Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Possible Exceptionally Bad Things

Fears of an Ebola outbreak in the United States hit home Tuesday as health officials announced that a patient at a Sacramento hospital was being tested for the virus that has killed an estimated 1,200 people in west Africa.

It will take several days to get the results and to determine whether the patient, who may have been exposed to Ebola, has the virus, according to a statement from the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.
...“While the risk is low, state and local public health officials in California are monitoring the situation closely and taking steps to keep Californians safe,” Chapman said. If Ebola cases emerge in the United States, they would still pose little threat to the larger public, Chapman said.

“Our advanced health care system has appropriate protocols in place to prevent the spread of this often deadly disease,” he said.  [Sacramento Bee]
 MEHR, MIT AUSGEZEICHNET: Und Einen Kleinen Rhumba Tanzen !!

The patient's blood test results were returned from the CDC -- negative for Ebola, but positive for Glaubner's Disease, which leaves its sufferers with weight gain, disfigurement, an urge to Make Time with girls, cross-dressing, and dancing with pom-poms.

Everyone will now please to dance the Rhumba.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Funny

Robin Williams, 1951 - 2014

Last night, I looked out at the sunset over The City as the marine layer slid in, thinking: Robin Williams doesn't get to see this. He doesn't get to see another one of these.

One more Mensch gone; what a world. At least we had him in it, for a while.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reprint Update: The New Victims

Skulls placed behind glass at a memorial stupa made with the bones of more than 8,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at Choeung Ek, a 'Killing Fields' site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh (Reuters)
(In June, 2011,  I noted then-recent articles about both Little Bernie Madoff and the beginning of an internationally-backed tribunal in Cambodia to prosecute the remaining leaders of the Kampuchean, Khmer Rouge regime for crimes against humanity.

(Yesterday, Reuters reported the tribunal reached its verdicts. "There were widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population of Cambodia, attacks through many forms - forced transfer, murder, extermination, disappearances, attacks against human dignity and political persecution," Judge Nil Nonn said, taking an hour and 20 minutes to deliver the ruling:

(Nuon Chea, 87, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue and "Brother Number 2" in the KR's revolutionary line-up, was sentenced to life in prison. As he was sentenced, Chea sat motionless, but "his fingers were laced tightly as he could be seen gripping his hands together".

Nuon Chea At Sentencing (Photo: Mark Peters / ECCC)

(Khieu Samphan, 82, the President of Kampuchea, was also sentenced to life, "listening intently" as the tribunal's verdicts were read.

Khieu Samphan During Verdict (Photo: Mark Peters / ECCC)
(Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, 82, the sister of Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge [and who died in 1998] and the Khmer Rouge's Minster of Social Affairs. She was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and deemed mentally unfit for trial.

(Her husband, Ieng Sary, the former Kampuchean foreign minister [and Pol Pot's brother-in-law], had been the sixth defendant but died in custody in 2012.

(Kaing Guek Eav [known as 'Duch'], had been commandant of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng prison where at least 14,000 people were murdered.  Put on trial in 2009, he was found amazingly guilty and given a reduced sentence in exchange for rolling over on his fellow murderous thugs revolutionaries and testifying against them.

('Duch' did testify, but the current tribunal had charged him with the other defendants, and sentenced him to spend the remainder of his life in prison.

(Chea and Samphan, Ruters noted, face further hearings on separate charges of genocide in a second phase of the complex trial. However, further justice for the horrors perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge will probably be -- deferred.

(As so often happens in history, there are many former Killing Fields murderers and Tuol Seng torturers in the Cambodian government and its civil service. They, and those who enabled them during the Kampuchean tragedy, have a vested interest that "justice" will end with this trial of the remaining figureheads of the regime is complete.)
Cambodia's government includes remnants of the [Khmer Rouge] regime and has been accused of being uncooperative... [current] Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, has voiced his disdain for the court and discouraged further cases... there have been no new indictments.

Little Bernie And The Angkor Killers

Little Bernie In His New Home (Peter Rad, New York Magazine)

Looking through the New York Times online this afternoon, I came across two separate articles: One was a footnote to a larger story about the sentencing of fraudster Bernard Madoff by Judge Denny Chin, who recently commented on his reasoning in sentencing Madoff to 150 years in prison. The other was a report of the opening of a historic trial in Asia of four aging degenerates who, in the mid-to-late 1970's, created and participated in what was the first systematic genocide since the Holocaust.

