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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 20 June 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Last week's topics bleed into this week, so to speak…
Billmon over at Whiskey Bar is fond of digging up old quotes, like this one -
Acheson and the other wise men advised [President Johnson] to launch a public relations campaign. They felt that if he could impart to the public the progress they had learned of in the secret briefings, he would be able to slow down the erosion of support. The president's appointments secretary, who kept a record of the Wise Men's meeting, summed up the advice of McGeorge Bundy, currently president of the Ford Foundation and a member of the group: "Emphasize the 'light at the end of the tunnel' instead of battles, deaths and danger." - Neil Sheehan, A Bright and Shining Lie, 1989
Ah, those were the days.

Here we go again. As mentioned previously, on Thursday, June 16, late in the afternoon, Jennifer Loven of Associated Press sounds the alert - "Facing growing pressure to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush is launching a public relations campaign to try to calm anxieties about the war."

Is this a problem public relations can fix? Well, as the New York Times explains in a long article on Monday, June 20, Bush's Road Gets Rougher – "… barring some crisis that creates another rally-round-the-president effect, analysts said, Mr. Bush's best opportunity to drive the agenda may be past."

Some would disagree – and argue Bush is wildly popular (the polls ask the wrong questions of the wrong people) and the best president America has ever had – but nonetheless, this "public relations campaign to try to calm anxieties" began on June 20, with a press conference at the White House. As the Associated Press reports -
WASHINGTON - Under fire at home and abroad, President Bush on Monday defended his polices on Iraq and the war on terrorism, saying the Iraqi conflict will be won despite attempts by "cold-hearted killers" to derail the U.S.

"I think about Iraq every day. Every single day, because I understand we have troops in harm's way," the president said at a White House news conference. "We will complete the mission and the world will be better off for it."

With more than 1,700 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, voters in the U.S. have grown uneasy with Bush's policies, according to public polls. Some in Congress are pushing for a date certain when troops would begin withdrawing.

… Overseas, the U.S. image has been tarnished by allegations of prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected terrorists are being detained. Bush challenged critics, even invited journalists to the detention facilities.

"Look at all the facts. That's all I ask people to do," the president said at a news conference with European Union leaders. Bush noted that many of the suspects at Guantanamo are not traditional war prisoners.
No, they're not. Assume then, for the sake of argument, that those Geneva Conventions may not apply. Do any rules apply?

Bush is facing, as documented over at the Daily Kos with links to all the items, a group of Republicans who oppose torture -
Want to know what's interesting about that list of Republicans above? Colin Powell, Army general. Chuck Hagel, two purple hearts and a bronze star in Vietnam. Lindsey Graham, US National Guard Judge Advocacy Group. Arlen Specter, US Air Force. Of the conservative bloggers, the one that seems to get this is John Cole, also a veteran.
Kos himself, as left as he is, is also a veteran.

There are more and more Downing Street memos, more daily suicide bombings in Iraq as things seem to many to grow worse by the day, Senator Richard Durbin noted on the Senate floor that torturing prisoners was the sort of thing Nazis or Communists would do, and that the United States, trying to be on the side of doing what's right, should hold itself to a higher standard of conduct, and the man who made the congressional cafeteria rename those hot grease-coated, salted potato sticks "freedom fries" - Representative Walter B. Jones Jr., Republican from North Carolina - last week introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for Bush to come up with a plan by the end of this year to withdraw the troops from Iraq, and for the withdrawal to start no later than October of 2006. Yeah, right. Former Republican Senator John Danforth ? who Bush had as our UN ambassador for a time - denounced the whole new Republican evangelical party as being just about the opposite of what anyone would consider Christian (see this for the particulars) ? but that may be a theological dispute as Danforth is also an ordained Episcopalian minister, and the religious right suspects that's a fake religion anyway. And recruiting numbers are way down as it is getting harder and harder to staff our professional (voluntary) military. (How hard? Just Above Sunset on Monday had a logon from this server - usarec.army.mil - the headquarters of the United States Army Recruiting Command.)

Bob Patterson, known to readers of the weekly Just Above Sunset as either The Book Wrangler or The World's Laziest Journalist, or both, is having none of this "dissention in the ranks" business -
Due to the delicate nature of the questions about WMD and such, it may be necessary for some Republicans to say some things which don't conform to policy. This extraordinary dispensation will only apply until after the 2006 election. In the meantime, it's not what the Republicans say that matters; it will be what they do. If they vote as Bush decrees, well then they can say all these nasty things because Dubya knows that's what they have to do to get reelected.

Don't watch what the Republicans say; judge them by what they do.

On the noon radio news on CBS, they were talking about what Chuck Hagel said about losing the war in Iraq. Did he have his fingers crossed when he said it? You know: It's not a lie if you cross your fingers when you say it.

