Category Archives: News

Bereavement is just another slasher flick

So there I am on Yahoo, and there’s this news item, Actor best known for playing ‘Batman’ butler dies at 94. And immediately I’m annoyed, right? The headline doesn’t say the actor’s name. They’re making us click through, to get the name, and see more ads in the meantime. So, whatever, I click through, thinking, at 94, that could be like the TV version guy. But, no, it’s Michael Gough, from more recent movies. One or two I’ve even seen, before I fled from that bloated franchise.

And but then on Yahoo News there’s a box to the right with more news stories. And one of them really catches my attention. It says Bereavement is just another slasher flick. It could merely mean that there’s a movie named Bereavement. But a slasher flick named Bereavement? Really? And this story is alongside other stories with movie titles in them, namely Box Office Preview: ‘Battle: L.A.’ could win again and Casting Call: Megan Fox Headed To ‘Knocked Up’ Sequel, and see how the movie titles themselves are in the quotes? And Bereavement isn’t? So, maybe Bereavement isn’t Bereavement, it’s just regular old bereavement.

So then, that sounds pretty cool, like an interesting description of bereavement, likening it to a slasher flick. What’s that all that about, is I want to know. So I click through to it. Alas, it is just a movie, and it’s just another slasher flick, just like it says. Damn.

Still, a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.

The Kinds of People Who Get Murdered

I’ve been distressed and in some only vaguely understood way compelled by the recent news concerning poor John P. “Jack” Wheeler III. He was very much the star of Rick Atkinson’s “The Long Gray Line,” which book I read not long after it came out in the late 1980s. It’s not like I’ve spent the last twenty years constantly thinking about him, but, still, I would think of the book, and him, from time to time. Great books stay with you like that.

Wheeler himself graduated from West Point in 1966, and later he earned an MBA from Harvard and a JD from Yale. He was the chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, responsible for getting the memorial built. (You kids wouldn’t believe the fuss about that at the time.) He was also the first chairman and CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. More recently, apparently, he’d launched the American Warfighters Fund, working to end the ROTC ban at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia.

So what’s really weird is that on Friday last, New Year’s Eve, 2010, some minutes before 10:00 a.m., someone called the Wilmington Police Department about a body tumbling out of a Waste Management truck into the Cherry Island Landfill. And that body turned out to be Jack Wheeler. And somebody, according to the Delaware Medical Examiner’s Office, murdered him.

Part of why I’m compelled by this saga may just be normal, prurient interest, what with a marginally prominent government official meeting such a gruesome demise. Part of it, too, might just be that I also happened to have heard of him at something of a formative time in my youth. But I think a lot of it is what I first took to be the sheer unlikeliness of it. The Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows was a friend, turns out, and he points us to this quote from the story in the Delaware News Journal:

“This is just not the kind of guy who gets murdered,” said Bayard Marin, a Wilmington attorney who represented Wheeler. “This is not the kind of guy you find in a landfill.”

And I follow what he means. But, then again, I don’t. Who, then, are the kinds of people who get murdered? Who is the kind of guy you would find in a landfill?

I truly don’t mean to be flip about this. And I’m certainly not in any way condemning the way Bayard Marin or James Fallows feels, since I think I must have felt the same way initially, and they knew him where I didn’t. But what do we mean when we think that there are kinds of people who get murdered and kinds of people who don’t? And what does it mean to our worldview when the kind of person who doesn’t get murdered does, in fact, get murdered?

Cellphones Now Used More for Data Than for Calls

Fascinating article in the NYT today about cell phone usage. Apparently they’re now used more for data than for actual phone calls. This calls into question their very name, no? I mean, they’re more used as other devices rather than as phones qua phones, so maybe we shouldn’t even call them phones anymore.

While we’re at it, I suppose I’m maybe even old fashioned, calling them cell phones, too, instead of mobile phones. They don’t necessarily even use cellular technology anymore. They’re digital now right? And cellular is an analog protocol? Maybe? I’m on shaky ground here, not really knowing what I’m talking about.

Let’s just go with mobile devices, now, instead of cell phones.

Although likely I’m this morning being influenced by the fact that the NYT article refers to them as cell phones throughout. Wait, not even as cell phones, but rather as cellphones. All one word. Must be in their style guide, which I’d generally trust. They really worry about these things.

More fun, though, was a quote from a telecom analyst, who says, apropos these devices being now more looked at rather than talked into, “Handset design has become far less cheek-friendly.” I like that: cheek-friendly.

