Sunday, October 31, 2010

CLOWN COURT IS NOW IN SESSION!

In Your Eyes.......



This one is dedicated to my beloved wife, married to me lo! these 17 years.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Album Covers (Or: Raiders Of the Lost Art)

New reader/visitor Ben made the following comment below about the Kindle:

Speaking as a student of computer science, these articles make me very sad because I grew up reading books/magazines and I believe there is just so much missing from devices like the Kindle. The fun of collecting, admiring, the artistic touches that cannot be accurately conveyed digitially, even going as far as that new book smell that all added to the experience of reading a new novel is just being taken out piece by piece. It will be a lonelier generation of readers that do not get to enjoy books like they were meant to be.
Another friend of mine privately emailed me some months back when discussing the Kindle. He views it as "pure evil." But then, he clips newspapers for a living. And yeah, it's kind of the buggywhip manufacturer's critique of the automobile. OTOH, he has a point--what happens when the last newspaper disappears into the 'net? (OR THE LAST LAWBOOK!!?!?!)

A taste of what we could lose can be demonstrated by what is today already a lost art: the album cover.

I love album covers.

Album art is lost to us; it was shrunk to irrelevance when the CD became the dominant form of music distribution; now it's disappeared completely now that we legally (I should hope) download music via ITunes or whatever. Back in the day, though, the images on those 12'' x 12'' squares would burn into the brain.

Back when I was in school I'd sit on the floor of the living room at my home at 28300 Gladstone, listening to LPs while holding a stack of three or four in my lap, using them as a desk for writing school assignments while I cranked jams. Even today, my lovingly preserved LP collection has what can best be described as embossed artifacts of my handwriting from those days 35(!) years ago.

Some of those albums are still so impressed in my memory that I was able to pick a good solid dozen off of the top of my head as purely awesome. Here they are, in no particular order....

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON - PINK FLOYD


Let's start with an unabashed classic. This moebus strip of a cover--the light beam exiting the one edge reenters the same edge at the same spot on the back, giving your average teenaged burnout the incentive to keep turning the album in his hands while the acid kicks in--is a classic of its kind. Simple, clean, plain, with a striking design. Only the really, really annoying sticker in the upper right (which thankfully came off with the cover plastic) detracted from the effect. A great cover to the greatest album ever made.

COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING - KING CRIMSON
The original, ur-ELP band, King Crimson, produced only one memorable song, but that song is the brilliant title track, which manages to evoke a score or more archetypal fairy-tale characters with a single line of description each. And this horror is either one of the greatest covers ever created, or one of the worst: I still haven't decided which yet.


TARKUS - EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER



The art on the cover supposedly was connected with the names of the songs on the album within; the armadillo-tank thingie with the guns is the Tarkus; and as Wikipedia usefully states, "The inner gatefold sleeve features a sequence of pictures depicting battles between Tarkus and other half-mechanical creatures, until its eventual defeat by a manticore - the only creature in the tale that is wholly organic. "Tarkus" is then shown as a defeated shell in "Aquatarkus". The band later named its own record company Manticore Records."

I always thought these critters would have made awesome AD&D monsters. Maybe they did.

BRAIN SALAD SURGERY - EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER

HR Giger created what is probably one of the most disturbing album covers ever made. The following from his web site puts it very well:
The album cover is considered one of the most memorable (and often disturbing) of its time. It features distinctive Giger monochromatic biomechanical artwork, integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull and the new ELP logo (created by Giger). The lower part of the skull's face is covered by a circular 'screen', which shows the mouth and lower face in its flesh-covered state. In the original LP release, the front cover was split in half down the center, except for the circular screen section (which was attached to the right half). Opening the halves revealed a painting of the complete face: a human female (modelled after Giger's wife), with 'alien' hair and multiple scars, including the infinity symbol and a scar from a frontal lobotomy. The two images of the woman are very similar, but the outer image (in the circle) contains what appears to be the top of a phallus below her chin, arising from the 'ELP' column below (the second painting originally had the complete phallus, but this was removed at the insistence of the record company).
"At the insistence of the record company"? Yikes. Yathink??!?!! Until I started doing this article, I had no idea that 'Brain Salad Surgery' was 70s slang for what we now call 'The Full Monica.' Apparently the phrase is also used in the Dr. John classic, "Right Place Wrong Time." You learn something every day, although you can't always share that something with your kids....

MOLLY HATCHET - LIVE

I remember seeing a movie somewhere about a heavy metal rock group that was described as "not bad for a two umlaut band." Molly Hatchet, though certifiably umlaut-free, likely qualifies on that score. The album cover above, however, is unforgettable--the horse-riding baddie obviously being the unnatural love child of Conan the Bavarian and the King of the Nazgul. Scary dude.

BAT OUT OF HELL - MEAT LOAF SONGS BY JIM STEINMAN
I make a point of including the Jim Steinman part simply because the best part of Meat Loaf songs were always the surprisingly intelligent lyrics. Steinman deserved rock stardom but never quite got the credit he deserved for his creations on his own. Like another lost genius, Lester Bangs, he should be remembered. And the cover above certainly leaves an impression.

WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY - MOTHERS OF INVENTION

WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY - MOTHERS OF INVENTION (INNER(?) COVER)

One of Cal Schenckel's earliest creations, this brilliant parody of the Dr. Pepper's cover was so spot on that a judge supposedly ordered the album to be released with the inner cover on the outside so that nobody would buy it thinking it was The Beatles. (As if....)

My brother's copy had a second voice balloon added to Frank's sneering "Is This Phase One Of Lumpy Gravy?" The added voice balloon read as follows: "No but this album belongs to MARK R and nameless maladictions shall pursue the unauthorized malapropriator!" He gave it to me as a present; today, somewhere in Lansing, Michigan, that copy languishes in someone else's album collection. I had to sell it to a collector store in 1986 because I wanted to eat. I've regretted it ever since.

ONE SIZE FITS ALL - FRANK ZAPPA


For pure strangeness, little or nothing can top this one. The intergalactic sofa, the clockwork planets, the finger of God setting Saturn to spin--pure Frank (and Cal Schenkel) at their finest.

YELLOW SHARK - FRANK ZAPPA

Technically this doesn't count (it's from the tape version and I don't know if this album was released on vinyl.) Still: his final and IMHO greatest album; I include the otherwise ordinary cover picture as it clearly shows Frank in the last days of his cancer. You can see the suffering etched into his face. (I saw a TV interview with him, available here on Youtube, which shows how the cancer had changed him--and had transformed him to something I would almost describe as angelic if it weren't so Zappaesque to describe Frank as an angel.) One of the greatest disappointments of my life is that I will never see him play with the New York Philharmonic at Kennedy Center in his 80s.

WHIPPED CREAM AND OTHER DELIGHTS - HERB ALPERT AND THE TIJUANA BRASS

Easily the second most obscene album cover ever made (the first one is the notorious original BLIND FAITH album cover; no, I'm not going to post it as I don't want to go to prison in today's paranoid day and age). I'm surprised this one got by the censors. You don't have to be Freud to figure out why. (Although it is depressing to consider that the model, Dolores Erickson, is now 73 and certainly collecting Social Security....)

