December 03, 2008


A couple of hours ago I was listen to National Public Radio for the first time in years. I was doing some tedious work and decided to put on the radio. NPR was on the clearest station that I could receive that wasn't playing music that I hated.

Anyway, Daniel Schorr, senior NPR commentator and CBS News veteran, read a brief piece called Viewing Bush Interview Through 'Frost/Nixon' Lens. (The link contains the text as well as a link to an audio file of the radio piece. They don't match exactly, but no matter.)

Schorr begins:

I have recently had occasion to see both the play and the movie about the famous David Frost interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon in 1977. I was struck all over again by the way that Nixon, having insisted that what a president does cannot be illegal, finally broke down in a misty-eyed mea culpa.

Schorr, right off the bat, repeats an all-too-often repeated mischaracterization of Nixon's statement to David Frost. Nixon, no doubt refering to the War And Emergency Powers Act of 1933, asserted the long-standing and equally long-controversial authority given the president in an emergency. (Here is some chatter about it.)

Unlike the dishonest dramatic treatment given to the exchange in the Ron Howard film Frost/Nixon, Nixon did not say that anything "a president does cannot be illegal". He was speaking about agitators of civil unrest and, specifically, about the protection that law enforcement agents would have from criminal prosecution were they to act on the president's authority.

Here is the actual exchange, beginning at 1:04. Note that Nixon begins his answer with "But..." and stops, and then attempts to school Frost on executive powers (Frost's intro and framing of the exchange not withstanding):

NIXON: An action's either going to be covert or not.

FROST: So, what, in a sense, you're saying is that there are certain situations...where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation, or something, and do something illegal.

NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

FROST: By definition?

NIXON: Exactly. Exactly. If, for example, the president approves something, approves an action, because of the national security or, in this case, because of a threat to internal peace and order of a significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating the law. Otherwise, they're in an impossible position.

While Nixon simply reiterated established precedent, the play and the film (and many commentators over the past three decades) would have us believe just as Frost seems to have believed at the time: That he made a matter-of-fact statement the he, himself, merely "by definition" of being the president, was above the law. An appalling assertion, for sure, had he actually asserted such a thing.

It's not unusual for some ill-informed armchair historians to take as canonical the widely held misinterpretation. But Daniel Schorr is old enough to have lived to through the Nixon years and watched the Nixon-Frost interviews as they first aired. Perhaps time and prejudice have colored his memory of the events. Perhaps he didn't feel it neccessary to check the actual historic record against the Hollywood representation of that history before committing his own musings to record. No matter.
Schorr goes on to quote Frank Langella's version of Nixon:

"I have impeached myself," he said. "I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let the American people down. And I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life."

I hope that's not a faithful rendering of the script because that'd mean they left out the best part, in my opinion, of Nixon's actual statement, which was: "I let down all the young people who ought to get into public life but who think it's all too corrupt."
Again, no matter. Schorr continues:

As I listened to Nixon on film, I thought of President Bush.

Yeah, I could see that one coming up the interstate, too.

While still in office, he is having to respond to questions of critics — but not only critics — as to whether he let the American people down, primarily by launching an invasion of Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Interviewed by Charles Gibson of ABC, the president said his greatest regret was "the intelligence failure" that led to the war. As to whether he would have gone to war if intelligence had been right, Bush said, "That's a do-over that I can't do."

Makes sense to me. Gibson asks a hypothetical question and Bush refuses to speculate. But Schorr, for some reason, calls Bush's unwillingness an "inability":

But Bush's expressed inability to look back avoids the issue. It is now generally accepted that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush, urged on by Vice President Dick Cheney, was determined to find a target for American anger.

Yes, it's "generally accepted" among Daniel Schorr's crowd that the invasion of Iraq was done out of a determination to kick some butt. Anybody's butt. Of no matter, of course, were Saddam Hussein's past use of WMD and his threats of terrorism against the United States to ambassador April Glaspie. History doesn't matter, it seems, either in political commentary or filmmaking. It is sad when what is the truth to a journalist is what is "generally accepted" rather than what is actually true.

And, speaking of what is and isn't true, get this:

The decision was made to go to war to topple Saddam Hussein. In the words of a British government memorandum, the intelligence and facts were "fixed" to support that decision. Efforts were also made to establish some link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorists. Unsuccessful, but no matter.

Yes, friends, Daniel Schorr did indeed just invoke the "Downing Street Memo" and its long-debunked interpretation of the meaning of the words: "the intellegence and facts are being fixed around the policy". Schorr, like so many others, prefers not to read the meaning of "fixed" as the equivelant of the strategic "made firm", "secured" or "set in place", but, rather, the slang meaning "made to happen through subterfuge".
That this one word -- given that interpretation -- would be the single instance of American slang being used in the British memo and, thus, out of character with the rest of the document, seems to have escaped Mr. Schorr. But no matter. He concludes:

As he prepares to leave office, Bush might want to look at the Nixon interview and consider doing a do-over — reconsidering the wisdom of invading Iraq.

Oh, right. Nixon and the false premise that he said that the president was The Law and, somehow, that's supposed to remind us of Bush who, apparently, should "consider doing a do-over".

But, Daniel, do-overs are possible only in Hollywood.

UPDATE: Compare and contrast. Here's Dick Cheney with Chris Wallace on December 21st, 2008:

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September 11, 2006

A Hero's Hero

My Project 2996 task was to honor Amy Lamonsoff, which I did in the post below. I'd like, however, to also honor Captain Vincent Brunton. There are two reasons why. 1) the blogger who was assigned Capt. Brunton has not posted a tribute (yet) and, 2) I want to post a song lyric.


UPDATE: Timbrely has posted his/her tribute and it's a short but good one. Here's the operative paragraph:

In reading the words written about, for and to Captain Vincent Brunton through the World Wide Web, one can paint a mental picture of this man. Certain words come up again and again as people remember the 43 year old firefighter who gave his life to save others on September 11, 2001. Brave, Hero, Gentleman, Determined, Loyal, Friend. These are not words written simply because he is gone from our midst. These are the qualities people noticed about him when they met him. It is quite apparent that Vincent had a deep impact on people even before he made his ultimate sacrifice at the World Trade Center. The people who knew him, were touched by his spirit while he was amongst us, and have chosen to spread his spark in his memory. Everyone who reads about Vinny has an opportunity to grow as a human being, to pass his spirit along in words and action.

You can learn a lot about Vinnie Brunton by googling his name, so I wont go whole hog on constructing a tribute here. I just don't want him to go un-remembered among all the tributes being posted today.

I first heard his name in June while at the annual Fairfield County Irish Festival. The band, the Highland Rovers, were playing an excellent set, as usual, when their lead guitarist and some-time bagpiper, Jeff Conlon, introduced their next song as a tribute to Brunton.

Jeff is not only a guitar player extraordinaire, but a retired New York City police officer. His brother-in-law is a New York City fireman who, on September 11th, 2001, arrived at the station house at 9:00am -- only several minutes after the on-duty crew had left for the World Trade Center. All those who went to the towers perished that morning.

As the Highland Rovers began to play the song, the people who were dancing up a storm during the previous tunes sat down on the dance floor. The pulse of the rhythm and the cry of the mandolin created a solemn atmosphere that seemed both strange and satisfying on that sunny afternoon.

I can't seem to find a way to post a direct link to the song that the Highland Rovers played that afternoon, but you can hear it here. It's track #10; "Hero's Hero". The lyric is in the extended entry.

The men huddled into the kitchen staring at the color TV
8:54 and it's time boys,
We know where we need to be
There's smoke rising out of our city,
smoke that is burning our eyes,
unbelievable visions on TV,
unanswerable question why

So many running around trying to just stay alive
25,000 could do so thanks to Ladder 105
People turn running away, confused, hurt and afraid
but the captain says "we're going in, boys,
may the Lord be with us today"

Captain Vinnie Brunton says "Gentlemen, think on your feet,
take a deep breath and stay by my side,
this morning we're going in deep"

A year has passed like a whisper,
the pain hasn't gone away
and everytime I feel afraid I can still hear my captain say
"Be a man's man and study every mistake that you've made
and learn from every situation, it may save your life one day"

Captain Vinnie Brunton says "Gentlemen, think on your feet,
take a deep breath and stay be my side,
this morning we're going in deep"

With a halogen over his shoulder and Father Judge guiding him through
he passes through the gates of heaven and says,
"we still got work to do"

To Mrs Cathy Brunton,
don't ever feel like you're alone
We will always tell your children
their father is a hero's hero

The captain is gone but will never leave
Every time that we hear the bell call
the legend that is Vinnie Brunton
will remain in the hearts of us all.

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July 11, 2006

And so, he's dead

It was about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis that he first began to secure the alliances and associations that he would need to become a major player on the world stage where crowds would cheer him and his unique talent of putting inspiring words together.

But, just when it seemed like he was on the brink of becoming an international hero, of sorts, madness was clearly claiming his ability to live out his lofty ambitions. All of that smoking was clouding his judgement more and more and he found himself alone; an island of desolation in a sea of rising prosperity.

While he has been largely isolated from the world stage, his influence was felt in the works and accolades of others who found inspiration in his style, words and his ability to survive in the face of great adversity.

So, I'd like to raise a glass and say....

Adios, Syd Barrett.






so you think you tell Heaven from Hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in cage?

How I wish... How I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year
running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fear.

Wish you were here.

--- Roger Waters & David Gilmore, for Syd, 1975

...and the madcap laughs...

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May 16, 2006

Of laws and resolutions

The conduct of the illegal immigrants is a threat to the authority of the United States... The executive branch has answered decades of Congressional legislation with decades of defiance. The federal government now faces a test, and the United States a difficult and defining moment. Are the laws of the United States to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United States' legislative and executive branches serve the purpose of their founding, or will they be irrelevant?

---paraphrase of President Bush's address to the United Nations, 12 Sept 02

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May 14, 2006

What a long strange trip it's been


In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of whom have considered us their enemy for nearly 20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave.
-- Richard Nixon; August 8th, 1974

And it's just a beginning, always...

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May 07, 2006


Eleanor Clift remembers Ronald Reagan having "orange hair". I don't think I'd put too much stock in her recollection of 1980, and how it might bode well for Hillary Clinton.

"I was trying to think, who in my lifetime has been such a dominant frontrunner and yet people had been nervous about his electability - and I came up with Ronald Reagan," Clift told the Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" on Sunday.
The Newsweek scribe noted that Reagan "was the oldest person, at that time, to try to contest for the presidency as a frontrunner."
"He was a grade-B movie actor," she said, failing to mention Reagan's two terms as governor of the nation's largest state. "He had orange hair. And a lot of Republicans worried that he couldn't be elected."
"And look what happened," Clift said, referring to Reagan's two electoral landslides.

Mm hmm.

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May 05, 2006


If all this illegal alien protesting business has you wondering if you really wanna celebrate Cinco de Mayo today, just take a look at Emperor Misha's preferred reason to hoist a few pints.

After a great story about his grandmother and some German soldiers, His Rottiness says:

May 5th, 1945, the end of more than 5 years of Nazi occupation, thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought the brutal bastards until their Nazi asses had been thoroughly stomped into the ground.
Every May 5th I remember that, and every May 5th I send up a prayer and a thank you to all of those who fought and died so that I might grow up free.
I didn’t grow up in a free country thanks to protesters screaming “one, two, three, four, we don’t want your filthy war!”
I didn’t grow up in a free country thanks to poets, playwrights, authors, “bravely dissenting” columnists or “the loyal opposition.”
I grew up in a free country thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of men in uniform, men risking everything they were and ever would be for people they didn’t even know.
THERE’S a debt that I can never possibly repay.

So, if you're so inclined, skip the Corona and have a Tuborg or a Carlsberg instead, and give a toast or two or three to the American, British and Canadian soldiers who fought and freed Denmark from Nazi rule so that, 60 years later, they could publish any and all cartoons that they damn well pleased.

[Note: Thanks to Misha for translating Fifth of May into Danish for me. He also notes that, in Denmark, today is usually refered to as "the liberation" or, in Danish, "befrielsen".]

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April 30, 2006

Reviews aplenty

Allah is collecting bloggers' United 93 reviews here.

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April 29, 2006

United 93

There are spoilers here. If you have no fear of 'em then proceed...

I just got back from seeing United 93. This was the first time I'd set foot inside a movie theater since Men In Black in 1997. It was a 1:20pm matinee and I was one of only eight people in the theater. Aside from what seemed to be a dad and two sons, each of us showed up alone.

I'd read a few comments here and there by people who said that they weren't going to see the film because they had no need to be reminded of the events that it depicts. They say that the people who need to see it are the people who think it's "too soon" to show it. I guess I can understand that as I've never watched the Nick Berg video for the same reason. But, from the time I first read that this movie was coming out, I've wanted to see it.

I've been having a hard time coming up with words that describe my reaction[s] to it. I did some surfing through the blogosphere and, so far, the description that's closest to how I'd describe the film was written by Joshua Minton who, among many excellent points, notes:

The main character in this movie is information--how it flowed, where it stalled, who had it on time, and who had it too late.

The pace is nearly in real time and feels like a documentary. Many of the earlier scenes move slowly, just as they did as they happened. It even takes a few minutes to show us the co-pilot as he gives the required visual inspection of the plane, from the outside, as it is fueling. I never found it dull, even when it spent some time just showing the passengers as they sat around waiting for word that they could begin boarding, though I might if I see it a second time.

I wondered, going in, just what my emotional reactions would be as I watch the events unfold. I was surprised at how emotionally detached I felt most of the time. Perhaps it's because I saw a matinee. I might have had a very different experience if I'd seen a 9:00pm showing.
The scenes at the FAA, NORAD and the various Air Traffic Control centers were populated with professionals who were too busy trying to gather accurate information and make sense of it. Only when the tragedies were before their eyes -- on CNN at FAA and NORAD, and out the window at the New York ATC center -- did we see any vivid emotion from the characters. And those reactions were mostly expressed in silence.

The FAA suddenly looses track of American Airlines Flight 11 "somewhere over Manhatten". They surmise that it may have dropped below their radar as the highjackers were attempting to land at a local airport, but no one can spot it. They then learn that CNN is reporting that a small aircraft has hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. FAA operations manager Ben Sliney (who, among other major characters, plays himself in the film) asks for CNN to be put on the screen. Seeing the amount of smoke billowing up from the tower he protests "That was no small plane. Look at the size of that hole." A short time later he gets confirmation that it was a large commercial airliner that hit the tower. With cool exasperation he says "Well, that's it, then. That's American 11."
But the idea that the crash might have been deliberate hadn't occured to him. "But how could it have hit the tower? It's clear skies and 50!"

There's a scene where the ATC people in New York -- where the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center can be seen in the (relatively short) distance -- are looking for United Flight 175. They tracked it approaching New York City when they lost the signal, and they assumed that it had dropped below their radar. Looking out the window, one guy sees it. "There it is! Just over the Varisano Bridge!". With the north tower burning, they watch as United 175 slams into the south tower. There is no music then that I recall. They watch in silence, processing what they had just witnessed. That solemn moment of silence is the first time that I had a strong emotional reaction: empathy. And it was, I believe, a reaction to what I read on their faces: a transformation from 'does not compute' to 'now I get it'.

Throughout many of the non-93 scenes my response was frustration at how wrong information -- or no information -- kept getting passed along. Long after the FAA had concluded beyond all doubt that American 11 had struck the North Tower, NORAD was getting confirmation from I-forget-where that American 11 was still airbourne and headed for Washington DC. NORAD couldn't get anyone to give them rules of engagement. Jets that had scrambled to intercept it were not only headed the wrong way, they were unarmed. These were uniformed military professionals becoming more and more furious that they were able and ready to respond, but couldn't get a line to the President or Vice-President. In the meantime, the third plane hit the Pentagon.

Even during most of the scenes on board United Flight 93, shot with a hand-held camera, I never felt like I was among them. I was still watching them with a large measure of detachment. At first.

The brilliance of these scenes is that each passenger's character is not developed by having them tell their life stories to each other. They are simply being ordinary. "I just spoke to my wife who said....". I watch an actor named Christian Clemonson, but I meet a man named Thomas Burnett. I don't know anything about Thomas Burnett's life story, but in a very short time, via Clemenson's portrayal, I know who he is.
(Of course, I don't know who the real Thomas Burnett is, but I know who the man on the plane in this movie is.)

The four actors who portrayed the highjackers are, in a word, incredible. They have very few spoken lines, and when they do speak it's subtitled. These four characters are some of the most clearly defined personalities you'll see in a film, and they do it almost entirely without dialogue. Only one of the highjackers -- the "ringleader" -- seems to be able to speak English, and that's only when he says things like "No, thank you, I'm fine," when asked by a flight attendant if he'd like a cup of water.

But I have one quibble. The "ringleader" was portrayed as very nervous; very skittish about their mission. "It's time isn't right yet" he tells his co-sociopaths when they start to be concerned that he's waiting too long to make their move. You definately get the sense that he has very cold feet about doing what they plan to do. Another highjacker decides that it's time to move. The "ringleader" watches as the other three commence the highjacking and, only when the cockpit is cleared of the pilot and co-pilot (who are killed in the process), does he move and take his seat at the controls. This seemed completely unreal to me.

A lot of the action on board is what might have happened. We don't know many details of what actually happened, but most of it seems perfectly reasonable and "life-like". Let's just call it fake but accurate. But, to my mind, the "ringleader" would've become the ringleader because he'd be the strongest of the four. It was only after he was securely in the driver's seat and saw a message display (from memory, probably not verbatim) -- "Be careful of cockpit intrusion. Two planes have hit the World Trade Center" -- that he seems to find inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose. "Our brothers have been successful," he says to his "co-pilot". From then on he seems still somewhat nervous, but his mind is made up.

From this point on the action takes place almost exclusively aboard United Flight 93 and plays out, essentially, in real time. Once it's established that United 93 has been highjacked, we see no more of ATC, FAA or NORAD. From here on out it's the passengers versus the highjackers.

