Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Friday, July 29, 2005

What Would Jesus Do?

Well, enough politics. Time for me to take on religion... *grin*

The popular question, "What would Jesus do?" among born-againers, devout Christians, and the like is an interesting one. The WWJD bracelets, the saying itself, and the weight of the name of Jesus implies that we are to live as Christian a life as possible, to consider Jesus' words and actions before we speak and act ourselves.

Yet in this country, I think too many people don't follow through on the bracelets or the words themselves. They go to church, they read the Bible, but they don't really pay attention. It's all about the lifestyle, or the pastor's sermon, or the culture, the politics, the "values." But it really isn't so much about Jesus himself, and I think that's a shame.

I read this excerpt earlier today of "The Christian Paradox" by Bill McKibben. The article in full is in the August 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine, and at some point, I should go down to the library and read it in its entirety. But the portion I saw, I agree with. McKibben argues that although we are a very Christian nation, grounded in the texts of the Old and New Testaments, we don't necessarily follow through on these religious precepts. He states that 75% of Americans believe the statement "God helps those who help themselves" is somewhere in the Bible, when in fact the Founding Father and Deist Benjamin Franklin first uttered it. This well-worn phrase thus missed being in the Bible by a good number of centuries. I'm pretty sure there's no editing allowed now.

McKibben uses this fact to discuss how Americans perceive themselves and their actions through this prism, in a manner that is antithetical to the preachings of Jesus. For example, the Good Book states clearly, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Yet we are the most gun-happy nation on earth, with extremely high murder rates. We live in a land where we build more prisons than schools. We prefer tax cuts over funding programs to help the least of us. McKibben makes these points and more.

True Christian precepts can be found in texts such as the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus preached to the multitudes. You can find the text in Matthew, Chapters 5-8, or in Luke, Chapter 6. Let's look at Matthew for a minute:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:3

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Matthew 5:7

One of my favorites, given the tenor of our times: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the Children of God." Matthew 5:9

It's not only the Old Testament that exhorts against murder. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, "Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment."

There's more, of course, and I'm cherry-picking, I'll admit, but I think charity doesn't mean just writing off a tax-deductible check, or tossing a few coins into the Salvation Army kettles at Christmas. Pursuing peace doesn't mean invading another country, toppling its leader, then occupying the country, terrorizing its citizens, and torturing people in prison for years.

Luke's version is shorter, more succinct, but covers the same ground as Matthew. Luke does offer this: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31.

This of course, is the famed Golden Rule. As I've said before, if we took it a little more seriously, we'd all be better off. Doing unto others doesn't mean slashing medical care, or taking away benefits from single mothers and children. It doesn't mean gutting Head Start and tossing all the money to the Pentagon to buy more weapons. Unless, of course, you want people to do the same to you, to shortchange you on health concerns, to deprive your children of food and education, and for people to bomb you back to the Stone Age.

Even Paul subscribed to the Golden Rule, in a sense: "...whatsover a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7

I could go on all night, but I'm sure you get the general gist. I'm sure there's a possibility some enterprising soul will pounce on this and quote the Bible back at me. Ok, go ahead. I don't claim to be an expert, and I'm sure someone can dance circles around me when it comes to theology. All I know is, I liked McKibben's article, what I saw of it, and I'd love to see Christianity in all its forms, permutations, and practices go back to its roots. Otherwise, I'd say this "Christian Nation" of ours maybe needs to go back, pick up a copy of the Bible, dust it off, and do some serious reading and thinking. It's one thing to believe; it's another thing to follow through. I'm not what you'd call "churched," but I think Jesus would have fed the poor, healed the sick, and ministered to our well-being in all facets: physical, emotional, and mental, as well as spiritual. That's how I view Jesus, as a man of the people, not as the lord of the B-52 bombers or the patron saint of tax loopholes and shelters.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

History Unveiled

Although my interests in grad school focused on the history of the Americas, and in particular, the American West, I've always been fascinated by Rome. I think part of it just is knowing that there once existed a world that had many of the amenities we take for granted today: hot and cold water, baths, indoor toilets, and the like. You can tell I'm a terribly spoiled 21st century citizen. *grin* I like my comforts.

Part of it is harder to explain, I think. The time period just fascinates me. Of course, it helps that quite a few of their rulers are fascinating, and the period between the end of the Republic up through the era of the Four Emperors is very interesting, if bloody. It certainly has been one of the more documented periods of Roman history too, which is how I got interested in it. First was through reading Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God, and then being fortunate enough to catch a re-run on PBS of the series "I, Claudius." The later release on videotapes a few years back had captions, but the DVD release shortly after doesn't seem to include captions or subtitles, which is a pity. It really is worth seeing. It concerns the story of Claudius, the "idiot" grandson of Augustus's wife Livia, and his observations regarding the history of the Imperial Court at the beginning of the Roman Empire and the flawed men who ruled Rome. The cast of characters includes Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius himself, and Nero. Graves culled his novel from Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars, among other sources, but wove a tale that is plausible in the way it fills in the gaps in the historical accounting. Reading the books and watching the show was like observing a soap opera, 1st Century AD style. If you have the chance to read the books or can find a captioned copy of the BBC series, I'd advise you to let yourself get captivated by the story. It's really worth your time. After reading and seeing all of this, I started educating myself more about the time period, the history, politics, geography, etc. of the Roman World. I took Latin in college partially because of this, and even today I still read books and watch shows about Rome.

I haven't yet been to Rome, let alone Italy, but I hope to one of these days. It really is something that so much has survived two thousand years of wars, upheavals, changes, "modernizations," and population growth. Pompeii and Herculaeneum are the best known, along with the Colosseum and other Roman ruins, but there are also places like Ostia, the ancient Roman port, the buildings and residences on Capri, the acqueducts all over the Mediterranean, and bits and pieces of old town centers in places in Spain and France that were once outposts of one of the largest Empires in recorded history.

Artifacts turn up all the time, too. Today, for example, I read this article that states that during a clean-up of an old sewer in the Forum, a marble statue of the emperor Constantine was discovered, nearly 1,700 years after Constantine's rule. It's amazing that something like this lasted so long, and survived relatively intact. Thanks to the sturdiness of Roman buildings, infrastructure, and artworks, we have a fairly good idea of how the Romans lived. Certain texts have survived, so we have an outline of Roman history. I wonder what, in two thousand years' time, will survive of our civilization? What will future generations see and know about the American Empire?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cover-Up Part II

You know there's something rotten in the state of the U.S. (apologies to Shakespeare!) when even Republican legislators are being blocked by the White House. Just the other day, the Washington Post reported that the White House is trying to defeat a bill that would "bar the U.S. military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual."