Ominously, though, comes the prediction from the CEO of Sprint Nextel, expecting that soon we’ll be charged by amounts of data rather than voice minutes. I have enough trouble keeping track of minutes. How am I ever going to be able to track bytes?

And, lastly, there’s this astonishing statistic regarding American teenagers and texting. To wit:

American teenagers have been ahead of the curve for a while, turning their cellphones into texting machines; more than half of them send about 1,500 text messages each month, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

I don’t know what the sampling here is, whether it’s half of all teenagers or only half with cellphones. Oh, probably the latter, now that I think about it. But, still, whatever, dude, that’s a shitload of texting going on.

So this made me wonder as to my own cellphone usage. I got a new phone last month, replacing a smart phone with a dumber one. It was like the old one, an HTC Touch, was a little mini computer that happened to be a phone. And making and receiving calls on it was a pain in the ass, frankly. And texting was an equal pain, given the touch screen instead of a separate keyboard. So my new Samsung Intensity has a slide-out physical keyboard, much easier to use. And a single button gets me immediately into a new text message. Love it.

Oh, and it gets much, much better reception. Oh, and it’s a lot easier to use with a Bluetooth headset.

As to usage, it’s got handy counters. In the 22 days I’ve had this new phone, I’ve dialed 28 phone calls and received 8, whereas I’ve sent 34 text messages and received 44. Apparently I text more than I talk, although it’s hard to factor in the land line I’ve still got at home, which takes care of some of the talking but none of the texting.

Anyway, an interesting article, I thought.

Obama Caught Lip-Syncing Speech

I thought the video was a bit lame, only mildly amusing, but the supposed blog entry was just so tone-perfect:

apology to my fans

obviously i am going through some shit right now. i’m
going through enormous pressures, and there are
definitely some personal issues I’m dealing with right
now. fact is, i didn’t wnat it to happen but it happened.
It’s pretty hard goibg out there every night and doing it.
I think in the back of my mind i knew i was not ready for
that and i shouldn’t have done but but thats life. i am a

thanks to all my TRUE FANS who have stood by me.
ignore the haters and the people who feed of negativity.
i could definitely use all your positive energy right now.

love always,


The scroll at the bottom had some pretty good nuggests too:


President Obama in Olso

A stunning speech:

My favorite passages:

[M]ake no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

… [T]he world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.


Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he’s outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school — because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child’s dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity.  Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Last Year’s News



For the moment anyway, the home page of The New York Times is letting me know what were the most popular articles from February 13, 2008. See this article, for example, where a beagle (gasp!) wins at Westminster.

Thanks, Grey Lady, for that blast from the past!

Science is Fun


scientistsSpotted this story on Yahoo News: Scientists say a rock can soak up carbon dioxide.

It had this picture, with the caption:

Scientists sample a stalagmite of carbonate minerals in an undated photo courtesy of Columbia University’s Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory. A rock found mostly in Oman can be harnessed to soak up the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at a rate that could help slow global warming, scientists say.

Looks like a totally fun job to have.

Jon Voight’s 6th Grade Views

I really don’t mean to keep doing this, fisking stuff from the right-wing crazies. Heck, I left this one alone at the time:

In the last 20 years, we were lectured constantly about “post-industrial” America.

Experts proclaimed that the United States had evolved into an “information society” of “high-tech jobs.”

I love those quotes, like Dr. Evil talking about a “laser.” But, hey, you know what? I let it go by. I didn’t say anything. I left it alone.

But today, this Jon Voight essay in the Washington Times is just too, too rich.

We, as parents, are well aware of the importance of our teachers who teach and program our children. We also know how important it is for our children to play with good-thinking children growing up.

How awesome is that? Good-thinking children. And teachers not only teach, but they program as well?

We cannot say we are not affected by teachers who are militant and angry. We know too well that we become like them …

You know, because apparently we’ve all had teachers who are militant and angry. How else would we know, all too well even, that we become like them? Um, except that then, somewhere, Jon Voight became unlike them.

The Democratic Party, in its quest for power, has managed a propaganda campaign with subliminal messages, creating a God-like figure in a man who falls short in every way.

Can it really be both, propaganda and subliminal? How does that work? And he’s both God-like and falling short? What the hell is that?

The Democrats have targeted young people, knowing how easy it is to bring forth whatever is needed to program their minds.

Again with the programming. And apparently it’s easy. This bringing forth, however, is a little creepy.