Having learned through cellphone conversations that two planes have hit the World Trade Center, and that there was an "explosion" at the Pentagon, Burnett takes the lead and begins to organize the others. Burnett, Beamer, Glick and the others realize very quickly that they need to either take back the plane or die trying. The two highjackers that aren't in the cockpit are becoming suspicious of what they're up to, but can't do anything to stop them. They are two guys armed with two knives and a fake bomb against a plane-load of pissed off Americans, at least 10 of whom could kick their asses nine ways to Sunday.

Incidentally, their names are never mentioned. There is no "Hi, I'm Jeremy" moment. You have to go here to find out who played who. That's, unexpectedly, very satisfying because, as Josh wrote, "The main character in this movie is information", but not personal information. Watching anonymous men and women responding to events that demand response is what this is about, not what their names are. Names carry baggage. This is about all of us.

It just occurred to me that there were no children aboard that flight.

One older guy was a pilot, but not a commercial airline pilot. He was the one who was gonna be in the hot seat when the others took back the plane. He gave a fair warning that they were travelling awfully low. They weren't 30,000 feet up, mind you, they could see farm houses. Of the ringleader, "If he does something sudden," he warns, "you wont have time to correct it."

One thing that struck me was that there was no to-do made of the words "Let's roll". It was spoken once by a guy who said, in hushed tones, "What are we waiting for? Let's roll." The director wisely chose not to showcase those words. Thank you, Paul Greengrass.

The most satisfying moment was when the passengers launched their offensive. Truely, knowledge went out the window and, for a time, I think I really thought that they could correct history and take back the plane.

The highjackers had been brutal in their take-over. The highjacker who initiated the operation shouted "Allahu Ahkbar!" and promptly stabbed a guy for no reason other than to show the passengers that they were willing to kill at will if they didn't get their way.

The aisle on an airliner is narrow, so the passengers pretty much had to storm the terrorists single file. Beamer went first -- with the others right at his back-- and rushed the guy with the fake bomb, kneeing him in the chest to take him down. The look on the face of that skidmark on the shorts of humanity was priceless. His bluff was called and he knew it. It seemed to take a while, but the bastard was dead.

The second highjacker pounded on the cockpit door to be let in. No go, pal. You're dead with the rest of us, only you'll just have to die sooner and more brutally than us. Too bad.

After a struggle, his neck was broken. Good.

They rammed the locked cockpit door. Tearing a hole through it's center, they managed to eliminate the "co-pilot" and get their hands on the "ringleader". But the ringleader had made up his mind.
This was when music became noticably present. It wasn't anything melodic. It was pretty much just strains of notes and chords that seemed to hold for a while and then blend into the next one. The struggle was for the controls. This was the end. Do or die. Do and die. Right now it was the same thing. Do.

The ringleader shouted "Allahu Ahkbar!.....Allahu Ahkbar!..." as he turned the plane over, under, upside down, and the last minute never shows a man's face. It's all hands and controls, and then a view through the front window. The Pennsylvania farmland getting closer and closer. Closer. Too close. Leaves of grass. Then silence and a black screen.



The credits begin to roll and I wonder what it is that I just felt. I still don't think that I have a handle on it.

It might have to do with the fact that it was a movie. Knowing that many of the main players saw fit to play themselves gives this film "gravitas", as it were. This feels like a definitive account of what happened. But, strangely, what I felt was, I think, satisfied.
Satisfied that I'm not wrong in asking why I should try to "understand" them. Satisfied in knowing that I'm right when I believe that bystanders aren't targets. Satisfied that I'm right when I believe that theocracy is evil.

God = Good
Devil = Evil

We love to know that God is good and that the devil is evil. But, to what does that knowledge translate when "believers" are equipped with the ability to threaten God-given life in God's own name? The spirit of the pilgrims, escaping from religious persecution, has been instilled in me since kindergarten. Theocrats believe that they are doing God's work, but they are merely tyrants who think that they're Gods.

Freedom to just plain be is what we're all about.

And as an athiest/agnostic, I pray that God continues to bless America.

God bless the crew and passengers of United 93.

Sic semper tyrannus.

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March 11, 2006



Two years ago today al Q'aida bombed trains in Madrid. Spanish voters responded by ousting Prime Minister Anzar. I guess they felt that fighting terrorism wasn't worth the risk because, well, there are terrorists out there. Whatever.

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March 03, 2006

Images of Mohammed in olden times and new

The reason that creating images of the prophet Mohammed is severely frowned upon is that it is feared that someone might mistakenly treat it like an idol. This is the same reason why protestant churches don't have an image of Jesus on the large cross behind the altar, nor statues on display in their churches. Protestants do, however, allow drawings and paintings of Jesus in things like books and pamphlets since it's not expected that someone will see a drawing on a page and begin to worship it (or worship "through" it).

Well, I did a little googeling and found some old muslim artworks that depict the prophet. While much of the old art that depicts Mohammed either obscures his face like this:


(often his face is obscured by light shown as a white flame), many do not. Here is some 16th century Persian art that I found at

And here are some more I found around the web. Some are ancient and some are more recent.

An early Persian depiction of the birth of Mohammed:
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A Sudanese-Mahdi rendition:
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Here's a whole bunch more, some old and some more recent:

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(This one's a biggie:)
View image

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(Yes, I know that the colon + end parentheses put up a smilie, but I'm keeping it. :))

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February 24, 2006

Sex Pistols will not appear at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction


Always the punks. Heeeeeeeere's Johnny's statement, in full and with misspellings uncorrected:

Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organization selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations. If you voted for us, I hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL. [emphasis mine]


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January 14, 2006

Re-Discovering Antarctica

The discovery and mapping of Antarctica was a long and difficult process. The weather down there isn't exactly balmy.
Here is a brief chronology of what we knew about the southern continent and when we knew it. (I snagged most of the Antarctica info from here.)


First, the Earth cooled. As the atmosphere scattered the Sun's rays at the poles, some of the Earth became very very cold, indeed, and life was hard pressed to flourish there as it did in the tropics and beyond. Coming out of equatorial Africa, human tribes spread throughout the continents. Into the Caucasus region; west and north into Europe; east into India, Asia and Australia they went.

From there they sailed to islands in the south Pacific and up and across a land bridge into Alaska. Tribes then traveled south into warmer lands, settling throughout North and South America and, finally, reaching the end of the world -- the island of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America -- around 12,000 years ago. Then people thought that it might be a good idea to keep track of things and they started to write stuff down.

It is now widely believed that Leif Erikson and the Vikings were the first to discover the Americas since the "Age of Recorded History" began. But, while the Vikings' explorations yielded descriptions of the new lands, they were not, let's just say, in the loop when it came to passing on that information to their contemporary scholars, which is to say, the Medieval Church.

Christopher Columbus, on the other hand, was a "legitimate" explorer with backing from the Spanish monarchy. In the autumn of 1492 he set sail west in search of a passage to Asia that didn't require sailing all the way around the southern cape of Africa. I mean, it was frickin' c-c-cold down there. Columbus never made it to Asia, of course, as he kinda ran into a wall that's now called North and South America.

In September of 1519 Ferdinand Magellan -- bent on finding a way to those Asian spices without having to brave the Cape of Good Hope -- travels south into even colder waters and navigated through the Straits of Magellan, that narrow passage between the main continent and the large island of Tierra del Fuego. Magellan surmises that Tierra del Fuego may be the northern tip of a large southern continent.
But, in 1758, Francis Drake - after having passed through the Straits of Magellan - is blown southward by a storm on the Pacific side. He discovers that Tierra del Fuego is not part of a larger continent, but merely an island. The open sea below the island's Cape Horn is now called "Drake's Passage".

In August of 1592 the Falkland Islands are discovered by John Davis. It wasn't until April of 1675 that Antonio de la Roché is blown off course and discovers the island of South Georgia, some 700 miles to the east of the Falklands. A century later, in January of 1775, Captain James Cook sails about 450-500 miles eastward past South Georgia and discovers the South Sandwich Islands. It was two years earlier, in January of 1773, that Captain Cook was the first to sail below the Antarctic Circle - about 67 S latitude - but he spied no land.


In February of 1819, William Smith - while sailing through Drake's Passage - is blown south and is the first to sight the South Shetland Islands. A year later, in January of 1820, the Royal Navy sent Smith and Edward Bransfield out to explore what lies south of the South Shetlands and they become the first explorers to see the Antarctic Peninsula. Later that month, Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen - sailing down the west side of the peninsula - is the first to see part of the main continent. (Now, remember, this is nearly 330 years after Columbus first discovered the West Indies.)

In February of 1823, James Weddell sails to 74 S into the Weddell Sea. (Due to ice, no one is able to repeat that feat for eighty years!) Weddell never saw land, but in February of 1831, John Biscoe sights the main continent from the Indian Ocean side, just under Madagascar. John Balleny discovers the Bellany Islands by sailing south from New Zealand in 1839, and a year later Charles Wilkes leads a team that sees the portion of the continent that lies below western Australia, now known as Wilkes Land.

Expeditions throughout the 19th century continued to provide a more and more detailed mapping of Antarctica's coastline . In the 20th century, exploration onto the continent itself began.

Now, why in the world am I going on and on about the discovery and mapping of Antarctica? Because there is a story here that reads:

A map due to be unveiled in Beijing and London next week may lend weight to a theory a Chinese admiral discovered America before Christopher Columbus.

The map, which shows North and South America, apparently states that it is a 1763 copy of another map made in 1418.

If true, it could imply Chinese mariners discovered and mapped America decades before Columbus' 1492 arrival.

Chinese characters written beside the map say it was drawn by Mo Yi Tong and copied from a map made in the 16th year of the Emperor Yongle, or 1418.

Here is the map in question:


Notice that all of the contients are represented.

According to the Economist magazine, Mr Liu only became aware of the map's potential significance after he read a book by British author Gavin Menzies.

The book, 1421: The Year China discovered the World, made the controversial claim that a Chinese admiral and eunuch, Zheng He, sailed around the world and discovered America on the way.

Zheng He, a Muslim mariner and explorer, is widely thought to have sailed around South East Asia and India, but the claim he visited America is hotly disputed.

While I think that it's highly doubtful that a Chinese vessel would have made it all the way across the Pacific Ocean and sailed up and down the coasts of the American continents to gather the info that could produce that map (and all in the year 1418... or 1421, whichever makes more sense...), I think it's downright rediculous to suggest that he would have mapped the coastline of Antarctica as well, including what appears to be a defined Ross Sea.
Even if it does prove to have been drawn in 1763, sceptics will point out that we still only have the mapmaker's word that he copied if from a 1418 map, rather than from a more recent one.

Even if the map was made as an original in 1763, it would predate the first European sighting of the Antarctic peninsula by 57 years, to say nothing of the discovery and mapping of the continent itself.

Nope. I predict that the forthcoming carbon dating of the map will show that it was drawn sometime in the latter half of the 19th century. Just a prediction. I could be wrong.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 12, 2006

Well, that was a cakewalk...

Yay! I passed the U.S. Citizenship Test with a perfect score! **ahem**

(Yeah, so? It was easy as pi, so what...?)

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Could You Pass the US Citizenship Test?

Okay, I admit: On one of 'em I narrowed it down to two possibilties and guessed. Guess which one!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

A very brief post

"We in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom."
--John Fitzgerald Kennedy -- in a speech he never gave -- Nov 22nd 1963

Tip o'the tam to Victor.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks


I guess it was about five or six or seven State of the Union speeches ago when President Clinton mentioned Rosa Parks and then motioned to her as she sat in the gallery for the speech. I remember being slightly surprised that this woman whom I've heard and read about all my life -- this legend of American history; the "mother of the modern civil rights movement"; the woman who stood for something by staying seated -- was still alive and live on my TV screen.

And even though she was just sitting still in that gallery, she still managed to look graceful doing it. And she was so beautiful. I thought that she must have been a very young woman -- maybe college age -- when she refused to give up her seat on that bus. But, when I heard that she died yesterday at the age of 92, I realized that she was 43 years old at the time; a year older than I am now.

It's funny to think now about how I still tend to think of segregation in the south as ancient history. I learned about it as a child, back when five years may as well have been a century. That Rosa Parks' refusal to bow to the Jim Crow laws a mere seven years before I was born -- and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 happened a year after I was born -- makes me realize how recent it all was to all them grown-ups around me. My grandfather, f'rinstance, was seven years older than I am now when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. To live to be an adult and a grandparent with such practices extant in my own country would make my child-of-the-'70s head spin.

Ah, well. I'm glad that I was born into an America that was coming to it's senses and, as MLK said, to finally live out it's creed that all men are created equal.

Thank you, Rosa. You did good and never even had to get up.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

it's Constitution Day.... and one "teacher" ain't too happy about it

I sat a bit slack-jawed after reading a letter-to-the-editor of the Connecticut Post yesterday. A local school teacher described how teary-eyed she became as she watched some improptu 9-11 rememberences in her neighborhood last Sunday. Then she made a clumsy segue into her opinion about Constitution Day, when all schools that receive federal funding are required to spend time teaching about the document that is the foundation of our Law.

After having spent the first half of the letter presenting her I-love-America bona fides, she wrote an astounding missive about why she thinks Constitution Day is a bad idea.

Here's the second half of her letter:

I can't think of much that is less in the spirit of the Constitution than a mandate that the Constitution be taught.
I love our Constitution. Many, many times during a year I am grateful for the protections it provides and the beacon of freedom that it represents. But our strength as a nation resides in our freedom to believe, to think for ourselves.
As a teacher, I already am unhappy with the No Child Left Behind law, which I believe leads to curricula and teaching methods often not in children's best interests. This newest addition, Constitution Day, follows the same path.
What's next, a requirement that intelligent design be taught everywhere on Feb. 12, Charles Darwin's birthday? Once you begin down this slippery slope, where do you stop?


Oookay, let's see if I got this straight.

The students' country's Constitution should not be made a part of their school's curriculum because we are a free people, and people who are free to think for themselves shouldn't have their minds cluttered with an education about the foundations of their freedoms. This is not in their best interests because teaching about the U.S. Constitution in U.S. schools is like teaching intelligent design theory on the birthday of the originator of the theory of evolution.

And requiring that students be taught to add, subtract, multiply and divide may lead to an indoctrination into numerology, Euclidian geometry and the pledge of allegience.

Got it.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

James Doohan Beams Out


Link to article that has obviously been ready and in waiting for quite some time.

Sample paragraph:

The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren't heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.

I had no idea that jimmy was at Juno Beach on the morning of June 6th, 1944.

Read the whole thing. It's pretty good... for CNN...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2005

Bush = Hitler Nixon

Frank Rich takes us on an interesting journey through the land of conspiracy theory. Beginning with a lament over the media's slouched return to the "third-rate burglary" meme that Nixon wanted Watergate to be portrayed as, Frank goes on to compare Nixon White House era secrecy with Bush White House secrecy, eventually arguing that Bush is up to even more no-good than Nixon ever was.

After setting the scene where Bush & Co. are a cabal of media-intimidating, power-hungry information-control freaks, Frank begins offering the "evidence" and begins with this:

The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.

This is the kind of lapdog news media the Nixon White House cherished.

Firstly, it's my understanding that Prime Minister Blair was not present at the meeting. Secondly, the reason the "Downing Street memo" was never a huge story with the MSM is because even the MSM realize that there's no there there. (For more on this, Frank, check out Jim Robbins and then Kevin Alyward. And a tip o'the tam to Michelle Malkin for them links!)

The operative paragraph from Robbins' article is this:
The memo raises three issues dear to the hearts of President Bush's critics — the timing of the decision to go to war with Saddam, the WMD rationale, and the use (read: abuse) of intelligence to create the casus belli. One paragraph in the memo conveniently contains all three:
C [Richard Dearlove, Head of MI-6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

The memo's text is a scribbling from the hand of foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft. He was writing of his impressions of someone eles's impressions of someone else's impressions of the Bush policy from someone who'd never actually spoken with the President. Rycroft's musings are no more substantive or reliable as a window into the administrations thinking than the musings of Dan Rather or Ralph Nadir. They are impressions and have all the same clutter of subjectiveness as that which underlies my selective spelling of certain proper names.

[UPDATE] Sir George at the Rottweiler has a great smackdown of the "Downing Street Memo" and "Memo II" and, in the excellent comments thread, clarifies a major point that hadn't even occurred to me.

The Sunday Times, which ran the piece, didn't even highlight the phrase, and the people at the Sunday Times do know how Englishmen speak English. In their proper speech "fix" means to "set in order", "to arrange", "to place securely", "to make ready", "to determine with accuracy".

The left is going with a single definition of fix, "To influence the outcome or actions of by improper or unlawful means - to fix a jury."

If this was the meaning used, then why no questions? Indeed, if this was the meaning they accepted then it would also mean that they didn't think Iraq possessed WMD, which is refuted by the language in the second memo, where they clearly indicate Iraq's WMD might be used against a military invasion.


After still more blather about how the spirit of Chuck Colson lives on in the Bush White House, Frank imploys somewhat of a smear:

Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes.

Frank impunes Roger Ailes as a "former Nixon media maven", thereby implying that Ailes=Colson. This isn't honest opinion journalism, it's a neo-McCarthyism and Frank Rich knows it. You just can't construct an argument like this without knowing that you're tortured spin is intended to dizzy the reader into submission. Frank, come back to us, man.

But, no-o-o-o-o-o...

In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book

I don't think anyone called it "unthinkable", but if that's the word you need for your set-up...
These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek.

As I wrote here, General Myers was referring to an assessment by General Eikenberry. Myers was not offering it as his own assessment. The shouting of, and placards carried by, the protesters belie Eikenberry's and Karzai's assessment.

McClellan critiqued Newsweek's crappy journalism which led to riots in which 17 (or so) people frickin' died. This is not intimidation of a free press that's doing the good work. It's a scolding of the free press that's doing shoddy-ass work because it wants nothing more than to kill the President. Do you understand the difference, Frank? Well, do ya?! Answer me!
(Oh, right...)

But, now, we have this atrocious twist of fate:

Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.

Frank is, of course refering to this, which includes the important details of this "abuse":

Of the 13 alleged incidents, five were substantiated, he said. Four were by guards and one was by an interrogator. Hood said the five cases "could be broadly defined as mishandling" of the holy book, but he refused to discuss details.

In three of the five cases, the mishandling appears to have been deliberate. In the other two, it apparently was accidental.