So essentially our administration, composed of such "compassionate conservative" people like Smirk, Scowl, Scummy, et al, have decided that human rights, the Geneva Conventions, and other rules, documents, and guidelines (our own Constitution, for example) don't apply here. The Geneva Conventions, for example, state that civilians in an occupied territory or territories aren't to be subjected to any kind of physical or moral coercion when trying to gather information (Convention IV, Article 31).

It's pretty much the same for POWs-- "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted. Prisoners who refuse to answer questions may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." (Convention III, Article 17)

The Geneva Conventions also cover relief organizations such as the Red Cross. Believe me, what Smirk and his crowd are doing is basically violating the Geneva Conventions. Even if you don't care for the Geneva Conventions and agree with Rumsfeld that it's a "quaint" document, one of the arguments that this administration has pushed to justify our being over in Iraq and Afghanistan is to promote democracy, and of course, "our way of life." Well, if I was Iraqi, I'd be pretty hard pressed to identify the kind of behavior condoned at places like Abu Ghraib as part of "our way of life" or actions that would be compatible with the Constitution, or acceptable in a democracy. So then why are the head honchos of our gummint fighting members of their own party tooth and nail over this? If anything, it'd turn me off.

The reasoning Smirk and Scowl are applying here is that the Executive Branch should not be hamstrung in its efforts to ensure the ability to "protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack." Somehow, I fail to see how torture and lying to the Red Cross protects us. If anything, it makes us look all the more like hypocrites, at the very least.

I hope legislators like John McCain fight back against this, and prevail. It'd be a very sorry day if the administration ultimately got its way on this. Of course, the subtext for all this is the scandal at Abu Ghraib. The administration wants to cover it all up, and let things go on their merry way; Congress wants to install some accountability.

I don't know if my vote counts for anything any more, but I cast it for accountability.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Remember Charles Graner? Lynndie England? Their friends and buddies at Abu Ghraib? Sure you do-- those photos shocked the world, if not all Americans (they *should* have shocked all of us; there are still people out there that shrug this off as "part of war" and "no big deal"; after all, they're all "towelheads" and "terrorists"). You'd think the shame and embarrassment over such treatment, not to mention violations of the Geneva Convention (a document Rummy et al have declared "quaint"), would have prompted our gummint to reveal all, put an end to all such abuse, and firmly resurrect support and respect for the Geneva Conventions and common human courtesies. Even the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg didn't suffer such indignities, and they killed and tortured far more people than the prisoners at Abu Ghraib did.

Well, there's additional photos, documents, and materials the gummint has covered up, and is refusing to release. The gummint initially stated they'd release this stuff, but now they've done a 180 and said, "Nope." Gee, I wonder why... A clue might be the fact that Rummy (who I think should have been fired, arrested, and bound over for trial at the Hague) stated when the original batch of photos was released that the rest of it "...can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane." Now there's suspicion that some of this visual evidence shows such atrocities as child abuse, possibly rape, maybe even murder.

I'm not too surprised. Our country is great for many reasons, is the most advanced civilization the world's seen in many ways, but has a lot of warts. Slavery, lynchings, and racism, for one. Support for banana republics, the overthrow of legitimately elected governments (see: Chile and Guatemala), and the operation of a finishing school for authoritarian dictators of previously mentioned banana republics, for another. Additionally, we conveniently ignore or underestimate tragedies like the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the horror of Rwanda, and the current genocide in Darfur, in the Sudan. For a country whose raison d'etre is predicated upon the championing of human rights, we have a decidely mixed track record.

This new court challenge means it'll be a while before we know the full extent of Abu Ghraib. The current argument doesn't really hold water: the gummint claims they don't want to "embarrass people." Well, I'm sorry-- guess what? The victims have already been embarrassed. But I'll bet you anything they'd like to see the perpetrators brought to justice. I'll also bet you the real people who don't want to be embarrassed are the people who condoned this, who allowed this to happen-- people like Rummy. I sincerely hope the judge(s) on this case are principled enough to know a pile of b.s. when they see it.

The gummint sacrificed Graner, England, and others so that more senior officials who are equally culpable could be protected. That's not to say Graner, England, et al were innocent-- they deserved to be found out and punished. But despite what Smirk, Scowl, Rummy & Co. would like you to think, it's not just a few "bad apples." If we as a nation wish to be true to our founding principles, if we really want to promote openness, democracy, honesty, and human rights, we would be better off tearing the cover off this particular Pandora's Box, revealing the horrors within, and then making an honest, genuine effort to correct our errors. Otherwise we'll just be seen as even more hypocritical than we already are. As Seymour Hersh, one of the best reporters in the country has said, it'll come out eventually. The government doesn't think it's pretty now? It'll be even uglier if we try to hide it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Langley Thinks It's a Big Deal

Well, I've checked over at Free Republic and a few other sites and blogs, just to see if maybe common sense triumphed over partisanship-- no such luck. It seems betraying national security isn't seen as a crime-- to hard-core right-wingers, it's just a tempest in a teapot, a big hullaboo over nothing. I'm beginning to wonder just where these people would draw the line. They're so eager to toss the word "treason" at anyone who questions any action by this administration, but get concerned, even just a little bit, over the outing of an undercover agent? Nope.

The CIA, on the other hand, is plenty mad-- or at least some of its minions, if not the top brass. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, quite a few agents (or to be more accurate, retired agents) aren't too pleased with how cavalierly Smirk is treating the matter. Part of that anger, I'm sure is due to the fact that it wasn't just Valerie Plame's cover that was blown, but the people that worked with her and under her (WaPo article, therefore registration-restricted).

I think to join the CIA, one has to have a certain mindset, and part of that mindset is loyalty to your country, to a degree far above and beyond the average citizen. Part of the loyalty extends to protecting and preserving the well-being of the nation and its government. So I'm not too surprised that there's anger emanating from this quarter. It's just sad that this particular "president," who I'm sure many of these now outraged men and women supported and voted for, seems to hold those values as cheaply and flimsily as possible; political considerations, personal self-interest, and expediency mean far more to Smirk and his henchmen/women than making sure the people who work for them are protected and supported.

Let's hope these former CIA folk remember all this next time there's an election, and choose to support someone who has the country's real interests at heart, not just some flim-flam talk about "honesty" and "integrity." Going back on your word about rooting out thugs in one's own administration doesn't count as "integrity" in my book.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Identity Protection Equals Extortion

I don't really have anything to steal-- in fact, if you want to, you can steal my debt. I'd love to get rid of it. *grin*

Seriously, I have a lot of problems with how data is managed these days. Everytime I go to a store, it seems now they want my phone number, my zip code, my driver's license number, my blood pressure numbers, my blood sugar levels, the number of days left til my next birthday... well, you get the picture. Some of these requests are innocuous enough it doesn't bother me-- for example, my zip code is broad enough that I don't really care if they have that information. Some of the other stuff is a wee bit too much, a bit too personal, that I do think twice before I hand over anything.