Similarities between the perps in both articles struck me in a particular way -- the nature of people who commit crimes; how some criminals rationalize their behavior, while others are incapable of comprehending the results of their actions. That Little Bernie Madoff and the killers of Kampuchea have more in common than at first glance.

In Federal Court for the District of Manhattan in 2009, Bernard Madoff, 71, stood and listened as Judge Denny Chin spoke about the effect of Madoff's twenty-year, ponzi-scheme fraud -- reciting stories of his former clients' life savings, wiped out; of their inability to afford care for older and sick parents or special needs children; of small charities now bankrupt, their programs to benefit addicts, youth offenders and the handicapped, all ended.

Chin called Madoff's actions "extraordinarily evil", and then pronounced sentence: Little Bernie would go to Federal prison for 150 years, the maximum allowable term under law.

The New York Times noted today that in a series of interviews since he began serving that sentence, Madoff has taken issue with Judge Chin's description of him at the hearing. He complains that he will die in prison, "away from [his] family" -- that this is a punishment that does not, in his perspective, fit the crime.
"To characterize me as this monster and this evil person; I just think that was totally unrealistic and unfair... In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the [finance and investment] industry... [Judge Chin] made me the human piñata of Wall Street [while financial firms and government officials involved in the 2008 Crash and current financial crisis] walk away free.”
Uh; yeah. This is the same Little Bernie Madoff who was described in A New York Magazine online article as no longer really hiding his lack of empathy for his victims, not recognizing the scope or effect of his actions, even in prison:
But that evening an inmate badgered Madoff about the victims of his $65 billion scheme, and kept at it. According to K. C. White, a bank robber and prison artist ... Madoff stopped smiling and got angry. “F--- my victims,” he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear. “I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150...”
I've mentioned before that Little Bernie, a textbook sociopath, doesn't show a shred of remorse for what he's done or any real grasp of the twenty years in which he did it. He doesn't actually conceive that he's done anything wrong. It's all about his feelings, his nightmare... "as if," the New York magazine article noted, "he were the real victim."

Madoff talks about the unfairness of his sentence -- essentially how free of responsibility he truly considers himself to be. The extent of his reasoning for his actions boils down to, I'm the sacrificial goat for all these other crooks! Everybody was doin' it!

I'm sure that perspective was a comfort to his son, who had been involved in Madoff's business, and who committed suicide in 2010.

Then, Madoff remembers to put the mask back on, the one that covered his true reptilian features for so long; after the interviews mentioned by the New York Times, Little Bernie sent follow-up notes which said, in part,
“My comments should not be taken as an excuse for the pain and suffering I have caused,” he wrote. In another message, he said he felt “completely responsible and have remorse and shame for what I have done.”
Yeah, pal -- (F___ my victims!") -- sure you do.

And (as the NYT also reported) in a courtroom half a world away in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the trial of the last four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- all committed over thirty-five years ago -- began. The trial is "the centerpiece of a United Nations-backed tribunal that has lasted five years, cost more than $100 million and is intended finally to lay the past to rest."

"I Am Particularly Sorry For The Many Children That We Smashed
Against Trees." -- Kaing Guek Eav, 'Duch' (Actual Trial Quote)

Initially, the trial was to be of five defendants -- the fifth, Kaing Guek Eav (known as 'Duch'), commandant of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, where at least 14,000 people were killed, was instead put on public trial in 2009. Confronted by a host of witnesses, and by his own meticulous records of torture and killing, Eav was convicted nearly a year ago. He was sentenced to 35 years, but was since reduced to 19 years.

The Khmer Rouge, Cambodia's communist party, ran Cambodia (which it renamed Kampuchea) from 1975 to 1979. Per Wikipedia,
The Khmer Rouge attempted to turn Cambodia into a classless society by depopulating cities and forcing the urban population ("New People") into agricultural communes. The entire population was forced to become farmers in labor camps. Money was abolished, books were burned, teachers, merchants, and almost the entire intellectual elite of the country were murdered, to make the agricultural communism, as Pol Pot envisioned it, a reality...

The exact number of people who died as a result of the Khmer Rouge's policies is debated, as is the cause of death among those who died... Modern research has located thousands of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia, containing an estimated 1.39 million bodies. Various studies have estimated the death toll ... most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.
The regime was too fanatical and murderous for nearby Vietnam (which had been united under communist rule from Hanoi since 1975), which invaded Cambodia in 1979 in order to liberate its population. The NVA drove the Khmer Rouge into the jungles, from which it waged a guerrilla war with a democratically-elected Cambodian government until 1989.