"But it appears here some American military officers may have touched the Quran when they are not supposed to because non-believers are not supposed to touch the Quran. Early on there were not clear procedures."

So, like, the "abuse" was not that Americans had "mishandled" the Qu'ran, but that they'd dared to actually handle it at all. This is abuse? Frank Rich wants you to think it is. Why? Because he wants to destroy a "religious" man, President Bush, even if he has to defend religious fanatic Islamists' decrees that the Holy Qu'ran never be so much as touched by Frank himself in order to do so.

Do you disagree, Frank? Do you have an alternate explanation for you're silly sophistry?
But it gets better...

Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks [<--a Russian word refering to those who did the Soviet-era Kremlin's bidding.--TS] could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll

A reference to Armstrong Williams who said he took the money, but only because he believed in the No Child Left Program in the first place...
and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind).

Kethum created some ads and took a poll on their effectiveness. Pretty run of the mill stuff is y'ask me...
President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

A Washington Post article on that can be found here What Bush wants to do is to protect sensitive information for an indefinate amout of time, but it's definately not without checks and balances.

Here's the complaint in a nut shell (from the above link):

A former president would then review them and tell the archivist whether they should be withheld or made public. The incumbent president or a designee would then look at them to see if he or she agrees with the ex-president's decision. Unless both agree they should be made public, the records will remain secret unless "a final court order" should require disclosure.

"Absent compelling circumstances," the incumbent president will concur in the former president's privilege decision, the draft order states. But if the incumbent president does not agree on a former president's decision to grant access, "the incumbent president may independently order the archivist to withhold privileged records."

The order would work "like a one-way ratchet," said Scott Nelson, an attorney for the Public Citizen Litigation Group. "If the former president says the records are privileged, they will remain secret even if the sitting president disagrees. If the sitting president says they should be privileged, they remain secret even if the former president disagrees."

Jimmy Carter can decide if something in his presidential record archives oughta be allowed to be made public. All this new rule does is allow the sitting president to evaluate the former president's judgement. There are security concerns that the sitting president is focused on that a former president is not aware of. The sitting president has a better understanding, right now, of what's still sensitive information and what's not so sensitive information, than a former president does. (Ouch, bad grammer, sorry!) But still, I'd never accept the rule to be indefinate. Maybe an additional ten years or so...

Anywho, Frank yammered on longer than I wished he had...

The journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

J'ever get the feeling that some people just pray for another Vietnam? J'ever get the feeling that some people seek to minimize the perceived threat right down to the point that "there is nothing to worry about, please return to your desks"? J'ever wonder if partisan politics might acually kill several million people?

Yeah? Then it's interesting that Frank invoked the word "apparatchiks". He could have said "henchmen" or "loyalists ", but he didn't. No, Bush's opperatives are, of course, mindlless automotons acting out of blindlest instinct or a threat of death. There are no people in Chimpworld, only Bushie-zombies!

Frank Rich concludes...

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story.

Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

Wow. I'll leave you, dear reader, to make of that what you will. It's late and I'm tired.

In the meantime, may I offer some Viking Kittens?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)

June 05, 2005

Today in History

I got nothin' today, so I think I'll give y'all a brief round-up on what's happened on some other June 5ths!

Ronald Reagan died one year ago today.

In terms of birthdays, though, today is the birthday of John Couch Adams (1819), co-discoverer of the planet Neptune. Also born on this date: PBS host and commentator Bill Moyers (1934), and Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (1878). Spanish poet and dramatist Fredrico Lorca and American cowby Hoppalong Cassidy were both born on this date in 1898. Also, musicians Waylon Jennings (1937) and Kenny G (1956) are having some cake.

On June 5th, 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy. Then on June 5th, 1953, Denmark adopted a new constitution and, today, Danes are celebrating Constitution Day.

Richard Speck was sentenced to death in 1967 but escaped the execution when the Illinois Supreme Court decided that capital punishment oughta be outlawed. He died in 1991 of a heart attack.
On year after that sentencing, June 5th, 1968, Robert Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles. He died the next day.

In World War II news, this is the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of France (1940), and when the US, UK, USSR and France (for some reason) declare supreme authority over Germany (1945). Secretary of State George Marshall outlines the Marshall Plan (1947).

On June 5th, 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi ordered attacks on the Golden Temple -- the holiest Sikh site. She was assassiniated October 31st by two of her own bodyguards who were Sikh.

It was on this date in 1981 that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported a "pneumonia affecting gays".
It would come to be called AIDS.

'Twas on the 5th day of June in 1661 that Isaac Newton was admitted as a student to Trinity College at Cambridge, and, putting some laws of mechanics to good use, it was June 5th, 1783 that Joseph Jaques Montgolfer made the first public balloon flight.

In 1794, the US Congress made it illegal for a US citizen to serve in any foreign armed forces, and in 1917, the World War I draft begins eventually conscripting over 10 million American men to go and help solve Europe's little problem.

June 5th, 1956 was the day that the US Supreme Court ruled that the racial segregation on Montgomery, Alabama's city buses was unConstitutional while four score earlier, on June 5th, 1876, bananas becoame popular in the US at the Centennial Expo in Philidekphia. Mmmm, bananas.

In entertainment news, this is the 41st anniversary of the release of "I Can't Help Thinking About Me" by Davy Jones and the King Bees. The band broke up shortly afterward, but Jones went on to a successful career -- once he changed his name to David Bowie.

Today also marks the day that Ada Lovelace, the 1st computer programmer, meets Charles Babbage, the "father of modern computing", in 1833. Fittingly, on this date in 1977 the first personal computer, the Apple II, debuts. Mmmmmm, apples.

And what's going on around the world today? Well, it's Labour Day in the Bahamas, Thanksgiving Day in Colombia and Teacher's Day in Massachussetts. And, I wrote above, Constitution Day in Denmark.

So, there ya have it, folks. Another day, another lame post. ;)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

This Date In History


Sixteen years ago today hundreds of students protesting for democracy were slaughtered in Tianenman Square, Beijing, China.

Just a few days earlier I was in Chinatown in New York City. I was there with my ex- to visit an excellent glass-blowing facility there so she could get a little work done. (She was such an ahtist.)

I wasn't sure what the commotion was about, so I asked a passer-by "What's going on?!" "Democracy in China!" he smiled back. "It's finally coming!" Little did he know what would follow just a couple of days later.

Oh. Also on this date in history: In the bicentennial year of 1976, the U.S. was presented, by the U.K., with the oldest known copy of the Magna Carta.

There is still much work to be done, Friends. Sic semoer tyrannus.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2005

Why? Because he Felt like it!

I grabbed my copy of Fred Emery's Watergate and went to the index. There I found four references to Mark Felt.

One is a passing reference to when Chuck Colson called him to find out what he knew about the would-be assassin of George Wallace, Arthur Bremer, on May 15th, 1972.

Also, for fear that Bremer might turn out to be a "right wing wacko", Colson called Felt to plant an idea in his head. "I told him we had heard rumors that there were political motivations [to the shooting], to wit: Bremer had ties with Kennedy or McGovern political operatives, that obviously there could be a conspiracy," Colson once recalled.
Then Colson called Howard Hunt to see about planting leftist literature into Bremer's apartment, only find out later that the apartment had been sealed by the FBI.

The second mention of Mark Felt in Watergate concerns Director L Patrick Gray's lolligagging on FBI interviews of certain suspects for fear that the FBI may have stumbled onto a CIA operation. Felt insisted that the interviews go forward unless the CIA put into writing it's national security concerns. Gray relented.

The remaing two mentions of Mark Felt are interesting. They're about Nixon's strong suspicion that Felt was the man who'd leaked to Time magazine about Kissinger's wire taps of certain "newsmen and government officials". The "Kissinger taps" were begun by J Edgar Hoover (following the Pentagon Papers leak and others) in order to discover who the leakers were and, apparantly, were perfectly legal. Even if Mark Felt disagreed with some of the future phone taps, he was second in command of the FBI that was carrying out the monitoring and had a duty not to become a leaker himself. This happened well before the Watergate arrests. 'Nuff said.

According to All The President's Men it was on Sunday, June 19th, 1972, two days after the Watergate arrests, that Deep Throat confirmed to Bob Woodward that Howard Hunt was involved. (Felt would have known this because he had access to the address book that was found on one of the burglars.) I'll bet that this was not the first time that Felt and Woodward had spoken. Felt, #2 man at the FBI and in possession of the most sensitive information and personal files was, I fear, as leaky as a colander.

The last mention of Deep Throat in All The President's Men is from a November '73 meeting -- following the revelation that there existed tapes of Nixon's conversations in the Oval Office -- about which Woodward writes: "Deep Throat's message was short and simple: one or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."

The gaps were made public at the Watergate hearings on the day before Thanksgiving. Very few had that knowledge before it was made public. Fred Buzherdt (Nixon's council) and Alexander Haig were among them. How did Mark Felt know? The tapes were in the possession of the White House. It could have been that Haig or Buzherdt entrusted Felt with this information before they had to go public with it, only to have Felt turn around and leak it to Woodward.

The thing is, though, that no one could say definitively that the erasure was deliberate (if it was -- and it probably was) except the person who did it. Certainly not Mark Felt, who could not possibly have heard the tape up to that point.

W Mark Felt, btw, did prison time for authorizing illegal break-ins in the late '60s of the Weather Underground. He was pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.

Today many consider him a hero. They would be, I suspect, most people -- especially Democrats and Nixon-haters. Others consider him a traitor and criminal. They would be far right and, especially, Nixon loyalists.

Me? Today I consider W Mark Felt derelict in his duty. With security clearance comes a responsibility to honor it. No matter what you think of the secret information you have at your beck and call, you have a duty to your office and the discretion that's expected of you.

Standards, people. We have security clearances and background checks for a reason. If someone feels that they're bound to expose, anonymously, that entrusted information when they think it's better to do so than not, then s/he'll expose that information any ol' time they feel like it. If Felt isn't a traitor to his country, he's certainly a traitor to the Bureau that gave him his position, deciding, one fateful day, to serve under him.

My last beef is with Bob Woodward. Bob, you gave us all a bum steer! You told us that all of Deep Throat's information was "reliable a first hand". Clearly much of it came from testimony (official FBI or personal) of witnesses. This is not first hand knowledge! You threw me and all the other Throat-hunters off the scent! Damyoo!!! **shakes fist**

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:13 PM | Comments (2)

May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed (This time for real...)

Well, so much for my super-sleuthing.
Today, May 31st, 2005, Bob Woodward has confirmed that "Deep Throat" was, indeed, none other than W.Mark Felt, former Deputy Director of the FBI.


I guess I can admit to being disappointed that my research led me to Fred LaRue and none other. Matter of fact, I'm a bit humiliated because I think I ruled out any FBI man out of hand.

For yeeeeeears I've been almost 100% certain that it was LaRue. After Fred died last July and no word from Woodward and Bernstein came (even after the August 9th 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation), I started to wonder if they were holding out for a book or television special/documentary to make the announcement.

Even after nearly a year, I figured they were just biding time so as not to make it obvious by timing too close to LaRue's passing. And now it's confirmed. It was Felt, not Fred.

I will say this, though: Based on the bits of information that Deep Throat told Woodward -- and when he told them (especially the goings on at Key Biscayne) -- I believe that Fred LaRue was a source for the FBI. It was well-known that he was a co-operating witness. If Deep Throat wasn't Fred, then Fred was the ultimate source for the FBI and Mark Felt.

UPDATE: Tim Noah of Slate magazine, in a Washington Post online chat:

"When I spoke to Felt a few years ago, he said in no uncertain terms that for an FBI employee to leak details of a criminal investigation to a newspaper would be a terrible betrayal. Felt was a company man....I did think [Deep Throat] was Felt for a long time."

Harry Smith, at

“As for Deep Throat being an FBI guy -- Nixon's response would not have been printable.”


I have very mixed emotions about this, myself. Then again, eh, water under the bridge. Time to put the pork chops in...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:21 PM | Comments (4)

May 30, 2005

Look at this man's face

Someone once called the Clinton presidency "a vacation from history". Clinton did seem to age somewhat in the latter years of his administrations, but not like he has in the four years since.


One thing about him that always struck me is that he so relished the presidency that, even in times of turmoil, he wouldn't have given up the job for anything. Not even a BJ from that "good-lookin' mummy".

Now, out of office for over four years, he seems to have experienced the stress that he was supposed to have experienced while in office.

Okay, maybe it's just the bypass surgery taking a physical toll. But, sheesh! His boyish face is long gone with a vengeance. I surmise that it's not just age/health related, but that he genuinely worries himself stupid over his legacy.

Bill, it's over! Let the historians work it through and stop giving a rat's ass about it. Crikey, President frickin' Ford will survive you at this rate. It's out of your hands and no one's worried about it the way you are. For your own sake just relax already, will ya?!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2005

Dream On, Newsweak, pt 1

I seem to have written a long post. Go figure!

Anywho, here's the beginning:

Pixy Misa has a brutal fisking of commentary in Newsweek's international edition. (This is the stuff they wont print in their domestic dead tree version lest they be accused of being anti-American.)

Pixy did a masterful job responding to the passages that he quoted. But, there is more. Oh, yes, so much more. (I'll not to repeat any of Pixy's points, but who can tell what the future will bring.) Thusly, I give it a go, beginning with the byline...

Dream On America
The U.S. Model: For years, much of the world did aspire to the American way of life. But today countries are finding more appealing systems in their own backyards.

By Andrew Moravcsik

Newsweek International

I suppose that this is a "too each his own" argument. We'll see now that, in Newsweek's eyes, every variant governmental and economic systems deserve unique praise. Er, 'cept for America's.

Jan. 31 issue - Not long ago, the American dream was a global fantasy. Not only Americans saw themselves as a beacon unto nations. So did much of the rest of the world. East Europeans tuned into Radio Free Europe. Chinese students erected a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square
You had only to listen to George W. Bush's Inaugural Address last week (invoking "freedom" and "liberty" 49 times) to appreciate just how deeply Americans still believe in this founding myth.

"Myth"? If this is gonna be an anti-freedom, anti-liberty rant then I'm gonna...whoa...!...:

For many in the world, the president's rhetoric confirmed their worst fears of an imperial America relentlessly pursuing its narrow national interests.

Aah, yes. Speaking of freedom and liberty is no longer being a beacon, it is just "rhetoric" and our own "bational interests". No, people no longer want to breathe free. Freedom and non-Americans might not fit together. They're not ready.

And, pray tell, what nation does not pursue it's own national interests? Oh, right, those western European ones. The ones that believe in the future of world government.

But the greater danger may be a delusional America—one that believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the American Dream lives on, that America remains a model for the world, one whose mission is to spread the word.

And we will, in spite of Newsweek.

And, as if we others to tell us who we are... (I presenting these two paragraphs without interuption for a reason):

The gulf between how Americans view themselves and how the world views them was summed up in a poll last week by the BBC. Fully 71 percent of Americans see the United States as a source of good in the world. More than half view Bush's election as positive for global security. Other studies report that 70 percent have faith in their domestic institutions and nearly 80 percent believe "American ideas and customs" should spread globally.

Foreigners take an entirely different view: 58 percent in the BBC poll see Bush's re-election as a threat to world peace. Among America's traditional allies, the figure is strikingly higher: 77 percent in Germany, 64 percent in Britain and 82 percent in Turkey. Among the 1.3 billion members of the Islamic world, public support for the United States is measured in single digits. Only Poland, the Philippines and India viewed Bush's second Inaugural positively.

As an American I can only say that, yes, I believe that we are "a source for good". And I don't need to think very hard to know that. I also believe that President Bush's re-election is good for national security, the security of our allies and, definately, global security. Who else can do it? Cuba?

I have faith in the domestic instutions, though not always faith in the stewards of those institutions. That is why we believe in the rule of Law, not men; not blindly trusted overseers; not unaccountable law-givers; not tyrants.

My ex- once confessed that she tends to resent the people that she depends on. Her shame was deep, but she had no reason to be ashamed. It was her given -- not chosen -- condition that made her dependent on others.

So, I try to imagine myself as a German and I think I understand them, but who knows. If I were German I'd get down on my knees and thank God that America was there to stop the madness. If I were Britton I'd get down on my knees that America was there to defend us -- first with lend-lease, then with hundreds of thousands of farmboys ready to take the beaches in order to save Europe, not destroy it.

If` I were a "member of the Islamic world" I think I'd have some pretty mixed emotions. On the one hand I want my religeon to be prooved universal and to prevail. On the other hand I want my oppressers out of my frickin' life and to just let me be! Al-Jezeera confuses me.

Oh, and Poland, the Phillipines and India ROCK! :D They know better. They value freedom too much to be afraid to fight for it. What's ingrained in us and our history was learned the hard way for them. Do not poo-poo the opinions of the victims of terrorism. Unless they're Spanish, of course...

Tellingly, the anti-Bushism of the president's first term is giving way to a more general anti-Americanism. A plurality of voters (the average is 70 percent) in each of the 21 countries surveyed by the BBC oppose sending any troops to Iraq, including those in most of the countries that have done so.

Turning their backs. "Let them eat cake. Their suffering is none of our business." These are not the words of a beacon, they are the words of a hermit and it's ambiently ironic. Those who clamor for a more powerful world authority also desire, in this case, alienation from the suffering of others. They would enjoy seeing Saddam and his method gone, but only if done by a collective. Otherwise, it isn't legitimate. For one nation to rescue the polpulous of another, without global authority, is just wrong to them. They resent the United States more than they love Freedom and that is shameful, imo.

Only one third, disproportionately in the poorest and most dictatorial countries, would like to see American values spread in their country.

Well, what a surprise!

Says Doug Miller of GlobeScan, which conducted the BBC report: "President Bush has further isolated America from the world. Unless the administration changes its approach, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs." Former Brazilian president Jose Sarney expressed the sentiments of the 78 percent of his countrymen who see America as a threat: "Now that Bush has been re-elected, all I can say is, God bless the rest of the world."

The Brazilian legislature wrote a new Constitution while Jose Sarney was in office. 'nuff said.

The truth is that Americans are living in a dream world.

It's called "the future", thank you.

Not only do others not share America's self-regard, they no longer aspire to emulate the country's social and economic achievements.