In exchange for this, I'm trusting that they will be responsible with that information, that it will be treated with caution and consideration. But I still have suspicions; some of the "safeguards" companies and corporations have are fairly flimsy, and if something vital ever got leaked, I can expect that I could get screwed by some unscrupulous asshole.

Lately the news hasn't made me feel any better. Earlier this year, BofA, which used to be a great bank before it went all conglomerate, had a data breach. I'm not with BofA, so lucky for me. Not so lucky for the million who had their information lost. Just a few months ago, a cybercrime ring got a hold of bank account information. Again, I'm not banking with any of the companies involved, but it really is very disturbing this happened.

Now, Wells Fargo, an old company with an illustrious history in the West, has had their security breached. But instead of taking proactive steps to resolve the situation and prevent future leaks, what are they doing? They're *charging* us for security.

Let me see: a company that charges me for protection? Sounds like something from the "Dick Tracy" strips of the 30s. Back then they called this extortion. I believe we *still* call this extortion. According to the article, Wells Fargo's recent quarterly earnings add up to the tune of $1.9 billion. I think for $1.9 billion, a company that screwed up and compromised its customers could be proactive enough to take the lead in the industry and develop a comprehensive security program that doesn't rely on us shelling out $12.99 a month for "peace of mind." (back to the early Batman comic books and the "Dick Tracy" strips-- I keep envisioning bankers in pinstripe suits talking like gangsters: "If ya know what's good for ya, ya'll put up for some peace o' mind.")

Given the recent sloppy wet kisses to the banking and credit card industries in the form of the bankruptcy bill passed by Congress that goes into effect October 17 (click on that link if you have any interest in the subject: it's from a law firm website and is rather enlightening!), the ever-shortening grace periods for payment, the ever-increasing interest rates (another topic for a discussion of extortion!), the rampant, reckless marketing to youngsters at colleges and universities ("Your chance to be a grownup like mommy and daddy! Become indentured to our company for the rest of your life and receive a free t-shirt, or a coupon for half-off on a medium pizza! Sign up for a credit card NOW!"), and now, all of this carelessness in security measures, I think the industry owes the American public more than just half-hearted apologies. I'd like to see the use of Social Security numbers restricted for use by the federal government alone (even better, restricted to the Social Security Administration only, which is where the system originated, and where it should have remained!), with maybe a sole exception being employers (for tax purposes). I'd like to see a wider use of different passwords or security measures than just our mother's maiden name. The recent start-up of the free credit reports once a year is a good first step, but I'd like to see a more comprehensive partnership regarding security and monitoring happen between the industry and the public. I'd like for credit card offers and mass junk mailings to become a mandatory opt-in status quo; let corporations assume that we do *not* want to receive such offers unless we voluntarily opt-in for it, rather than the opposite, which is the current state.

Most of all, I hope other banks and companies do NOT follow Wells Fargo's lead; leave extortion to grifters and the mob. Otherwise I'm going to be rooting for some ethical, enterprising prosecutor to use the RICO act and go after these sharks.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Stop the Violence

In my four decades on this planet, I've had the opportunity to meet many, many women. I count a high number of women among my close friends, and of course, I've dated quite a few. *grin* I'm married to one as well.

Women, like men, are human beings, and as such, worthy of respect. I don't judge people according to sex or gender, but rather by other factors such as personality, intelligence, manners, maturity, etc. Yet in many societies, women are treated as second-class citizens or worse, and in some cultures/countries, women are the victims of violence. The U.S. is definitely not an exception to that.

Of the women I've dated seriously or had emotional attachments to, roughly half had been attacked, raped, or abused at some point in their lives. While many of these women were generally healthy when I dated or knew them intimately, a few were still suffering the effects (and a couple still do today). In many cases, those who had been raped suffered the indignity of seeing their rapist walk off generally scot-free. In some instances, people knew what had happened, but did not treat the bastard accordingly; in other attacks, no one knows what the bastard did, and as a consequence, they think he's a wonderful guy.

I've heard the stories, seen the emotional and psychological effects, and I know different. It's doubly hard for me because in the Deaf community, you run into or hear about these people again and again. One particular rapist lives not all that far from me, but not too many people know what he did. It burns me that everyone thinks he's the toast of the town, when really he's just scum.

Rape isn't the only crime against women; there's also physical violence, emotional, and psychological abuse as well. I've heard stories of women I know being choked, hit, slapped, and in one instance, punched. The latter happened when I was about eleven or twelve. I lived on the edge of town, and one of the rougher sections was just next door (a low-income housing project). One night one of my friends came out of one side of the development and across the lawn where we played football. He came up to me and another friend and breathlessly told us he'd seen the maintenance guy punch his pregnant wife in the face. Luckily, someone else in the vicinity gave a damn, because soon the cops arrived. I remember how scared my friend looked, and the reactions we all had. Even at that age, we knew slapping around a woman, whether a wife or not, was *not* cool.

It's this kind of thing that is equally damaging: the family, friends, and neighbors of the abused who witness or feel the effects of this violence. It really is damaging, and can lead to psychological problems for these witnesses. For the younger ones, it can lead to normalization of violence, which in turn leads to the next generation of abusers and victims. The cycle never really ends.

So, you may ask, why am I bringing this up? Because the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), passed in 1994, is up for renewal. You can see the Senate and House versions online-- as usual, I've linked them for you (aren't I thoughtful?). My own senator, Barbara Boxer, was one of the original proponents of VAWA back in the early 90's. It was really a great step forward-- a chance to try to stop the violence. Unfortunately, as the first article I linked to states,

When it was reauthorized five years ago, the Violence Against Women Act had 239 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 74 in the Senate. This year, the bill has only 55 cosponsors in the House and 32 in the Senate -- and some conservative organizations are questioning whether federal money should be spent to fight domestic abuse at all.

In a way, I'm not surprised. This is a society that has no problem with sending their kids to the megaplex to watch the latest Hollywood offering of gore and violence, but howls if there's even a hint of bare flesh. When sex, love, and relationships are presented in the movies, half the time it's packaged within teen sex comedies, which present women as one-dimensional sex objects, to be used and trashed (and yes, I'll admit as a horny teen, I watched some of those comedies and terrible flicks and responded in a physical manner. But does that make it right?).

This is a society that has no problem with sending its young off to be devoured in the jaws of war, but gets all nervous if two women or two men walk down the street hand-in-hand.

This is a society that screams if a woman should dress "provocatively," but shrugs when the same woman gets raped and suggests that "she asked for it."