Plus, it helps put the Democrats off balance. It makes them see "the light at the end of the tunnel."
So it's a plot to make it seem as if a few folks disagree with Bush. Just to fake them out.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Do know that Bob has a real-money bet going with a few readers that Bush will be sworn in for a third term in 2008 ? either the twenty-second amendment will be repealed or elections cancelled due to some emergency, or something. He is certain.

But still the national conversation is hot. What Richard Durbin of Illinois said on Flag Day, Tuesday, June 14, on the floor of the senate (the PDF document is here and our first round-up on it here) is still being discussed. For example Hugh Hewiit and William Kristol over at the neoconservative Weekly Standard want his hide. And over at Powerline you can read the letter former Speaker, Newt Gingrich, sent to every sitting senator, calling for formal censure of Durbin.
By his statements equating American treatment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay with the behavior of the evil regimes of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Pol Pot's Cambodia, Senator Richard Durbin has dishonored the United States and the entire U.S. Senate. Only by a vote to censure Senator Durbin for his conduct can the U.S. Senate restore its dignity and defend American honor.

Senator Durbin's comparison, sadly, is despicable.

U.S. Senators should be clear about the gravity of Senator Durbin's comparison. Nine million innocent human beings were murdered in Hitler's death camps, nearly three million perished in the gulags under Stalin, and more than one and a half million were slaughtered in the killing fields of Cambodia at the hand of Pol Pot. And while not a single terrorist has died in detention at Guantanamo, Senator Durbin sees fit to liken our American service men and women to the terrifying murderers of three evil despotic regimes.

Moreover, Senator Durbin equates the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo with the millions of innocent men, women, and children exterminated by the order of evil dictators. The fact that he did so as a high ranking member of the Senate on the Senate floor makes his comparison all the more shocking.

This moral equivalence isn't just utterly false; it endangers the lives of our young men and women in the military because it arms every radical Islamist with the official-record words of a Senate leader to justify their war of terror against civilized people everywhere.

Senator Durbin's statement of "regret" on Friday has only compounded the need for the Senate to act. In it, Senator Durbin said that "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings?" Incredibly, Senator Durbin is sticking to his original assertion that there is indeed, in his own words, an "historic parallel" between U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo Bay and the killers under Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. In other words, his only regret is that Americans don't understand his misreading of history and that he has caused us to misunderstand him. Offering no apology for the original slanderous statement itself, Senator Durbin has chosen instead to actually defend his comparisons. This defense makes his original speech all the more revolting.

It's one thing for one Senator to endanger young Americans and defame America; it would be the shame of the Senate if the other 99 senators did not stand up to defend America and to defend the reputation of our young men and women in uniform.

A Senate censure of Senator Durbin is justified and would reaffirm a standard for healthy, rational debate. By voting for or against the censure, the rest of the members of the U.S. Senate can go on record and make clear how they judge Senator Durbin's characterization of American soldiers. It will also send a clear message to terrorists who will use the words of a Senate leader against us that the Senate stands in support of America and our military and against those who seek to destroy the free people of the United States.

There is historic precedent for censuring Senators whose words bring dishonor and disrepute on the Senate and impair its dignity; Senator Durbin's words fit that precedent.

In this case, expressing outrage is not enough. It is time for the Senate to act. Senator Durbin must be censured now.
Well, we shall see what happens. John at Powerline adds this is a good way to see who loves America and who hates America. Count the votes.
? the American people deserve to know who, if anyone, agrees with Durbin's slander of our armed forces, so that when those Senators run for re-election, they can be defeated. Senators should not be able to hide behind a discreet "no comment," as Hillary Clinton has done. This is not a time for our elected officials to be neutral as between the terrorists and the armed forces of the United States.
For us - and for each and every thing we do or say - or against us - wanting to murder Americans and on the side of the terrorists and, in fact, aiding and abetting the enemies of the nation, as in "treason." Choose now. Be quick.

Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Sullivan, who calls himself conservative, offers this view -
I've now read and re-read Senator Dick Durbin's comments on interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay. They are completely, perfectly respectable. The rank hysteria being perpetrated by some on the right is what is shameful. Hugh Hewitt should answer one single question: does he doubt the FBI interrogator who witnessed the appalling treatment of some detainees at Guantanamo? Here's the report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

Is Hewitt arguing that the interrogator was lying?

Does he believe that the kind of tactics used against this prisoner are worthy of the United States?

Does he believe that this happened without authorization?

If he were told this story and informed that it occurred in, say, Serbia under Milosevic, would he be surprised?

Hewitt should then answer the same question about the five detainees which the U.S. government itself has acknowledged were tortured to death by U.S. interrogators, and the scores of others who died in detention during or after "interrogation".

Does he deny that this happened?

Does he honestly believe that removing the legal restrictions on cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees by our current president had nothing to do with this?

Maybe he needs a little refresher on the extraordinary range and scale of the record of abuse that is still accumulating. I'm just amazed that some can view what has happened and their first instinct is to attack those who have criticized it, rather than those who have perpetrated it. It is this administration that has brought indelible shame on America, and it's people like Dick Durbin who prove that some can actually stand up against this stain on American honor and call it what it is. Good for him. Thank God for him.
Yeah, well Sullivan is gay so he doesn't count.