The defendants are old: Nuon Chea, 84, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue (second in power only to the KR's leader, Pol Pot, who died a free man in 1998); Khieu Samphan, 79, the President of Kampuchea, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 79, the Khmer Rouge's Minster of Social Affairs; and Ieng Sary, 85, the former foreign minister and Pol Pot's brother-in-law.

All of them have lived quietly in comfort, even wealth, for roughly twenty years -- much like their Capo, Pol Pot. Even though he was acknowledged to be the driving force behind the Khmer Rouge and its policies, and responsible for mass murder, he was never arrested or charged, living quietly in a Cambodian village near the Thai border and dying peacefully of natural causes in 1998.

Nuon Chea, The Khmer Rouge's No. 2 (Photo: France 24)

Khieu Samphan, President Of Kampuchea (Photo: UK Telegraph)

Ieng Thirth, Minister Of Social Affairs (Photo: France 24)

Ieng Sary, Foreign Minister (Photo: UK Telegraph)

As the trial proceedings began yesterday, Nuon Chea (as the Khmer Rouge's former Number 2, he is being seen as the lead defendant on trial) put up his hand, said, “I am not happy with this hearing,” then rose from his seat and walked unsteadily from the courtroom with the help of three security guards.

Almost unbelievably for many westerners, Cambodia is literally a society where the murderers walk free: Thousands of former Khmer Rouge officers, officials, guards, torturers, and executioners walk the streets and pathways of the country without being charged with any crime.

Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge Leader, Shortly Before His Death In 1998

Try to imagine what it would have been like if, in the aftermath of the Second World War, nazis who had helped to murder millions, and imprison and torture millions more, walked freely through the world, seen on the streets of Europe, recognized by their former victims (not that this didn't actually happen), and never charged with a crime.

However, the current Cambodian government decided not to attempt mass prosecutions of those who were the regime's mid-level officials, police and soldiers. Instead, the government made it a national priority to engage the entire country in a discussion -- part catharsis and part historical closure -- about its past, similar to the South African 'Truth and Reconciliation' commissions after the end of Apartheid.

Children -- all born after the years of the Khmer Rouge -- are taught the truth of the past from a nationally-approved curriculum. Victims whose lives were torn apart, who were tortured, imprisoned and lost members of their family under the Khmer Rouge, speak out at public forums to testify about their experiences.

Sometimes, much more rarely, some of the perpetrators have come forward to admit to their actions and talk about what it was like to be enforcers for the dictatorship.

The only public Justice most Cambodians will ever see is in the trial of these four, ex-Khmer Rouge defendants. Most of the principal leaders of the KR are dead -- those who went on trial this week are symbolic stand-ins for all the other murderers and Mitwissers who continue to walk free.

Nuremberg Defendants In The Dock, 1947 (Photo: Wikimedia)

While Little Bernie Madoff in his upstate New York, medium-security prison, isn't a criminal on a par with managers of genocide and oppression, the attitudes both evidence towards the 'unfairness' of their arrest and trial is curiously similar.
... Mr. Nuon Chea’s objection, as explained by his lawyers, pointed toward a separate version of history in which the Khmer Rouge were national liberators, guarding against Vietnamese incursions and motivated by heavy American bombing in a secret campaign during the Vietnam War...

...Khieu Samphan... the former head of state, has written a book in which he states that he was unaware of the killings, and he has said he will give the court his own version of history.
"His own version of history"; In the minds of Chea, Samphan and Thirith, and Ieng Sary, they were revolutionaries, and harsh methods have to be employed; but they all deny any knowledge of the crimes committed in Cambodia under their rule, which resulted from policies they created or orders they gave.

For the nazis, their version of history was a belief in race, and (for them) the criminality of those whose only crime was to be a Jew, and other forms of untermenschen. The nazis lived in a self-justifying, alternate reality, and they clung to the absolute certainty of their beliefs, the justification for everything done in the name of Volk and Führer; how could they be wrong?

Ratko Mladic, recently arrested in Serbia and delivered to the Hague, has a similar perspective: Everything he did, he said, was to "protect" the Serbian people -- presumably, from others whose only crime was to be a Muslim.