Those same leaders who were in the streets in the ’60s are very powerful today in their work to bring down the Iraq war and to attack our president …

I thought my favorite new phrase of all time was going to be good-thinking children, but bring down the Iraq war is charming me a whole heck of a lot. Where is it up, that it needs to be brought down?

Thank God, today, we have a strong generation of young soldiers who know exactly who they are and what they must do to protect our freedom and our democracy … Our soldiers are lifting us to an example of patriotism at a time when we’ve almost forgotten who we are and what is at stake.

Again, all sorts of awesome. Soldiers who know exactly who they are. Remember how bad it was, when we had those soldiers who didn’t know who they were? And again with the strange movement of things, this time not bringing down, like the earlier paragraph. Rather, lifting us to an example of patriotism. Not simply demonstrating patriotism, or embodying patriotism. No, nothing so mundane. Actually lifting us to an example of it. Lifting us.

[T]here’s not a cell in my body that can accept the idea that Mr. Obama can keep us safe from the terrorists around the world, and from Iran, which is making great strides toward getting the atomic bomb.

I’m actually getting a little queasy, thinking about all the cells in Jon Voight’s body. But wasn’t he terrific in that episode of Seinfeld, when he bit Kramer?

[T]he Obama camp has sent out people to attack the greatness of Sen. John McCain, whose suffering and courage in a Hanoi prison camp is an American legend.

This actually reminds me of the wonderfully tacky gravestone at Graceland, where it reminds us that Elvis was a living legend in his own time. I guess it must be the suffering in Hanoi becoming the American legend.

Gen. Wesley Clark, who himself has shame upon him, having been relieved of his command, has done their bidding and become a lying fool in his need to demean a fellow soldier and a true hero.

Now it’s starting to sound like the charmingly bad stuff issued by the North Korean Central News Agency. Stuff like this, denouncing a particular group’s rowdyism.

Lee Myung Bak Group’s Rowdyism Assailed

Pyongyang, July 27 (KCNA) — The South Headquarters of the National Alliance for the Country’s Reunification on July 23 issued a statement denouncing the traitor Lee Myung Bak group for appointing an anti-reunification conservative element as “ambassador for human rights”.

Finally, Voight wraps it up. Strong closing? Let’s see:

This is a perilous time, and more than ever, the world needs a united and strong America. If, God forbid, we live to see Mr. Obama president, we will live through a socialist era that America has not seen before, and our country will be weakened in every way.

Yes! He sticks the landing, ladies and gentlemen. A perfect ten! Second only to the wisdom of Van Halen’s Why Can’t This Be Love, when Sammy sings, “Only time will tell if we pass the test of time,” Jon  Voight gives us this sage nugget of tautology: If we live to see it, we will live through something that we’ve never seen before.

I tip my hat to you, sir, Mr. Jon Voight. Well played, indeed.

Sisterhood of the Travelling Space Suits

Saw this headline on my memeorandom feed in my Google Reader: Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up ( Wondered if I could figure out who was the likeliest culprit before reading the actual story.

So, first, who walked on the Moon? Off the top of my head, there’s:

Apollo 11: Armstrong, Aldrin
Apollo 12: Conrad, Bean
Apollo 14: Shepard, Mitchell
Apollo 15: Scott, Irwin
Apollo 16: Young, Duke
Apollo 17: Cerwin (?), Schmidt

Yeah, okay, I’ve got a one in twelve chance of just guessing randomly, sure. How hard is this test? (Play along at home, then. You pick one.)

But, then again, how many are still alive? Again, off the top of my head: Conrad, Shepard, and Irwin are dead. So now it’s down to one out of nine.

But, really, it’s not even close. It’s been a trick question. Ed Mitchell’s clearly the weirdest one by far in this list. The only other one even close would have been Bill Irwin, but, again, we know he passed away years ago, not long after his (second?) trip to Mount Ararat to find Noah’s Ark.

So, click through to the story to find:

Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
July 24, 2008 12:01am
Article from: The Daily Telegraph

FORMER NASA astronaut and moon-walker Dr Edgar Mitchell – a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission – has stunningly claimed aliens exist.

And he says extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions – but the alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades.

Hah! I was right!

But of course I couldn’t remember Apoll o17’s commander Gene Cernan’s name right to save my life. And I spelled Jack Schmitt’s name wrong as well. We’ll call it a draw, then.

Parallel Construction

I was thinking more about it, at lunch today. The John McCain quote. And I’m starting to think that the parallel construction works much better than I originally gave it credit.

