and a half) short and stout babuschka tsk-tsking me rather than getting into self-flagellation.

As I've gotten older, "not doing the wrong thing" has been been replaced by "doing the right thing". Same moral direction; different compass. Conscience's picture has also changed. The frame is still that "old country" gnarled beat up ash. But now, Joseph Campbell is staring from the confines of that frame, with that marvelous touch of a fading smile and world weary eyes. The batine are still dispensed, but subtlety and wit are the rule; the wooden spoon has been deported back to the starice in the old country. May they use it wisely in dispensing encouragement to all of their mules. Ptuj

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Black Bridge
So, one of the major pieces in Dubya's chess game to a second term has been moved into place. John D. Negroponte, currently our Ambassador to the U.N., has been nominated to be our Ambassador to Iraq. If his nomination is approved, he will head the largest staff (3,000 strong) of any ambassadorship in US history. It's virtually a small army. It's a good thing that Mr. Negroponte's diplomatic experience includes dealing with such an amount of manpower at his control. From "The Nation, (3/11/2002 issue) "John Negroponte was US Ambassador to Honduras and facilitated a clandestine quid pro quo deal, under which the Reagan Administration sent aid to Honduras in return for Honduran assistance to the contras, at a time when Congress had banned the Administration from assisting the contras. Negroponte's embassy also suppressed information about human rights abuses committed by the Honduran military."

Negroponte is the key now to Bush's re-election plans. No one can put Iraq into a semblance of order in the coming years. In the months leading up to November's presidential election, the best that the president can hope for is the elimination of Iraq related stories from the front pages of newspapers and from the first 5-8 minutes of the nightly news telecasts. What he needed was someone who had vast experience with working behind the scenes. In choosing Mr. Negroponte, he's certainly picked a most highly qualified candidate. With a staff of 3,000 thrown in, Mr. Bush has thrown in enough hands to keep Iraq news to a low murmer.

From their own axe to grind ,Mr. Negroponte spent his entire working life in the service of American imperialism, participating in many of the bloodiest crimes of the post-World War II, including nine years as a State Department official during the Vietnam War and five years in Central America.

Much of his career itinerary reads like a dossier for some future war crimes tribunal:

* 1964-68, political affairs officer at the US Embassy in Saigon;

* 1969-71, aide to Henry Kissinger in the Paris negotiations with the Vietnamese;

* 1971-73, officer-in-charge for Vietnam in the National Security Council, under Kissinger;

* 1973-75, assigned to the US Embassy in Ecuador (he reportedly quit Kissinger’s staff, opposing the Paris settlement as too favorable to the Vietnamese);

* 1980-81, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs;

* 1981-85, ambassador to Honduras;

* 1987-1989, deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, reporting to Colin Powell;

* 1989-93, ambassador to Mexico;

* 1993-97, ambassador to the Philippines.

After retiring from the diplomatic corps, he took a well-paid position as vice president for global markets at McGraw-Hill, the big publishing company.

Negroponte’s role is best documented for his term as ambassador to Honduras, a country dominated by US corporations and completely dependent on the US government politically and militarily. The US ambassador in Tegucigalpa is the de facto pro-consul who makes or breaks presidents and generals. At Negroponte’s direction the Honduran military provided protection and assistance to the Contra terrorists. With his tacit permission, if not active encouragement, the Honduran military carried out systematic murders of refugees from war-torn El Salvador and among its domestic opponents in Honduras itself.

During Negroponte’s tenure, US military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million. Maintaining this aid required the US Embassy to regularly certify that Honduras was in compliance with human rights requirements set down in American laws. Although Jack Binns, who preceded Negroponte as ambassador, had warned about the repressive measures undertaken by the military-controlled regime, Negroponte consistently denied the existence of death squads, political prisoners or politically motivated killings by the Honduran Armed Forces.

He worked closely with General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, chief of the Armed Forces in Honduras, to send Honduran soldiers to the US-run School of the Americas, where they were trained in psychological warfare, sabotage and many types of human rights violations, including torture and kidnapping. In 1983 the US government awarded the Legion of Merit to General Alvarez.