TO OUR CHILDRENS' CHILDRENS' CHILDREN - THE MOODY BLUES

Supposedly an album honoring man's landing on the moon. Brillian concept, caveman painting on a wall an image of a man carrying a rifle. What would reduce us to such a state where cave painting is again an active art? Beautiful.

BREAKFAST IN AMERICA - SUPERTRAMP

Supertramp's magnum opus had also their greatest album cover. I never imagined you could reproduce the New York skyline with the contents of the breakfast section of your local grocery store, and the image of the Statue of Liberty as an orange juice carrying waitress-of-a-certain-age is a wonderful conceit. The background Twin Towers as a couple of flimsy cerial boxes is painfully prophetic--alas.

AL STEWART - YEAR OF THE CAT

And finally, the album cover that inspired this otherwise pointless collection. A HIPGNOSIS special, it portrays a woman who is, ahem, fixated on felines. I especially like the cat logo in the lower lefthand corner.
Anyway. I'm sure my readers have their faves. Send 'em in (except the one of the girl with the airplane!); I'll be glad to do a followup entry.....

Why Time Is Coming To An End

When I was young, I read both TIME and NEWSWEEK religiously. No longer.

But it's clear they're dying. One reason is due to their hard tilt left.

The other reason is visible below.

From the latest issue, on dead trees.

The front:


The back:



It musta galled them to run that ad, just GALLED them.....

(NB: just last week, their #1 competition, NEWSWEEK, was sold to an audio tycoon.... for $1.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Speaking of the Nixon era....

...an almost perfect portrayal of 1973.

I purely *love* this scene.

A Good Question.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And Again, We Pledge (Whether They Like It or Not)

If You Think The Dub Is Stupid....

Bill Whittle, pilot and blogger extraordinaire and on whom all praise be given, posted the following a few years ago (Nov. 6, 2006). (Hat Tip: Varifrank.com.)




"This is the cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger’s successor, the F-106 Delta Dart (I could not find an F-102 panel, but they would have been very similar)"

"Now, picture yourself in this chair, at 40,000 feet, traveling at one and a half times the speed of sound. Now imagine that someone has painted the windows white – you are flying on instruments. Now imagine that not only do you have to be able to fly blind, by referencing these instruments, but that you also have to stare into that orange jack-o-lantern of a radar, and interpret a squiggle that will lead you to your target. Now imagine that in addition to not hitting the ground, or your wingman, and watching the squiggle, you also have to turn those switches on the right side panel to activate weapons systems, to overcome enemy countermeasures…without looking outside, as you hurtle through air at -40 degrees F, air so thin that should you lose pressure, you have about 4-6 seconds of consciousness before you black out and die.

I maintain that the instant George W. Bush closed that canopy and took off on the first of his many solo hours in an F-102, it is quite impossible that he was either an idiot or a coward.

To which I humbly add "And I dont care who his daddy was or who may have helped get him into the Texas ANG, theres only one seat in that bird. You can have all the family connections you want, in that plane, theres nobody to help you through the takeoff checklist from the moment you sit down and buckle in."

ADDENDUM:

RK here: And it can be established that he was a far better pilot than Senator McCain, as the Dub, as far as we know, never crashed a single aircraft; McCain splortched three. (McCain is a great man, but nobody will argue he was a great pilot.)

"No one notices the customs slip away"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"If Tea Partiers are such deluded fools....."

"Why are they doing so well?"

An excellent question asked in the [London] Telegraph today.

Predictably, [leftie newsoids] have hit on the argument that Tea Partiers are a bunch of thickos, dupes being manipulated by powerful Right-wing corporations.

There is a classic of the genre in today’s Guardian. George Monbiot describes the Tea Party as “one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen”, and goes on to explain that the poor, deluded saps who turn up to its meetings are puppets on the strings of two wealthy industrialists, Charles and David Koch.

In short, they've gotta blame it on rich manipulation because they can't abandon their moonbattery and see things as they are... because if they did they wouldn't be leftist any more.

Well, there is only one thing to do.

Kick their butts in the voting booth and take over. It's about time.

BROKEN GLASS, PEOPLE, BROKEN GLASS.*

(*No, that's not a reference to Krystallnacht. It's a slogan reminding everyone who loves this country that they should be willing to crawl through broken glass to get to the voting booth next week.) (And yes, Democrats too. A lot of people died to give you that privilege.)

ADDENDUM:

A friend of mine, who is otherwise quite sensible, sends me the following:
Because they don't want a black president. Just like when Obama won, a lot of blacks came out to vote for a black man. I'm sorry, but the majority of this country, right, left, middle, have no clue what the issues are and they vote their passions.... Most of the people who post on your page, including myself, do know what the issues are, we just disagree on how they should be handled. The general public on the other hand is fairly ignorant. The ignorant are easy to influence as proven by the Obama campaign in '08 and the Tea Party movement.

To which I can only say, No, it's because we don't want a RED President. Which is what we have.

The general public on the other hand is fairly ignorant.>> Well, they voted FOR Obama last time. They weren't ignorant then, right? Then how are they ignorant now? Although I would say that they were ignorant: ignorant of his race hate for white people, ignorant of his hatred for America, ignorant of his love affair with the terrorist Ayers and the hate-spewer Wright, ignorant of his driven desire to turn the US Dollar into toilet paper.

Now we're educated ... and we'll vote appropriately.

JP2 Cultural Center Goes Kaput.....

I'm going to turn guns today on a target that I usually let alone, but I can't remain silent.



There was an announcement today that a building in Washington, DC has been sold, the John Paul II Cultural Center near my alma mater, Catholic University of America. The announcement reads like this:
Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct 26, 2010 / 02:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- To accommodate their rapidly growing community, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist announced today that they will purchase the financially beleaguered John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. near the Catholic University of America. The center, which was the brainchild of the now retired Archbishop of Detroit, Cardinal Adam Maida, has been beset by numerous financial difficulties over the years. Intended to be a museum and Catholic intellectual hub, the center borrowed heavily from the Archdiocese of Detroit, owing them $40 million as of 2006, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Ann Arbor sisters have had a different problem as they’ve been unable to build facilities fast enough to house new members.

In an e-mail announcement on Oct. 26, the Dominican order wrote that their community “welcomed 22 aspirants in August of this year – a gift from the Lord that continues to call us to ongoing discernment of how to provide for the formation and education of the young women seeking to enter religious life.”

“In order to plan and care accordingly for these vocations, the Dominican Sisters of Mary,” the community is “in the inspection phase of a purchase and sale agreement to buy a building at 3900 Harewood Road, known to many as the JPII Cultural Center, near the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.”

“It is our hope to use this building as a House of Studies for the continuing education and formation of our Sisters.”

The Dominican sisters made headlines in February, when they made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show – fielding questions regarding their vocation and discernment, their vows of poverty and chastity, and their life in community. Sister Maria Guadalupe Hallee, Director of Mission Advancement for the sisters, told CNA last March that since the show, almost all the feedback the sisters have received has been overwhelmingly positive.
Now, I'm delighted that the good Sisters have bought the building and that it will serve a useful purpose. We need more Nuns and Sisters and they deserve a decent home.

But the fact that the multizilliondollar boondoggle called the John Paul II Cultural Center was even built--at enormous cost to the Archdiocese of Detroit--shows that while the Church may indeed be the Bride of Christ, sometimes she acts like the Bride of Hosea, or worse.