If Newsweek isn't festering in anti-American blather then I'm Larry Flint. Who led the rescue of the tsunami stricken beachheads? Not us alone, of course, but we kinda maybe sorta pulled a band of American, Australian, Japanese and Indian has-beens together to bring aid and some abject comfort to the victims while the U.N. was tauting that it'd scheduled a meeting nezt week to figure out what to do. Kk! Where was the blessed rest of the world then, Jose Sarney?

The loss of faith in the American Dream goes beyond this swaggering administration and its war in Iraq. A President Kerry would have had to confront a similar disaffection, for it grows from the success of something America holds dear: the spread of democracy, free markets and international institutions—globalization, in a word.

So, we're shifting gears? Now the dissaffection is not from America's promise, but it's proxy presence!
"No thank you America! I loved you're ideals. But when you overthrew my tyrant I kinda got nervous! Please don't do me any favors, go away and leave me as helpless as I was before!"

Countries today have dozens of political, economic and social models to choose from. Anti-Americanism is especially virulent in Europe and Latin America, where countries have established their own distinctive ways—none made in America.

You're welcome. Ingrates.

Futurologist Jeremy Rifkin, in his recent book "The European Dream," hails an emerging European Union based on generous social welfare, cultural diversity and respect for international law—a model that's caught on quickly across the former nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

Oooh! And we'll all hold hands and dance around like happy little sprites and giggle amongst ourselves when someone actually toils and accomplishes something! Yay!

In Asia, the rise of autocratic capitalism in China or Singapore is as much a "model" for development as America's scandal-ridden corporate culture. "First we emulate," one Chinese businessman recently told the board of one U.S. multinational, "then we overtake."

The sky darkens and an omenous cloud hangs over the discussion.

This writer is championing authoritarian economics. Make no mistake about it: Planning from the State down.

'Scuse me, but isn't this what Freedom is supposed to be against? You cannot emulate freedom and then erase it without them annoying smelly Killing Fields. Have we learnt that yet? Perhaps we need to clone Adam Smith and start again...?

Many are tempted to write off the new anti-Americanism as a temporary perturbation, or mere resentment. Blinded by its own myth, America has grown incapable of recognizing its flaws. For there is much about the American Dream to fault. If the rest of the world has lost faith in the American model—political, economic, diplomatic—it's partly for the very good reason that it doesn't work as well anymore.

Oh, shit, you just hit me where it hurts. "...doesn't work as well anymore?"!!!!

(And, with that, wordpad broke so I had to stop. Sorry for any typos or unclear ranting. I was late and I never got a chance to proofread it.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:23 PM | Comments (4)

May 22, 2005

My Hometown

I'm starting a meme. Yay! Simply write a bit about your hometown and it's history and then link back to whoever inspired you to do it. That way I/we can have fun tracking how these things get spread.

My hometown: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport was first settled in 1639 by people who follwed the original pilgrims that landed at Plymouth, Massachussetts in 1620. The largest protestant denomination in the area is still the Congregational Church -- the direct descendant of the puritans. I was raised in the Congregational Church by my Irish Catholic mother because she had married (and quite promptly divorced) my protest yankee father.

Word has it (from my father) that my paternal lineage goes back to a Robert Jones who was a member of the crew of the second American voyage of the Mayflower, and who had decided to stay and try life in the new world.

Sitting at the mouth of the Pequonnok River, the settlement was originally called Newfield, and later Stratfield. With deep harbors it quickly became a minor whaling center. But the depth of the protected Black Rock Harbor, in the west end of town, as well as the main Bridgeport Harbor, made the earlier settlers decide to shift from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy.

The town was incorporated in 1800 as Bridgeport; named for it's unique drawbridge over the Pequonnok River.

Bridgeport became a well-know manufacturing center throughout the 19th century. By the early 20th century there were over 500 manufacturing plants in the city. Singer sewing machines, Remington arms, General Electric and a host of others called Bridgeport home. Brass and munitions was a major cash crop from the Civil War through World War II.

Most native Bridgeporters to this day don't know that, because of Remington, the city was "protected" by NIKE missles in the surrounding towns.
(Yep. Ask an Iowan where Bridgeport is and she'll be clueless. Ask Vlad Putin and he'll tell you exactly where it is.)

Those plastic disks we call frisbees were originally the pie plates of Bridgeport's own Frisbee Pies. The shape of their tin pie plates made them ideal for tossing them about like frisbees. They've long since stopped baking pies, but their plates still fly in parks across America -- albiet, made of plastic now

If you ever pull a chain to turn off a lightbulb then you can thank Bridgeport's own Harvey Hubble, who patented the thing in 1896. His design is the same that is used today. And, although located in the neighboring town of Stratford, Sikorsky Aircraft is a major employer of Bridgeporters. You may have heard that Marine 1, the presidential helicopter, after decades of production at Sikorsky, has just been bidded to Lockheed Martin. Grrr...

Our most famous former resident and mayor was P.T. Barnum. While Barnum was not born in Bridgeport, he made it his home. His famous side-kick, Tom Thumb (nee George Stratton) was a native Bridgeporter. Among the many festivals each summer is, of course, the Barnum Festival, consisting mostly of a grand parade. Not surprisingly, the Barnum Festival parade usually falls on the 4th of July.

Until my last move, I lived for years on Bridgeport's Mountain Grove Street. The street is only one block long, but it's a long block. At the end is the entrance to Mountain Grove Cemetary. This cemetary was designed by P.T. Barnum, and he is buried there.

If you're ever in Bridgeport you HAVE to visit the Barnum Museum. Among the many exhibits, on three or four floors, is a scale model of a three ring circus. When I was a kid I would just walk around and stare at this thing. It is HUGE! Oh, and it has moving parts! I haven't been back to see it in some years, but I think I'll do it soon.

Though you've probably never heard of him, one of our other famous mayors (locally) was Jasper McLevy. He was mayor back in the '30s and '40s. He held that office during the same long-term administrations of President Franklin Roosevelt and New York Mayor Fiorelo LaGuardia. For over a decade the leadership in the area seemed permanent.

The thing about McLevy, aside from his longevity, is the fact that he was a Socialist. Yep, Bridgeport's mayor was an unabashed member of the Socialist Party. Of course, back then, the Great Depression made being a socialist a welcome thing. But usually the socialists called themselves "Democrats". Ol' Jasper gets high marks, locally, for calling it as he saw it. The old City Hall building is now called McLevy Hall.

One of the things Jasper McLevy is most famous for saying came after a harsh blizzard during a depression-era budget crunch. When asked why the City wasn't plowing the streets McLevy replied "God put the snow there, God'll take it away."

A couple of years ago my boss came by to pick me up for work when my truck was down. "I see the spirit of Jasper McLevy is alive and well in Bridgeport," he said as we drove along snow-covered main arteries.

In the decades since World War II, Bridgeport has, shall we say, been dying a slow death. The major manufacturers have moved their operations to cheaper locations. By the time I came along it was a well-accepted fact that Bridgeport's glory days were behond her.

The unemployment due to the abandonment of the major manufacturing plants in the city has caused a spiral effect. Bridgeport's budget needs, to combat the effects of a depressed and needy populous, require that they raise more and more revenue from those that are more afluent. The streets are dirty, the buildings are old (but cool, architecturally) and the property taxes are high. Most Bridgeporters, once they can afford a home, move out to one of the surrounding towns. It's a mess and has been for as long as I've been politically aware.

But, there is hope. Bridgeport also has the most successful non-Major League baseball team ever. The Atlantic League's Bridgeport Blu-u-u-u-u-uefish! They play at the gorgeous Bluefish Field at Harbor Yard.

The Polka Dot Playhouse has moved to the center of town. Good thing, too. Polka Dot used to be at Pleasure Beach. Pleasure Beach used to host a huge carnival and amusement park every summer. The problem is that it was accessible only via a wooden bridge that burned down some years ago. So the Playhouse found a new home. Yay!

Okay, let me rap this up now 'cuz this is probably boring you to tears.

Bridgeport's nickname is "The Park City". There are large parks throughout the city. The major beach, on Long Island Sound, is called Seaside Park. But, there's another major park further inland called Beardsley Park. It was the private property of a man named Beardsley who willed his property, upon his demise, to the City on the condition that it be used as a public park. It has long been the home of the Beardsley Zoo, or Beardsley Zoological Gardens. It's also the site of the annual Shakespeare Festival.

At a population of about 135,000, Bridgeport is the largest city in Connecticut. But, it's not a large city. While "city life" is present in the downtown area, rural life is just a few minutes up the 25-8 connector. (That's a highway running north into the boonies.)

Okay, I'm done!

Now, write about your hometown on your blog and link back to me! And tell yer readers to write about their hometown and to link to you! Let's see if we can get this going, eh?!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:47 PM | Comments (2)

April 02, 2005

Pope Post

I'm not Catholic, but most of my family is. I was 15 years old when Pope Paul VI died and Pope John Paul took the reigns and died within about a month.

Respectfully, Karol took the name Pope John Paul II. He was a young man for a Pope; 58 years. I find it hard to believe that I'm old enough to have seen the youngest Pope of this century grow to be an old man of 84. But, time is what it is. Forever onward.

As an agnostic/athiest with scientific leanings, and a yearning to know the truly true truth, I've always been amazed by this man. His stubborn clinging to truths, not whim, was inspiring and, surprisingly, instructive. A teacher. A father. He believed in something bigger than mere earthly/cognitive evidence.

Whether or not he ended up as a Pope or a Mullah or a Sensei or a Dhali Lama, this man would've been righteous all the way through. He'd humbly reject that premise and the thank you's, of course. "Just doing my job", he'd say.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

“A serious journalist can’t run with a story without confirmation. Two sources at the absolute minimum.... This is how your narrator made it through Watergate. If I’d gone off half-cocked, if I’d gotten my facts scrambled, if I’d run with unconfirmed leads, I’d be selling insurance right now.” -- Dan Rather in his 1994 memoir, The Camera Never Blinks Twice, page 97.

Good luck in the insurance business, Dan!

Don't bother telling me about any great deal you can offer me, though. I wont be buying it.

(Found the quote here.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:05 PM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2005

Happy Washington's Birthday


Okay, let's be perfectly clear about this. Today is a federal holiday. But, it is not called Presidents Day, it's called Washington's Birthday. So, how and when did we end up with this thing that we now call "Presidents Day"?

Back in the 19th century George Washington's birthday, February 22nd, was celebrated throughout the States with all the patriotic fervor of Cinco de Mayo. The hardy partying -- complete with fireworks, wild womanizing and homemade gin -- was so irresistabley joyous that, in 1885, President Benjamin Franklin Pierce declared it federal holiday.

Abraham Lincoln's birthday, February 12th, was celebrated in many States, as well, though mainly those states in the north. (Jefferson Davis' birthday was popular below the Manson-Nixon Line). By the early 20th century, the Washington and Lincoln holidays were observed by, among other things, giving the kids a day off from work and their parents a night off from school. (Child labor laws would soon shift that pardigm a bit.)

In the 1960's, the Warsaw Pact sought to create "uniform holiday laws" that moved Washington's Birthday, Independence Day, Veteran's Day and Memorial Day to fixed Sundays. As the Christian sabbath was already a day of rest, many clamored that they would lose not only a paid day's vacation, but the chance to take advantage of department stores' holiday sales on items such as linens, flashbulbs, fondu sets and stereophonic record players. New proposals would suggest fixing the holidays to Mondays.

While some federal holidays were eventually fixed to certain Mondays (Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day), others retained their fixed dates (Veteran's Day, New Year's Day, The Fourth of July).

It was the establishment of Columbus Day as a federal holiday, and the wide support for a federal holiday honoring Lincoln's birthday, that made the beancounters in Washington D.C. suggest that Washington and Lincoln's birthdays be observed as a single holiday, thus avoiding the need to add more paid days off for federal employees. This had the added benefits of a:) creating several nifty three-day weekends throughout the year and, b:). providing parents with an opportunity to give their children a lesson in how the true meaning of a holiday can become lost in the mist of personal priorities.

In February of 1971, President Richard Mojo Nixon signed an executive order authorizing the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's endodontist. But it was his next move that would have far-reaching consequences.
Announcing that the third Monday in February would celebrate both Washington and Lincoln's birthdays, Nixon suggested that this rescheduled holiday might be referred to as "Two Predecessors' Day", or "Marvelous Monday". "Presidents Day" began to become the favored moniker.

However, the holiday is still officially called "Washington's Birthday". The irony of fixing it at the third Monday in February is that Washington's birthday can no longer be celebrated on his actual birth date: February 11th, as we are no longer on the olde Julian Calendar.

But the biggest drawback is that many people no longer understand just what it is that we're celebrating on the third Monday in February. Are we celebrating George Washington's birthday? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's birthday? Are we celebrating all presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Fidel Castro and Leo Weiser? It can be confusing and many, if not most, of our nation's children are in the dark about all of this.

Officially, today is when we observe the birth of George Washington; General and Supreme Commander during the Revolutionary War, first President of the United States of America, "Father of our Country" and all-around good guy.
Unofficially, we are to take this time to also honor the birth of Abraham Lincoln; 16th President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief during the Civil War, preserver of the Union, abolitionist exemplar and all-around good guy.

So, take a moment today to reflect on the strength, confidence and dogged courage of these two great men. In the face of two great trials in our nations birth and in it's preservation, they stood with firm leadership to take us - ninety years apart - from the tyrannies of subjecthood and slavery to citizenship and liberty.

"How soon we forget history... Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master
--George Washington.

For a more... er... accurate account of the coming "Presidents Day" see HERE.

P.S. Yeah, I know the colon-perentheses turned into smilies. I like it so I'm leaving it. :P

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

Revising History Is Easy

Just lie. There are times when we peoplethings wont opt to remember the past when it's easier to hear it recounted by someone else in the present. Especially, of course, if the recounting is in line with how we want the past to have happened.

Critics of the war in Iraq, these days, often claim that President Bush made WMD the central reason for going to war. Some even assert that he claimed that the threat from Saddam's WMD was "imminent". (That second point is easy enough to refute, but it still gets repeated ad nauseum by demagogues who don't care that it's a lie, but only that it's bad if it's true. And, as long as someone might believe it, it's worth repeating...)

Exploring my own memory -- tricky business sometimes -- I think I've realized something.
The reasons given for the war were many. Yes, Saddam had ignored 17 U.N. resolutions; he had used WMD on Iraqis and Iranians; he was a murderous tyrant who mercilessly tortured men women and children and filled mass graves with their remains; he would be a menace to the region if and when the sanctions were to be lifted. Most of the reasons given were not in dispute. But, the present existence of WMD was in dispute.

Nevermind that Saddam had documentation "proving" the existence of WMD and that he had failed to provide documentation of their destruction. Maybe they never existed; maybe they were smuggled out before the war. I dunno.
The existence of WMD in Iraq was never central to the justification for Iraqi liberation. (That was Saddam not satisfying the conditions of the 1991 cease-fire.) But, since WMD existence was actually in dispute, their existence became central to the debate about the justification for war.

I looked back through my archives during the period leading up to the invasion and found a post I'd written on February 27th, 2003. It's about why I came to support the impending mission in Iraq. Conspicuously absent are references to WMD. They're not mentioned at all except for an aside, in passing, that they may, in fact, not exist.

So, at least for me, at the time, WMD in Iraq was not considered to be a major, or deciding, factor.

This was posted on the old blogspot edition of Blather Review, which means that nobody read it. So, in the interests of remembering history rather than revising it, I present a reposting of:

WHO ARE WE TO DO THIS? (The Overdue Choice of a Reluctant Warrior)

Who are we? We're Ted Bundy, and we're Todd Beamer. We're Charles Lindberg and Charles Manson. Ghandi and Stalin are in there, too, arguing...the one determined to topple the other. When examined down to the brass tacks, is there any meaningful difference between them? Are they seperate but equal philosophers, each "right" in his own way, according to his point of view? Since they each sprang from the same human gene pool, who among us--sprung from that same muddled puddle--can pass judgement on what is right and what is wrong? On what then should our moral choices be based? Should we even bother to agonize ourselves over "moral" choices at all?

Werner Heisenberg, the great German physicist, had a choice to make. Nazi Germany was taking shape...a twisted shape. With war raging and Hitler expanding his reign and his weaponry and what with concentration camps filling up with people and all, Albert Einstein fled Germany for America. Neils Bohr fled Denmark for America. Nuclear physicists, under cover of some of the darkest of all European nights, were escaping Hitler's realm, lest they be "invited" to work for the Nazi nuclear program.

Heisenberg's main achievement was his "Uncertainty Principle"; the realization that the more we established a particle's velocity, the less we are able to determine it's location, and vice-versa. And not just because of a technically limited ability to measure those properties, but because uncertainty is a basic property of sub-molecular form. Uncertainty at the base level of matter was a new and fascinating notion. Extending the idea from the microscopic to the macroscopic world was philosophically inviting. Nietzsche's "Beyond Good And Evil" was a popular read among the intellectuals of 1930's Europe, and it had two well-placed admirers.

Heisenberg found Nietzsche's thesis intriquing. Hitler found it useful. Finding no certain justification to condemn the morality of Hitler over any other, Heisenberg led Hitler's nuclear project, his quest for the atomic bomb.

In America, Albert Einstein implored President Roosevelt to get to work on an atomic Heisenberg would surely be making significant progress. Although having made a late start, the Robert Oppenheimer-led Manhatten Project succeeded where Heisenberg's project had failed. Perhaps it was because the best scientists had fled Europe, or perhaps it was because Heisenberg's heart wasn't wholly in it. Either way, one thing that the Nazi atomic bomb project lacked was moral purpose.

It isn't very "intellectual" to talk about moral purpose. Intellectualism is, by default, academic; thoughtful, unextreme...inconclusive. But one wonders in what way that kind of academic non-definitiveness applies to the real world. Moral relativism may be a kind of denial; an "intellectual selflessness". But since when are we ever not ourselves? That amorality is a kind of unreality poetically seems to be self-evidenced by the fact that when a particular point is moot we call it "academic." Thought experiments that don't interface with life experience are moot. They are academic.