And as Chris Wallace of Fox News said on the June 17 Hugh Hewitt radio show - "I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves." The idea is that's a whole lot better than what we could do, and often do. Like, who cares?

Yep, there is a discussion out there that is bringing things to a point.

Even the soldiers join in. As in this in Eric Alterman's column in MSNBC -
Name: Justin LeBlanc
Hometown: Seoul, Korea


That's it, I've had it. I'm tired of going on line and reading about all these people who attack Bush and his administration's policies for going to war with Iraq. I'm a soldier and I think that we did the right thing and still think we are. I challenge you (Dr. Alterman) and any other liberal who cares more about Europe's opinion than our own country's safety to reply to this email. Yes, we are in a war and people die. I'll certainly be heading over to fight in the sandbox soon enough when I complete my tour here in Korea. We took out one of the most hostile individuals of my generation. We took out a ruthless dictator who got his kicks off raping his neighbors and killing his own citizens. People want to characterize Gitmo as the "gulag" of our times; well, Hussein was the "Stalin" of our times. I really don't care whether we found weapons of mass destruction. Whether he had them or not is no concern of mine. What's of more concern to me is my family's safety years from now. What's of more concern to me is the shape of the Middle East decades from now. Iraq is a democracy and lets begin to celebrate that. I'm certain we'll be seeing sweeping changes, all for the better, in that region over the next 20 years that we previously thought we wouldn't see in our lifetime. I hope, when it is all said and done, you congratulate the President on taking measures he thought were necessary to keep our country and our planet safe. One day, a few decades from now, you and your "progressives" (if you can honestly call yourselves that) are going to have to own up to the fact that what the President did, however difficult, was good for Iraq, good for the Middle East, good for us, and good for the planet. Oh, answer me this Dr. Alterman, how many people did Saddam kill? Oh, that's right, you can't answer that - THEY'RE STILL COUNTING!
Replies? There are a whole bunch of them here -
Name: Mike Wright
Hometown: Nellis AFB, NV


Dr. Alterman,
In response to the e-mail you published from Mr. LeBlanc, I would like to offer the following response: Mr. LeBlanc, you may be a soldier in the U.S. military; I am glad that you are not a disgrace to my own branch of the service. My experiences since I have worn the uniform have led me to believe that we are the best and most professional military force in the world, however your apparent doctrine of the ends justifying the means is doing as much to challenge my beliefs as the idiots at Abu Ghraib. We are supposed to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We receive annual training in military standards, the Law of Armed Conflict amongst others, and at all times are supposed to live up to the core values of our profession. We are not supposed to use the moral character of our opponents as an excuse for behavior that falls outside of those standards. Your statement trivializing the comments on Guantanamo Bay simply because "Hussein was the 'Stalin' of our times" shows that you have paid little attention to the training and the core values of the U.S. Army. There is no honor in mistreating prisoners. There is no integrity in breaking the law, simply because you want information or rationalize it as applying the enemies' rules against them. There is no courage or selfless service displayed, no duty or loyalty to anything other than the egos of those doing wrong. Any respect that we might have had in the areas surrounding the prison has been severely, if not irreparably, damaged. The same flaw runs through the rest of your argument. If you truly believe that the ends justify the means, then you yourself are no better than Stalin or any other despot that figures he can do no wrong. I have served in Iraq. I know the good that we can and have done in the lives of the Iraqi population. I also know that any good that we do is enhanced or ruined by HOW we accomplish that good.
You might go read the whole exchange.

From others?

- "I am a veteran and I understand your dismay at the criticisms leveled at your Commander In Chief. However, please remember that your oath was not to a man but to an ideal established by our Forefathers and embodied in our Constitution. Lies and manipulation that result in thousands upon thousands of dead Americans and Iraqis is neither in keeping with your oath nor that of the office of the President."

- "First, thank you for your service to our country. Secondly, a fundamental problem with the war in Iraq is that it has not made the U.S. any safer (Osama's still at large, the country's nuclear facilities are still unprotected, DPRK, Iran, etc.). It has only drawn troops and resources away from places that actually do have (or will soon have) nuclear weapons and the capability to launch them against us or our allies. Further, it has diminished our moral authority to lead. We say, "X has nuclear weapons...no we mean it this time." They say, "Are you going to fall for *that* one from the Americans again?" We are not in a position to act effectively unilaterally again."

- "Hussein was a bad man and it's good that he cannot continue to harm people. He got what he deserved and I enjoyed seeing him get it. But, that doesn't mean we were right to trump up bogus charges to do it. If we wanted to go to war because he brutally tortured and killed his own citizens, we should have just said so up front. It may not matter to you that we did not find the stockpiles of weapons, but it drastically affects our ability to act in the world: instead of talking about the DPRK and its ability to launch the nuclear warheads it has onto Japan and the west coast, we are arguing about Iraq. Instead of focusing on Pakistan's AQ Khan and his 'helpfulness' or the stability of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, the President and company are busy trying to cover their asses and justify their actions."