In other words, violence and hatred are okay, while values such as peace, equality, and respect get short shrift. As for VAWA, it's disturbing that the same legislators that will pass or attempt to pass bills that are personalized ("Megan's Law", "Terri's Law," "Laci's Law"), will give tepid support to a bill that aims to protect *all* women, regardless of their name, background, socioeconomic status, or occupation. I sincerely hope this bill gets passed/reauthorized without any significant changes or cutbacks.

This isn't to suggest that federal laws/action will solve the problem. I think a lot of times people think of federal and state laws as panaceas, and that once we pass them, then we don't have to think about the subject again. Violence against anyone, male or female, young or old, is ingrained. Often it's taught. It makes me think of that old song from "South Pacific":

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year...

While the song was about racism, it certainly applies to sexism. Little boys and girls are taught to objectify people, especially women. Children in abusive homes or situations model themselves after their elders. Neighborhood children can and will internalize what's going on around them. I don't know what happened to my friends, but I do wonder how they turned out. As I write these words, I now wonder if they still remember that humid summer night and our whispered comments about the abuse that had just taken place, the lights of the police sirens bouncing off the windows, and the huddled group of adults in a distance, most likely murmuring the same things we were.

The point here is that we have to work from within; sure, VAWA is great, but in the end we have to end the culture of tolerance towards violence. The first place to do so is at home, at school, in our churches, synagogues, mosques, or what have you. If violence against *anyone* is to be reduced or eliminated, people have to educate themselves and their children, they have to internalize that it's not okay to treat other people in a violent manner. Sometimes I think we get all wrapped up in so many cultural, moral, and ethical issues these days that we forget a very basic rule, one that is common to most religions and societies. That's the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think if we all followed that one rule more often, we'd live in a much safer and happier world.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Renewal Reduces Oversight

The House has just voted to extend the Patriot Act. I'm sure the Senate will follow suit, and Smirk will, of course, sign it. It bothers me that the whole package of legislation is being renewed with little or no opposition, but it also bothers me that nearly all of the provisions are being renewed without sunset provisions. This removes any responsibility for oversight on the part of Congress. To me, that means Congress is willing to abandon its constitutional, ethical, moral, and historical responsibility to act as a check and balance on the system as the Framers of the Constitution intended.

The claim right now made by the folks at Justice is that there have been negligible problems, and that in itself "proves" that the Patriot Act is just fine and dandy. But how many times have you seen others (or yourself!) been on their best behavior at the outset of something (a relationship, a job, a new school, etc.), only later to reveal their worst side? Right now, with Congress acting as the "parent" by setting boundaries through the sunset provisions, it's very easy for our gummint cops such as the FBI and our prosecutors at DOJ to be on their very best behavior-- good little boys and girls. Once there are no restrictions, once "daddy" Congress is out of the way, see the angels start acting like hooligans.

This may seem cynical and pessimistic, but given past offenses such as COINTELPRO (yeah, yeah, I know-- I'm repeating myself again and again...) and more recent disturbing incidents such as the ones I've outlined in my blog the last couple of weeks, I think I'd rather err on the side of pessimism.

Lest you think the Patriot Act is benign and doesn't apply to you, check out this dissection of some of the scarier parts of the Patriot act over at Daily Kos. For those of you who are moderates or lean right, yeah, Daily Kos is a progressive site-- get over it. Something like the Patriot Act doesn't know any boundaries such as left and right, and could be manipulated by whoever's in power. So it really concerns all of us, not just some of us. Opposition to the Patriot Act has come from all quarters-- even Bob Barr, the former Republican Congressman from Georgia, is on record against parts of the Patriot Act.

On another political blog, The Brad Blog, is some information about John Conyers' opposition to the Patriot Act, which I think is worth a look. It's nice to know that even though they're politically on opposite sides of the aisle, Barr and Conyers care enough to question what's happening. Unfortunately, the rest of Congress has, through renewal, reduced oversight of our gummint. Take it from me, that's never good.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Well, one contention of those Rove defenders out there has been laid to rest: It appears that Valerie Plame's identity, contrary to all protestations, was most definitely secret. In this Washington Post article today, a classified memo circulated by the State Department marked information about Valerie Plame with an (s), for "secret."

The WaPo is one of those annoyingly proliferating "registration-restricted" papers (seems like more and more papers are doing so: this is one reason why I often link to the San Francisco Chronicle), so I'm also including a link to this site, which has the same article. If you happen to be deaf-impaired, here's a link to NPR, where you can listen to the reporters discuss their article. For once, the Post has placed an article that concerns a serious issue in which our gummint might not be so aboveboard on the front page. Since I don't subscribe to the Post's print edition, I have no idea whether it was above or below the fold. But it's on A1.

The pertinent information to look for is this portion of the article, at the bottom of the third paragraph: "The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials." No wonder they requested an investigation into the matter. Her identity *was* covert. Probably why Christian never bothered responding to me in our debate. Poof. There goes one of his points-- that whoever is to be held responsible had no way of knowing whether or not she was a covert agent. Rove claims he didn't see the memo until after the fact, but I find that a little hard to swallow. In any event, she was definitely a covert agent-- none of this "but she was behind a desk at Langley" crap.

In the same article, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, is identified as another person who talked with Matt Cooper, of Time magazine. It's very possible that he's the second source Novak referred to, and as Chief of Staff, Libby could very well have seen the memo in question, even if Rove truthfully hadn't.

So it comes down to this: Rove revealed Plame's identity to Cooper and Novak-- even if he didn't know Plame was undercover, it was still ethically and morally wrong, and he should suffer the consequences. If Libby shared any information about Plame with Rove or Cooper, he's definitely in trouble. No wonder Bush is trying to cover everyone's ass. Novak's butt should be hung out to dry too; why it hasn't yet been done so is a mystery to me.

For those of you at home trying to follow all of this, there's an excellent legal analysis of the Identities Protection Act titled "Roving Justice" over at, which is a website I really like. It's a susbscription journal, but if you're not a member and you have a few minutes to kill, all you need to do is watch an ad, and then you'll have access for a day to Salon content.

At the end of the Salon interview, Professor Robert Turner concludes by stating, "Maybe the prosecution has a lot of information I don't know about, but from what I've seen there is no reason to assume that Rove knew Plame was in a CIA position which the agency was trying to hide. Without that knowledge, he's innocent."

I'd love to know what Turner's assessment of Rove's position is now: a little more precarious, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


It's not just the FBI that seems to have a problem with the right to speak out: In Mexico, NY, in Oswego County, a protester was pulled out of a parade and arrested. This raised the eyebrows of a AF vet who has integrity, unlike the arresting officers. I'm glad to see this man, despite his pro-war views, respects the country he fought for enough to question what is happening. Let's hope this isn't the beginning of a trend...