In this case, the now retired +Adam Cardinal Maida sunk more than $67 MILLION DOLLARS in a building in Washington, DC.

And they're on the hook for $40 million more in debt.

And while they spent $100,000,000.00 in the US capital in what can only called a kissing of the, ahem, ring of a dead Pope, THIS is what +Adam's home diocese of Detroit looks like:

DETROIT, 2009. (Regular readers--both of you guys--will recognize these pix from last year.)












P.S. The picture of Tiger Stadium no longer reflects reality.

They tore it down this last fall. (The abandoned building to the left however is still standing.)

Cardinal +Maida--thank you very much for throwing my second collection money into this thing. And that of my children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren .... and please know that I remain a faithful Catholic not because of leadership of men like you but in spite of it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tick. Tock.



HT: lucianne.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

"An Act of Civic Hygiene"

George Will (late of MSU's James Madison College, I note proudly) takes the loathesome Florida Congresscritter Alan Grayson to the woodshed and provides him with forty whacks, and not necessarily with the axe handle--referring to Grayson's imminent political destruction as a well deserved "act of civic hygiene."

Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.

Will does well to deprecate this stupid and fat old white guy (to use Grayson's kind of language).
Grayson’s rhetorical style is schoolyard crude. He has said, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health-care plan is this: Die quickly.” He has compared Republicans to “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” and Nazis burning the Reichstag. He has said, “I have trouble listening to what [Dick Cheney] says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking.” He has referred to a high-ranking woman official at the Federal Reserve as a “K Street whore.”

Alan Grayson is, to put it simply, vile. Anathema sit and ymech sh'ema.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Madam Speaker, Point of Order......!"



"No, we are NOT going to say the Pledge of Allegiance....."

Oh, really??!?!

Something wonderful is happening in this country.

Salute: Lucianne.com

ADDENDUM I:

Apparently it was an act of "phony patriotism", of "Tea Party intimidation."

Riiiiiight.

ADDENDUM II:

Oh, and just because I know it will annoy some people, I must admit I purely *love* the following pic:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bosnia: After A Decade, It Still Haunts



Yours Truly in front of the Headquarters of Multinational Division (North), Autumn 2000

This past weekend marked the tenth anniversary of my first return from Bosnia, at the conclusion of ten months' active duty as a peacekeeper in Tuzla. (Shortly thereafter I returned to Bosnia for an additional 18 months' work as a civilian.)

I cannot believe that a decade has passed so quickly. But it undeniably has.

It's a decade that has seen the world shift beneath our feet, and, possibly, the world has slipped through America's fingers.

But as for my Bosnian experience, I still have not yet been able to write about it in full .... particularly what I saw as part of my work in Srebrenica, where the Srebrenica Massacre took place on July 11, 1995, and which left a mess I spent the better part of two years trying to help clean up.


The Srebrenica morgue at Tuzla. Each white bag to the right contained one of the dead. There were more than 4000 in storage at the time I visited the first time in 2000.

Some months back, a friend, who will remain anonymous, asked me to write about Bosnia on his blog. I sent him the following reply:
You've asked me to discuss my Srebrenica experience.

I'm afraid that I really cannot do that. Not yet.

I was stationed in Bosnia from January 2000 to May 2002 with the US Army at MND Headquarters in Tuzla. I also served a year on active duty training before that. For the last year and a half I was there, I had the title "Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General, Multinational Division North" - a civilian intel analyst for the senior State Department official there, the Political Advisor.

Over the course of my stay there I traveled extensively throughout Bosnia, and was very often in the cities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, and Zvornik on official business--largely consisting of having "friendly discussions" with Bosnian Serb officials to "enlighten" them that it was "in their interest" to leave the Bosniacs ("Bosnian Muslims") returning to their old villages alone.

Sometimes they listened to us.

I also served on a committee that founded and began to build the Srebrenica Victims Cemetery near the "Battery Factory". They buried the first identified victims there shortly before my departure from BiH.

Let me sum it up my Bosnia experience by metaphor: in my youth, I was a bit of a WW II scholar; I was very interested in the phenomenon of the Holocaust in particular. But it was theoretical to me; I am an American born son of WW II veteran, and it was all books and movies, and I had a childish wish to have known my father's opportunity to fight evil.

But: it struck me then--this was the 1970s, mind you--that I thought I was born too late; there were no Nazis left to fight; they were only movie villains in the end.

It wasn't until I saw the International Morgue for Srebrenica Victims at
Tuzla that I discovered that this was not true.

And I discovered that Holocaust is not a historical event but an ever-present possibility. All it takes is the will, and the right circumstances, to make it come again.

I don't believe in collective guilt. I DO however believe in individual responsibility for mass crimes, and those responsible have not yet been brought to justice.

Srebrenica was a singular act of hideous evil, and proof that the lessons learned in 1945 have not been digested, even 300 miles from Germany. Industrial holocaust and assembly line mass murder remains entirely possible in this day and age. If it happened in 1945, AND it happened in 1995, it can happen again.

God help us.

As to a longer explication of my Bosnian experience--I'm still trying to come to terms with it. I haven't been able to write it down.... well, perhaps it is not yet time.
Please understand: This short letter is hardly the place for me to describe my
experience; it is a matter of which I still often dream.

I will say this:

The stench never leaves you.

I'm sorry I cannot write more. Perhaps again, soon.

Much respect and blessings to you,

Richard L. Kent, Esq.
I am still unready to describe in detail what I saw at Srebrenica. Perhaps soon.

In lieu thereof, I'd like to rerun the following essay, which I wrote in 2002, after visiting a small town in southern Bosnia called Medjugore. It is a controversial place: in June 1981, several teenagers saw what they claimed was the Virgin Mary.

Some of them are claiming to see her daily to this day.

And who knows? Maybe they do.

--------------------------------------------

The Stones of Apparition Hill –– A Medjugore Meditation

(Written February 2002)






The first thing that caught my attention about Herzegovina were the stones.

The border between Bosnia and Herzegovina is unmarked by any road signs. Unlike the rest of the country, which is riven by ethnic hatreds and an interethnic Inter-Entity Boundary Line, there is no real political division between the two lands.

You see the change from Bosnia to Herzegovina through a sudden change in scenery. One minute, you’re in Bosna (as Bosnians call their country)--all is green and hilly and woodsy; the soil black and deep, the mountains old and worn and friendly, like the Adirondack Mountains or the Appalachians. Next minute, Herzegovina: you’re surrounded by forbidding white stony mountains—the Dinaric Alps, southernmost sweep of the Swiss Alps—far higher than those of Bosna and covered with white stones and low, gnarly brush and tumbleweed. No self respecting Tolkeinesque dwarf would live here, as there are no minerals to be found, all is sea bottom shale to the horizon and beyond. It is as if you have suddenly crossed from the Tennessee Smokey Mountains into a white, limestone version of the Utah Rockies.

This is Herzegovina: the mountainous hypotenuse along the southern border between Bosnia and Croatia. The mountains are tall and jagged, a high series of limestone waves that stand from here to the sea, some 80 miles southeast from the border. The mountains are white, unbelievably white. The stone here is former sea bottom, billions of years of seashells piled one upon another and compressed, then pressed into the sky again by continental drift. The mountains reach to the sky in waves until they challenge the sea to the southwest.