- "Hi, Just read the letter from Justin LeBlanc, and I have to admit to being baffled. He doesn't care if there were WMDs or not. Well, if there weren't, in what way, exactly, did invading Iraq impact his family's future safety? Iraq was not a threat to the U.S., even our closest allies agree with that. On the other hand, we have assuredly made generational enemies of thousands of Iraqi citizens, and thousands more Muslims around the world, through our extra-legal torture activities in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. And the families of the tens of thousands of innocent civilian casualties in Iraq will certainly never be our friends, either. And the assertion that we're better than Stalin? Better than Saddam? Is that the best we as a country can aspire to be? Please."

What's all this conversation about? Lots of people, starting over the last few weeks, are suddenly all worked up. Well, Bob says it means nothing as Bush will be president for a third term, or more, and what folks say is just insignificant, and those of us who sense a widening rift here in America, and sense the president is losing traction (or whatever), are just stupid and unenlightened.

Ah, maybe so. But it's an interesting show.

Posted by Alan at 16:53 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 20 June 2005 17:15 PDT home

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Topic: Photos

Check it out!

In addition to spending two hours this morning at the eight annual Rodeo Drive Annual Concours - the amazing cars on display in the middle of Beverly Hills – late this afternoon I posted the new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this daily web log. That would be Volume 3, Number 25 - for the week of June 19, 2005 - posted at 4:21 PM Pacific Time.

This may be the first travel and celebrity issue - Tom and Katie and Paris - and an exclusive letter for Tel Aviv, an intimate view of life there today. That, and three pages of photos from Paris this week. The local photography is full of celebrities too. Real ones. Here in Hollywood. And the quotes this week pertain to that.

But there are big doings in current events too - many people now are asking some basic questions about what we are doing, a famous dispute is settled, perhaps, the US Senate offers a rare and useless apology, and various people rethink what we should think about. That would include the wrap of the Michael Jackson business, and what we missed because of the attention we paid to it. Much of those are extended versions of what first appeared here.

And of course Bob Patterson is back with something on what the American Trucking Association can teach us, and with his book notes on the basics, and more. None of that appeared on the web log.

As for the automobiles on display on the swankiest shopping street in the world, well, I took 235 pictures and it will take some time to edit them into a photo album.

What was there?

- Nicolas Cage's 1954 Bentley Fastback
- The Hearst Family's 1960 Jaguar Mark 2 Fastback
- A 1959 Corvette formerly owned by televison's Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore
- Wayne Gretzky's 1989 Porsche Speedster Fastback
- Laurence Fishburne's Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle from the Biker Boyz Fastback (huh?)
- The 1932 Howard Hughes Duesenberg featured in the film The Aviator
- Jean Harlow's 1932 Packard Sport Phaeton

There was much more - old Ferraris from ages ago, Cords, rare one-of-a-kind Bentleys, two old gull-wing Mercedes, a Minerva, a Cadillac V16 monster from the thirties and so on and so forth.

Just to give you a flavor, some close-ups (in 1919 the Hispano-Suiza company decided to use a stork as its symbol, the emblem used by French ace Georges Guynemer, who flew an Hispano-Suiza-powered Spad VIII):






























Jean Harlow's 1932 Packard



























































Quick access to pages in the new Just Above Sunset:

Current Events _________

Why Thursday?: After all this time it's now time to talk about the war?
Case Closed: Dead, Autopsy, Enough Said
Race: "Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness."
Dissent: Conversations About Odd News Items
Book Notes: Hedging Your Bets
News Notes: What to cover is the question?

News and Fame _________

Enough Already: Michael Jackson So Over
France Turns a Bit American: What's Up with That?
Other News: While Fox, CNN, MSNBC and the networks deal with Michael
Paris News: Cruise, Holmes, Dump Cruz and Klein, Climb Eiffel
Quotes regarding Michael Jackson in Santa Maria and Tom Cruise on the Eiffel Tower

Bob Patterson _________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - Online Magazines Should Learn from the American Trucking Association: There's Strength in Numbers
Book Wrangler: Barmecide Banquets - and other imaginary items from Baghdad

Features _________

Our Man in Tel-Aviv: Israeli Contrasts

Guest Photography _________

Vrai Paris: More from Left Bank Lens
Etonnant par Paris: Unusual shots from Left Bank Lens (held over)
Our Man in Paris: Summer in the City

Local Photography _________

West Hollywood Parade: Where was Paris Hilton?
Somehow Unsettling: Odd LA

Posted by Alan at 20:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 19 June 2005 20:24 PDT home

Saturday, 18 June 2005

Topic: Photos

A pause…

Out of town today. Commentary will resume tomorrow.