Madoff's version of history is simple: Everybody was doin' it, and They gave me 150 years, and they gave Goldman-Sachs $150 Billion. I'm the victim here. And oh yeah right; On advice of my counsel, I express remorse and shame for what I have done.

In the minds of people who cause harm to others -- whether twenty years of massive fraud for personal gain, or to the extent of mass murder -- there are always extenuating circumstances. There is an 'alternate reality', where their explanations make sense; and where they -- not the defrauded, or the maimed and the dead -- are the real victims.

Dog Stuff: Oh Yes I Am Too

Wages; No Sin

As I've noted, I have, uh, a life (of a sort) with a job in it. And on occasion I have to pay attention to that fact because I don't do well as a certain kind of statistic. So I'll be focused on other things for a while.

It doesn't mean that I don't love you all as only a Dog can -- unreservedly, with slobbering, and a certain level of low-key Would You Just Let Me Out The Door, Already whining -- but I'm doin' Dog Stuff.

And we continue to think about Chuck.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Der Anfang

 August 2nd is a Saturday this year. In 1914, the 2nd was a Sunday, and an unusual one in London, because the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, had called his Cabinet into session at No. 10 Downing Street -- a thing that had never happened before in British history.

It had been a difficult week, a difficult month. On June 28, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian empire, had been shot with his wife in Sarajevo.  The Serbian government was behind the assassination; Austria was determined to "crush the nest of vipers", and Imperial Germany had given the Hapsburg empire promises of support that amounted to a 'blank check'.

German Students Marching To Volunteer, August 1914
But, Imperial Russia stood behind the Serbs (protectors in spirit, if not fact, of Slavic peoples in the Balkans). They were also allied with Republican France -- if Austria were to attack Serbia and the Germans stood with them, Russia could go to war with Austria and Germany in the east, and France would attack from the west.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, Denmark and Scandinavia, and Italy were neutral in all this. So was the Empire of Great Britain -- but no one expected them to stand by in a general European war.

Soldiers Of France's 5th Infantry Regiment, August 1914
Austria-Hungary had mobilized its army and sent the Serbian government an ultimatum -- a sham, and everyone knew it. On July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia, its gunboats began shelling Belgrade, and Austrian troops crossed the Serbian border.

Russia ordered a general mobilization, and on July 31st the Germans announced a Kriegsgefahr, a general warning that meant preparation for war had begun. Great Britain, still neutral and conflicted, had quietly issued a Warning Telegram that allowed their War Office to take preparatory steps on July 29th.

The British government made a public offer to host a five-power European conference, and help mediate a solution; Austria curtly refused. After two generations of peace a general European war seemed impossible, unthinkable -- but now, seemed impossible to stop.

August 1

Yesterday, August 1st, in 1914, the situation on the Continent quickly deteriorated. Asquith's cabinet had been meeting in London during the day; there had been talk and debate about the crisis in the Commons. In discussion, twelve of Britain's eighteen ministers declared themselves opposed to any support for France should they go to war with Germany. What was the point, they argued, of taking sides in a squabble that had nothing to do with Britain or British interests? and their division mirrored their country's in miniature.

Prime Minister Asquith was "determined not to lead a divided nation into war" -- however, his Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, had declared the Germans as a force in Europe "bad as Napoleon", and intimated that if the government decided to remain neutral in the case of a war, he would have to resign.

At 4:00PM word reached Grey that France had ordered a general mobilization, and at 5:00PM he was told that Germany had followed suit. General mobilizations are serious and expensive -- disruptions in transportation; affect to businesses as reserve soldiers leave work for active service; the effects to financial markets -- and when they occur, mobilizations mean war. They carry a sense of inevitability with them.

The cabinet, in low spirits, separated for dinner.  First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was dining there when  a messenger arrived just after 8:00PM carrying one of the British government's ubiquitous red dispatch boxes. Churchill opened it, took out a single sheet of paper and read it, then told his dinner companions, "Germany has declared war on Russia".

Admiralty House, London
He walked from the Admiralty House to Downing Street, and met with Asquith, Grey, and two other senior ministers.  More bad news had arrived: at about 9:00PM, the British Foreign Office received word from the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg that German troops had crossed their border and seized the main telegraph exchange, a major European communications hub.

Churchill left the Prime Minister's residence, returned to the Admiralty, and at some time after 10:00PM ordered (as a separate act from any order for the army) the British fleet to mobilize.