First, let’s review what he said.

This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

I had pretty much denoted the parts thus:

Senator McCain
x = lose a political campaign
y = lose a war
Senator Obama
b = lose a war
c = win a political campaign

But, clearly, y = b, so at the very least I should make it Senator Obama would rather y in order to c. That’s some parallelism right there.

But furthermore, the lose a political campaign is the exact opposite of win a political campaign. That would make c equal to the reciprocal of x. So then we would have it be Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

And then the final structure would be Senator McCain would rather x than y; whereas, Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

Far, far more parallel than I gave it credit. It still isn’t true, mind. But it does have an internal logic that I first missed.

“He’s not dead, that’s the main thing.”

I walk by that intersection at 18th and K most weekdays on my way home from work. The Farragut West Metro is at 18th and Eye, one of the entrances anyway, and I work at 19th and M. So to get from 18th & Eye to 19th and M sometimes involves traipsing past 18th & K. Only sometimes, though, because mornings I go through the International Square food court, which lets me emerge at 19th & K. But I-Square closes evenings at 6:00 p.m., and I’m not usually out of work by then. Hence the going around the building, east on K from 19th to 18th, taking a right at 18th.

But that’s in the evenings, so I’m safe apparently from the threat of Bob Novak. Who knew he drives a black Corvette, although what else would the Prince of Darkness drive, yeah? He plowed into a pedestrian today around 10:00 a.m., when I was safely three blocks away. Don’t usually walk by there until many hours later.

And lately anyway I’m only at the intersection, not actually in it, presumably safe on the sidewalk. But I used to cross K at 18th, before they closed the west-side sidewalk between K & L for the construction they’re doing on 1801 K. But even if I were still crossing there, Mr. Novak had to be going north on 18th, turning right to go east on K. I’d only have been in danger had he been turning left. In the evening.

Main thing, though: how do you hit a guy, have him splayed all over your hood, and you don’t even notice? Either you’re lying about not knowing, in which case you shouldn’t be let back behind the wheel, or you’re just that addled generally that you don’t notice guys on your hood, in which case you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Either way you’re a menace. To pedestrians. To me.

Today I stopped for a while at 18th & K, around 8:00 p.m. (Left work really late.) I looked around for several minutes, trying to find traffic or security cameras, seeing if there was CCTV, like Jane Tennison would do. There’s a traffic cam at 19th & K, but that’s pretty far away, a long block, and I’m guessing all the trees along K would obscure the view anyway. No such camera at 18th & K, darn the luck.

One of the parking garages down 18th has a camera, looks like, but it seems to be more for the pedestrian door that it’s right above. It’s got a pretty good shot of the intersection half a block up. But it’s one of those bubble/eye type deals. What with that and the smoked glass, I couldn’t tell where it’s pointed. Another camera at a garage across the street was clearly pointed down, pointing at the cars going into the garage, not anywhere close to looking up 18th towards K.

Those two cameras were the best I could do. Only other thing of interest was a WJLA (channel 7) van still parked at 18th & K though. No crew or producer or reporter seemed to be around. Wonder where they went, why they left the van there.

Plus ça change


Told to Use Money and Effort,
He Says, as Roosevelt Defeat
Is Necessary to Hitler.


Republican Held Patriotic but
Confused in Mind on World
Cross Currents

Special to The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 25 – Charg-
ing that Nazi agents had been or-
dered to spend money and effort to
accomplish the defeat of President
Roosevelt next month, Henry A.
Wallace asserted at a campaign
rally tonight that a Republican
victory was a necessity for the
plans of Adolf Hitler and his fellow-

This from the New York Times, October 26, 1940. Far be it from me to criticize progressive hero Henry Wallace, but … okay … no … fuck it. You know what? Let’s go ahead and criticize progressive hero Henry Wallace.

He’s a great big asshole, in this instance anyway.

(h/t Ben Smith over at Politico)
(You can buy a copy of the NYT article here.)

Need I Know More? No.

Years ago I saw a news headline:

Bjork’s mother ends hunger strike

And I really didn’t want to know anymore. Just felt like that was enough. Sure, it could have been some other Bjork, but I assumed it was the weird Icelandik music chick. Many reasons why her mother would have started a hunger strike, and more reason that she could have gone off same. But, really, why dig any deeper? Just bound to disappoint. So I didn’t click through and read the story. Never did. Still don’t know really.