Under Siege

It is very disturbing at a time when our gummint and its "leader" claim to be all about "freedom" and "values" that a group like the ACLU is targeted by the FBI. I've discussed the parallels (here too) to COINTELPRO (for more on COINTELPRO, this site and this site are rather illuminating) in today's society before, as well as efforts to monitor and intimidate individuals and groups exercising their First Amendment rights. But this article in the San Francisco Chronicle is rather disturbing. Why in the world, with all the threats, real and potential, that we face, in addition to the FBI's own workload in combating crime (which is what it *really* should be doing), is the FBI collecting information on civil rights and anti-war groups??? (Yes, I know that last sentence was NOT a model of English grammar, but this is a blog, not a textbook! *grin*)

For that matter, why aren't groups on the other side of the political spectrum joining in this challenge? Maybe because the FBI isn't gathering information on them? Why is it EVERY time I read something about First Amendment rights being violated, it's always against civil rights groups, anti-war groups, and similar proponents of justice, progressive politics, and fair play?

Why are values like "peace" and "equality" so scorned? Can someone tell me that? Is war really that wonderful that we should want to fight all the time? Is being a second-class citizen in a country founded on the premise of equality something we should tolerate? Is a nation that established the Bill of Rights really ready to turn its back on that foundation? The more and more I learn about the actions of the last few years, the more I believe people just don't care anymore. It's come down to the lowest common denominator: one's wallet. How one is economically faring trumps all. Greed is paramount. I never cared much for the film, but Gordon Gekko's pronouncement in "Wall Street" rings presciently: "Greed is good." Hillary Clinton blathers about a village. "Man-Dog Sex" Santorum and his ilk blather about families. But I think the truth is people have abandoned their communities, and the larger "family" that is all of us has been ignored. Both Democrats and Republicans alike are chasing the almighty dollar, chasing some fantasy of total security, and trampling true freedoms in the process. By permitting the government to spy on some of us, we are in effect saying it's okay for the government to spy on *any* of us.

The concept of dissent and civil disobedience shouldn't be anathema to Americans: there have been many examples of such throughout our history, and in many cases, have led to positive changes in this country. We champion these ideals so much that our gummint and its proponents claim this is why we're over in Iraq right now. If this is true, then why does the ACLU need to file suit claiming political surveillance? I talk about parallels to COINTELPRO, but if what the ACLU and Greenpeace among others asserts is true, I think COINTELPRO is back, and our First Amendment rights are under siege. Is that okay with you? It isn't okay with me.

Again, as my e-mail sig says: "You could say that you are fighting for democracy abroad, but if you lose democracy at home, what have you won?" - Frank Emi, 1944

Monday, July 18, 2005

When Did He Know It?

For all the talk there was about John Kerry flip-flopping during the "Election" of 2004 (hard to believe it was an election, given Diebold electronic voting machines in Ohio, among other states), Smirk does a lot of flip-flopping himself. He finally spoke out about the Plame scandal which, as I discussed just this weekend, seems to lie at the feet of Karl Rove and possibly others. I mentioned at the end of my blog that Smirk himself has yet to answer quite a few questions, and what he's said so far has lacked moral resolve.

Let's go back and revisit something I posted there:

McClellan: "If anyone in this administration was involved in it [the improper disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's identity], they would no longer be in this administration." [White House Press Briefing, 9/29/2003]

Bush: "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." [President Bush, Chicago, Ill, 9/30/2003]

First of all, either Scott McClellan is lying, or he's out of the loop. He's starting to give Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler a run for his money, in my opinion. So far no one has even been given the hint of a rebuke, much less been fired.

Second, it's now nearly two years since Smirk's comment about wanting to "know it." You'd think given the cramped quarters of the West Wing and the closeness of Rove to Smirk, he'd have known "it" quite a long time ago. All Smirk has to do is summon Rove to his office, or walk down the halls to Rove's office, close the door, and ask Karl Rove point-blank about his involvement in the leak. It doesn't have to take long-- it's a "yes" or "no" series of questions: "Did you leak Valerie Plame's name?" "Do you know who leaked Valerie Plame's name?" "Are there others involved?"

For someone with an MBA who comes from a "business background" and has been Governor of Texas, Smirk should know how to stay on top of things, operate and manage teamwork, and be able to get answers on the spot.

Well, it's nearly two years later, and today Smirk had this to say: "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." For a (slightly) deeper account, go here and here. Whoa. Waitaminit. How did we suddenly go from "involvement" in to "commission" of a crime? Talk about ass-covering. For that matter, talk about flip-flopping. Today everyone's calling Smirk on this, but sadly enough, probably in a few days no one will keep the pressure on-- and they should. So much for the "honesty" and "integrity" Smirk promised back in the campaign season of 2000. It's always been my understanding that the minute there is a sense of conflict of interest or the merest hint of impropriety, it's best to step down, leave, blow town, etc. Any decent, principled person would do that-- and even quite a few crooks see the writing on the wall fast enough to have some semblance of grace to do so. But not this administration. Instead of sending Karl Rove packing, or at the very least temporarily sidelining him, Smirk is essentially saying, "I don't give a damn. Screw you." That "screw you," my friends, is to ALL of us. By the time Fitzgerald makes a final report this fall and the grand jury passes indictments, if any, time will have passed. By the time the indictments are acted upon, more weeks on the calendar will have flown by. By the time anyone is actually convicted, 2009 could have rolled around and Smirk could very well be back on the plane to Crawford. Of course, just as Daddy did, Junior could very well by then have handed out pardons like they were all-day suckers. It's happened before: Daddy pardoned Casper Weinberger, among others, so that any possibility he'd be nailed for his part in Iran-Contra would vanish. As it is, Smirk's Executive Order 13233 shielding presidential papers and archives (which thankfully, is being challenged by my fellow historians!), in effect revoking the Presidential Records Act, protects the people now (or formerly) working under him, including: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Colin Powell, and Elliott Abrams (proof Smirk has no problems with shady government officials!). Some of these folks were around during the Nixon and Ford administrations; others served during Reagan's time, and thus would have seen their work product released (or any involvement with Iran-Contra-- we're talking about Daddy and Daddy's friends, again) had Smirk not stonewalled history. John Dean, who should know a thing or two about secrets and hiding information, has a pretty good take on EO 13233 (as Dean notes, 13233 covers Vice-Presidents too: hmm, what's Dick Cheney got to hide?). "Honesty" is not just about refusing a blowjob or two in the Oval Office; it's about being candid with Congress and the country (I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence of that yet), and about being honest enough to allow historians to assess the past, warts and all.

Whether you think loyalty is an admirable trait or not, I think it's despicable that Smirk doesn't have the balls to stand behind his words: loyalty may mean all the world to him, but apparently "honesty" and "integrity" and "being consistent with what you say, even if you don't like it" don't mean $#*%.