France (at times anyway) doesn't consider morality to be a moot point. When Princess Diana et al were killed in a car crash resulting from a high-speed evasion of paparazzi photographers on motorbikes, French (or, perhaps, merely Parisian) law was to come down hard on the bystanders, including the paparazzi, who offered no assistance to the crash victims. Parisians agree, then, that bystanders to a tragedy are not innocent, they are involved in the moment at hand just as much as are the victims and victimizers. To excuse one's self from the events at hand, especially moments of tragedy and/or atrocity, is to have chosen alienation over empathy; selfishness over selflessness. Amorality then reveals itself to be more than a bit self-serving.

Elie Weisel spent some time in a Nazi concentration camp. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning author whom wrote, in "Man In Search Of Himself", about that experience; and his education as a result of it. I remember clearly he imploring President Clinton (at--if memory serves--the 50th anniversay of D-Day commemorative service on June 6th, 1994) not to look the other way while "ethnic cleansing" scourged within what was left of Yugoslavia. What struck me the most was that I discerned a curious expression on the President's face as Weisel, staring to his right and directly at the President, called for what sounded like international intrusiveness. Clinton's expression seemed thoughtful...yet agitatedly so. Actually, the expression had an almost nervously self-conscious dismissiveness to it. Aw hell; Clinton seemed downright irritated by the appeal, as if he were mulling through his mind "Who are we to do that?"

Bill Clinton did eventually do it. He knew he had to intervene because, morally, it was right. And, instructively, he didn't waste time trying to corral the U.N. He simply chose not to join in the synchronous writhing of the Security Council's endlessly contorted academic self-doubt.

Today, with respect to Iraq, the U.N. is trying to decide if it cares whether or not it enforces it's own resolutions. It seems to me that the time has come to either enforce them, repeal them, or just whistle merrily down the same path to obsolescence first blazed by the League of Nations. Wake up and smell the East River, boys. To lead is to choose.

I've seen coverage of the large anti-war rallies that have recently filled world capitals...heard their arguments...witnessed their vitriol at the very idea that we have a "right" to depose a "sovereign" tyrant. In New York I saw Americans; Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, German-Americans. But we have to ask: where were the Iraqi-Americans? More specifically, where were the Iraqis whom are free to protest?

They were in Jordan, having crossed the border under cover of the darkest nights they've ever had to find the strength to see each other through. They were in American cities, too, pleading for the libertation of their country and their countrymen. We won't find Iraqi-Americans at the anti-war rallies, because they know all too well something every willfully ethically conflicted academician will never know: moral purpose. Iraqis know what evil is because they've seen what it does.

And so have we. Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, and the others...all the others; the guy with a steak knife ready to take on his first fight since 2nd grade...the flight attendent with the pot of piping hot coffee--ready to splash it over a high-jacker's face and hands...the Air Force pilot who would take the hot seat if the insurgence were to be--fingers crossed--successful.

Each woke up that morning an average Joe, a plain ol' Jane...same as we had. They, too, had grown up with cats and dogs and slingshots and Mr. Rogers... only they suddenly found themselves in a circumstance where they'd make themselves fully locked and loaded and determined to assault their captors with a brutality that they, up to that moment, probably thought could only arise from within a darkened heart. Yet, all they did was refuse to accept that their fates were sealed.
They knew that they were likely to die trying. And if they couldn't take back that plane, they would at least spare the lives of others at the hijackers' intended target.

Morality is something we can--and should--examine; but not as a maze of semantic vaguery that we'll never be able to exit. Sometimes we don't think we know that as clearly as we do. The passengers of flight 93 weren't constipated with some academic uncertainty when they faced their moment of decision. They made a choice (perhaps--I hope--the only choice that we could have made), and it was correct. We know that because we honor their choice.
And not just because it may have saved others on the ground. We, I think more deeply, honor their choice because of what it showed us about ourselves. We may have Ghandi and Hitler within us, hiding and arguing somewhere in an unexplorable recess of our psyche; but we know now, through vivid example, that we have every reason to expect that we too can rise above isolation, alienation, and fight...yes, fight...for the reclamation of life, liberty and dignity.

I am a very reluctant warrior, and it's taken me a long time to come around to supporting the mission to liberate Iraq. And it will be a struggle; ground troops will have to go in -- and lots of 'em. But I believe that the degree of horror that is Saddam's method -- judging from what is known of it and what is feared to be discovered -- as it terrorizes a nation, is enough madness to call us to reclaim the very human nature of moral clarity from the circular doubt of a cynical academic approach.

Do we have to free an entire nation or region's population from the terror in the mirror we call Saddam? No. But we do know that we can do it. And maybe that's all we need to know because, I think, we want to find the will to do it because that's who we are.

[End Note: It's interesting the idea of changing the nature of the Middle Eastern regimes, using Iraq as the focus, isn't mentioned either. I believe I considered that as an aspect of the mission only after the war had started. --TS]

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

Year In Review

Sometimes it's fun to trace a meme.

I found this at Stephen Macklin's Hold The Mayo, who found it at the Cheesemistress of Chaos' The Cheese Stands Alone, who found it at Cobby's Don't Panic, who found it at Laura's Sweet Surprise, who found it at Jenn's HaloScan.

That's as far back as I could trace it. Either Jenn invented it, or she forgot to mention where she found it. I'll assume that she invented it and say Yay for Jenn!.

So, here 'tis:

List the first sentence from the first post of each month of 2004. That's your Year In Review!

January: If you're reading this then you've shown up here dispite my warning that I wouldn't be posting for at least a week while I try to put my f'd up life into some f'n order.
February: What are Sun Spots?
March: So, anyway, I woke up at 4:00am this morning to the sound of squirrels manicly running back and forth in the crawlspace above my bedroom.
April: I just watched Greta Van Susteren interview Karen Hughes, and Karen said something that's got me thinking (uh-oh).
May: So, I was sitting there:
12 years old and sitting in my mother's chair and worried about stuff.
June: Here's an AP item about some wacky officials at Virginia's Falmouth Waterfront Park telling a Baptist pastor who was performing baptisms in the river to get off our property.
July: I finally got my hands on a legitimate Windows 98 set-up disk and it worked!
August: I just finished my guest spot on John Strauss' "First Day" program on WIBC (AM-1070) in Indianapolis to talk about my Fred LaRue was Deep Throat theory.
September: Between getting home later than usual and being distracted by the Convention coverage, I haven't finished this fershlugginer treatment of The Wall.
October: Yep, went looking for a photo again, caught a virus within minutes, had to reformat.
November: A quarter century ago the Iranian Hostage Crisis began the modern era of Islamist terrorism.
December: Her name was Mary, but I always called her Mare.

That last one's only half-accurate. I wrote that one just before Thanksgiving and post-dated it to Dec 1st because I was on a hiatus 'til then. The REAL first post of December begins:

December: In a world without Bs, if I may be so old, girlfriends would raid each others' hair, you would eat your eggs afore ya fried 'em, and kids would construct castles out of locks.

Aah, the year that was....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2005

Is this what we've become?

Drudge links to this article that asks several commentators in the U.K. if the earthquake-tsunami tragedy might bring about a global effort to address poverty throughout the world.

I don't want to appear to be at all flippant during the ongoing rescue and relief efforts, but I am compelled to comment on how this question was answered by a few of the respondents. I wont address all of them, of course, just the ones that I feel like.

First up:

THE RIGHT REV TIM STEVENS, Bishop of Leicester

I am hopeful, but we must see a real commitment to changing the economic relationships between the West and the poorer countries. As well as charitable giving, we need to tackle these fundamental issues.

I'm not sure that it's the "economic relationtionships" that need changing more than changing the economic basketcase-ness of the "poorer countries". In the long term, tackling that fundamental issue is more important than charitable giving -- unless that charity is in the form of the proverbial teaching a man to fish.

RORY BREMNER, Comedian On an individual level, it is not just about what we are prepared to give, but what we are prepared to give up. Having left Afghanistan and Iraq in their wake, can our leaders be trusted to fight a war on poverty?
Let's give this guy some slack for being a "comedian". Let's forget that to "give" something is the same as to "give up" something. Let's even ignore the ianppropriate and inaccurate characterization of the progresses in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only response that needs to be made to this one is that misunderstanding the term "war on poverty" is what keeps prosperity away from the impoverished. Poverty is a natural state of being in that it is the absence of pro-activity. Poverty, then, is not something to be "defeated" so much as something to be transcended through opportunities being available and seized.
STEPHEN TINDALE, Executive director, Greenpeace It seems churlish to say it, but while it's relatively easy for most of us to give ÂŁ50, it would be much harder for us to make the changes in our modern lifestyles that are needed if we are to move to a fairer world.
Not sure if it's churlish so much as it vague. What lifestyle changes do you have in mind, Stephen? Is it about oil, again? If we less of the poorer regions oil they'd be better off? And what does this have to do with Sri Lanka or Bangladesh? I don't see how our prosperity hurts anyone else. We created our wealth, we'll enjoy it, and we'll try mightily to spread it around just as we've been doing all along thank you very much.
DR GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, Leader of Muslim Parliament

Compassion, care and concern for mankind joins each of us - whatever our faith or ethnicity. The tragedy has shown there is a formula on which all mankind can be united to help each other. Mankind has moved forward.


It was the same after 11 September. Everyone said it was a great opportunity to try to understand the world but it was used by the US as a reason to go on a rampaging adventure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, I guess we'll go on a rampaging adventure through the Indian Ocean basin when we should just stay home and mind our own business. God I hope I'm never that cynical.
MO MOWLAM, Former cabinet minister

I think most people will simply forget. Some charities say people will even forget how much they pledged to give. I wish it would change our attitudes to other people in other countries, but I'm afraid that it won't.

One problem, I think, is that we're discussing poverty generally in the context of a specific natural disaster. I think this is clouding the issues a bit.
The impetus for the question is the current relief effort. The question itself is about poverty. The above statement makes sense when taken as an assessment of broader a concern. (Witness all those who think that America should just "get over" 9-11.)
But to address poverty, world-wide, demands the attentions of governments and the impoverished, not the relatively wealthy except in terms of charity. I'm just thinkin' out loud here, folks...

Western capitalism demands that people must be impoverished. I cannot think that anything will change this year, because we are the ones who have made the world the way it is. I don't believe in altruism.

Wow. "I don't believe in altruism." I can't bring myself to raise the Cluebat to someone that I pity. Next...!
LORD HURD OF WESTWELL, Former foreign secretary
The danger is that resources which might have gone to Africa will go to this instead. While huge publicity continues to be given to the tsunami, human beings are killing each other in Iraq, and places like Darfur.

Read that again. I'll wait.

It's a weird response, eh?
I think he means that, being so focused on the tsunami victims, we might forget about those suffering in other places. In that he has a point. But, otherwise, he sounds impatient and not thinking through his thoughts before answering. Or maybe he's just an idiot I dunno.

SIR MAX HASTINGS, Journalist and historian

We have to bear in mind that we have been here before. There have been tragedies before, and many fine things have been said, a lot of them by the US. We just have to hope that in this case they will follow through.

We always have, fucktard. But what's that got to do with the question at hand? Nothing? Oh, right, it doesn't matter.
J G BALLARD, Novelist

It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs mankind has ever experienced if we pooled our wealth in order to look after the poorer people of the world. Sadly, I don't think it will happen.

Well, if more countries (who'll go un-named) would like to jump in the pool with us, other countries might develope a working infrastructure. Then, maybe, we could accomplish something. Other than that, we'll always be back where we were: complaining about how the non-impoverished just don't do enough..
TONY BENN, Former cabinet minister

It may make people realise that the UN needs to be well-equipped and funded. If people diverted money from weapons and war, we have the technology and money to be able to help - if we decide to do that.

...and then be slaughtered in the process. These are the words of a willing slave former cabinet minister of a sovereign country. Sedition, anyone?

But I don't want to leave on a sour note. So, we have this final entry:


I think that politicians must realise that people do care about these issues and want them to do more. If 2005 could become the year when people make a real effort, then it could make a real difference.

General enough to be acceptable. Vague enough to be harmless. That's tact, pure and simple. Spoken like a true entrepeneur.

To sumerize: Nothing was revealed and noone was saved. What a waste of potential ad-space.

I hope I'm never this cynical again...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:44 PM | Comments (4)

December 04, 2004

Servant vs. Slave

Hey, anybody out there read Hebrew? 'Cuz I'd to know the difference between the words that are translated as "servant" and "slave" in the New Revised Standard Bible vs the New International Version.

F'rinstance: As noted in my previous post, in Genesis 24:35 the NIV has "manservants and maidservants" where the NRSB reads "male slaves and female slaves". What are the Hebrew words, and are they the same as the words in Exodus 20:17, the 10th commandment?

Also, what is the word in Job 1:3 and 1:8 that is translated in both Bibles as "servant"? That word refers both to Job's "servants" (same as the word for "slaves"?) and to Job himself as God's "servant" (different word in Hebrew?).

But, here's where the crow gets served to me on a cold plate:

Exodus 21:2
(NIV): "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But, in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything."

(NRSB: "When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt."

Question: Is the Hebrew word used here the same as one or both of the ezamples from Job 1:3 and 1:8 -- which was/were translated in the NRSB as "servant" each time, but as "slave" in this instance?

I've got more questions, but I think I can get answers to those by exploring the internet.

Now where's that leftover cranberry relish....


Posted by Tuning Spork at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

Just Some Photos and Stuff

Here are some jpgs that I found at

What's immediately striking about this one is that it's nearly exactly what Muhammed Atta saw as he steered the first airliner toward One World Trade Center.

Tower One is burning and, while everyone was either leaving, entering or staring awestruck, not many noticed that another plane was coming in over the harbor from the south.

The second plane finds it mark, ending all speculation about whether or not the first impact was an accident. Not even the terrorists could have saved the passengers and the people in Two World Trade Center at this point.


Nineteen summers ago I stood on the observation deck atop Tower Two. It was a smoggy day and the visibility was poor (we couldn't even see the Empire State Building), and I'd always wanted to return some day for a better view.

Visitors went to the World Trade Center to see the awesome view from the top. They'd talk on and on about it while pointing at the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and any other landmarks and neighborhoods they could recognize all the way down there.

Now visitors go there and, a thousand people at a time, file by along the viewing path in silence. They look over the pit and then look up at nothing and imagine the towers as clearly as they can because seeing them again, in the here and now, not in photographs, will keep them and the people that died in them real and present and not forgotten because keeping them in mind, and in our mind's eye, keeps us focused on what we're doing and why we do it.

Some people I've run across in the past week wonder why these anniversary observances are important. I've actually heard people at supermarket check-out counters say "9/11 again?! We just gotta get over it at some point, y'know... Let it go!"

I understand the impulse to shut it out - to want to return to the salad days when Americans could safely imagine that terrorism happened only to celluloid people in strange parts of a distant netherworld.

But 3,000 people died. And, with the families that were destroyed, the fatherless and/or motherless kids, the parents who lost their sons and daughters, the friends who lost their friends, the direct victims of the events 3 years ago today number in the high tens of thousands.
And when we consider that we know darn well that their losses could have been our own -- and, as Americans and/or free people, seem like they were our own -- we remember why we fight this war even more clearly.

That's why these anniversary observances are important. The day that we forget that morning will be the day that we return to the world of September 10th: Oblivious to the threat and unprepared for what tomorrow will bring.

Never again!

Never forget!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:07 PM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2004

Abject Advise for Michelle Malkin

I missed Michelle Malkin's appearance on Hardball last night, but I saw some extended replays on tonight's show (hosted by Andrea Mitchell).
Michelle's take on it can be found HERE.

There's an issue, it seems, about why she didn't say "yes" or "no" to whether she was accusing John Kerry of shooting himself on purpose. She tried to give a lengthy, detailed, accurate response. Now, while I like Michelle of course, here is my opinion on her "tear up" with Chris Mathews:

Michelle blew it. She blew it because she failed to recognize early enough that Chris didn't understand that "self-inflicted wound" is NOT synonymous with "shot himself on purpose".
Even after Chris acknowledged that he hadn't read the book, Unfit For Command, and he kept badgering her for a yes-or-no answer to the "shot himself on purpose" accusation, Michelle still kept trying to give the same answer -- which Mathews wouldn't let her finish.

All she had to do was say, when asked for a "yes" or "no" was: "Fercryingoutloud, of course not, Chris! 'Self-inflicted' does NOT mean that he did it ON PURPOSE! It's a descriptive term that means that if his wound was the result of shrapnel spewed from a grenade that he himself had fired then it's a friggin' 'self-inflicted wound'!! Get a clue and stop thinking that I'm wondering if he shot himself on purpose!!!"

If Michelle had said that then, I believe, Chris would have listened and that whole ugly badgering / defensiveness episode would have been nipped in the bud.

The problem, I think, is that Michelle goes on these programs (we wont mention her appearance on Bill Maher's show) that she's not really.. hmmm... suited for.
Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham could have put Mathews or Maher right, but, Michelle seems more geared to the tempo of a Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw, Hannity and Colmes even. Or even Bill O'Reilly when he does his relaxed "on-location" interviews. Michelle doesn't seem equipped to deal with the belligerent nature of some the shows she's, inexplicably, recently been willing to subject herself to.

She knows she'll receive a hostile host and/or audience, but goes in thinking that she'll be ready to deal with it. The problem is that she doesn't even want to deal with it. She knows she'd be more comfortable talking to an interviewer who's willing to actually listen to her answers to their questions, yet goes into the mayhem anyway.

Word to Michelle: Stop thinking that you're in the same zone as Chris Mathews, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Bill Maher, Paul Begala, Madcow, etc. You're not! And if you keep trying to match them -- while trying to, simultaneously, give studied answers in 3 second bytes -- you're only gonna keep looking like you're out of your element... because you are.

Allow yourself to speak and think at your pace and, ferchrissakes, leave Hardball and Bill Maher to those who actually want to deal with that rot. Jus' know your strengths, and know your weaknesses.

I go back into lurking mode now...

UPDATE: I just caught Ms Malkin on Hannity & Colmes, and it was interesting.

Michelle seemed to be more in her element -- as Sean and Alan treated her with respect and gave her time to answer their questions.

But, the thing is, she was defending racial profiling, and both Sean and Alan took her to task on it (though much more gently than Mathews & Maher would have).