Saw another one today:

Eldest child in Austrian incest case wakes from coma

Let me ask you, did you know that there was some sort of Austrian incest case? (Austrian, mind you. Let’s try to keep them straight, shall we?) And that said Austrian incest case involved a minimum of three children? (If there were only two, then there’d be an elder and a younger. No eldest involved.) And of those three or more children, at least one was in a coma? (I’d think that if it were only the one child in a coma, the headline could simply have declared Child wakes from coma rather than Eldest child wakes from coma.)

Did you know all this? Me neither. What the fuck kind of freaky shit is going on in Austria?

It occurs to me now that there are similarities between these two headlines. Both describe events occurring in Europe. Both as well describe some condition that a European individual was in, but is now no longer in said condition. I wonder why these catch my attention so.


I guess it was around the fall elections in 2006 where I complained about Joe Lieberman but then later realized that he was a lot smarter than I was.

I was thinking about Eliot Spitzer while doing the dishes. As we all do from time to time, think about Eliot Spitzer while doing the dishes. And I suddenly realized that I was probably pretty wrong last week when I complained about him. Specifically, I think I understand why he kept emphasizing that it was all a private matter.

It clearly isn’t a private matter, not by a long shot. But as he’s facing some serious criminal charges, he needs to be careful about saying anything that might have any bearing on the case. And so then couching everything in this way, as being private, he’s at least hinting that he’s done something wrong without exposing himself to later cross examination.

Not that he’s been Mirandized yet or anything, but best to be careful anyway.

So, for the record: Eliot Spitzer, dumb with the hookers, but smarter than I am about the fallout.

Bear Stearns

Trying to figure out what happened, what the fuck is going on. Bear Stearns is trading at $30 on Friday, then over the weekend JP Morgan buys it for $236 million.

As the Financial Times puts it:

[T]he deal, which values Bear at just $2 per share, compared with the $169 hit in January last year and the $30 reached on Friday, will wipe out most of the value of the investments of Bear’s shareholders.

And the Fed is guaranteeing up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns’s outstanding paper. What gives?

Small World

My sister emails me with her minor connection to the scandal of Gov. Spitzer, who announced his resignation today (in a statement of three-hundred and seventy-seven words).

Apparently, my sister used to work with the woman who did the booking for the Emperor’s Club. Before she, this woman Tanya, went on to this fabulous career, she worked at my sister’s employer, a manufacturing company with 5,000 employees and over $2 billion in revenue last year. Tanya was the CIO’s assistant.

Also we find out more today about the particular woman whom Gov. Spitzer met at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Valentine’s Eve. Alexandra aka Kirsten. The New York Times links to her MySpace page. What a strange world we live in nowadays.

I actually check out said MySpace page. Seems like she’s gotten comments from friends in recent days, telling her that they’re thinking of her, offering support, that sort of thing. It’s really touching. I feel the exact opposite of Spitzenfreude for her.

Governor Spitzer

Dawn calls me, to tell me to check the news regarding New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Hoo, boy, dandy, is he in trouble.

Later in the day he gives a brief statement, with his wife dutifully at his side, natch. And by brief I mean all of 182 words. Here’s fifty of them:

Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.

A private matter? Are you kidding me? Good luck trying to keep this a private matter, while you’re facing federal criminal charges.

I keep trying to come up with a spits-or-swallows pun with the name Spitzer, for the title of this blog post, but it keeps eluding me. And Daniel Gross in Slate will write about a common feeling on Wall Street regarding the Governor’s spectacular downfall: Spitzenfreude. I’d use that as the title, but I’m not that thrilled about the whole thing. Dude never prosecuted me for anything.

I do, of course, feel for the wife and kids. Oh, especially for the kids. Three teenagers, he’s got. That’s just all levels of suck for them.

Look for me on German tv

We often see reporters and cameras doing basic man in the street interviews downtown here. I usually avoid them, but today as I was walking over to Au Bon Pain for lunch, a guy stopped me and asked if I’d be interviewed for German television. Sure, I said.

He asked me a bunch of questions about the upcoming Middle East peace summit. I told him up front that I didn’t know much about it. It could have happened and I wouldn’t have noticed, without him reminding me of it. I seem to remember Secretary Rice putting something together I suppose, but it apparently didn’t stick much in my mind.

He asked me if peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians was important to Americans. I told him that I didn’t think it was high on our list, not for us regular Joes anyway. The economy and the war in Iraq certainly rate much higher.