As for Rove, if I were him, I wouldn't feel too complacent yet, or ready to join Smirk in a smirk. Again, John Dean brings up another law: Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. As Dean says: "This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions." So the Identities Protection Act may be the least of Rove's problems. Personally, I think Fitzgerald has indictments of some kind in mind, or he wouldn't have brought the grand jury this far. We'll see what happens when Fitzgerald's report comes out.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Smirk further says of L'Affaire Plame: "...I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts."

My response? As Howard Baker said in 1974 of Nixon: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"

Sunday, July 17, 2005

50 Years Young

Fifty years ago today, July 17, 1955, Disneyland first opened to the public. Since then, millions have been enchanted by a land that was once acres of orange groves. It's been a good fifty years overall, and here's hoping it lasts yet another fifty years, at minimum.

Since May 5, Disneyland has been operating on an anniversary footing, and will continue to do so for 18 months, through the summer season next year. We've already done our pilgrimage to Disneyland for the anniversary year. I don't anticipate going back until the new Nemo sub ride is up, replacing the beloved Submarine Voyage ride. If you have a chance to do so, I'd encourage you to visit when you have the opportunity. Everything's going full blast now, especially now that Space Mountain is back in commission. I'd especially visit before they decide to jack up prices even further; we paid $53 each for the privilege, but just a matter of weeks later, the price was hiked to $56 for "adults" (this includes kids 10 and up!), while those who are 3-9 get to pay $46 a pop.

In honor of Disneyland's actual anniversary, I'd like to share two neat links with you. The first is one I stumbled across fairly recently. It's a site that has pictures of Disneyland from its earliest years through the 1960s. For those of you that have never visited, it will be more a time capsule of how people looked and dressed (still amazing to think how casual dress has changed so much over a relatively short period of time. In the mid-60s, people still dressed nicely-- just a few years later, it's t-shirts and jeans...); for those of you that have visited at least once, it's a way to see just how much the park has changed over the years-- most of the lands have undergone a lot of change (the Haunted Mansion & Pirates of the Carribean didn't come along til the late 60s, the northwestern part of the park has been changed several times over, Tomorrowland has gone through several incarnations, Fantasyland went through a major overhaul in the early 80's and re-opened in 1983, and ToonTown is a relatively recent addition). So enjoy the photo tour.

The second site is one I've visited a few times over the past few years. As I said, Disneyland has gone through a lot of changes, and of course that means new rides or replacements to old rides (for example, I loved "Adventure Through Inner Space" when I was a kid-- I thought it was neat that I was "shrinking" to the size of an atom. That ride has vanished, and "Star Tours" has replaced it). One man, Werner Weiss, has compiled a lengthy and as comprehensive as possible list of rides and attractions (parades, shows, and the like) that have disappeared from the map of Disneyland, only to exist in memories (and pictures, some of which are on the site). Weiss doesn't update as much as he used to, but it's still a very entertaining and nostalgic site to visit when you have some time to kill. So go ahead, visit "Yesterland".

Happy Birthday, Disneyland. Thanks to Walt Disney, wherever he is, for giving us such a fun place to play in.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It's Not a Game

The last few weeks, the headlines have finally been screaming the news regarding the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, an ethical and moral crime (if not illegal) that took place two years ago, yet is just now receiving press. So much for the media... Still, it definitely deserves to be aired, despite the delay in coverage.

What with the maelstrom of coverage these days, I managed to get into a debate of sorts on another blog. I've thoughtfully pulled the entire debate and placed it here for you.

* * * * *

Ha, here are the facts we know:

-Matt Cooper approached and talked with Karl Rove

-Karl Rove warned him that Joe Wilson was a liar, and that the trip to Niger was not arranged by the top honchos at the CIA or the VP office, but by his wife, who he did not name specifically
-Wilson denied this point, saying that his wife had no involvement whatsoever, however, the Senate Intelligence Committee panel came up with a memo typed up by Valerie Plame encouraging that the CIA pick her husband, a Clinton administration holdover, for the trip, proving that Joe Wilson lied
-Rove did not know that Plame was a covert operative
-Plame was not working in the field for more than 8 years
-Plame's name was mentioned on Joe Wilson's website before Rove even talked with Cooper

What Rove did was tell Cooper that Time magazine should not go too far in taking Joe Wilson seriously, and Cooper's notes show just exactly that.

Also, Scooter Libby, VP Cheney's assistant, told Fitzgerald that he learned of Plame's name through another reporter.

My hunch is that Miller does not want to admit that she was the one who disclosed Plame's name to Libby. Why in the world would Miller, a partisan liberal, want to protect Karl Rove, the devil incarante?

Rove is being smeared for telling the truth?

A good deed does not go unpunished here in Washington, DC.
Christian | 07.13.05 - 12:05 pm | #

This whole bit about Wilson is a red herring. It's rather simple and comes down to this:

1) did Karl Rove leak information about Valerie Plame and her occupation?

2) If he did, it was admittedly for partisan purposes, and at best was totally unethical and unacceptable; at worst, it violated the law and put people's lives at risk. It also counteracted the whole purpose of intelligence: keeping spying and information-gathering secret.

3) the White House made it clear in 2003 that such leaking is unacceptable and whoever was responsible should no longer be a part of the administration. Even if Rove did not break the law, what he did was unethical and unacceptable; Bush's silence suggests that he condones the leak. Is that acceptable? I don't think so.

To wit: even if Wilson was totally wrong, it's a distraction from a very simple issue. Did a leak occur? Yes. Who was the leaker? Once that is firmly established, the leaker should be held responsible.
Mr. Sandman | Homepage | 07.13.05 - 1:51 pm | #

Mr. Sandman,

It may help you if you would refer to the law in question.

Ok, the law in question is the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 USC 421 et seq.). It punishes one who 'intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States . . .'

Mr. Sandman, was that too obtuse for you? If so, let me further clarify this law. In order to convict someone under this law, i.e., Mr. Rove, the following elements must be met:

1.) Intentional disclosure
2.) any information identifying such covert agent
3.) knowing that the information identifies the agent
4.) the U.S. is taking affirmative measures to protect the identity

Do we know that Rove knew that Plame was a covert agent (notwithstanding the fact that Plame was not technically 'covert' at the time)?

Do we know that the information given by Rove identified Plame outright?

Were the United States taking affirmative measures to protect her identity? [Notwithstanding the fact that her name was on Joe Wilson's public website before Cooper talked with Rove.]

Furthermore, was Rove's disclosure an intentional act?

Again, Mr. Sandman, are ALL of the elements met?

If not, go away, and bring me a dream...
Christian | 07.14.05 - 12:50 pm | #


no, I didn't find it obtuse at all. Attending and graduating from law school does not magically confer an individual with increased intelligence or some secret ability to comprehend legal language.