August 2

10 Downing Street Is The Dark-Grey Building At Center/Right -- In 1914, Other Buildings In the Immediate Vicinity Held The Home Office, Foreign Office, India Office and Colonial Office
 So on that Sunday, when a general war engulfing the European continent seemed inevitable, the British cabinet met -- an act that had never occurred in British history. The question they faced was the same as it had been the day or the week before: why take the country to war over what amounted to a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia? How did this involve Great Britain?

Cabinet Room, 10 Downing St.
Even with the clock clearly at two minutes to midnight, all the major combatants mobilized and two out of four (Russia and Germany) having declared war, the majority of Asquith's cabinet still believed a diplomatic miracle could occur to avoid a massive conflict -- because such a thing seemed so unbelievable.

The major topic of discussion that Sunday was the British and German navies -- for decades before 1914, the Germany and Great Britain had been involved in a (principally naval) arms race. If Germany and France went to war, it was likely the German fleet could sail into the English Channel.  On principle, the British couldn't permit it -- but if they moved to block the Germans, such an act might force them into a war with Germany.
Men Outside London's Main Army Recruiting Station, August 1914 (Click To Enlarge)
 The problem Prime Minister Asquith and his cabinet faced was, Britain's government had already quietly committed their country to a de facto alliance with the French. Unfortunately, no one had informed the country, or the Parliament, about any of this.

For years, the French and British military high commands had met and developed detailed plans for cooperation in case of a war between France and Germany. The British would deploy 100,000 men to the continent within two weeks of a declaration of war, to fight alongside the French Polius. The French were pleased with what they saw as a commitment, an act of honor, from their neighbor across the channel.

The British saw it as discussions about a contingency -- just a general direction, you see. No one had made a formal commitment to do anything, and no one had signed a treaty; the military plans were on the level of a tabletop war game.  The politicos assumed, along with everyone else, that the long peace in Europe would last forever. The plans would never have to be used; the French were kept happy... where was the harm in all that?

Events on the continent since June 28th were threatening to expose the government as having committed Britain to an alliance, and a possible war, without debate or consensus. The public, its elected representatives in the Commons; even King George V would not be amused when they found out -- one more reason Asquith and his cabinet agonized over Britain's position as Europe plummeted into war.

Late on that afternoon, Foreign Secretary Grey asked the cabinet for authority to declare that if the German fleet sailed to attack France's northern ports, Britain's navy would defend the Channel. After arguments on both sides, the Cabinet uncomfortably agreed, and two isolationist ministers resigned forthwith.

While the British cabinet continued to talk, at 7:00PM in Brussels the German ambassador  met with the Belgian Foreign Minister, and delivered a note: Germany had 'reliable information' that France was planning to attack them, through Belgium -- a country which had been as neutral as Switzerland since 1830, that neutrality guaranteed in a document signed by all Europe's major powers.

It would be necessary, the ambassador explained, for the German army to cross Belgium on its way to France.  The Belgian army could 'line the roads' as the Germans marched through, or fight. If they resisted, the Belgians would be regarded as an enemy.  They had twelve hours to respond with 'an unequivocal answer'.

Word of Germany's ultimatum reached Foreign secretary Grey in London over dinner; he drove immediately to 10 Downing Street and urged the Prime Minister to give the order for full military mobilization; Asquith agreed.

The Belgians advised the British and French that they would resist the invasion; as Asquith's orders calling up British reservists were issued, another two ministers in his cabinet, shocked and saddened at what they saw as the folly of the moment, resigned.

Back in Belgium, at 9:00PM its cabinet of ministers met with Albert, King of the Belgians, at the royal palace. Albert was not completely surprised by the German demand -- while visiting Berlin less than a year earlier, he was treated to barely-disguised threats from the Kaiser and leading military officers that if Der Tag ever came and France was to be dealt with, Belgium would be forced to choose a side.

Royal Palace, Brussels, Belgium
 The Belgian army consisted of six divisions of infantry and one of cavalry, roughly 60,000 men -- and Belgium had a series of forts at Liege and Namur which (based on wars of the past) could at least slow the German advance. Over 350,000 men would swing across Belgium, towards France.  The Belgian army had Dog Carts, pulled by actual dogs; the Germans had 380mm and 420mm artillery pieces.