He asked me if I thought that this was the last chance for peace. I said I certainly didn’t think so, that this probably wouldn’t solve anything, these problems that have been going on for years, certainly since 1948. Going on for decades and will go on for decades, I said. (I talked to Helena when I got back to work, and she reminded me that folks have been fighting over these lands for thousands of years.)

He asked me why the US supported Israel so much. I was half expecting such a question, sort of feeling like the general European view is pretty much just puzzled as to our support. I said that I didn’t know why. I conjectured that maybe it was just that Israel is the only democracy in the region. I certainly don’t believe in any grand Jewish conspiracy theories or any shit like that, but I didn’t even bring that up, although I don’t especially believe that that’s where he wanted me to go anyway.

I said that I guess that since President Bush and Dr. Rice have made such a mess out of everything else, this was maybe some sort of last ditch effort to write some kind of positive legacy for themselves, that if there were any immediate imperative driving this latest summit, that could be the only reason that I could think.

This was at the corner of 19th and M, with UPS trucks rumbling by. I doubt I’ll actually make the news.

Pop Quiz: Who’s Nuttier?

We don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who has told you that we have it.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President, Islamic Republic of Iran
Speaking at Columbia University
September 24, 2007

[W]e would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of such words as “gay”, “lesbian”, or “homosexual” to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire. The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms “same-sex practices” and “same-sex desire” in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology. President Ahmadinejad’s presence on campus has provided an impetus for us all to examine a number of issues, but most relevant to our concerns are the complexities of how sexual identity is constructed and understood in different parts of the world.

Columbia Queer Alliance
Email to News Outlets
September 24, 2007

To their credit, the CQA were out there in the street, demonstrating against President Ahmadinejad. But still, I think the President meant there are no gays or lesbians or homosexuals or same-sex practictioners in Iran, because they’ve fucking hanged them all. I say the more important point is not how sexual identify is constructed and understood in Iran, but rather how it’s brutally punished.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)


When I lived in Minneapolis, I lived on campus at the University of Minnesota. I must’ve walked across the Washington Avenue Bridge a hundred or so times. About a mile north was the Tenth Avenue Bridge. I never made it up to that part of town, but I used to stop on the Washington Avenue Bridge sometimes and look over at the Tenth Avenue Bridge, off of which bridge Eric’s boyfriend had jumped to his death. Eric lived in my dorm. I didn’t know him especially well, but the day his boyfriend jumped Eric came into my room in a dazed mess and played absently with the junk on top of my dresser. I didn’t know what had happened, just that Eric was being numb and strange.

Just immediately north of the Tenth Avenue Bridge there is, or now was, a bridge carrying the interstate. Rush hour today, it just fell. Into the water. Just like that.

How completely unreal it is to think that something like that still happens. It reminds me of the story that my old boss Bethany told me, about when she had her first baby. She was getting out of the hospital the next day or the day after that, whenever it was, and she saw the husband of a woman whom she had met in the waiting room of the OB/GYN, a woman about in the same stage of pregnancy, a woman she’d chatted with a few times. She asked the husband after the woman, only to be told that she had died during childbirth. Bethany just immediately burst into tears. That sort of thing didn’t happen anymore, did it?

But these things still do. It’s hard to process these random, deadly things.

Another Year in Guantanamo

I notice that another year has passed, and still not a single prisoner at Guantanamo has been afforded an actual trial. Since last year, however, we have seen the Military Commissions Act of 2006, that singularly fucked up bit of Orwellian nightmare.

David Lynch used to have this comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World, introduced thus:

The dog who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.

Guantanamo and the MCA make me think of that dog.

What I mean by that is that thinking about this administration and its attendant lies and horrors makes me so angry that I can sometimes barely function, much less write coherently about them.

But then now somehow I’m also thinking about the dog itself, perpetually chained, day and night, the same in every panel. For those of you unfamiliar with the work, it’s an example of a constrained art. Each edition of the comic is the same four panels, the first three the dog chained and growling in the daytime, the fourth the same dog & chain & growling, only at night. The only thing that changes is a word balloon or two, indicating something being said by someone in the house, the house of the yard where the dog is perpetually chained.

And so we have the dog now as metaphor. Perpetually chained.

Go Wide?

I did not fail to notice, and most certainly pondered the possibilites, when President Bush said in his speech last night:

[Iran and Syria] are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And sure enough, first thing this morning, there’s this in the Times:

5 Iranians Detained at Consular Office

American forces backed by helicopters raided the Iranian consulate in the mainly Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq before dawn today, detaining at least five Iranian employees in the building and seizing some property, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials and witnesses.