Late afternoon tomorrow, west coast time, watch for the new issue of the parent site to this web log - Just Above Sunset - with new items. You might be interested in what Our Man in Tel-Aviv has to say – an intimate view of life there today. And there will be lots of photography, including great new shots from Don Smith in Paris.

Until then, keep your eyes open.




Posted by Alan at 08:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 18 June 2005 08:37 PDT home

Friday, 17 June 2005

Topic: Dissent

Dissent: Conversations About Odd News Items

On Flag Day, June 14, this item by Mark Follman appeared in the "War Room" column over at SALON.COM – and it is interesting -
Back in April, two U.S. Secret Service agents paid a visit to a controversial art exhibit in Chicago, which included an image of President Bush with a revolver pointed at his head. No evidence was reported of any threat to the president emanating from the mock 37-cent stamp on display, titled "Patriot Act." But there was considerable public outcry about the chilling effect the visit could have on artistic expression -- especially after the agents pursued not only the exhibit's curator, but also asked the museum director for the names and phone numbers of all 47 artists whose work was on display.
Well, such things happen these days. It is what to expect.

But then we get this -
Meanwhile, Jeremy Lassen, the publisher of a small book imprint in Portland, Oregon, responded to the news of the Chicago incident by creating a series of photo collages entitled "Bush and Guns," and posted them to the photo-sharing site, Flikr.

Last week, he says, he himself was paid a visit by the Secret Service. "On June 7th, two Secret Service agents showed up at my place of employment and asked to speak with me," Lassen wrote on his blog on Sunday. "One agent said they wanted to talk about something I posted online. I asked what, [and] one responded 'You post a lot of stuff online, don’t you?' and then showed me some color printouts of my 'Bush and Guns' pictures. I was as helpful as possible, and explained to them the about the incident in Chicago, and the context of those pictures."
That should do it, right? Artistic expression. Freedom to make political comment, even about our guns laws.

Not exactly…
Lassen says the agents started out friendly enough, listening to his explanation that the work was political commentary, but that they soon made him feel "cold as ice." He says they asked him about his psychological history, and for permission to access his medical records. He says they also suggested that he "retract" the pictures.

"After speaking to me," Lassen wrote, "they asked to interview my boss. They also asked me to help put them in touch with my wife, who was out of town - they would need to interview her also. They also mentioned the possibility of interviewing members of my family... my mother in particular. I’ll admit it. I was very freaked out. The first thing I did when I got back to my desk was delete the pictures from Flikr. Then I deleted my LiveJournal account, because in it, I talk a lot about politics, and how unhappy I am with the Bush regime."
Perhaps rather than folding he might have called the ACLU or something?

Some columns here evince a bit of dissatisfaction with the current crew in power. Time to worry? No. This site is "under the radar" with only 12,000 readers each month, and much of the content is pretty pictures. Small potatoes. And my two ex-wives are long gone, and my mother passed away years ago, and I'm retired so there's no boss to call. What are they going to do, harass my surly housecat, Harriet? And there's nothing on guns and Bush, so far.

Not to worry.

Who should worry?

There's the woman mentioned mid-week in the CURSOR.ORG roundup of news stories:
A Kentucky newspaper reports on a speech by a mother who lost a son in Iraq, in which she "ridiculed Bush for saying that it's 'hard work' comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq," and read from a letter she sent to Bush that said, "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ..."
That snippet isn't the half of it. She said more -
"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both."

"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people."
Not nice, but she's from Vacaville, out here in California. We all know about California. And she is president of Gold Star Families for Peace, and any organization whose name ends in "for Peace" is kind of hippy-sixties, right?

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, wonders what the chances are that she gets a visit tomorrow from two secret service agents.

Pretty slim. That would look real bad, harassing a grieving mom, and there are enough other ways to marginalize her.

My friend the business school guru, suggests I not worry about what is on my site, but what he sees in emails I send my friends. I do have contacts in the aerospace industry, as I worked in the world for decades, and contacts in the military at fairly high rank, and, yes, I was once related by marriage to someone near the top of the Defense Department and have done the Pentagon thing. One hears things.

But I don't publish those things. And I won't.

Still, the Patriot Act has not been much changed yet, nor most provisions allowed to expire, so all email from anyone to anyone can be monitored by the government without any warrant at any time for any reason, or no particular reason. Luckily, the data mining software they designed, or commissioned really, to track everyone's email coast to coast, and internationally, is crap - it just doesn't work. Yet. I forget who has the contract.

And last week, Monday, the Supreme Court refused to take up the matter of the president claiming the right to declare any US citizen an "enemy combatant" - even one born here and living here - and to arrest that person even on US soil, jail that person without charges, for as long as he wants, incommunicado, without legal recourse at all. The court is not going to touch that. There's a war on, remember?