That said, let's go through your points:

1.) Intentional disclosure

As far as we know at this point, Rove was discussing Wilson, and either trying to discredit Wilson or, as the notes and e-mails indicate, "warning" Cooper not to go "too far out" on Wilson; if I really wanted to warn or discredit someone, I could do that without dragging that person's wife into it. There was no need under any circumstances other than retaliation to bring Valerie Plame into it.

2.) any information identifying such covert agent

The key word here is "identifying." Any protestations that Plame was not specifically *named* ring hollow; merely revealing that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent when Wilson is a public figure is an easy fact to follow up on and verify. In Wilson's entry in "Who's Who in America," he is listed as having married Valerie Plame. While her occupation is (obviously!) not listed, verification of her IDENTITY is not impossible. You or I could have done it with the same helpful and leading indicators. Again, what need is/was there for Rove to do this?

3.) knowing that the information identifies the agent

This can be a little tricky, and this is where a lot of people are going to get thrown. But it's not that tricky, really. Let's look at it. Rove can and probably will deny that he knew Plame worked for the CIA, let alone undercover. Yet he is high enough in the administration he probably had knowledge of that information. But let's be charitable and assume he didn't have firsthand knowledge of that information. Who then told Rove about Plame? If this is true, then that person is equally culpable for this whole mess.

Now, whether Rove had firsthand or second-hand knowledge of Plame's identity, it still comes back to this: why reveal it at all? Why put Plame's work in jeopardy? Why put her life in jeopardy? She was heading a CIA front company that was operating under a bogus cover as a legitimate company. That means all the people under her are at risk as well, and the company's cover is blown.

4.) the U.S. is taking affirmative measures to protect the identity

I would think being a NOC (Non-Official Cover) officer in the CIA, that the CIA and by extension the U.S. government has a vested interest in taking affirmative measures to protect Valerie Plame's identity and the identities of the people under her. Whether she was working at Langley at the time or out in the field, she was *still* UNDERCOVER at the time she was fingered as CIA. In fact, it was the CIA that requested that this matter be investigated once her identity was revealed.

Again, what good did it do to reveal who Valerie Plame really was? Nothing other than retaliation for Wilson's findings regarding the manufacturing o
Mr. Sandman | Homepage | 07.14.05 - 2:57 pm | #

I knew it was long, but didn't realize it was THAT long!
Again, what good did it do to reveal who Valerie Plame really was? Nothing other than retaliation for Wilson's findings regarding the manufacturing of WMD, which the administration didn't like.

So to recap: whether first or second-hand, Rove knew Plame was CIA; his only logical rationale for blowing her cover was political retaliation. Rove stated that Plame was "fair game." Even if he didn't break the law, he definitely violated ethical and moral codes. Why expose undercover agents and operations? Why undermine your own governments' intelligence-gathering efforts?

Sure, I'll bring you a dream-- nightmares okay with you? :)
Mr. Sandman | Homepage | 07.14.05 - 3:04 pm | #

Mr. Sandman,

Address this startling admission by Joe Wilson on the Wolf Blitzer Show yesterday. wbr.01.html

Key quote:

BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife, who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you.

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.

Pretty much makes everything moot?

In order to be a covert agent and make all of this applicable, one must have been out in the field within 5 years of the 'leak.' At the time of the leak, she was a desk worker at the CIA offices in Langley and was there since 1998.

Joe Wilson is leading you all on a frog march towards irrelevancy.
Christian | 07.15.05 - 9:06 am | #


again, a red herring. Ultimately, this isn't about Wilson. It's about playing politics with national security. As I said before, even if no law was broken, it's still ethically and morally wrong to expose a CIA agent and CIA operations (which is what happened once the "company" Plame worked for was exposed as a bogus front for a CIA operation).

As it is, I read the transcript you linked to above. You're cherry-picking here.

Now, why do I say that? Because of one very important fact: the CIA requested this be investigated because they believe a crime may have been committed.

Based on this incident and the CIA's request, Fitzgerald was appointed as special prosecutor. He would not be continuing this investigation and maintaining the grand jury if there wasn't a case. Valerie Plame has to be an operative or there is no case.

Additionally, Fitzgerald would not have been pushing Cooper and Miller to reveal their sources and potentially destroying the prerogatives of the Fourth Estate without having a valid reason to do so; in other words, he must have a strong belief he has a solid case, or otherwise he wouldn't have taken the actions he did.

It's simple as that. Again, it's not about Wilson; it's about the exposure of the identity of a CIA agent, and in the process exposing and potentially harming the careers and lives of additional agents. This is an attack on national security for the sake of politics. Discrediting or warning about Wilson could have been done without mentioning Plame.

Since the last time I responded, Rove claims he obtained the knowledge of Plame and her status from Novak. However, Rove could have easily said, "No comment" to Novak, and not confirmed anything about Plame. He certainly did not have to repeat the same information to Cooper.

It's also entirely possible that Rove got his knowledge from someone else; Novak cites TWO sources; one was Rove, and the other is an as yet unnamed "senior official." I personally think Novak, Rove, and this third individual are all guilty to some degree and should be held responsible.

Since you wanted me to address this issue, I now am curious to see what your thoughts are on Title 18, U.S.C., Section 641. For those of you who aren't versed in law, this law prohibits the theft (or use for one's own purposes) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. A DEA agent named Jonathan Randel was convicted under this statute not too long ago.

It saddens me that you think it's okay to screw around with national security. I can understand other issues where we might debate and then agree to disagree; that's okay by me. But national security being compromised for no good reason? How can you be in favor of that?
Mr. Sandman | Homepage | 07.16.05 - 5:15 am | #

* * * *

For those of you keeping score at home, Christian never responded, and that was the end of our debate. Those of you who attended Gallaudet fairly recently will certainly know who Christian is. Though, apparently, he doesn't have any clue who *I* am. *snicker*

Back to the matter at hand: I don't know what's going to happen next, but I really hope that Rove and Co. are found guilty and appropriately punished. Despite Karl Rove stating to Chris Matthews that Valerie Rove was "fair game," it's not a game at all. It's a betrayal of national security, all in the name of fomenting a war that should never have been started.

Despite any concerns about Wilson, his trip to Niger, his findings, and the subsequent disavowal of the famous "sixteen words" from the State of the Union, I think it's worth reading the following analysis to understand a bit better just what's happening here.

Meanwhile, the White House, of course, is going to try to drag this out until the press goes away.

As for Plame herself, her colleague had this to say, and I really wish Christian and those who think like him would read it: a lot more has been damaged here than people are willing to admit.