Well, now. That didn’t take long, did it?

Mind you, I’m not especially whining about the sanctity of diplomatic immunity with regard to Iranians. That’s a laugh, frankly. No, more I’m wondering if we are going to be trying to provoke Iran into something.

Along with surge, there was talk late last year about committing more troops to Iraq and calling it doubling down. Now, technically, doubling down is something you do, in blackjack anyway, when you’ve got a really good hand. Seems like they really meant to say double or nothing, something you say when you’ve lost.

And then there was go big, go long, or go home, the three options. And but then the fourth option is to go wide. And going wide is the part of the equation that includes Iran. And that’s what this morning’s raid looks like.


Surge has been all the talk for the last month. It’s funny, the word, surge, and it’s ubiquity lately reminds me of another word, from like ten years ago, that used to be bandied about, regarding public policy, usually in reference to funding, for like universal health care or whatever. We used to talk about the glide path.

And so I watch the President’s speech, where he in fact does not ever mention the word surge. I haven’t watched any of his speeches in a couple of years, certainly not since Mike Gerson left. And I’m fairly dismayed by the speech, by the lack of Gersonianism and by the fact that the President just doesn’t look that good.

He sure doesn’t look confident. He’s trying to sell us something here, trying to convince us, and he himself doesn’t look especially convinced. And, as expected, he doesn’t especially own up to much, but even what he does, oh, please, spare me the awful passive voice formulations.

“Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me,” he says.

I suppose it was like pulling teeth, getting him to say that much, but it’s not nearly enough. It’s like a gymnastics routine, that sentence, trying to keep the word mistakes as far away as possible from the word me. He sure doesn’t say the he’s made any mistakes. Apparently someone has though, and I suppose we should be grateful that he didn’t go all subjunctive on us, with “If mistakes have been made.”

But the second half of the sentence is in some ways even worse. He doesn’t take very much of the responsibility. He doesn’t directly say “I take responsibility;” rather, the responsibility so very gently rests with him.

Even discussing the situation in Iraq itself, even though saying, however passively, that the situation is unacceptable, he starts out by describing what happened even more passively. “We thought that … we could accomplish our mission,” he says, rather directly. But then he doesn’t say that we didn’t accomplish our mission. All he says is, the opposite happened. Like we had no control over anything. As Donald Rumsfeld infamously said, stuff happens.

At least later the President goes into some detail, but again so terribly passively:

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

Again, there were not enough troops, without noting that it was his decision at all times as to troop levels. And no mention as to who or what could have been placing restrictions on the troops.

And so then the remedies he proposes are curiously underwhelming. Another twenty-thousand troops, he tells us. He doesn’t even tell us that those are combat personnel, although at that small a number I assume that they are. I’m thinking another hundred and fifty thousand would be a bold stroke. Another twenty thousand is like, what, another fifteen percent or something?

If this were truly “the decisive ideological struggle of our time,” as the President says it is, wouldn’t he be making a much bolder stroke? If in fact, “[f]ailure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States,” as he says it would be, shouldn’t we then be trying a lot harder?

I don’t suppose that we’ve got much more in the way of troops to be sending over there in any event. And I don’t personally feel like failure in Iraq being that much of a disaster for the United States. I think we’ve already failed in Iraq. It feels pretty much like our failure in Vietnam in 1975. And our failure in Lebanon in 1983. It stings like hell. But really, that’s about it.

But it’s much, much more of a disaster for this President, that’s for sure. And that’s why he can’t admit to mistakes, much less failure. This feels so much to me like just playing for time. If he can keep juggling this war until January 20, 2009, then he can claim forever that he didn’t lose this war, that he didn’t fail. Whoever inherits this mess will get blamed for the ignominious retreat.

A Lost Post from Earlier in the Year

Hurricane Katrina

August 29th, 2006 7:01 am by  ebohls

We will be dealing with a few other anniversaries about a third of the way into September, of course, of course, but we must certainly also be mindful of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana one year ago today (although it existed as a storm between August 23 and 31, 2005).

I remember laughing at first at it and the coverage thereof on the television as just another example of weather porn. It was only later after we got back from the beach that it really started to sink in what a horrible fuck-up it all was, from the federal down to the local level.

But especially, especially at the federal level, after what we thought and could have reasonably expected, after 9/11, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the newly-created Department of Homeland Security would perhaps manage the emergency and keep the homeland secure. And they very much did not. They just simply failed.