But I'm not worried. Worse case? I could be a test case - the one "enemy combatant" case that does get taken up by these SCOTUS folks. It'd be fun. And my Wall Street attorney friend could try out his fourth amendment chops - and do some barrister work, not this solicitor crap. Ah, but he's not my other friend has been admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. My Wall Street attorney friend would have to fill out lots of paperwork.

And curiously enough, something for a later issue, I came across some right-side stuff about original intent and the constitution. The new idea? We need to follow what the framers intended - and since the Bill of Rights consists of "amendments" one to ten, that stuff is not actually part of the document. This press freedom stuff and establishing no state religion are NOT part of the constitution, really. They are an "add on" so to speak. It's an interesting argument. How would the late Peter Rodino respond?

My business school guru responds:
"Luckily, the data mining software they designed, or commissioned really, to track everyone's email coast to coast, and internationally, is crap - it just doesn't work."

Without knowing the contractor, smart money says any corporate entity capable of winning the bid would fail at the design stage because the work typically starts at the end-point and works back to the data, instead of starting at the point of fine granularity and working outwards. You see, the latter requires hard manual work and automates only what's proven to work in manual beta testing; the former begins with automation and trusts programming to create solutions.

So yes, the results don't work time and again.

"The court is not going to touch that. There's a war on, remember?"

Yeah - the war between the Republican Party and the constitution!

"The new idea? We need to follow what the framers intended - and since the Bill of Rights consists of "amendments" one to ten, that stuff is not actually part of the document."

Interesting? OK - literal interpretations of the bible set the stage for literal translation of 18th century political context, for Americans deserve the PURE-itan life of our forefathers. Back to the days before Crapper set the stage for indoor plumbing or Ford created a life for a "middle" folks in America via automation. These are evils we need to erase (hey, they demonstrate potential for a concept called evolution, we can't have that in our children's heads). We must devolve all the evils brought about over the centuries where we allowed science to define our state of progress. Change doesn't happen? Not here. Why the wording of the Patriot Act shows that we always get everything right the very first time we draft it. Nothing need change (China and Arab nations will surely stand still while we do!)

OK America, swallow this... along with 2 aspirin... and see what the world looks like when you wake tomorrow...

Sucker! Goodbye American Pie!
I think I upset him.

Now on this software thing - "…the bid would fail at the design stage because the work typically starts at the end-point and works back to the data, instead of starting at the point of fine granularity and working outwards."

Been there, done that. When I worked at Computer Science Corporation (CSC) - and I still have friend who work for them - the whole problem was always what my business school friend says. Some sales slime had sold a systems solution and turned to the programmers to save his ass - but he had no clue what could be done, or needed to be done, only his hazy "vision" of what the ideal end-state would be. At CSC I used to teach business process reengineering - and that had nothing to do with programming. You sat down with those who did the work and charted out just what the job was - tasks and what came in and what when out, and for whom and for what reason. You built a representation - usually a big flow chart - of what the hell you were actually doing and why - and all the systems crap came later. Lots of stuff didn't need automated, just rationalized. Programming code was not needed. But few folks do that. Mostly - particularly up in Canada at a locomotive plant where I managed a systems shop - you got line guys saying, "Wouldn't it be neat if we had a system that did X, or Y, or Z?" Yeah, but why? My friends and I remember a warehouse pick-list system we were working on - melding a vendor Visual Basic warehouse system to the in-house mainframe MRP system with the idea somehow the right parts would get to the shop floor like magic. I remember presenting the prototype, and head of production saying, well, it does what we asked, but it's really not what we wanted. Huh?

Well, I've left that world. I don't miss it.

As for the constitution business – my friend touches on something interesting. Is the key conflict today between literalists and those more flexible and, perhaps, metaphoric? Is a conservative always attempting "fix in time" a truth, and a liberal bent on "dislocation" and flux to see what can be done?

From the business school fellow -
The software design dilemma we both recognize is one reason I find value in teaching info-driven marketing to smart people who someday may control tons of assets - the notion of implanting (or at best exposing) rational solutions thinking BEFORE they become entrapped in the mind-think of their professional cultures!

On the constitutional topic - I'm glad you saw through my tirade to the fundamental issues of fundamentalism versus relativism. Now here's an ironic thought for you: Here we have neo-cons who don't want to recognize evolution, yet Darwin would predict that if we're patient, that in time (like the Shakers) neo-cons themselves will die out! (Of course Shakers die out for a much more simplistic biologic truth than evolution, even. But you get the gist of my parallel thinking.)
I get the gist, but I'm not that patient.

And from one of my CSC friends at the locomotive plant?
Not much has changed since you left. Actually what you just described is summed up in the one Dilbert cartoon hanging in my cube...

Dilbert: "I'll design the system as soon as you give me the user requirements."
Project requestor: "Better yet... you could build the system, then I'll tell your boss that it doesn't meet my needs."
Dilbert: "I don't mean to frighten you, but you'll have to do some actual work."
Project requestor: "That's crazy talk."
As my business school friend says, "Dilbert wouldn't be in business if it weren't so!"