Michelle, I understand your concerns. Belie-e-e-ve me, I do. But some folks have started to wonder if you're a "self-hating" Asian-American, and I didn't find this segment to be very encouraging. You noted that a significant percentage of the interned had had actual ties (or reasonably may have had ties) to operatives of Imperial Japan.

But, I says t' you I says: to stifle the Liberty of the People just to be on the safe side is the act of a tyrant, not an American.

I know that you're only asking for common sense in tbat Islamists are most likely to be Arabs, and so there we oughta look.
But also think hard and long about this: How many lives were lost in the Revolution? In the Civil War? In World War II? How many lives do we honor for giving themselves up for our Freedoms? It numbers in the millions. Shall we give up the very Freedoms that we've fought for for the sake of saving several lives?

That sounds callous at first, I know, but zone in on it. Are you claiming that individuals are less important than Liberty? I only ask 'cause, seems to me, that'd be a contradiction in terms. Liberty is all about the Individual, no?!

Protecting the Liberties of all is what we're all about. Power picking and choosing who has Liberty and who doesn't, as we go, is what we're fighting against.
We either fight with our Principles or we die with them.

Live long and prosper.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:05 PM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2004

One Year Ago Today, pt 3

Just in case I don't have time to post again tonight, here's me post from e'zactly one year ago. I hope you enjoy the silly saga of:

Spam Trek

Well, I've officially lost my mind! Then again, what else am I gonna do on a dreary rainy saturday afternoon?
So, without further ado, my new Df%#ilms:

Spam Trek: The Motion Picture
Spam Trek II: The Wrath of Spam
Spam Trek III: The Search for Spam
Spam Trek IV: The Spamage Home
Spam Trek V: The Spam Frontier
Spam Trek VI: The Undiscovered Spam

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:28 PM | Comments (2)

August 01, 2004

Radio appearance went well..but not great

I just finished my guest spot on John Strauss' "First Day" program on WIBC (AM-1070) in Indianapolis to talk about my Fred LaRue was Deep Throat theory. It lasted only about 5 minutes but we seemed to get a lot out in that short time.

I was a little nervous but I got through it without drawing any blanks, stumbling over my own lips, or letting my voice fall to my usual soft-spoken volume (I feared that John would have to say "Can you speak up a bit?").
All in all, it was a pretty good segment. :)

Stage fright has always been a problem for me. Whenever I used to go out to various "open mike" nights at bars and clubs I would have to be pushed onto the stage. I'd stand there frozen as my name was called. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't see. Once I got started, though, it usually came out all right.
My worst fear always was that I would forget the lyrics and stand there like a dumb-ass going "la la la" through half the song.

One time I was out with my friend Ellen on a karaoke night somewhere and I'd decided to get up and sing a song. I kept shaking and getting a dry mouth everytime I started to go write my name on the list of performers. She kept saying "Either do it or don't do it, it's getting late and we have to go soon."
"I'll do it, I'll do it. Just let me work up the nerve..."

After about two hours of trying to make the move I finally asked Ellen "Would you be mad at me if, after all this time, I chickened out?"
"No," she said, "Does that mean we can go now?"

I'd made the commitment to the radio spot and I wasn't going to back out. I spent the morning sitting by my computer going over my notes and preparing how I wanted to begin. The closer it got to 1:10 - the appearance time - the more I began to shake nervously.
I was drinking Maxwell House instant coffee to get me "up" for the show, and at about 12:30 I began to feel my stomach getting upset. Really upset. I tried to read some of my thesis out loud to prepare my speaking cadence, and I kept running out of breath and faltering because simply speaking was upsetting my stomach even more.

I went into the bathroom and hurled.

After a few minutes I was feeling a bit better. I sat in silence and waited for the phone call from John Strauss, running my presentation through my head and drumming my hands on my knees to release the nervous energy.
I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

1:10 had come and gone and I wondered if my appearance had been postponed or cancelled. I didn't want to check my email as that would tie up the phone line.

Then, at 1:12, the call came. John was upbeat and friendly and told me that we were about a minute away. "Great!" I said, "I'm a little nervous..."
"You're gonna do just fine!" he said, and I immediately began to calm down.

I could hear John talking on the air as he gave an introduction that lasted about a minute, in which time I had settled down dramatically. Once I got started it went fine, just like he said!

Everytime I finish a public speaking/musical performance I just sit and wonder what the hell I was so nervous about.

Christ, I'm an idiot...

UPDATE: I've had a few hours to mull over my on-air performance and have concluded that it wasn't as "fine" as I'd originally hoped.

The first problem is that I was nervous as hell and thought that I'd successfully disguised the shakiness in my voice. I know now that my nervousness must have been carried across the airwaves loud and clear.

The second problem was that John Strauss, unexpectedly, tried to steer the conversation toward the Deep Throat mystery generally, and I then kept trying to steer it back to why Fred LaRue, and no one else, was Deep Throat -- which is what I'd prepared myself all week to do.

For that reason John and his listeners may have thought that the conversation sounded a bit clumbsy. He wanted a leisurely discussion on Deep Throat theory while I had prepared to give a Fred-LaRue-was-Deep-Throat-and-no-one-else-was-so-there(!) presentation.

John, and his audience, probably heard the conversation as being a bit choppy and unfocused. John and I were each trying to pull each other in our own prepared direction.

I very nearly emailed John during the week to ask if we could pre-tape the segment. I didn't because I didn't want to ask too much of his time.
I wish now that I had because I could have given a 20-frickin'-minute monologue on Fred LaRue as Deep Throat.

I made a point of telling him how stagefright I was and I think that maybe he just couldn't believe that someone could be as stagefright as I'd claimed to be.

At one point John asked me a question that, I swear, sounded like "Fred LaRue's passing has eliminated other suspected Deep Throats, right?" (Those aren't John's words, but that's how they sounded...)

I responded that I didn't quite understand the question, and he admitted that he'd been a bit convoluted.
What he meant to ask was something along the lines of: "The death of Deep Throat candidates have, in the past, eliminated them as candidates for Deep Throat".

The question, I know now, was meant to be an invitation to me to talk about the upcoming August 9th 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation, and that that might be why we haven't heard from Woodward and Bernstein yet.
Due to John's clumbsy wording I completely missed the cue. (Sorry, John!)

He then clarified that the anniversary was coming up, and I was able - in the nick of time - to rescue myself from complete cluelessness.

The segment ended earlier than expected - and just as I'd started to become at ease enough to do a second one. But, John must have instinctively sensed that I was out of my element in public speaking and wanted to let me off the hook.

His closure, and subsequent off-air comment, "You did great!" was -- it's obvious to me now -- his way of telling me "You did yer best, thank you, but ferchrissakes go relax and take a breath now...!"

I'm breathing just fine... now that I'm not on anyone's air-time but my own!

If I'm ever again asked to appear "live" I'll have to remember to insist on a pre-taping.

UPDATE II: I received an email from John which was in response to my request for a tape of the segment, and, also, anything that followed where any callers may have chimed in with their own Deep Throat theories.

He told me that the show wasn't taped, and that no Watergate buffs had called in afterwards, but that some people had told him personally that they found the segment fascinating.

I may have been too hard on myself in that above Update. I remember being careful to segue John's questions into an opportunity to provide more evidence of LaRue=DT. He wrote: "Very good job on the radio... I hope you do some more media. Aug. 9 is a great news hook. You could pitch it that even if the anniversary comes and goes without an announcement from W&B, that's still an important development -- perhaps one more name crossed off the Deep Throat list."

Excellent idea, that! For someone other than moi...!

OK, perhaps my first assessment was more correct -- that it went pretty well, afterall -- and my later second-guessing was fed mainly by my own dearth of self-confidence.
Or, more likely, it's a little from column A and a little from column H. Either way, I seriously doubt that I'll pursue anymore media appearances before the 9th. Unless they can be pre-taped! :P

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:49 PM | Comments (7)

July 27, 2004

Fred LaRue, R.I.P

I just received an e-mail from a staff writer for the Biloxi, Mississippi Sun-Herald informing me that Fred LaRue has passed away this morning.

If you don't know who Fred LaRue is and/or are wondering why in the world a writer for a Mississippi newspaper has contected li'l ol' me, just have a gander at THIS. It's my working theory that Fred was the mysterious Deep Throat during the Watergate period. He might want to talk to me about it since - as far as any of us knows - I'm the only one who's ever put the idea out there.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee have always maintained that DT was a single male individual - not a composite - and that they'd reveal his identity after he dies. If Fred was DT then we should be hearing from them shortly.

Perhaps they may wait a week or so since August 9th will be the 30th anniversay of Richard Nixon's resignation (wow, time flies!). If we don't hear from them by the 9th then I guess Fred wasn't DT afterall and I've been wrong for the past 12 years. Oh well, I've been wrong about bigger things for longer times, mheh...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

Annie day now....

Either I'm too paranoid or I'm just too darn willing to give the benefit of the doubt. I can't decide which and, right now, I can go either way on this one.

Check this out.

Maybe Annie Jacobson "overreacted"; or maybe the 9-11 Commission erred in stating that terrorists are conducting dry-runs of what they've got up their sleeves. I dunno....

The corroberated behavior? The expired visas?

Maybe Annie did suspect that something was afoot when there wasn't. But if somebody even more clued-in than thinks that She may not have been daffy, I'd probably defer to that body.

I'm none too thrilled that no other passengers have come forward about this alledged event. But I'm none too happy that an air marshall has confirmed it, either.
I don't know what the $#@!&*^% is going on here, but I do know that a young writer isn't likely to throw her career away on a silly ruse like this.

If is right then Annie Jacobson has joined the ranks of Jayson Blair and that gal who won the Pulitzer for making up stories in the Washington Post some 20-odd years ago.

Annie, Ye have been challenged by the best.

Come out swinging or come clean. Michelle has invested her time and reputation on you. If you're not sure, after all this, then let us all know now. And that means NOW.

Don't be scared. You've committed no crime.... yet. Be sure about yourself and your story and be sure that you haven't let fear color your perceptions in ways you may not even at this frickin' moment be aware of.

Michelle deserves better. You deserve better. We all deserve better than all this rediculous doubt.
We await each other's clarity.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 02:10 AM | Comments (5)

June 07, 2004

Some thoughts on the Old Man (A day late but hopefully not a dollar short)

(I wrote this over in the Comments at Rae's and copy/pasted it over t' hyar - and cleaned up some o' the typos in the process, mheh.)

I remember it well.

In the '70s there was massive inflation and, by '78, it was all anyone talked about. The price of everything from gasoline to milk to bread to utilities, everything, were going up at rates of 8%, 10%, 12% per year!

The idealism of the '60s / early '70s had given way to an unfocused, bland society trying to dance to disco all night while just hoping that, if we ignore them, the Soviet Union would just go away.

Detente was a sham. In late '79 the USSR invaded Afghanistan and President Carter realised that he had to make foreign policy a focus. He threatened military force - while reinstituting registration for Selective Service (the draft) - in an effort to keep the Soviets from moving into Pakistan and to the Arabian Sea.

The gas lines, the Three Mile Island near-disaster and the failure and destruction of SkyLab all happened within a very short time in the spring of '79.

The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamist fundamentalists and, by the fall, 52 Americans were being held hostage.

Everything was a mess and the state of the Union was perfectly described (by Hamilton Jordan, I believe) as a "national malaise".

Then, in the spring of '80, there was a rescue attempt and several service men and two helicopters were lost in the desert of Iran.

We just smacked our collective palm into our forehead shouting "Can't we do anything right anymore?!"
The doubt was palpable, stifling, almost paralyzing when it came to looking for an optimistic outlook on the near future.

You looked to President Carter and all you could see was trouble. He seemed to have aged 15 years in 4. We must be in deep trouble; just look at this man's face.

Then Reagan showed up.

Maybe we didn't hear a lot of specifics; just a bunch of talk about getting government off our backs, standing up to tyrants, getting the economy moving again. But, he exuded confidence, courage and optimism about the near future.
All we had to do was reduce the size and scope of government's influence on our lives and the economy; then just restore our belief in ourselves and our values and, by golly, everything will turn up roses.
As if saying it would make it so.

We'd seen what a Carter presidency looked like and weren't too thrilled at the prospect of more of the same. So, we held our breath and took a chance on Reagan.

The crackdown on the Solidarity labor union movement in Poland, in December '81, showed us again just what the Soviet Union represented. Government control over the people and their productivity.

To believe that offering a man only what he needs will inspire him to produce according to his ability is a fantasy that everyone living under such a system can attest to. Reagan didn't need to live under Communism to understand it because he instinctively knew that freedom is the natural state of man, and government's function is to serve the People.

"That, to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed."
--the Declaration of Independence

It was after the institution of martial law in Poland that Reagan said that the Soviet Union was "the focus of evil in the modern world" and he. was. right.

Reagan then said that "we will not defeat Communism, we will transcend it." By that he meant that, by persistently shining light into the dark nooks and crannies of just what Communism was and what it did to people, it will lose it's mask and even the Soviet leaders will finally have to come to grips with what they've done to the spirit of their people.

He called the USSR "evil" -- several times -- and never backed down from that. He explained what he meant so clearly that, eventually, the leaders of the Kremlin began to understand it themselves.

After making the case for years that economic opportunity and the competition of free markets is the way to prosperity, the rhetorical killer blow came in June, 1987 at Brandenburg Gate.

"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, OPEN this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

And it was done, and seemingly sooner than anyone thought it could happen. Except for maybe Ronald Reagan.

"The wall cannot withstand the Truth; it cannot withstand Freedom" he said that day. And that's why he repeated himself over and over.

He knew that the Soviet Union could not withstand an arms race. That's why he invited one.

Now millions in Eastern Europe are free because detente, appeasement, appologism, all took a back seat to visionary ideas, bold words and decisive action in the 1980s.

Even when his own advisors and cabinet members tried to get him to tone it down, he pushed it forward anyway.
It was often in their good judgement that if he'd just act more cautiously, more carefully, and speak more diplomaticly, he could do more for the cause of peace and freedom than he could do by challenging, so openly, the very justifications of Communism.

Ronald Reagan's judgement was better.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:09 PM | Comments (5)

June 05, 2004

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

Reagan Red Shirt.jpg

"I ask you not simply to "Trust me," but to trust your values -- our values -- and to hold me responsible for living up to them."

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

" Let us beware that while they [Soviet rulers] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination over all the peoples of the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.... I urge you to beware the temptation ... to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil."

"It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work -- work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

"[N]o arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

"They tell us they have done the most that humanly could be done. They say that the United States has had its day in the sun; that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems; that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities.
My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view. The American people, the most generous on earth, who created the highest standard of living, are not going to accept the notion that we can only make a better world for others by moving backwards ourselves. Those who believe we can have no business leading the nation."

"We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."
--Normandy, France June 6th, 1984

[This last quote is not a famous one. I remembered it from his speech at the Republican Convention in 1992 and it took a little while to find]:

"But just as we have led the crusade for democracy beyond our shores, we have a great task to do together in our own home. Now, I would appeal to you to invigorate democracy in your own neighborhoods.

Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough. We must be equal in the eyes of each other."

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2004

Memorial Day 2004

Emperor Darth Misha has penned typed an homage to the fallen defenders of freedom and what it means to honor them on this day.
It's beautifully written and gets the message through in a moving way about just what today is all about. (I couldn't help hearing Ronald Reagan's voice in my head as I read it.)

Just a taste:

The soldier does not crave your gratitude, he does not ask for your grief and he does not long for your wails and moans.

He never crawled up on that wall for any of these.

All that he asks in return is your support. All that he hopes for is that you make the best of the gift that he has given you, that you never forget him and the reason that he's there, that someone else will pick up the torch and carry it onwards if he should fall and that you will do all you can to make sure that his sacrifice wasn't in vain.

He hasn't got the time to keep an eye on what goes on inside the castle, he's busy making sure that there is a castle tomorrow as well, and he depends on YOU to make sure that what's in there is worth saving and worth giving your life for.

He does not want you to pull him off the wall, leaving the sacrifices of his brothers in arms worthless. He knows why he's up there, he was the one to volunteer to go after all, and he wants to be able to finish the job he has started. He yearns to live, yet is prepared to die if he has to.

What he needs is for you to let him know that the home fires are still burning, and that we will not falter where he has refused to yield an inch.

That's why it's called the home front.

Okay, that was a course, not just a taste. Misha's got links to few other great Memorial Day posts. Read it all!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Mm, do I smell buttermilk...?

I've never criticized Racheal Corrie before because:, even though I think that she was naive and misguided in her pursuit of peace-without-strength, she died unwittingly.
She thought that willfully putting herself in harm's way -- she was an American and with an American's understanding of things -- might just well be the ticket to success. Wrong.

Crappy Aniversary, Racheal.

With all due lament, and earned disdain, and in all good fun (to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's "Richard Cory") Racheal Corrie:

Oh, they say that Racheal Corrie knows one half of this whole town
a political protester; she's spread herself around
She's traveled to so many trouble spots where Peace needs to be won
She really must be proud of everything she's done and done...

But, I work in this factory
And I curse this life I'm living,
I curse my luxury
and I wish that I could be, yes, I wish that I could be
Oh, I wished that I could be
Racheal Corrie.

She had so long to travel, but had so much to give
where every racist killer has every right to live
Some said she didn't see the obvious -
the irony on it's face -
that she trusted her own innocence
to keep her safe...

Her heart was full ofcharity
and a quite uncommon zeal!!
Courageous and observant!
A super human shield!!

So, why were we struck that morning
when the AP wire said:
"Racheal Corrie sat down last night
and watched a bulldozer clear her head."

And, I,
I work in this factory
and I curse this life I'm living,
and my security,
and I wished that I could be
and I still can't beliieve
that I wished to beeeee...
Racheal Corrie...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:33 AM | Comments (2)

February 19, 2004


All this hooplah over Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of Christ" has got me stymied. What is this "collective guilt of the Jews" I keep hearing about?