Hence the stones, which are nasty and sharp and jagged, from the tiniest pebbles to the largest borders. Limestone is porous and, for rocks, relatively easily dissolved by rain and flood, so one often sees holes eaten in the stone by the rainfall. But the stones crack and split as they decompose under pressure of summer rain and winter ice——so the stones get smaller but tend to retain a vicious jagged edge.

The soil that results from this limestone erosion is highly acidic, making the land here unsuitable for most agriculture: only grapes and tobacco thrive in this otherwise inhospitable farmland.

This makes for poor living for the residents.

If the land is tough, the people who live here are tougher. The poor soil, the poverty of the populace, and their harsh and uncompromising attitude toward outsiders make the Croats of Herzegovina reviled by the rest of Bosnia as obstreperous hillbillies. "The only things that grow in Herzegovina," they say, "are rocks and Ustashe" –– that is, Croat Nazis. Croats in western Herzegovina don't see themselves as Herzegovinian, much less as Bosnians——they're Croats, dammit, and this is part of Croatia. If you have any questions to this end, just look around: flags of Croatia, and not Bosnia, are everywhere. Fighting here tends to be vicious, as it was both in the Second World War and the recent civil conflict.

By any indication, a very unlikely place for the Virgin Queen of Heaven to reach out to the human race. If it was, as Ogden Nash said, "odd of God to choose the Jews," then it is simply bizarre for Him——and His Mother——to choose as unrelenting a poverty-stricken hellpit as Hercegovina to give a Beethovian kuess fur allsem welt.

And yet that is precisely what is alleged to have taken place. And who knows? Maybe it did.

* * * * *

We left Eagle Base at eight o’clock Monday morning, stopping at Sarajevo in the early afternoon in Butmir and stayed overnight——to give those of us on the trip the opportunity to do a little shopping in Sarajevo before the main event the next day. (We could have gone straight through, but given that the English mass is only given at 10:00 in the morning, that would have required a departure time of 2:00 AM—or ‘oh-dark-hundred,’ in Army parlance—so the decision was made to split the trip into two days.)

Sarajevo continues to recover from the war; every visit reveals fewer rubble piles and bullet holes and more bricks and mortar and concrete. There's still a lot of war damage, to be sure, but it is clear that the city, now firmly under the control of the Bosniac/Croat-run Federation, is well on the road to Wellville. Business investment and international aid is making its influence felt at last. The legendary Holiday Inn, scene of the opening shots at the start of the war and a notorious smoking wreck at its end, is now reconstructed and repainted a with a bright yellow faççade that covers the worst of the devastation. Sarajevo's own Tin Towers, which are two world-famous apartment towers, named Momo and Uzeir after two local cartoon characters (think Abbot and Costello), have had all the external glass replaced and have regained their prewar look, although the apartments within continue to be slowly restored.

But not all is well. The rock pile at the Oslobozdenie newspaper building remains a towering monument to hatred and folly and the accuracy of Bosnian Serb artillery. The old Bosnian National Parliament building at the other end of the main highway down the center of town is a shattered reminder of the day Radovan Karadzic stood in its chambers and called for genocide against the Muslims. The main highway remains pockmarked with shell holes, which sink continuously. And the heavily guarded American embassy, targeted just three months ago for bombing by Algerian Islamic fascists, is a reminder too that the events of the world has not passed Sarajevo by.

I have been to Sarajevo at least twenty times since I first came to Bosnia, and every visit is a delight. One friend of mine described his first visit as akin to "being unexpectedly seduced by an older woman," an assessment I share. This visit revealed its own new delight—a recently opened (and authentic!) Chinese restaurant, complete with Chinese food, Chinese waiter, and Chinese menu that you can’t read. The hot-n-sour soup, the pot stickers, the General Tso’s Chicken—well, they weren’t great by American Chinese restaurant standards, but to me who has not eaten with chopsticks since the start of the war, 'twas magnificent.

The restaurant was only two blocks down from the famous Latinska Most, so I decided to take a little historical moonwalk before returning to base.

For almost a century, the Latinska Most, or Latin Bridge, was named after one Gavrilo Princip, an individual of some historical note: he it was who, through bad planning and worse luck, put two bullets into the hearts of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in 1914, sparking the first world war. After the end of the war, the Serbs decided that he was a hero of the Serbian people and named the bridge for him––kinda like Dallas having a "Lee Harvey Oswald Memorial Book Building". The spot he stood upon when he fired the shots were memorialized by two sunken shoe marks in concrete, so that the historically curious could imagine themselves firing the shots that detonated Europe.

Welcome to the Balkans.

The Serbs, shortly before the war broke out in 1992, dug the concrete block from the sidewalk and took down the nearby monument, moving them to their ‘‘capital’’ in Pale where they could be better appreciated. The Bosnian Muslims, having themselves had their fill of Serb assassins, closed the nearby city museum celebrating the killings and restored the original name to the bridge. An off-colored marble block in the wall covers the spot where once stood Princip's memorial.

I myself have stood there, where I tried to visualize Princip to have done, not to imagine killing, but trying to imagine the kind of nationalist madness that could, and did, drive Europe to cultural suicide. For it is clear to me now that the killing of the Archduke marked the bloody true start of a 20th Century which—it is now clear—hasn’t entirely ended yet.

* * * * *

We spent the evening together at Butmir, a multinational military base just outside the city and the true capital of Bosnia, where the High Representative maintains his offices and the Stabilization Force – SFOR – has a headquarters. A bizarre rainbow uniforms can be seen as all of Europe’s militaries form its denizens—the gates are guarded by Bulgarian(!) military police, the base is administered by French foreign legionnaires, the Russians and NATO all have representatives, but the commander is, withal, an American. The rooms are very nice (the first place that gets rebuilt in any occupation is the rooms occupied by the occupiers) and the food, while not spectacular, is acceptable in a Euro-breakfast kind of way. But it’s still a military base. The only thing that makes Butmir a delight is that it is the only place in Bosnia where American troops can wear civilian clothes and drink beer.

We sat around and got a chance to know one another in a way we could never do on Eagle Base. Here I chatted with a thirty-five year old Massachusetts state legislator (and the only member of "Democrats for Bush 2000" in Massachusetts!) who was here for six months’ active duty. Here too was a hard but still attractive female sergeant major, twice divorced and not quite sanguine about any chance at a third, blowing smoke from her three-pack-a-day habit. Here were our two Chaplains (both Protestants) and a half dozen grizzled and ancient warrant officer helicopter pilots who, after their third beer, started recounting Viet Nam war stories that held nobody rapt.

I sat back and drank beer and thought. I was finding it interesting how the trip was laid out. Leave at 8:00 on Monday, beer and visits to Sarajevo, overnight at Butmir, leave early the next morning, arrive 10:00 AM, an hour for Mass, an hour for a walk up Apparition Hill, an hour to shop at the tacky tchochkes shops and eat—then leave.

Just leave.

That was it. Some 48 hours away from base for a three hour visit to Mejd, on a Tuesday in the winter. That would be it. No more.

The Chaplain’s Assistant who organized the trip was a university administrator and mother of two college students. I looked at her over my beer as she sat down next. "S0. What did you think of Medjugore?" I asked her. "Is this really worth the trip?"

"Oh, I guess. The people on the trip seem to be enjoying it."

"But do you think the Virgin Mary is actually present here? Actually visiting?"