To sum up?

Dissent is becoming dangerous. Fundamentalists are everywhere. And they cannot track us all because they cannot build the tools to do it.

Freedom is sometimes not won, but inadvertently handed to you by the general incompetence of those who would limit you.

Posted by Alan at 17:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Topic: The Culture of Life

Case Closed: Dead, Autopsy, Enough Said

Wednesday brought the results of the autopsy of Terri Schiavo. As you recall, Schiavo, 41, died March 31 at a Florida hospice thirteen days after her feeding tube was removed by a judge's order. This was at the end of a seven-year legal battle between her husband and her parents – and that had turned into a big national controversy, and prompted action by Congress and the White House. Much has been said of this, even in these pages, so there is not point in running it all down now.

Basic questions? Was she really in a "persistent vegetative state" now, and maybe since she fell into a coma in 1990 – or could she recover? (Husband said yes, parents said no, doctors all said yes, Senator Frist, also an MD, said no.) Did she say she wanted an end to extraordinary measures to keep her body alive if such a thing were to happen to her? (Husband said yes, parents said no, courts said the husband has the call, Republicans said the courts were, while following the law regarding the husband's claim, doing something very wrong that was very much like murdering the merely helpless or unlucky.)

Secondary question raised by conspiracy theorists? Did her husband beat her into a coma so he could get all the money and run off with another woman, thus making this really a murder in progress that he was asking the government to take part in by using the courts in this manner? Why did he want the rest of her body dead, not just her brain? What was this evil man up to?

Regarding the basic questions, the autopsy settled matters. Regarding the secondary question – the murder plot – the autopsy showed no evidence of any beating, but on Friday, June 17, Florida governor Jeb Bush, the President's brother, set in motion the legal arm of the state government to go after the husband. He's not satisfied.

What did the medial examiner find in the autopsy? Basically this -
... his examination turned up no sign of abuse or trauma - allegations leveled by Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, against her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo.

A report from a neuropathologist who served as a consultant to the autopsy said Schiavo's brain was "grossly abnormal and weighed only 615 grams (1.35 pounds)." That weight is less than half of that expected for a woman of her age, said the report written by Dr. Stephen J. Nelson. "By way of comparison, the brain of Karen Ann Quinlan weighed 835 grams at the time of her death, after 10 years in a similar persistent vegetative state."

… Schiavo's brain damage "was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons," Thogmartin said.

He said, the vision centers of her brain were dead, meaning she was blind. And his examination showed she would have been unable to take nourishment by mouth because of the danger she might aspirate the food."
So what was the big deal? Why was the whole nation up in arms?

And why do the parents now say the autopsy proves nothing?

Over at Corrente see this -
Ever since the Rodney King video made self-delusion a national past-time, more and more people have been navigating by the comfortable worldmaps inside their own heads, rather than seeing what's right in front of their eyes. Now Schiavo's parents, confronted by information on their daughter's condition that fails to support their own beliefs, simply choose to ignore it, and are joined and even encouraged in this sad shadow play by the vultures of life.

But why not? Hasn't the political and public reaction to the revelations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bagram Air Base demonstrated that Americans have a talent for this that is nearly phenomenal? Eventually respect for the truth and the desire to seek it out must begin to wear thin, when you live in a world where no evidence is ever enough. You start to suspect that, ultimately, finding out what's real and sharing that with others is not only a waste of time, it could even get you hurt. You stop trying.

And maybe that is the point.
Too cynical.

And what of Senator Frist, the former doctor who said he watched selected video clips of the still functioning body and said this was a woman who had been misdiagnosed.

The problem is here -
Frist: "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

Autopsy report: "The vision centers of her brain were dead."
Majority Leader Frist being interview by Matt Lauer on "The Today Show" here -
LAUER: But when you stood on the floor and you said, "She does respond," are you at all worried that you led some senators...

FRIST: I never said, "She responded." I said I reviewed the court videotapes - the same ones the other doctors reviewed - and I questioned, Is her diagnosis correct?
Huh?

What he said on the senate floor, Feburary 17, 2005 - "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli"

What he said on the senate floor, March 17, 2005 - "I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond."

The MSNBC story from two days later -
Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a renowned heart surgeon before becoming Senate majority leader, went to the floor late Thursday night for the second time in 12 hours to argue that Florida doctors had erred in saying Terri Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state."

"I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards.

"She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
Oh, it doesn't matter.

Something else that doesn't matter? He said he reviewed the court videotapes. Not exactly. See this - he only saw edited outtakes. What did he miss?
The judge in the Schiavo case notes that elsewhere on the hours of videotape her father "tried several more times to have her eyes follow the Mickey Mouse balloon but without success." The Times reports that at one point
... her father gets gruff while trying unsuccessfully to get her to follow [the] balloon. "Come here, Terri, no more fooling around. No more fooling around with your dad." He pokes her in the forehead to make sure she's awake. "No more fooling around with your dad. Listen to me. You see the balloon? You see Mickey?" Later, he apologizes, telling her others have admonished him for his tone.
This is what happens when you deny reality. First you lose your senses, then your mind, then your soul. It isn't Terri Schiavo who's refusing to see what's happening in that awful scene. It's her dad.
Doctor Bill, our Senator Frist, wasn't given that segment.