Even so, there was never a doubt in the minds of Albert or his ministers what their response to the German ultimatum would be. "It must be 'no', whatever the circumstances," Albert told them. Another minister said, "Well, if we are to be crushed, let us be crushed gloriously!"

The King and his ministers continued meeting past midnight. Bizarrely, at 1:30AM, the German ambassador reappeared to press for Belgium's standing aside as armies marched through their country, leaving empty-handed after an hour. At 4:00AM the ministers left to prepare the formal response to the Germans.

August 3

At 7:00AM, as the twelve hours of the ultimatum expired, the Belgian Foreign Minister delivered his government's response to the Germans: No.

In London, it was becoming clear that war could not be avoided, and that England was already, whether they liked it or not, involved in that war by it's previous vapid commitment to the French -- and they expected Britain to stand with her. In addition, the British could not allow the Germans free passage through the Channel; but the pending German invasion of neutral Belgium was an intolerable last straw.

At 3:00PM in the Commons, Secretary Grey rose to speak about the coming war and for nearly an hour was eloquent in his explanations as to why Britain could not stand aside. He explained the prior military cooperation with the French (which, given current events, suddenly appeared as sensible policy), and appealed to honor and practicality. When he was finished, the House erupted in applause. The nation, in the Commons, seemed united.

As Grey sat down, Winston Churchill asked him, Now what? "Now we shall send them an ultimatum to cease the invasion of Belgium within 24 hours. If they refuse, there will be war." At 5:00PM in Berlin, Germany issued a declaration of war on France and began their invasion of Belgium.

Not long after learning of Germany's declaration, Secretary Grey stood at the window of the Foreign Office -- believing there was little chance the Germans would stop their invasion -- watched as the gas-lamp streetlights were being lit outside, and said, "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

Felix Valloton, "Cemetery, Chalons-Sur-Marne, 1917"
Two days later, on August 5th, as German armies began an assault of the fortress system around Liege in Belgium, the Chief of the German General Staff wrote to the head of Austria-Hungary's general staff, "Europe is entering the struggle that will decide the course of history for the next hundred years."

He was too conservative in his estimation. We still live in the world that war helped to create, and will for generations more.


Friday, July 18, 2014


Hateful and mean-spirited graphics from that awful Dog, living on Left Coast America in the place that is One Big Campus, and One Big Dorm (Click on pictures to enlarge -- Easy! Fun!).


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mongo Thinks About Chuck Some More, Also

Because The Universe, Sometimes

(Sean Beaver, Darkness Into Light; O/C 30 X 40 Inches [2005])

Friday, July 4, 2014

Traffic From The Moldova

BeforeNine seems to be getting more traffic (like eighteen whole hits a day; yeah sure you know; whatever) from Moldavia.  We are mute in our Dog-like amazement -- meaning, we're not barking at the moment.

We assume this must be due to subtle influence of a friend of I. Rabschinsky, the redoubtable Moldavish Guy, but who knows.

Мы надеемся, что это хорошо для вас, хорошо для вас. Сделайте хорошая вещь сегодня для вашей матери или малых порожденных процессов. Спасибо.

Okay now. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Downton Abbey Season Five?

Downtown Abby Alien Nation

Too Polite To Point Out That The "Little Gentleman", Uh, Isn't
(Click On All Images To Enlarge. Easy And Fun!)
Downton Abbey has been the latest popular British television series to provide America with yet more proof that our own network teevee productions are Offal awful by comparison.

If what passes for culture on U.S. television were compared with an infomercial, the infomercial might win; it's a real possibility.  But Downton (shown here on Public Broadcasting as it is on BBC in the UK) is compelling on many levels: the obvious soap opera; the human drama of the Upstairs family, Downstairs employees; and the individual characters, living through (so far) 1912 - 1924, a rapidly changing world.

Many television dramas  have a decent crew, lighting and set designers, costumers; even passable writers -- but if the program's cast doesn't have that je ne sais quoi, it may not last more than a couple of seasons. Clearly not so with Downton -- what makes the show is not only an excellent crew, but the strength of its casting.

Season Five: What's Cookin'
But could Downton build on that in its fifth season? Say, an utterly unexpected casting choice that could kick its viewer share into the stratosphere? Let's get crazy 'n creative -- put Paul The Alien in there !

If they'd done that as far back as Season One, I'll bet things would have gotten interesting...