"Heck if I know. Anyway, I’m Protestant."

Then it struck me. The two chaplains accompanying us were also Protestants and far more interested in our behaving ourselves than in our spiritual enlightenment. The only Catholic priest at Eagle Base, who told me privately that he thinks the whole thing is bogus, was very visible in his absence. And the whole affair had far more of an air of a vacation tour trip than it did a religious pilgrimage. No prayers were said at any point of the trip, even the next morning, when we gathered to leave. We just boarded up the bus and left.

Definitely not a USDA approved pilgrimage.

* * * * *

The drive was pretty but rather harrowing—there is only one main 'highway' down the center of the country, from Sarajevo to the sea, a two-lane asphalt ribbon that parallels the Netrevna River’s long slow walk to the Mediterranean. The road’s fully repaired now and the tunnels restored; you can drive a hundred klicks an hour, if you dare. The main danger is people attempting to pass blind curves, the #1 form of early demise now that the war is over. My theory is that Bosnians must rely on the Force as their guide—but judging from the death tolls on the local roads, my guess is that their midichlorian count isn't quite high enough for the conditions.

Or maybe being a war survivor makes you, shall we say, disregard the threats of peacetime.

As we pulled into Mostar, I saw a sight that chilled my blood. Mostar, thirty miles north of Medjugore, is the only city in Bosnia where the fighting was truly three-sided: Serbs, Croats and Bosniacs all contested control of the city for three and a half years. The Serbs claimed it as they claimed the Netrevna River, which passes down its center, as their border. The Croats coveted it because they claimed it as the capitol of their bogus republic, "Herceg-Bosna." And the Bosniacs wanted it because, well, just on general principle.

Mostar—the city name comes from the word ‘‘Most,’’ or Bridge—is most famous for the sixteenth century Turkish-built bridge over the river in its heart. The light, airy structure, a straight arch without supports, was the largest of its type until the twentieth century. It was built in 1555 on orders of a Bosnian Muslim who had become Vizier of the Ottoman Empire—a gift to his home town. A beautifully designed triumph of stone engineering, this great leap forward in bridge technology was one of the seven wonders of the medieval world; and it was nearly indestructible, having survived 350 years of warfare unscathed.

Until, of course, 1993, when Croat vandals shelled it into the river because it was built by Turks. Or to blame it on the Serbs. Unless the Serbs really did it. Who knows?

What appalled me more than anything else about Mostar were neither the devastated bridge, now being reconstructed, nor the huge number of blowed up buildings, of which I have seen already too many. What appalled me was a huge Catholic cross at the top of the highest mountain overlooking the city, built after the war as a deliberate screw-you to the Serbs and Bosniacs: a brightly lit sign that "This is a Catholic Croat city, and there is no place in it for anyone else." I’m here to tell you, I’d blow it up in an instant if I could. That cross is not a symbol of Christ; it is a symbol of hate: a We Don't Like Your Kind sign as clear as neon.

* * * * *

The city has somewhat recovered, but the outer villages remain devastated. The devastation became more widespread the more we approached the Medjugore turnoff.

We curved up the side of the mountain toward the village at the Medjugore exit. The village—which literally means ‘‘between the mountains’’—was over this high rocky wall and about five minutes past the local county seat, Citluk (pronounced ‘‘Cheetluuk’’), just at the foot of the mountain’s opposite side.

And as we came to Medjugore, all of the sudden, I noticed something strange.



No destroyed buildings.

Nothing. No gaping roofs, no devastated houses, no wrecked factories, no shellholes, no landmines. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Sing it again.

There was no war damage to be found in Medjugore.

None.

It took me a good ten minutes for it to register. It wasn’t as if the buildings had been totally repaired since the end of the war. This is what all of Bosnia used to look like, once upon a time, a long time ago.

Do you know how alien a sight that is in Bosnia? I’ve seen open graves and devastated villages, wrecked houses and human skeletons, bullet holes and shell holes and mortar holes and shrapnel holes. Even in Tuzla, which survived the war untouched except for artillery fire, you can still see spalling on buildings from incoming 122 mm ‘‘top gun’’ rounds. I’d become so used to human devastation that it was an alien sight to see ...

.... normality.

And here Our Lady of Supposedly Medjugore had been visiting for twenty years.

And what was her message? What is her message?

Peace.

* * * * *




Look, I know all about the scandals and the nonsense and the horse hockey associated with the so-called apparitions. I know about the fact that the HDZ (the nationalist-socialist Croatian National Union) party leaders all control the hotels, gas stations, food outlets, restaurants, and kitschy touristy souvenir shops in Medjugore. I know that the Hercegovocka Banka, founded by Medjugore businessmen, was the worst bank in Bosnia until SFOR closed it at gunpoint last year.

I know that Catholic commentator Michael Jones had his life threatened by Croat organized criminals when he questioned the veracity of the visions. I know that the previous year’s attempt to break the Croat territories out of Bosnia—an attempt at revolution that cost me a lot of sleep—was entirely financed by Medjugore tourist profits.

I also know that the Croat nationalist HVO militia guarded Medjugore like the apple of its eye, and the reason the village was never attacked in the war was that the Croat paramilitaries fought like the devil to keep the Serbs and Muslims from devastating the place——which they would have dearly loved to do.

But.

You have no idea how much of an oasis Medjugore is until you’ve seen blowed up buildings ad infinitum, ad nauseam for two years and find the one spot in the country where the war didn’t reach. That sight alone was water to the parched.

* * * * *

We pulled into the parking lot of St. James’ Church about 10:15, and piled out into the Church for the English mass, which was already just underway.

Three Irish priests read the liturgy; we arrived just before the start of the Gospel reading, which meant we could still receive communion.

I wish I could remember what the sermon was about, but frankly, I was so overwhelmed by the whole am-I-really-here of it all that it didn’t register. I did note however, that the celebrant ad libbed a bit at the end of his talk, greeting us "peacekeepers" from America and noting that our mission and Our Lady’’s was the really the same. If true, I hope that Our Lady's bureaucracy in Heaven is better organized and more efficient than the U.S. Army.

St. James Church is remarkably large for such a relatively small village; it was built and dedicated in 1969 to replace the previous structure, which was damaged by settling of the foundation. It was entirely ordinary, and remarkably Amchurch in its design and structure. The Mass, however, was lovely, and used the Irish English language translation rather than the Novus Ordo used in the US. (The hymns, unfortunately, were right out of the Oregon Catholic Mess hymnbook, but for this occasion I sang them anyway.)

After the end of Mass, we stepped outside and met our tour guide, a young local woman who we hired to give us the barest introduction of what happened: six children seeing the Virgin on the hill called Pobrdo, now called Apparition Hill, the first time on 24 June 1981. (Serbo-Croatians are remarkably Hobbitlike in their simplicity regarding place names; ‘‘pobrdo’’ just means ‘‘the foothill’’).

The famous story that the children saw the Virgin and told their parents—who threw shoes at them for being crazy. The next day, 25 June, the children went back to Pobrdo to get a second look. This time, Our Lady spoke with them, in the presence of several score witnesses (though only the children could see her, of course.) That day, 25 June, is now noted as the first day of the apparitions, since she spoke on that occasion.