Being brought up in a protestant Congregational church might have left me unworldly, but I doubt it. Before all this talk about Gibson's movie had started to make some waves I'd never heard of this "collective guilt." But, as best as I've been able to decifer: it stems from this passage in Mathew, chapter 27 (I'm an agnostic but I do read the Bible -- I likes t'be informed about stuff...):

19 While Pilate was seated on the judges' seat his wife sent him this message: "Do not have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabas to have Jesus executed.
21"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the Governor.
"Barabas!" they answered.
22 "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.
They all answered "Crucify him!"
23 "Why? What crime has he commmitted?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibilty!"
25 All the people answered, "Let the blood be on us and our children!"
26 Then he released Barabas to them but he had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.

The first thing that this whole brew-hee-haw has brought to mind is that line from Kinky Freidman's song They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore: "...You just wanna doodle a Christian girl and y'killed G-d's only son.." (to which Kinky sardonically replied: "We Jews believe it was Santa Claus that killed Jesus Christ..")

So my gut tells me that this whole "collective guilt" thing is on the minds of Jews, not Christians.
Take notr that it was the crowd that challenged "Let the blood be on us and our children," not the deciples; and it strikes me that the very idea of a "collective guilt" is a self-evidently un-Christian way of thinking.
(I'd love to hear some input from Slave and/or Daniel on these points!)

Take notes: To be Christian is to be Jewish first. Jesus' last meal was at the Last Supper a passover sadir. The blood of the lamb of G-d was meant to fullfill the covenant that Abraham (a righteous yet very all to humanly conflicted man) could not bring himself to fulfill by sacrificing his own son,
Calling the Gospels anti-Semetic -- to Christians -- is like calling G-d anti-Semitic.
We start at the same place and choose to accept, or not, what happened next.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:44 PM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2003

Crappy Anniversary

15 years ago tonight Pan Am flight 103 landed (unscheduled) in Lockerbie, Scotland. 200-some-odd people lost their lives.
Muhammar Qadaffi (or however we're 'sposed to spell his name) has finally agreed to officially 'fess up and get out of the terrorism game.

In rememberence of the bystanders in the terrorists' war on Civilization I post the lyric to a song I wrote in December 1988:

At the Pan Am ticket desk a man with a black briefcase said "One-way to New York."
Thr clerk gave the man a smile and handed him a ticket to a seat in the smoking aisle from the computer board.
He walked quietly to the gate where he would enter the plane.
Right behind him was a flight attendant who asked "Don't I know your name...?"
He shakes his head and goes to find his seat.
That's just part of the story to be
of Flight 103.

A mother and daughter in the lobby talk about the shopping they did for the family back home.
"London's sure is a lovely town" the mother said as the daughter asked "maybe we should look for a phone...
"This delay may be long one; maybe there's a diner in here."
"Don't be so difficult. We'll be lifting off at any time, my dear."
Ther daughter frowns "what could the hold-up be?"
A steward asked if she'd like a cup o' tea on Flight 103.

A serviceman in uniform was talking to his buddies sayin' "Hey, let's have a little fun...:"
They started lookin' around at the women-passers-by sayin' "Hey, ain't she a pretty one...:"
"We oughta be movin' soon. I can feel it; we're in for a smooth ride.
My folks back in Jersey will be at the airport when I arrive.
I always go home for the holidays."
Everyone smiled at the tiny Christmas tree on Flight 103.

The pilot told the tower that they're ready for take-off anytime that they'll allow.
The passengers have boarded;
some of 'em hate to be leaving from Heathrow right now.
But you can't remain wherever you want to everyday.
Sometimes you need to get back home to know you've been away.
But everybody knows theyve got to take their seat
as moving on the runway and getting ready to leave
goes Flight 103.

A newlywed in London's clothes looked out the window and said
"Here we go; next stop: JFK."
"Oh well.." her husband says, "I always wanted to see New York anyway..."
"I can't believe you did this!" she said as the clouds blew by the glass
"My parents will be waiting for us at the airport in Belfast!"
"I'm sorry," he said, "I guess that I should be."
And as he spoke up another thousand feet
went Flight 103.

A little boy goes up to a bearded old man and says "Yer not foolin' me; I know who you are!!"
The old man said "For everything we know there's a thousand thing we don't know" as he lit a cigar.
The pilot radioed the tower, said "you guys are getting on our nerves."
He turned off his microphone and asked when the dinner will be served.
The co-pilot says; "Too soon for me!"
while in back of him in First Class they're all glad to be
on Flight 103.

She didn't know just what to think when the expolsion kocked her off the seat and the room went black.
Everything stood still for a moment. Then she she knew that there was no time to act.

A man on the ground said, "Hey, now, look up at the sky at those stars!
Looks like they're coming down... Hey, wait a minute, stop the car!"
He leans forward and squints his eyes to see
as we land in the village of Lockerbie
on Flight 103.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2003

The Wright Brothers Gustav Whitehead

On August the 14th, 1901 Gustav Whitehead (Weisskopf) of Bridgeport, Connecticut made the first powered flight of a heavier-than-air vessel nearly 2 1/2 years before the Wright brothers.

Why have you probably never heard of Gustav Whitehead? Because the Wright Brothers, in 1948, donated their "historic" airplane to the Smithsonian on the condition that the Institute never recognize or investigate any other claim to having been the first flyer.

Maybe most people think that the Wright brothers were first in flight, but we here in the greater Bridgeport area -- home of Sikorsky Aircraft -- know better.

And now you do, too!!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2003


There, I said it. Get over it.

What is it about a word that gets people perturbed? Is it the meaning? Or just the sound? Maybe it's just the fact that people are free to move their mouths as they deem fit.

A University of Virginia employee spoke up at a meeting held somewhere that was nowhere to address something and said:

'I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.'"

All hell has broken loose in Virginia and people (mostly white, it seems) are up in arms that "the N-word" was spoken aloud.
Ye can read the story here.

Now, I hesitate to say "some of my best friends are..." because that sounds like "I'm not a crook." But suffice it to say: I grew up (and still live) in a small city that has a very mixed citizenry; the largest town in Connecticut, only a few dozen miles from NYC.
What a wonder: you stick a bunch o' differant people together in a confined space they end up getting along swimmingly. Who'd'a thunk it?

Julian Bond almost got himself off the hook by beginning:
"My first impulse is that this should be a dismissible infraction -- but free speech protections I hold dear tell me that shouldn't be so," but he disappointed me by concluding that the administration "ought to disavow such language."

Maybe, having reached the age of 40, I've become an old fogie. But, there was a time when the word "nigger" was spoken aloud -- both with anger and with dismissal -- and was listened to either way.

I remember that Todd Bridges (of Diff'rent Strokes fame) once appeared in an episode of Little House On The Prairie. He played the child of black settlers who'd come across LandonTown (okay, I don't remember the name of the town off-hand).
He was the first black kid that the locals had seen. What an exciting experience for little Laura! But he was shunned by most of the town's kids. He made most of 'em feel uncomfortable for some reason, and he was made to feel like an outsider because of it.

He attended his first day of class in the schoolhouse and the teacher taught about things that the kids have to deal with but might not like.
She called on some of the kids and asked what they didn't like. Nellie's brother said he didn't like the way Nellie bossed him around or something. Some other kid mentioned how he didn't like the way his frogs jumped or the way his daddy beat the crap out of him every night or something.
The teacher then made a point of calling on the new kid (Todd Bridges), to get him involved in his new surroundings, and asked: "What about there anything you don't like?"

He looked around the class a second and said: "Bein' a nigger."

It was a powerful moment in my own adolescent experience. Would that episode even be allowed to air today?
I'll weep for humanity on the day that a word cannot be spoken because -- regardless of it's context -- we think that maybe some idiot somewhere might be idiotically offended.

Some guy said the word "nigger" at U. Virginia in order to illustrate the problem with the nickname "Redskins" and now is facing disciplinary action for it. Maybe we ought to just burn the Constitution right now and hand the country over the speech-codists and be done with ourselves.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:08 PM | Comments (15)

November 22, 2003

November 22, 1963

I was 5 months old when JFK was shot so, obviously, I have no "where were you when it happened" story to tell.

My first knowledge of John Kennedy was through family dinner conversations at my grandparents' house. Being Irish Catholic New Englanders they spoke not of "President Kennedy", or "John" or "Robert"; it was always "Jack" and "Bobby" and "Jackie" and "Teddy." I'd assumed these were all relatives of ours.

It was probably when I was about 7 or 8 or 9 that I began to realize that we and the Kennedys were not related. We had plenty o' Rileys and Sullivans, Keirnans and McDevitts, but no Kennedys ever showed up at our family picnics.

I remember the first time I saw the Zapruder film on television. In the mid-'70s they would only play it in black & white. It wasn't until 1983 -- at the 20th anniversary of the assassination -- that I found out that the film was actually shot in color, and it wasn't until I saw it in color that I realized the damage that the last bullet had done (and why they were reluctant to show it in color). In black & white, I never noticed the blood and gore of it all.

It was about that time -- say, 1976 (when I was in 7th or 8th grade) -- that I became interested in Kennedy's presidency, his speeches, and his assassination. I learned about the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missle Crisis (my mother let me stay up late to watch the TV movie "The Missiles of October" starring William Devane), the Civil Rights initiatives and his confrontation with George Wallace. And especially awesome, for me, was his speech calling for a landing on the Moon by the end of the decade. So many interesting moments in such a short presidency.

I listened to record albums of his speeches. My grandparents lent me the "In Memoriam" album (the famous one that sold millions of copies), and several other lesser known albums that came out at about the same time.
My interest in politics began with my interest in John Kennedy.
(At the time of the 1976 primary season -- when I was 12 --I made a facsimile voting lever ballot out of cardboard and thumbtacks with the penciled names of the Democrat candidates (I especially remember Bob Crane for some reason) and turned the bathroom shower stall into a make-shift voting booth.)

When I was a freshman in High School the assassination was investigated by Congress, and they'd concluded that there was something like a 90% probabilily that a fourth shot came from the "grassy knoll." I went to the library and checked out the Warren Report. While the Warren Report seemed convincing that Oswald acted alone, the U.S. Congress had just concluded that there probably was a conspiracy. Hmmm. My interest piqued.

Throughout the early-mid '80s I'd read several conspiracy books (Rush To Judgement, Six Seconds In Dallas, etc), and was in somewhat of an Oliver Stone frame of mind: "It was a giant conspiracy and everyone was involved!"

Then, in 1988, I saw an episode of NOVA, hosted by Walter Cronkite, that showed, among many other interesting things, how the "magic bullet" had injured Kennedy and Connally without making any weird turns in mid-flight. I re-read the Warren Report and, ever since, have been 100% convinced that Oswald acted alone.

I started to reread the conspiracy books; taking notes. My plan was to write a complete and flawless rebuttal of every conspiracy theory, and show how any conspiracy would neccessarily have had to involve thousands of conspirators.
Then, in 1993, Gerald Posner's book Case Closed was published. Damn! It was the book I wanted to write. Posner addressed every claim of the conspiracy theories and tore them to shreds. Every i dotted, every t crossed. Oswald acted alone; case closed. What a great book! I hate Gerald Posner.

My own interest in JFK probably stems from my childhood mis-assumption that we were related. But, I also think that Kennedy's true legacy is that he's a symbol of unfinished business. We don't remember Franklin Roosevelt as someone who died in office; he died of a brain hemorage just as his work was essentially concluded. The way Kennedy died -- young, violently, in public -- strikes even those of us too young to have lived through it at the time as, strangely, a personal tragedy.
It may be that, by keeping John Kennedy's memory alive, we are trying to remind ourselves that nothing is final; that work is never done; that closure is inherently unattainable in Life.

Well, I'm not sure I said that very well, so I'll just quote an old song lyric:

"They'll never, they'll never ever reach the Moon.
At least; not the one that we're after.
It's still floating out there on the open sea,
look out there, my friends,
and it carries no survivors.
We'll just have to leave these two lovers wondering why
they cannot have each other.
--Leonard Cohen, 1971

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:19 PM | Comments (4)

October 25, 2003

The Reagans at issue

The final script for the upcoming CBS mini-series The Reagans has been obtained by the New York TImes (since when is a two-part TV movie a "mini-series"?), and there seems to be a firestorm a-brewing.

I've read a few articles that point out some of the more controversial scenes and dialogue and heard lots of discussion on TV and radio about them. As I am, in many regards, a Reagan fan, I think I'll go right on ahead and toss in my 2 cents.
Here are the key points of controversy as detailed by Matt Drudge and others:

Insinuations that Nancy pill-popped are scattered throughout the story.

This was first asserted by Ron and Nancy's daughter Patti Davis in her 1992 book The Way I See It. Patti, to my best recollection, was writing about the period when her father was Governor of California, and before she left for college in about 1971.
Ron and Nancy both denied the allegation but, and even though Patti and Nancy are on much better terms these days, to my knowledge Patti has never retracted it.
There are repeated allegations that Ronald Reagan was homophobic.

I seriously doubt that Reagan was "homophobic," he was a very hate the sin but love the sinner kinda guy. Having spent a long career in Hollywood, the Reagans, I've read, had many friends who were homosexuals. I suspect that the allegations stem from a leftist view that since Reagan was a Christian and a Conservative that he must be a hateful, intolerant, fundamentalist whacko.

If there's an agenda behind this it might be to discredit Conservatism by discreditting popular and effective Conservatives. It might, of course, merely be that the producers and writers believe that the allegation is true, but I've seen no evidence that it is.

Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's disease as early as 1984. [Nancy rushes to a doctor to warn that her husband is forgetting things.]

This and similar claims have repeatedly been denied by many members of the Reagan Administrations, but here's my thought -- as an interested outsider -- on this:

After the first televised debate with Walter Mondale during his re-election campaign in 1984, in which he appeared illprepared, and occassionally disoriented, searching his mind for answers and coming up empty, talk of Reagan's deminishing faculties (though the issue was addressed very carefully) started to be taken somewhat seriously.

In the second debate Reagan performed much better. He had energy, was more aggressively and enthusiastically answering questions and, of course, famously made a joke about his age. The issue had been put to rest for many viewers, but here's the curious thing (for me anyway):

At the conclusion of the debate Mondale gave his closing remarks, and then Reagan gave his. His remarks were extemporaneous, not prepared; he wasn't reading them off of a teleprompter or anything. Seemingly going back into "searching and coming up empty" mode, Reagan couldn't come up with anything fresh to say, and he ended up essentially repeating the off-the-cuff speech he delivered at the close of the Republican Convention in 1976; the one about the time capsule.
This doesn't mean neccessarily that Alzheimers had begun to take root, but it certainly showed me that Reagan's mind in 1984 wasn't quite as quickly creative as it was in 1976, or even in 1980.
Or maybe he was just tired.

Nancy Reagan's characterization employs a generous helping of wild mood swings, dramatic lighting, and tart-mouth insults that are hysterically delivered by actress Judy Davis.

I heard some audio clips of some of the dialogue from the movie on the radio, and, yeah, it sure sounded like Judy Davis was playing Hillary Clinton rather than Nancy Reagan.
Nancy makes the case to Ron that "Ketchup is a vegetable! It is not a meat, right? So IT IS a vegetable."

As I recall, the controversy about someone suggesting that ketchup be classified as a vegetable with regard to school lunch programs, wasn't so much that ketchup isn't, in reality, just a spiced up tomato sauce, but centered rather on the fact that even a generous helping of the tasty condiment would never approach anything remotely like the serving-size of a vegetable.
So, I'm not sure I understand the point of this dialogue (that probably never occurred), unless it's just to insinuate that Nancy supported the idea of classifying ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches.
One scene shows Nancy and Ron both standing nude [wrapped in towels] when they first learn from NBC's John Chancellor they have won the election.

This account comes from Ronald Reagan himself. I'm not exactly certain, but I believe he told the story as part of the Morning In America short film that was played at the 1984 Republican Convention.
It'll be interesting to see how the scene is played. Will it be treated in folksy and amusing way, as Reagan told it? Or, will it be used to symbolically infer that he was unready for the job at the moment that he "won" it. (Maybe they'll have Nancy quip; "oh look, the new emperor has no clothes..heehee..")
A FILM CREW is swarming all over the living room, setting up lights, cameras, etc. Reagan sits in the middle, putting on his own make-up. Nancy arguing with Patti, (age 5), who won't come down.
NANCY: Come on, Patti. They're all set to go.
PATTI: No. I won't. I want to stay up here and play.
Nancy grits her teeth, and takes Patti by the wrist.
NANCY: No arguing. We're going down, right now.
PATTI: No! No! No! No! NO! NO!
Nancy reaches out, and slaps Patti. Patti reels, holding her cheek. Nancy freezes.

This, too, is based on Patti Davis' book, The Way I See It, in which she claims that she suffered physical abuse at the hand of Nancy from about the time she was 8 to the time she left for college.
Ronald and Nancy have both denied Patti's allegations, and Patti once responded that "denial is a primary characteristic of our family." To my knowledge, Patti has never retracted the allegation, and, as it's Patti's word against Nancy's, I'll just reserve judgement on it (though I strongly suspect that it may just be a difference of opinion between them about what constitutes discipline and what constitutes abuse).

What's interesting, though, is that, in the film, Patti is struck by Nancy at the age of 5. Patti never claimed that she was struck at such a young age, and Patti being 5 years old would put the scene in about 1958. I have no idea what the context of the scene is, but the only reason I can think of for making Patti only 5 would be to highten the horror quotient of the scene at the cost of historical accuracy. Hollywood...

NANCY'S STEP-FATHER: Nancy, I don't know what you see in Hollywood. As far as I can tell, it's nothing but Communists and drug addicts.
NANCY: It didn't used to be this bad -- did it, Mother?
NANCY'S MOTHER, EDITH: Hell, no. When I was here, it was just wall-to-wall Jews and queers.

Wow. I have no idea what this is based on, but Nancy has always spoken glowingly her step-father. My guess is that this may be to impune Nancy via her parents. If this is made up out of nothing than this is slander in the first degree. Mo' info is needed...
During a scene in the film which his wife pleads with him to help people battling AIDS, Reagan says resolutely, "They that live in sin shall die in sin" and refuses to discuss the issue further.

This strikes me as complete rot; it doesn't sound like anything that would ever come out of Reagan's mouth. Pat Robertson, maybe...