A CIA-run death squad
The American CIA created the infamous Battalion 3-16 to carry out the murder of Honduran political opponents of the Contra war against Nicaragua. General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, a graduate of the School of the Americas, was the founder and commander of Battalion 3-16. According to a detailed investigation in 1995 by the Baltimore Sun, Battalion 3-16 kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of Hondurans. The unit used “shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves.”

The Baltimore Sun reporters found that in 1982 alone, during Negroponte’s first full year as ambassador, the Honduran press carried at least 318 stories of extrajudicial attacks by the military. The US embassy, however, certified the country’s record on human rights in such glowing terms that aides to Negroponte joked that they were writing about Norway, not Honduras. Rick Chidester, a former aide, revealed to the Sun that his supervisors had ordered him to remove allegations of torture and executions from his draft of the 1982 human rights report. When one Honduran legislator complained about the US refusal to denounce the repression, Negroponte told him, “You and others, what you are proposing is to let communism take over this country.”

Significantly, several members of Battalion 3-16, long resident in the United States, were suddenly and swiftly deported after Negroponte’s nomination was announced. In February the State Department revoked the visa of General Discua, the founder of Battalion 3-16, who had been deputy ambassador to the UN for Honduras and stayed on in the US after his term expired. Discua responded by publicly confirming the US sponsorship of his death squad operation.

From April through November 4th, we can expect the mysterious Black Bridge ("Negro" "ponte") to be the main link between the president's appearance of calm control and the Iraqi lack of control. There will probably be hearings about the methodologies and results used by Mr. Negroponte, but these hearings, with their accompanying "I can't believe this happened!"'s and "Shocked, shocked I am at..."'s, will all take place after November 4th. Which will sit well with Mr. Bush and Mr. Negroponte. They'll have an additional 4 years to attend such meetings.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

What channel am I receiving?
Maybe I'm just reading the wrong newspapers, the non-informative magazines, the without-a-clue web sites....or...maybe it's the cable service that I'm contracted with that is streaming me versions of reality that other viewers are not privy to. That must be it. What else could explain the non-reaction (correct that.."the lack of negative reaction" or "reaction of disbelief") of the media to Tuesday night's Presidential Q & A. I'm not talking about the 15 minute spiel that opened up the "press conference"; that was canned propoganda formulated to serve as appetizers for the main course of pointed questions by our independent press and understandable answers by our dependent Prez.

I realize that Mr. Bush spends 40% of his time in the vacation spots of Crawford, TX, Kennebunkport, ME, and Camp David, MD. That doesn't bother me that much; I'm hoping he uses his time wisely there, in preparation for dealing with the face-time that is occassionally required of him as...well, yes, as our president. That 40% spent away from his job could be viewed as cramming for "tests", those presidential exams like meeting with foreign "digninatories" (his word,not mine), staff meetings, and press conferences. Heck, this is the first time he's been prez, so he should be studying up on things to make himself better.
The fact that he's on the job only 60% of the time just goes to show that he is consistent, if not fully committed, in how he views a job. Trying to come up with timesheets to document that he actually served in the National Guard should have been a clue to us that we should not have been expecting a full-time president, with Dubya in office.