Fast forward to the next day: the children, fleeing Communist secret police, fled to the Church, where they were protected for a few hours by the legendary Father Jozo, who was arrested and spent 18 months behind bars for barring police entry to the Church. There, on that occasion (only) did Our Lady appear to them in the church—in the sacristy, now called the Apparition Room. (On the orders of the local bishop, who was completely hostile to the apparitions, the children were barred from holding any more meetings with the Virgin in the church. And so they have, at least at the Parish of St. James.)

And so the story was telescoped. All but one of the ‘‘children’’—today they’re aged 38 to 40—scattered around the world during the war. Two of the boys attempted to become priests but left. (In previous days that was a source of shame, but given the rotten state of the Church in our era....who knows?) All have now married; three live in Medjugore (though one is married to a former Miss America and lives in Boston in the summer). Interest in the apparitions have waned and the events themselves have become almost mundane, just a bizarre near-footnote to the almost Zappaesque monstrosity that is the history of Bosnia since 1981.

Three of the six visionaries receive daily visitations, though only one has a ‘‘message’’ to tell the world, which is broadcast from Italy once a month. Three of the six have received all ten of the famous ‘‘ten secrets’’ and are no longer receiving the visions. The other three, two in Mejdugore and one in Italy, still receive daily visitations and have received nine ‘‘secrets.’’ When the last one receives the tenth ‘‘secret’’, the visitations will be over.

Or so they say.

* * * * *

By any rational account Medjugore is – there is no other word for it – nonsense. It is the end result of either a drawn out lie, mass delusion, or a Satanic manifestation, piled upon by the desperate desire of Catholics around the world to have some proof, some tiny sign, that the nullity they call God has not abandoned them to be eaten by a meaningless history. Catholics, that superstitious lot, want to believe that they won’t evaporate at death, and they’ll put their faith in anything, whether Polish pope, pedophile priest, or Eucharistic magic cookies, to convince themselves that they haven’t been fooled by a bureaucratic money vacuum that sells wolf tickets to a nonexistent Heaven.

To paraphrase Gandalf’’s words of counsel to the Forces of the West, ‘‘That would be the prudent thing" to so believe. Or not believe.

But: ‘‘I do not council prudence.’’

I have not seen anything but twenty year old pictures of the visionaries. I have not even read anything but one book about Medjugore since coming to Bosnia, so I’m not an apparitionist by any means, and haven't the slightest idea if they’’re receiving visions of God or not.

But I have climbed Apparition Hill. That is enough for me. For now.

* * * * *

The path to the base of the hill starts at a garbage heap (where tourist buses dump their loads, passengers and trash alike) and extends perhaps fifty yards, infested by gift shops that sell simple wooden rosaries at a euro a pop (though they’ll accept your dollars, thank you very much). I bought one rosary and walked to the base.

I mentioned the stones of Herzegovina. As we stood at the foot of Pobrdo, which is perhaps a mile from St. James' Church, I looked up this steep, nasty near-mountain, which goes up about a kilometer from the valley floor.

Twenty million pilgrims have not worn the path up the hill in the least.

Oh, there is no vegetation on the path, and the snakes that once infested the area have fled rather than be crushed under the heels of the pilgrims. But the rocks and stones themselves are unworn. Perhaps a century of pilgrimage may change this. But for now, the long, slow walk up the hill is an exhausting, dangerous enterprise. As I was the only civilian in our party, I was also the only one not wearing combat boots——which I regretted the first time I slipped off and twisted an ankle into an unnatural angle.

The path up the side of the mountain, the higher I went, was a perfect model for the pilgrimage to God while alive on Earth. It is not a walk in the garden; it's a nasty struggle, with every step a potential stumble and fall. Each fall, when it comes, has consequences of pain, and possibly permanent injury, possibly even death.

As we climbed ever higher, the Village came more and more into view, the Church of St. James to the center, a gleaming jewel on the flat plane that is the village land; off and high to the left, Kricivac, Cross Mountain, where the villagers built a high cross in 1933 to in celebration of 1900 years of Christianity.

And still the climb continued. The struggle up the mountain is punctuated by brief stops for prayer, one of the decades of the rosary, the first five being the Joyful Mysteries: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, and The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Hail Mary, Full of Grace. Our Father. Glory Be.

And onward.




Each of the stations are marked by exquisitely beautiful original sculptures from Italy, of incredible intricacy and obviously made by a loving believer. Fredrick Hart would have been proud. These stations were the only things of beauty to be seen on this remarkably harsh and ugly mountainside.

The rocks seemed to get sharper the higher we climbed. I have never seen anything like them: they gleamed in the midday sun, sharp as dragon’’s teeth. They reminded me of the anti-tank obstacles we used to discourage unfriendly visitors at Eagle Base.

I began to consider the stones themselves. Why put a shrine in the middle of dragon's teeth? Surely there is some meaning to this.

Stones: What are they? Why are they symbolic of faith and spiritual growth? How can these things be a sign of God?

Stones: so easy to hand that every house in Medjugore, indeed almost all houses in Hercegovina, are built from the rocks of the ground rather than from brick and mortar.

Stones. The anthropologists tell us that they were our first tools, chipped into sharp edges to kill animals and cut meat: the first tools and the first weapons.

Stones chipped and sparked make fire, the gift of Prometheus.

Stones cut and polished were the first valuables. Diamonds and sapphires and beryl and onyx and jade: baubles that we use to attract mates much as penguins do even today.

Stones hold ore, and are used to make metal, the skeleton of civilization.

The sword in the stone: mythic symbol of the power that is given only to the worthy but once given to the righteous can bring peace and prosperity to the land.

The stone of Abraham, on which he almost sacrificed Issac. Or was it Ishmael? (The Muslims and Jews have been arguing about that one for 1500 years.)

The great hewn stones that made the Pyramids, the tombs of the Pharaohs.

Ebenezer, the Stone of Help, set by Samuel in thanksgiving. 1 Samuel 7:12 says, ''Samuel took a stone and named it Ebenezer, saying ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’

The stones of the Rocky Soil of the parable, where the Seed fails to take root.

The Great Stone before the grave of Christ, thrown aside as by an army to reveal His Resurrection.

Ka’aba, the Heavenly Stone, the meteorite revered by Muslims worldwide as a sign of God from the heavens.

The Stone of Scone, upon which the true Kings of the Land of the Scots are always crowned.

The Garden of Stone, Arlington national cemetery, where heroes lie in hope and reverence.

And of course: a pile of bloodied stone at Ground Zero, and the fortress of stone called Pentagon.

I tried to understand. Obviously the stones were important, indeed crucial, to the Medjugore experience. But what was the pattern? It didn’t fit yet.

We came to The Place of the Apparition. No improvements up here, save one: a marble statue of Our Lady of Peace, marked with the date: 25 June 1981. She stands on a pedestal in the shape of a Star of David. She stands on a carved stone cloud: for it is said in all her apparitions her feet never quite touch the earth.

Given the rocks here, that makes perfect sense--for it is indeed Our Lady, then she has long since completed her earthly pilgrimage; why would she need to cut her feet anew?

I stood before her and prayed, prayed to her my private and most important intentions, and begged for what I need the most: to be reunited with my wife and sons*, whom I had not seen since 9/11.

And I considered the perfection of it: a view of Our Lady of Peace, looking down over the only village in Bosnia that I’’ve ever seen that has known unbroken peace through the last ten years of torment and blood.

Exquisite.