Frist has ambitions to run for president in 2008, and perhaps he now will not use his fantastic medical skills - he can make the diagnosis everyone else missed, remote, by watching selected bits of video - to convince folks of his superiority over other mortals. He'll have to be known as the man who, in God's name, got rid of the filibuster as a traditional senate procedure, although that didn't go so well and most people don't give a hoot. Maybe he has another trick up his sleeve.

And Frist just wants to move on.

But this whole business may create problems for Mark Fuhrman. Remember him - the LAPD detective from the OJ Simpson trial? Screwed up the evidence and seems to have lied on the stand and left town with his tail between his legs? He's now a conservative radio talk show host in Idaho and writes books.

Fuhrman has a blockbuster coming out on June 28 - Silent Witness : The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death:
We all watched Terri Schiavo die. The controversy around her case dominated the headlines and talk shows, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House, and the Vatican.

And it's not over yet. Despite her death, the controversy lingers. In Silent Witness, former LAPD detective and New York Times bestselling author Mark Fuhrman applies his highly respected investigative skills to examine the medical evidence, legal case files, and police records. With the complete cooperation of Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings, as well as their medical and legal advisers, he conducts exclusive interviews with forensics experts and crucial witnesses, including friends, family members, and caregivers.

Fuhrman's findings will answer these questions:

- What was Terri and Michael Schiavo's marriage really like?

- What happened the day Terri collapsed?

-What did Michael Schiavo do when he discovered Terri unconscious?

- How long did he wait before calling 911?

- What do medical records show about her condition when she was first admitted to the hospital?

- What will the autopsy say?

The legal issues and ethical questions provoked by Terri Schiavo's extraordinary case may never be resolved. But the facts about her marriage, her condition when she collapsed, and her eventual death fifteen years later can be determined.

With Silent Witness, Fuhrman goes beyond the legal aspects of the case and delves into the broader, human background of Terri Schiavo's short, sad life.
It's hard to predict how this book will do now. Pre-publication orders at Amazon show it is already moving, as it is at eight-eight on their list of most popular books, and rising.

We could just move on, as Senator (Doctor) Frist suggests, but over at the Washington Post E. J. Dionne is wanting an apology -
We are entitled to our moral, ethical and philosophical commitments. We are not entitled to our own facts.

So why is this basic rule of argument often ignored by politicians whose certainty about their righteousness convinces them that they can say absolutely anything to further their causes?

The autopsy in the Terri Schiavo case provides a rare moment of political accountability. We should not "move on," as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist suggested. No, we cannot move on until those politicians who felt entitled to make up facts and toss around unwarranted conclusions about Schiavo's condition take responsibility for what they said - and apologize.

Nothing in the autopsy report prevents those who opposed removing Schiavo's feeding tube from continuing to insist they were right. It's legitimate and honorable to argue on philosophical grounds that every medical decision in a tragic circumstance such as Schiavo's should be made on the side of keeping the sick person alive.

But those who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband, Michael, to keep his wife alive if - as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday - she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.

So the big-government conservatives had to invent a story. They had to insist that they knew, just knew, more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives and imply that he wanted to, well, get rid of her.
So? That's politics.

But the real gripe here?
Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio.
Let's see, politicians making a hard and morally challenging case for something.

No. Not likely to happen. Not prudent.

But this could have been predicted -

Probe Sought in Terri Schiavo 911 Call
Friday, June 17, 2005 10:11 PDT Tallahassee, Fla. (AP)
Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo.

"It's a significant question that during this ordeal was never brought up," Bush told reporters.

Michael Schiavo's attorney has said his client called for help right away.

... Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, said Friday his family believes more questions were raised than answered by the autopsy report and that a new legal review is appropriate.

"Anything that can shed some light on the cause of Terri's collapse is going to be welcomed by our family," he said from Bloomington, Minn., where the family is speaking at an anti-abortion convention.

But the request was immediately criticized by some lawmakers.

"Enough is enough," said Democratic Sen. Ron Klein. "I don't want to see it on TV any more, I don't want to hear politicians talk about it. Let her be at peace."

Bush acknowledged in his letter that an investigation may be difficult.

"I understand that these events took place many years ago, and that you may not be able to collect all the relevant records and physical evidence. However, Mrs. Schiavo's family deserves to know anything that can be done to determine the cause and circumstances of her collapse 15 years ago," Bush wrote. "The unanswered questions may be unanswerable, but the attempt should be made."
To what end?

Frist may not run for president in 2008, but Jeb certainly will.

Posted by Alan at 14:27 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 17 June 2005 18:17 PDT home

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