Given all that, I expected an admirable performance by Mr. Bush on Tuesday night. He had prep time. He had speechified about his Iraq commitment. The event was even scheduled well before 10:00 p.m., so he had the audience at a time when he is usually awake. Things should have been interesting, informative, encouraging and understandable. Instead, my tv was receiving signals that reflected limited intelligence in the White House.
The questions, it should be stated, were usually 3-5 sentences long. Sometimes, they overflowed to 7-9 sentences. Granted, these lengthy questions posed problems of comprehension, as evidenced by the deep furrowing of our president's brow. Juggling multiple ideas has not been his strong suit. But, jeez...all that time he had to practice! As a reporter finished his question, the camera focused on Mr. Bush's face. AS the Q & A went on, this focus revealed a deeper and deeper look of confusion and incompetence (yes, it was actually possible to see a face reeking with incompetence). At times, it was difficult to ascertain whether he mis-understood the question, mis-applied his stock answer (usually a loop of phrases, heavy on the words "Freedom" and "duty"), or mistook his wife for a hat (sorry, just had to tuck that Oliver Sacks thing here). My ever-loving wife, the esteemed Hockey Critic L.J. Zimmerman, was begging me for mercy. "Please turn the channel, this is cruel and unusual..", she pleaded. Well, she was never a fan of standing on the corner and watching the oncoming car accidents. Dubya's performance was riveting, because it was an ongoing accident; I couldn't believe his absolutely idiotic answers. His "giving the Mid-East, Freedom" repetitive phrase made the U.S.A. seem as if it was your grandmother cajoling you with threats of punishment as she shoved a cooking spoon of castor oil down your throat. I didn't realize Freedom was so off-putting.
Then, there was the question regarding his and Cheney's secret and un-taped testimony to be given to the 9/11 commission. This guy (Bush) had been adamant about not having a investigative commission for the Sept 11, 2001 events. He had put extreme presuure on the financing provided to the commission ($7 Million v. $60 million provided for the witchhunt of Bill Clinton's sexcapades). Then, he had the chutzpah to say how eager he was to discuss all of the issues, "in complete honesty" with the long as he can do it with his puppetmasater, Dick Cheney. When a reporter asked ( make sure Mr. Bush understood the question), why Dubya wouldn't talk to the commission alone (as so requested), rather than with Cheney (as the White House insisted on), you realized what an incompetent and ill-spoken man was (sort of) elected to represent our country.

It was a sad, sad sight. The worst part was not reading any major media web sites mentioning any of the fumbling and dittering. Is John Ashcroft that scary an individual? Tough and honest questions were asked? Why weren't they all re-printed in the following day papers? Must have been just my tv signal, then.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

...and a beauty
It's hockey playoff time again, which means every team except the Kenora River Rats and the NY Rangers, are playing for something important. This is even better than the NCAA field of 64! Unless both of one's legs are broken, every player plays. Hockey's not the game for the feint of heart, like, say your typical basketball or baseball player. As famed hockey analyst L.J. Zimmerman said, "It's a quid pro quid" game. One guy does one thing and....another guy wishes he had done the same thing. You slash my stick and break it, as you give me a facewash with your sweaty grimy glove..and I wish I'd done the same thing to you. It's the beauty of a juggernaut on sharpened blades steamrolling down the throat of an opponent's goalie, confined by the wood & plexiglass barriers of the rink. It's speed, strength, guile, and crashing bodies. It's minimal play stoppage and no athletic pansies. It's coaches thinking on the fly and veterans meting out Stanley Cup championship salutations to rookies, by way of a timely hip check. And then there's always a kick save..and a beauty. It's a time of year when men are men and boys are shooting free throws. Go Devils! (although I think it'll be the Ottawa Senators over the Avalanche in 6 games).

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Election time

Read an article in the NNYT recently about a proposed plan that was on a memo floating around the White House. Somehow, this particular memo floated out an open window and by sheer luck or just meteorological conditions that day, ended up on the floor of a local fast food joint. The reporter of that article, in trying NOT to do two things at once, had started walking and had spat out his gum. He stepped on the gum. He then entered said fast food joint, stepped on the memo, ordered a McMuffin, walked outside to eat his breakfast in the gorgeous morning sunlight, and noticed the paper gummed to his shoe.

Talk about a lucky lead. From mouth to gum to shoe to memo to the NNYT page 17 article.

Rather than copying the whole article over or having you, gentle reader, trudge through the filler of his story, here's the gist.

Dubya will be airborne again. The plan is to whisk him away from one of his ever-occurring Crawford, TX vacations for a few days. He'd be flown directly to an undisclosed location near Basra, Iraq. There, in a two-seater plane, , an A-10 Thunderbolt or "Warthog", President Bush will have a choice of various targets, possibly the "Spider Hole that S. Hussein was caught in, various museums in Baghdad, or an oil pipeline (this target has already been approved by Halliburton, as the pipeline is question was operational and thus causing gas pricing "issues"). Videos of the takeoff and the attack will be incorporated into a series of political ads to be run over the summer, probably during the National Democratic Convention. The theme will be something along the lines of "Freedom in America means never having to say I'm Lying."...or.. "Iraq, where I don't need no stinking pilot's license"...or something like that....

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Click for Wilmington, Delaware Forecast Locations of visitors to this page eXTReMe Tracker
follow me on Twitter