Edmund Morris wrote in Dutch, Reagan's authorized -- though fictionalized -- biography, that Reagan once wondered of AIDS, "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague," because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."

This question is bound to cross the mind of anyone who considers the idea that maybe things like deseases and natural disasters happen because G-d planned them, and Reagan certainly doesn't sound like he came to any conclusion on the matter. (Also, he said "illicit sex," not exclusively homosexual sex.)

It comes down to how you think about what G-d is, and how/if G-d operates in the material world. For instance, if you cheat on your wife then you're going to meet up with some trouble. You incur the wrath of a woman scorned, perhaps destroy your family, and be riddled with guilt even if the secret is never revealed. That cause and effect in our relationships is as natural as the cause and effect of mechanics.
If G-d created the laws of physics then you can argue that G-d created the laws of relationships. But, even if we think of G-d working in our lives in that way, it strikes me that the idea that the two can be connected -- personal sins (adultery, sodomy) produce external consequences (floods, plagues) -- is backed up by scripture.

As an athiest arm-chair theologian this stuff can give me a headache after awhile. Anyway, I don't believe for a second that Reagan would ever have said something so cold and bombastic as "they that live in sin shall die in sin.".

Reagan is showed repeatedly taking the Lord's name in vain, saying "g-ddamn this..." and "g-ddamn that..."

Even though the complaint about this comes from Reagan's son, Michael, I'll take issue with it. Reagan did say "dammit" a lot according to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon in his 1983(?) book Reagan. It was one of the things that struck me most about him (as evidenced by the fact that still remember that 20 years after reading about it).

As for "g-ddamn," I have a video cassette of bloopers from old black-and-white movies and TV shows, and Reagan is featured several times, including a scene where he had to pull up and belt his trousers and kept fumbling it, and, yeah, at least when he was on the movie set in the '40s, Reagan said "g-ddamn" an awful lot.

While the script portrays Mrs. Reagan as a loyal and protective wife, it also shows her as a control addict, who set the president's schedule based on her astrologer's advice and who had significant influence over White House personnel and policy decisions.

As far as I know this is all true, but only to a certain degree. The only member of the Administration that made a claim that Nancy was too influencial was Donald Regan. But the rap on Regan was he was a control freak himself who, as Chief of Staff, kept himself between the President and his advisors and Cabinet members. Nancy's role in Regan's ouster is well-known, and it was done to the delight of the rest of the Administration, so the film's portrayal of Nancy as a control addict is probably grossly overstated.

My understanding is that the astrologer was used by Nancy solely for advice on the scheduling of Reagan's travel. It grew out of her fears following the assassination attempt in 1981. No one has ever suggested that it caused any problems with the President's business, and it gave Nancy some comfort for some reason. All-in-all, who cares? If Shirley MacLaine can channel aliens then Nancy Reagan can consult an astrologer.

In one early scene Reagan's talent agent, Lew Wasserman, tells him that his anti-communist activism is hurting his career. "People know you're an informer for the blacklist," Wasserman says. Reagan replies, "I've never called anybody a commie who wasn't a commie."

Sounds like this line was lifted from an early draft of Citizen Cohn.
Again, Reagan didn't talk that way, and I think that what this line seeks to do is paint him as un-civil and probably paranoid.

Reagan, in the '50s, was suspected by many of supplying names for the Hollywood "blacklist," but has always steadfastly denied it. FBI records do show, however, that he cooperated with agents investigating the Soviet-backed communist influence in Hollywood, but there's so firm indication that his assistance was of any real significance.

Another likely controversial moment in the television movie comes in a scene that implies strongly that Reagan's inspiration for the Star Wars [sic] space-based system was a 1940 movie in which he starred, "Murder in the Air." Some experts have said that the film may have influenced Reagan's decision to sign off on the program. Others have dismissed such claims as overemphasized by liberals.

That a visionary proposal such as SDI was first planted in Reagan's mind by a work of science fiction makes perfect sense. Making any kind of "issue" out of it is silly, and probably only stems from the old and rediculous agenda of presenting Reagan as someone who lived in some bizarre Hollywood unreality.
Ironic, in't it? ;)
The final shooting script heavily implies that Mrs. Reagan, in agitating for the resignation of Alexander M. Haig Jr., Reagan's first secretary of state, went so far as to write his resignation letter. But no account holds that Mrs. Reagan wrote such a letter. After a consultation in response to a reporter's question, the filmmakers decided last week to remove that scene from the film, saying they would have deleted it in any case.

'nuff said.

Even though most of the basic plot-lines seem to be (in varying degrees of reliability) fact-based in the strictest sense, the biggest problem I have with this (especially when I heard the audio clips) is the over-the-top tone and the insinuations. It seems to be designed to impune the character and motivations of the subjects very personally. But why?
I think that the attitude of the producers, director and actors can be made clearest by this quote from Nancy portrayer Judy Davis:

"With the climate that has been in America since Sept. 11, it appears, from the outside anyway, to not be quite as open a society as it used to be. By open, I mean as free in terms of a critical atmosphere, and that sort of ugly specter of patriotism."

Aah, yes, that dreaded ugly specter of patriotism. Y'know, that can-do freedom-loving spirit that delivered us from the malaise-ridden Carter years. Maybe if we can destroy Ronald Reagan's reputation then we can finally surrender our sovereignty to the tyrants that infest the U.N. and the E.U and the Middle East and China and North Korea.

If history is rewritten then our lessons from that history will have to alter with it, and the makers of The Reagans know that. Make no mistake, folks, this movie isn't about the past, it's about the future.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:12 PM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2003

A century in the making!

Red Sox win!
We're one step closer to my dream of a Cubs - Red Sox World Series!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot

Okay, Rush, you're not so big and fat anymore, but you're an idiot.

Why? Because you know that "it's not the evidence of the crime; it's the seriousness of the charge" that sticks. How many times have you said that? How many times while driving to the Burger Barrel to pick up the lunch of the damned have I heard you warn us about the lib/Dem/leftist tactic of shouting foul accusations without merit in the interest of muddying the proverbial waters of political discourse?

You speak extemporaneously for a living and, by now, must have become accustomed to a rapid-fire honing of your thought-to-mouth process. Or have you?

You didn't make a racist comment; you were accusing the media of having a racist motivation, to build up the reputation of Donovan McNabb beyond it's just dimensions. "The reputation of McNabb in the media differs from his reputation on the field" you said. I don't know if that's true or not, I'm not a football fan. But what I do know is that you can't say that (emphasis on "you").

Bill Safire, Dusty Baker, Ward Connerly or even Mike Lupica or Bob Costas could have said the same thing -- in their own way -- and either been taken seriously or dismissed out-of-hand. But you can't. Why? Because you're Rush frickin' Limbaugh, that's why!

You're the perceived "voice of conservatism" (at least by the left), and the Dems want nothing more than to discredit you. Whether or not you made a racist remark doesn't matter to them. If they can somehow paint it to appear that you had then they'll consider it a score in the War on Bush. 'So what' if your target was the media; they can say it was McNabb and get away with it because it feeds on the stereotype of you that they've spent so much energy fashioning.

The infuriating and weird part is that you know all this already! And yet you still went ahead and provided the sophist demagogues with blanks that they could convince the under-informed legions are meaningful ordnance.

Anyone who cares enough to want to learn the truth will learn it, but you live in a world where persuasion is mannah. You know that you're a target and have to be careful about the issues you address and how you address them. Maybe it's not fair, but the truth is: that's your lot in life. Don't forget it.
The wolves were tensed; and you sheepishly slacked. Now you're no longer a part of that ESPN show that you loved being a part of for no reason other than your careless lapse of clarity.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:16 PM | Comments (4)

August 25, 2003

Never Forgive, Never EVER Forget

Thanks to Serenity and 4now, and especially the anonymous "attacked911," we may remind ourselves of THIS.

As we increasingly become distant and forgetful of the enormity of our shock, pain and anger that day, the more we need to take the time to make ourselves remember it.

It may take a while to download, and maybe you need to view it twice to have the sound sync with the images, but your patience will be rewarded and your memory restored.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2003

Deep Throat Revisited

In the summer of 1994 -- at the time of the 20th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency -- there was a BBC/Discovery channel special presentation about the affair that coincided with the publishing of (and was basically a live-action version of) Fred Emery's book Watergate. Having, by that time, long suspected that Fred LaRue -- a close friend and assistent to John Mitchell -- was the anonymous Deep Throat, I watched very closely whenever LaRue was on camera during the program.

Fred LaRue struck me as a sincere, decent, reasonable, humbly able and welcoming man. He didn't seem to be a particularly ambitious personality. Calm and genteel, yet could be quite emotional at times.
Toward the end of the program LaRue visibly wept as he was obviously re-living a period of his life that he rarely discusses publicly.

My case is not expert. As far as the facts go, I only know what everybody else who's interested in this knows. I have no access to every archived Washington Post story that mentions Deep Throat. My hypothesis is gutteral and intuitive, but, I think, also happens to fit the facts.

To set off my examination of why I believe that Fred LaRue may have been the mysterious Deep Throat I'll first site a short description of LaRue written by John Dean in Blind Ambition:

"..LaRue served as Mitchell's alter-ego. A millionaire oil man from Mississippi, he had been serving in the Administration out of curiosity mingled with a sincere desire to be of help. He had no ambitions that I could discern, nor any enemies. ....At the endless government meetings, Fred would melt invisibly into the back of the room and smoke his pipe. He held no title. The standard interpretation was that his full-time job was to be Mitchell's friend -- a vital service, since Mitchell had little use for the senior officials around him."

And here's a brief Bob Woodward assessment of Deep Throat, from All The President's Men;
"Deep Throat never tried to inflate his knowledge or show off his importance. He always told rather less than he knew. Woodward considered him a wise teacher. He was dispassionate and seemed committed to the best version of the obtainable truth." but also writes "He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position."

Were Woodward and Dean describing the same man?

Bob Haldeman, in The Ends Of Power, wrote a short chapter in which he says that he poured over the information that Woodward and Bernstein had attributed to Deep Throat and compared it to who knew what when, and decided that Deep Throat was, in fact, Fred Fielding. I've found a couple of sites on the internet that also finger Fielding. Fielding was an assistant counsel to the President, worked with John Dean, but had no intimate knowledge of the Justice Department or the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP).

Similarly, John Sears was also a member of the White House counsel. Len Garment, in In Search of Deep Throat, has pointed to Sears as the likely true identity of DT. But, it seems to me that DT's information was too precise and first-hand to have come from Sears, or Fielding, or anyone else in the White House other than, possibly, Haldeman himself.

Woodward and Bernstein wrote that Deep Throat occupied a "sensitive" position in the Executive Branch. Fred LaRue was John Mitchell's right-hand man, was a close friend and confidant to both John and Martha. He joined the CRP and became, to put it bluntly, the bagman. He was intimately involved in the activities of CRP's hush-money payments to Howard Hunt, et al. He was one of the few who had access to Maurice Stans' safe that held the secret funds. As the Attorney General's - and Re-election Chief's - "alter-ego"(as Dean put it), LaRue had intimate first-hand knowledge of the goings-on at Justice, the FBI, the White House, and, of course, the CRP.

But establishing that Fred LaRue was in a position to be the informant doesn't mean that he was. Maybe he wasn't the only one with all of this knowledge, as broad as it was. But let's look at what Deep Throat told Woodward and see if anyone else fits the template.

According to All The President's Men it was on June 19th, 1972 -- two days after the Watergate arrests -- that, he (who would only later be dubbed "Deep Throat"), confirmed to Woodward that Howard Hunt was involved.
This almost certainly puts DT at the CRP, as neither John Dean, nor any other WH counsel (including Fielding and Sears), had yet to meet with the President or his staff about the matter.

Deep Throat had confirmed that Jeb Magruder and Bart Porter had received at least $50,000 from Stans' safe.
The list of those who had access to the safe, and knowledge of who got paid and how much, is very short. LaRue, being the "banker", as it were, is at the top of that list.

Moreover, Woodward assures us that DT's information is reliable and first-hand, unlike another anonymous informant known as "the Bookkeeper".
"Deep Throat has been explicit in saying the withdrawals financed the Watergate bugging. But the Bookkeeper -- who suspected as much -- could not confirm it."
And perhaps DT's most famous directive to Woodward, "Follow the money," is also telling of his position; as the money had become LaRue's primary responsibility.

Woodward and Bernstein mentioned, in All The President's Men, that, while Woodward would usually take three cabs to get to the parking garage where he'd talk to Deep Throat, he sometimes walked the distance. He mentioned that it took "about two hours" to get from his apartment on P Street to the meeting site.
LaRue had an apartment in the Watergate complex and, looking at a street map of DC, it would be about a two hour leisurely walk (which we might expect at 2 a.m.) from Woodward's apartment to the parking garage of the Watergate.

Most striking to me was when Woodward, seeking more info on who knew what when, asked Deep Throat "What about Martha Mitchell?"
"She knows nothing, apparently.." he replied. Only someone having a close relationship to John and Martha Mitchell -- and knew anything about the dynamics of their relationship and home life -- would ever presume to make such a statement; especially someone as carefully precise as Deep Throat seems to have been.

LaRue recently talked to Tom Wilemon of the Biloxi, Mississippi Sun-Herald. Discussing why he adamantly denies Jeb Magruder's recent claim that Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in, Wilemon wrote:

If the president had approved the plan, Larue believes that Mitchell would have told him.
"There's absolutely no way, because of my unique relationship with John and Martha Mitchell, that he would not have told me that when I was in Key Biscayne. Absolutely no way. I had dinner with the Mitchells four or five times a week. It was not just a political relationship. It was a very personal relationship."

And, perhaps, somewhat explaining how this conscientious man -- this "wise teacher" -- could willfully allow himself to get tangled up in the cover-up activities after the arrests of June 17th 1972, Wilemon quotes LaRue;

"Now, the dilemma is what effect is this going to have on the campaign," Larue said. "I felt very strongly that if Nixon were tied to this that he would probably end up losing the election. I wasn't willing to have McGovern."

LaRue wound up being the "bagman," the person who delivered a payoff to keep people quiet about the break-in, an act that would result in his being convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He served a brief stint in federal prison.

LaRue pleaded guilty to an Obstruction of Justice charge in June '73, but was allowed to remain free on bond pending his sentencing after the trials of his co-conspirators because he was fully cooperating with the prosecution. He was free to talk to whomever he pleased.

The last mention of Deep Throat in All The President's Men is from a November '73 meeting -- following the revelation that there existed tapes of Nixon's conversations in the Oval Office -- about which Woodward writes:
"Deep Throat's message was short and simple: one or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."

That's a remarkable piece of information that narrows any field of DT contenders. Not only were there very few would have known of the existence of the "gaps", who among them could positively state that they were "deliberate erasures"?

Alexander Butterfield, who was in charge of the taping system, perhaps...but he would have had none of DT's knowledge of the CRP. Rosemary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary), but DT was definately a man. Alexander Haig (Chief of Staff), J Fred Buzhardt (Nixon's counsel toward the end), and several others close to the President at the time were all relative new-comers.

There are only two answers that seem plausible to me. One is Nixon's good friend John Mitchell, (Mitchell, being deceased, has, obviously, long been ruled out as being Deep Throat.), and the other is Mitchell's good friend Fred LaRue.

But, hey.. I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Fred LaRue has read this post, and responds -- by way a third party -- that he, in fact, never had direct access to Stans' safe. Okay, I may have wrong on that. But, it was not neccessary for Fred to have direct access, only to know what went out to whom when.
He also said that he was not Deep Throat, and he has always considered DT to be a composit character invented to tighten the narrative of, and/or spice up, the book. But, if he had to put a name on DT, it would probably be Hugh Sloan (former treasurer of CRP).

Hugh Sloan was a major "candidate", being CRP treasurer and all. But he resigned relatively early on (in March '73, as things got hot, his wife said she would leave him if he didn't quit), and he testified truthfully -- contradicting some of Haldeman's lies. Sloan would have been out of the loop long before he would have known about the existence of the taping system (never mind that there were erasures).

Hugh Sloan, in 1972, was a young man (about 30), the same age as Bob Woodward; not someone Woodward would likely consider a "wise teacher."
Also, Sloan's personality (just from the books I've read) doesn't seem to match Deep Throat's the way Fred's seems to.
[[Actually, --as I wrote that my thesis is largely intuitive-- it was the similarity of their personalities that first piqued my interest in Fred... That the evidence seemed to suggest it, too, was an interesting development!]]

Also from the aforementioned third party (who holds a position in Biloxi city government):
"I ran into him yesterday at a sidewalk cafe. He was working the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, which is part of his daily routine.
I showed your thesis to him. He read it. He read it again. Finally, I said, 'What do you think?' He sort of laughed, and said, 'Aw, this is a bunch of bs.' ..No, he was not mad. In fact, he thanked me for giving it to him."
-- Tuning Spork 6 Aug 03

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2003


[Note: All of those who've ended up here through Google should ignore this page and click HERE]

I just want to say, for the record, in writing, on this date, that I think I know who "Deep Throat" was.

Yep, figured it out years ago. It was easy, too. All I did was read Woodward and Bernstein's All The President's Men, take note of what information D.T. provided, and see who among the cast of characters could have had that knowledge.

Strangely, Bob Haldeman said he did the same thing, and came up with Fred Fielding, an assistant to John Dean. But, how could he have missed it? IT'S SO OBVIOUS!!!!!!!!!

So, here's the answer: Deep Throat was Fred LaRue.

Who? Fred LaRue! He was an assistant/deputy/buddy to Attorney General John Mitchell. It's been years since I first figured this out (I believe it was 1992), so I don't recall exactly what the details of the "smoking guns" were; but it had to do with a meeting in Key Biscayne, and a host of other coincidences of time and place. Deep Throat provided details of a meeting attended by 3 or 4 people; Magruder, Mitchell and LaRue at the very beginning of Gemstone. He also knew about the taping system a year and half later. Barring an FBI official that may have had info from various sources over that period, I believe that Fred is only one man (who is still alive) had such a wide ranging access/knowledge over that period of time.

So, there you have it. And when LaRue dies and Woodward and Bernstein announce that he was Deep Throat, you can say; "Duh! Knew that already, guys! Tuning Spork told me!"

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)
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