Behind the statute of Our Lady were a number of polished stone memorials: most, if not all, in Croatian, thanking Our Lady for this or for that gift granted.

But even among them——some were broken and shattered, having fallen over in some windstorm or other, breaking on the rocks below. Even these permanent memorials could not be permanent here. Sic transit gloria mundi.

I stood back and thought: Of course. Of course. Now I saw it.

The stones here were no coincidence. The people of the village have had twenty years to improve this path, much as they have improved the town and improved the church through the profits of the visitors. Yet, aside from the carved stone Mysteries——nothing. No change. It is every bit as dangerous and forbidding a climb as ever it has been. And even the polished stones we leave as memorials are riven by the stones of the mountain when the winds blow.

To reach to God is to climb a stony mountain, on which you can stumble and fall and be hurt, even permanently. We must eternally climb, with no rest in this world, and pray only for perseverance.

And yet, on the way, Our Lady, a sign and symbol of God’s mercy, the Mother of God, Theotokos—awaits to comfort us in our exile and our empty loneliness, until the journey is complete.

Whether the apparitions are real or not is of little import to me now. But the pilgrimage we finished was perfect sign and symbol for life itself on the vale of tears called Earth.

Presently, I turned away and returned to the village below.



* * * * *

As I climbed down, however—stepping carefully, for the descent was every inch as dangerous as the ascent—I admitted to myself a small bit of disappointment. For one part of the Medjugore experience had eluded me.

It is my strange gift that I can always tell the presence of the truly divine in my life through some small validating sign: something that makes it clear to me that what I have just experienced is of divine origin. Such a sign is almost always subtle, but very clear when it happens: it is almost always some bizarre coincidence. Something that makes no sense as anything but a radical violation of the laws of probability. In other words, synchronicity and serendipity: for in my experience there IS no such thing as luck. Weird things happen to me on occasions like this.

I expected something. Anything. An unexpected friend. A surprise gift. A small sign that I was doing that I was supposed to be doing.

But here, nothing. It was just as if I had visited a nice little village, climbed a mountain, saw a statue, climbed down, spent far too much money on souvenirs and rosaries, and ... that was it.

I tried to ignore the lack of synchronistic validation, but I will admit I was disappointed. There was nothing to speak of, nothing.

Maybe the absence of a validating sign is a sign that I’m fooling myself, I thought. Maybe there is nothing here but a well-guarded village with a lot of tourists. Oh well. The Church has committed worse frauds than this, if that is all that it is.

We didn’t even get a final external validating sign. Here we were, loaded down with hundreds of dollars worth of rosaries and statuary, and we couldn’’t even find a priest to bless the items before we left the town. So I have hundreds of Medjugore rosaries, still unblessed. Oh well.

* * * * *

Three days after we returned from the trip, I was having dinner with a friend -- that officer from Massachusetts who had once been a state legislator. He had been very quiet and uncommunicative through the six hour drive home from the village. I did not press him on the issue, but it seemed to me he was somewhat disturbed by the visit.

But today he was a bit more personable, he invited me to join him and we ate together in the chow hall.

"So what did you think of Mejd?" I asked him as I dug into my badly overcooked chili.

He looked evasive, then shook his head.

"I’m a really bad Catholic," he said.

"What do you mean by that?" I said, trying to ignore the fact that he hadn’’t answered my question.

"Look, you know what was said to Thomas the Twin? That’’s me. I’ve seen, and I’ve believed. I’ve known all my whole life that Christianity is the truth, and I’ve wasted my life as a lousy Catholic."

"Hooookaaay. . . " I said, trying to draw him out.

"When I was six years old, I was dying of a blood infection. I had a 105 degree fever. The doctors told my parents I wasn’’t going to make it, that there was nothing they could do. So my parents called in a famous healing priest. (He named the priest, but I had since forgotten his name.) Father came to me to give me last rites. Have you ever heard of him?"

"No."

"He’s very well known in Massachusetts. He set his hand on my head, and the next day, the fever was gone. He saved my life. I’ve known my whole life that Christianity is the truth, because he saved my life."

"Okay." I was trying to see his point.

"Do you remember when I got off the bus to go to the rectory? I tried to track down the priest, but there wasn’t one, so we just left, right?"

"Yeah. So what?"

"Do you know who the secretary is in that rectory?"

"Who?"

"His personal secretary. No jive. I recognized her at once."

I smiled.

"It doesn’’t surprise me in the least," I replied.

-30-

Thursday, October 21, 2010

De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

So I won't.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes, Santa, There Is A Virginia (Thomas)

They're reporting that Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (of whom I am an unabashed fan) left a voicemail message on Anita Hill's cel phone asking her to apologize for what she, Anita, did to Justice Thomas during the Thomas confirmation hearings.

Bad move, Virginia.

Look, I'd be chewing nails over the events 20 years ago too if I were you. I can't blame you for being still angry. She slimed your husband and you are right to be ticked.

But leaving a voice mail message? On something so consequential?

No. class.

A letter in an official letterhead envelope, letter handwritten and personally addressed, is what might have been called for.

But a voice mail?

You are an extremely sophisticated political operative, madam; you can do much better than that.

Please, don't embarass us like that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Will Obama's failure to learn earn him impeachment?

Byron York, at the Washington Examiner, posits that Obama will, like certain unnamed individuals in bunkers in April 1945, blame everybody but himself for the coming defeat if the Democrats, as expected, are crushed in November. He points to certain signs that show that Obama appears to be incapable of the introspection and triangulation that Clinton achieved after the '94 elections, and thus will mindlessly stay the course to the end. Money grafs:
....in the wake of a Republican victory in November you can virtually guarantee the White House will not concede that the president hurt himself by pushing an unpopular national health care program through Congress; by pushing nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus spending that failed to reduce unemployment as predicted; by pushing a costly cap-and-trade agenda; or by advocating any number of other initiatives that flew in the face of voter sentiments.

In a recent campaign ad, Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck says the public tried to tell White House and Democratic leaders not to go ahead with those unwelcome measures. "They heard us, and yet they ignored us," Buck says, adding: "And folks, on Nov. 2 they will ignore us no more."

Republicans no doubt hope Buck is right. But so far Obama is sending signals that even if he loses big in November, he'll make excuses, point fingers, and try to keep going just as before.
This is a terrifying proposition. Supposing the GOP takes the House and the Senate by a crushing victory (by 'crushing' I mean 70 House seats or more). That is a clear and unequivocal signal that the Democratic Partys' policies have been utterly repudiated by the people of the United States.

If Obama insists on staying the course into the rocks, there may be only one thing that the legislative branch can do to dissuade Obama from going this route: impeachment.

Again. Damned impeachment.

I'm not making this up. I have friends, GOPers, on the hill in Washington who I hear are whispering this to one another while they wait for the elections to happen.

But if they are indeed contemplating it, it is a bad idea.

I sat through the last one on Capitol Hill back in '98 and '99. It was ugly, it was nasty, and it accomplished almost nothing but tying Billyboy's hands and other bodily parts for the duration of the crisis.

Furthermore, what Clinton did--lie under oath, commit perjury--was without question a high crime and misdemeanor. Obama, as far as I know, has done nothing to deserve it. Yet. (I am NOT a 'birther'; I believe he was born in Hawaii as posited.)