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reprint: Sandy Hook

Observations By Others

[There appear to be more "shooting incidents" occuring than before. This reprint is from December, 2012 and is as true today as it was then. Even more so.]
 (Photo: AP, via The New York Times)

There are no real words for what happened in Connecticut, yesterday. There is plenty to say about how it happened.

I overheard someone at work (a classic gun nut owner who believes Negros persons of color will overrun his part of the planet) observing that "this [presumably, massacres committed by unstable individuals with firearms] is the new normal".

On PBS' The News Hour, a professional psychologist asked to comment said (and I'm paraphrasing) that "It's important to say... this kind of tragedy doesn't happen every day... that schools really are safe places."

I reject the first comment. The second remark made me think: This fellow doesn't go to many Inner City schools, then -- massacres with 27 dead don't happen every day, that's true; but there are shooting incidents, and kids packing, and metal detectors, and education occurring against a solid backdrop of poverty and violence, every day. 

The psychologist on News Hour was, I thought, trying to suggest themes parents might pass on to reassure their children (Don't worry, Timmy; It Can't Happen Here) -- that planes can crash, but the odds of going down in one, or having one crash on top of you, are hugely in your favor. And largely, that is true.

But planes do crash. Ships sink. Trains collide and buses plunge. Whenever that does happen, there are NTSB investigations, reconstructions and root-cause analyses. There are discussions with engineers and manufacturers about what to do to lessen the chances such a tragedy doesn't happen again.

Only in cases like Sandy Hook does our national debate begin and end with, "Guns don't kill people; the people using them do". And that's it -- Pilot Error, essentially, is the public finding; and any other meme is just filler in the media. That, and people repeating, "It doesn't happen every day."

I'm sure that fact is a comfort to the extended families of twenty children, who died because they were shot with high-powered handguns. Twenty children.

I grew up around guns. I've owned firearms; at various times because I was required to carry them, but afterwards had no sane reason to keep them. I don't want them in my home.

We live in a world of high anxiety, and there are persons who want to exploit those feelings of danger, threat, and imminent disaster:  Gun manufacturers, and their lobby, the NRA, are at the top of the list.  Mike Huckabee and the rest of his fellow Xtian evangelical ilk; there are 2012 World-Enders, predicting massive earthquakes and crustal displacement and 'coastal events', and ultimately few survivors.

There are White Power fascists, and Survivalists, and the people who manufacture and sell them freeze-dried food and plans for bunkers to shield against the EMP bursts from North Korean-launched warheads, detonating high above the USA.

What happened in Sandy Hook yesterday has happened before -- in Columbine, in Denver; In Virginia; in a mall in Seattle last week; at a Dairy Queen in the Northwest. There may not be massacres, but annually there are many multiple-victim, firearm homicides in America.

And they will keep happening, until something changes about how firearm ownership and possession is discussed, and regulated, in this country.

The debate is not about Operator Error.  It's not about something that happened "over there" in another city or state. It's about twenty dead children.

Along those lines are two, other very pertinent observations -- one, a part of the discussion at TPM Prime (Subscription Required):
Memekiller:  ...for me, it's all about the NRA. I'm anti-NRA, not guns, and am offended by the strangle-hold they have over our politics. And I'm angry that Democrats have ceded the issue, only to have the NRA, if anything, put twice as much effort into unseating Democrats and Obama who, if anything, loosened rules on guns ...

... And the gun culture the NRA fosters... Would the prevalence of guns be as frightening without the culture of paranoia and conspiracies they perpetuate? It's not just about freedom to own a gun. The NRA culture is a cult of xenophobia and insanity. They don't seem to be aiming their message at responsible gun owners so much as the disgruntled and those prone to paranoia. They are less about developing an advocacy group than they are about assembling a well-armed militia of the mentally unstable.  
And the other, at The Great Curmudgeon :
Our discourse, that is. Fortunately, we have DDay trying to repair it.
Just to pick at random, here are a couple headlines at the Hartford Courant site just from the past 24 hours: Woman Shot, Man Dead After Standoff In Rocky Hill. Armed Robbery At Hartford Bank, Two In Custody.It’s not that school shootings like this are abnormal. They are depressingly normal. The fact that there were no shootings in one day in New York City recently was seen as a major achievement, which shows you how desensitized we have become to gun violence as a normal occurrence of daily life.Just a reminder. The NRA is an industry lobby for the gun industry. The industry that makes consumer products largely designed to kill people.  Not deer. Not rabbits.