Think about it: the CIA recruited her, spent thousands of dollars and months, if not years, training her. Then she was placed into the field, cultivated contacts, built up a network, honed her skills, acquired knowledge that would benefit her employers and ultimately the rest of us.

Now it's all gone. For what? So some political operative with a massive ego could destroy a potential enemy? So an administration could march to war under questionable circumstances? This isn't even the first time an agent has been exposed. Ostensibly we're in the mess we're in because we're fighting terrorism; we're going after Al-Qaeda, right?

Well, then, explain this to me: when you finally find someone within Al-Qaeda, after a lengthy search, who is willing to turn and be a mole for you, and you cultivate this and hope that you will gather enough intelligence to counteract potential or actual acts of terrorism, why on earth would you casually expose this agent, destroy all the work you've put into it, and possibly endanger said person's life, not to mention the lives of others? This is a case the press pretty much ignored as well. Makes me wonder just *what* would constitute a five-alarm fire for the press? Oh, silly me-- of course. The breakup of Jen and Brad. Or a certain trial that's been taking place north of here. The newest fad diet.

The next big question here, really, is this: Where is Smirk? He and his flunkies stated a while ago that:

McClellan: "If anyone in this administration was involved in it [the improper disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's identity], they would no longer be in this administration." [White House Press Briefing, 9/29/2003]

Bush: "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." [President Bush, Chicago, Ill, 9/30/2003]

So why hasn't he taken action yet? More importantly, either he knew or didn't know about the leak. If the former, it's definitely a replay of Watergate, and he should be impeached. If it's the latter, then he's even more of an incompetent fool than he already is, and should be brought to account for negligence. He's supposed to be running the country, and he doesn't know what's going on?

I'll stop for now, since all of this is a lot to chew on. But for the country's sake, I hope the Corporate Media develops a conscience and a spine and follows up on all of this. I also hope Fitzgerald is allowed to do his job properly. At the very least, I expect indictments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ancient Paths & Modern Health

When I read about historical modes of travel, I'm thankful for the relative smoothness of planes, trains, and automobiles compared with surreys, stagecoaches, and the like. But one form of travel that remains constant is bipedality. There's nothing like taking a walk, especially on a nice day. One thing I like to do is to go down to Palisades Park in Santa Monica and walk on the gravel paths overlooking the blue Pacific and enjoying the breezes.

Today, we have sidewalks and asphalt paths in addition to the ever-present dirt and gravel paths that have been around for decades. Yet when I visit cities like Boston, I view the cobblestones and I get to thinking about the shoes of yesteryear and how uncomfortable it must have been.

Well, that was before I read a story today in the San Francisco Chronicle, discussing the possible health benefits of walking on cobblestones. According to the article, cobblestone paths still exist in China, and the researchers garnered inspiration to conduct a study after observing pedestrians there. While this is fairly preliminary, it's rather interesting that perhaps despite our medicines, vaccinations, nutritional studies, and general overall improved health and life expectancy, that our ancestors might have reaped the benefit of such things as cobblestones. In today's world, where obesity is increasing rapidly in industrialized nations (but nowhere more so than the United States, natch), I think back to pictures, old movies, and descriptions of people long gone, and realize that individuals of certain hefty sizes were rare back then. Today, people, yours truly included, are packing just a wee bit too much on the frame. Cobblestones or no, I think a lot of this is due not just to poor eating habits, but to transportation. Too many of us jump in our cars just to go a mile or two down the road. My own sister had a nasty habit of insisting on either driving or being driven to high school-- my parents live five blocks from the high school. In all the time I visited my parents, I don't recall my baby sister walking to and from school. I, on the other hand, biked to and from school daily, and on occasion walked if I had to. Today, I'm not as good about pushing myself outside. Part of it, of course, is living in the most car-crazy town in the country.

It'll be interesting to see what further studies show about the benefits of cobblestones. While I doubt there'll be a general call for the return of cobblestones to our streets and alleys, it may encourage those towns and cities that still have them to keep and maintain them for reasons other than historical veracity.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bombs Bursting In Air

We've been housesitting in Laurel Canyon, which is one reason for the huge gap in entries; the other, of course, is that I'm way behind (but you figured that out already, didn't you?). We've been able to live the life of the privileged during this time, although we also have to contend with Hollywood Hills traffic, as well as bad connection signals for our Sidekicks.

Yesterday, of course, was the glorious Fourth, and the end of a three-day weekend to boot. We had discussed heading north to visit family, but due to the housesitting gig, passed on it. The last couple of years we've headed to Redondo Beach to celebrate with my grandparents; we went to Redondo yet again yesterday, but this time with a twist: can you say BEACH PARTY? *grin*

About 20-25 of us decided to meet at Redondo, about halfway between the pier and Torrance, to celebrate together. Most of the group were people we didn't really know, while a handful we'd seen at other parties in the area or knew somewhat, and a few were good friends of ours. No matter; we had a lot of fun, made new friends, ate tons of good food, played beach volleyball, and generally chilled. As usual with such a large group, there was too much food, but I think that's fine; better too much than not enough.

The only downer, if that can be said, was the weather. It was warm and sunny in L.A. proper, but it was foggy down at the beach. This wasn't the case last year or the year before, but there are times when this happens, and it does have to be anticipated. It was rather cool to begin with, and then the fog moved in in the late afternoon. By early evening, the entire ocean was covered with clouds and fog. The shoreline wasn't particularly foggy at all, but our view of the evening festivities was definitely going to be obscured. Normally, there's thousands of people, and the beach is jammed all the way along the coast. But last night, there were just handfuls of groups here and there, and it was largely deserted.

Still, our motley band braved on and had fun, but by dusk, those who were smart enough to bring sweats and blankets had hauled them out and were huddled about our coolers and beach blankets, chatting in the evening mists. Finally, at 9 p.m., when it was dark (and very very foggy!), the fireworks started.

Unfortunately, only the lower third of each missile could be viewed, which was disappointing. But at the same time, it was kind of neat; the clouds glowed red and white, leading a few of us to remark it was kind of like seeing one of those World War II movies, where the sky glows and brightens with each bomb bursting in air, as planes dart in and out, dueling amid the clouds. It definitely wasn't the best fireworks display I've seen, but it was an interesting one.

Most of us lingered a bit afterwards, allowing the other beachgoers a chance to pack up and move on. But it didn't matter how long we lagged; the homebound traffic was horrific as always. I thought perhaps the fogbank would reduce the number of merrymakers, and thus lighten the traffic, but this wasn't the case. Eventually though, we got back to Laurel Canyon, tired but happy.

We don't really have internet access here, so I'm doing a lot of my online stuff during occasional forays home to check the mail and the plants. The big news this week, of course, is the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, which was more or less expected eventually (she'd been making noises about retiring even before the Appointment of 2000). My take? There goes the Supreme Court...