A second possibility is that we may play chicken with Obama like we did with Clinton, sending him a health-care repeal bill tied in with the Budget next spring: basically forcing him to sign if the Federal Government is going to get funding. Alternative: government shutdown. And that didn't go so well the last time, either, if I recall (tho it DID result in Monica delivering pizza on one key January afternoon).

Plan B is dangerous but Plan A would be a train wreck. Remember, guys, and I'm addressing our GOP friends in power, we are not a parliamentary democracy. Obama gets four years, not four years at the sufferance of the Legislature. We're stuck with him until January 20, 2013, like it or not--unless the American people, risen Christ forbid, reelect him.

So if the GOP is going to try such a thing, they bloody well had better have a good reason to do so, or we'll destroy ourselves a second time.

ADDENDUM

A letter from another political operative friend of mine points out that removing Obama would only make Joe Biden President instead, kinda like giving the Presidency to Spiro Agnew.

This is a good point; however, Biden is not nearly as intellectually challenged as he sounds (if he were, he'd be riding the short bus), and would no doubt read the writing on the wall and act accordingly if, er, promoted.

ADDENDUM II 23 October 2010

Apparently both the Republican Party and the House Republicans were so frightened by the implications of the above post that they decided to come out and publicly deny that there will be an impeachment process initiated if the Pubbies win the day in early November.

Well, I'm pleased to see I have so much influence. :0)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quid? Me anxius sum?

This has more than 3,000 appearances in Google; therefore, I can't say who the author was.....

~~~~~~ Handy Latin Phrases ~~~~~~
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.

Non calor sed umor est qui nobis incommodat.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

Estne volumen in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?
Is that a scroll in your toga, or are you just happy to see me?

Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum.
Garbage in, garbage out.

Si fractum non sit, noli id reficere.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Credo nos in fluctu eodem esse.
I think we're on the same wavelength.

Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.
The designated hitter rule has got to go.

Vescere bracis meis.
Eat my shorts.

Veni Vedi Velcro
I came. I saw. I stuck around.

Veni Vedi Visa
I came, I saw, I bought it!

Veni Vedi Flatui
I came, I saw, I broke wind.

Veni, Vedi, Vixen
I came, I saw, Hey baby.

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare.
I think some people in togas are plotting against me.

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem.
In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags.

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.
If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar.

Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione.
I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult.

Mundus Vult Decipi
The World Wants to Be Decieved.

Feles mala! Cur cista non uteris? Stramentum novum in ea posui.
Bad kitty! Why don't you use the cat box? I put new litter in it.

Sic friatur crustulum
Thus, the cookie crumbles.

Neutiquam erro.
I am not lost.

Cur non isti mictum ex occasione?
Why didn't you go when you had the chance?

Braccae tuae aperiuntur.
Your fly is open.

Quid? Me anxius sum?
What? Me worry?

Hocine bibo aut in eum digitos insero?
Do I drink this or stick my fingers in it?

In vino, veritas.
Have another drink, senator.

De gustibus non est disputandum.
You mean you actually like chitlins?

Si hoc legere scis numium eruditionis habes.
If you can read this, you are overeducated.

Aut discere aut disce.
Either learn or leave.

Cogito, ergo doleo.
I think, therefore I am depressed.

Opinio Sine Erudito
Opinion Without Knowledge

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Obesa cantavit.
The fat lady has sung.

Mr. President: You Are Not Luke Skywalker....

....and if you were, you'd be working at Detroit's 3rd Circuit Court.

(A word of explanation: there is an official at what they used to call Detroit Recorder's Court (not a judge) who famously changed his otherwise very ordinary name to Luke Skywalker about 20 years ago.....)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How The Brits Handle The Terrorism Issue

SIR – “It’s a wake-up call”. That’s what politicians say after every terrorist outrage. So who are these security experts who need to be woken up on a regular basis? Are they all teenagers who can’t bear to get out of bed before three in the afternoon?

Jim Dawes
Maidstone, Kent

SIR – There is a brilliant and simple solution to the controversy over racial profiling at airports. All passengers will be required to step into a booth that scans for explosive devices and automatically detonates any device found. Harmless individuals will be released immediately after being scanned. Muffled explosions, contained within the booth, will be followed by an announcement that a seat has become available for standby passengers.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset

From Unpublished Letters to the Editor [of the Daily Telegraph].....

The Truth About Snooki



(In her case this is probably VERY true.)

ADDENDUM:

I'm going to steal someone else's joke and say that one should never judge a woman from the color of her skin; however, as regards Snooki, I'm going to make an exception.....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Truth in Advertising

“We protested when the government ran up trillions of dollars of debt. We sent e-mails when they nationalized health care. We asked them to get off the backs of small business so we could create jobs. We pleaded with our government to secure our border. And you know what? They heard us, and yet they ignored us. And folks, on Nov. 2, they will ignore us no more.”

- Ad for Congressional Candidate Ken Buck of Ohio, via National Review

Amen! Amen! And AMEN!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Understanding Your Engineer*



In Case You Were Wondering.... How To Understand Your Engineer.

I should note that the equivalent three rings for lawyers--"Anal-Retention", "Arrogance" and "Rapaciousness"--is harder to read because the circles all almost perfectly coincide. Remember, there are no funny lawyers; there are only funny people who make hideous career errors......

(*I'm kind of an engineer by proxy. I told my brothers there was no way in hell I'd ever be an engineer. So I went to college and became a translator. For an engineering firm.....)

Salute: jp

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Life is Aisha"



One remembers the 1970s song that Stevie Wonder wrote in honor of his newborn daughter Aisha... "Isn't She Lovely?"

While the beautiful girl in this picture, whose name is Bibi Aisha, is not newly born--she has surely suffered too horribly for this to be said--she is unquestionably every bit as lovely as even Mr. Wonder's newborn daughter.

She was revealed to the public yesterday in a press conference in Los Angeles where the doctors who repaired her returned her to the world.

I will not show the pictures of what the unbelievably evil backwoods, ignorant Afghani barbarian--her husband--did to her. That picture is well known and I cannot bear to see it again.

But this picture of this incredible girl, equipped, for now, with a prosthetic nose, shows both the beauty she was and the beauty she still is.

Through the sacrifice of the relatives who protected her, the soldiers that rescued her and the doctors who restored her, the lyrics of this song take on a whole new meaning.

Isn't she pretty
Truly the angel's best
Boy, I'm so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
through us he's given life to one
But isn't she lovely made from love?


Isn't she just.

God love her and may the full measure of His justice befall those who did her harm.

They're Gonna Euthanize Mama Bear.....

The Free Press reports that a Mama Bear who munched (without killing) a hunter this weekend will probably be euthanized.

Now that's just damn wrong.

Now I'd have no problem with it if she attacked, without provocation, a child, or picnickers, or something.

But a hunter with a gun? Fair's fair.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Ronald Reagan Saved The World, 10/12/1986

I remember Rejkevik like it was yesterday. I was in Monterey, California, studying Russian in the intermediate program.... preparing, as I thought at the time, for the start of WWIII.

A war which never came.

Thank God and Ronaldus Magnus.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Colubus Day

Sunday, October 10, 2010

God knows I do.


U of C Prof: Global Warming Is BS And I Want No Part Of It

Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Here is his letter of resignation to Curtis G. Callan Jr, Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society, quoted verbatim and in whole.


Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Hal

Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)