Oh, now, I absolutely believe that the President and Secretary Chertoff and Director Brown were all well meaning surely. No Kanye West crap for me, thank you very much. But they weren’t especially competent in all this. And we again reasonably expect at least competence from the officials duly sworn, and paid, to manage and secure during emergencies.

So today let us remember and honor the thousands dead and missing.

President Ford

The death of President Ford last night, right around Christmas, reminds me of President Truman dying right around Christmas in 1972.

Quick research and I learn that both died on December 26. Truman in the morning, however, and Ford in the evening.

I was nine when Agnew resigned and Ford became the Vice President. I don’t remember anything about Agnew resigning, but I remember watching when President Nixon announced his nomination of Ford. Seems like nowadays when a President nominates someone they’ll be standing next to the President as the President introduces him or her. But somehow I remember Nixon calling out Ford’s name and Ford making his way through a crowd, smiling beaming, like it was some sort of surprise, like being called down on The Price is Right.

It probably was like some file footage or something on the news that I remember having watched, but that’s how I remember it.


Speak no evil of the dead? Not this time. Pinochet died yesterday.

Oh, I’ve been feeling sick and angry all over again about him, since his birthday last month when he announced that he took “full political responsibility for what was done.”

I have to keep returning to the Onion story, about Atta and company, Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell. I can only comfort myself by thinking of these same unspeakably obscene tortures being visited today and in perpetuity on one Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte.

But then, of course, I read the companion piece, God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule, from the very same post-9/11 issue, and I feel ashamed.

Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: “Can’t you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism… every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you’re supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It’s not that hard a concept to grasp.”

“Why would you think I’d want anything else? Humans don’t need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you’ve been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!” God said. “The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?”

“I’m talking to all of you, here!” continued God, His voice rising to a shout. “Do you hear Me? I don’t want you to kill anybody. I’m against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don’t kill each other anymore—ever! I’m fucking serious!”

Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God’s shoulders began to shake, and He wept.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

Jeane Kirkpatrick apparently died in her sleep last night. She was 80.

I yelled at her once. Not that she likely heard me, mind you, as she was at the time being yelled at by a lot of people. But I did yell at her.

Twas way back in the early eighties, when she was the US ambassador to the United Nations. She had come to the University of Minnesota to give a speech, which speech at the Northrup Auditorium was booed and jeered and heckled by many dozens of the students and guests present. I myself sat politely and just quietly listened and observed, until she began taking questions. Someone asked if we, meaning the United States and its citizens, bore some responsibility for the killings and atrocities and torture being carried out by the government of El Salvador, and by its proxies and death squads, since we supported the junta so heavily.

Ambassador Kilpatrick, with venomous condescention, explained, that by the same logic, the Americans who protested the Vietnam War now bore the responsibility for the behavior of the government in Hanoi. Oh, I was so mad. I stood up and just shouted obscenities at her.

Later, since it was the first Wednesday of the month, and around noon, we held our usual die-in1 on the steps of the auditorium. A news photographer snapped a picture of us, which photo ended up on the front page of the Minnesota Daily the next morning. You can see me beatifically propped on the steps in the background. I still have a copy. Found it recently when cleaning out the filing cabinet.


1 A die-in was like a sit-in, except that instead of sitting, you’d like fall down and pretend to be dead for five minutes. This we did on the first Wednesday of every month, when the civil defense sirens would go off. Maybe it wasn’t noon when they tested them. Maybe it was one. Or maybe noon. Doesn’t matter. The point was to protest the idea that maybe sirens and fallout shelters weren’t a particular wise policy vis-à-vis nuclear war. Maybe preventing nuclear war was the way to go.

Somebody Got Murdered

I don’t normally read much normal news beyond the headlines on Yahoo and the Washington Post. I used to read the New York Times quite a lot, before they walled off so much behind Times Select. But today being election day I find myself unable to resist checking every other minute, trying to glean anything, any sort of belwether as to election results. And so then I’m also horribly tempted by worse than useless celebrity news. Faith Hill pretending or not pretending to be upset at losing at the CMAs. Kirstie Alley showing off her new sleeker physique. That sort of thing.

And some guy admits to killing some actresss. I hadn’t heard anything about any celebrity being murdered. What’s that all about, I wonder. So I click.

And I’m totally shocked and stunned and saddened. Immediately to the left of the story proper is a picture of Adrienne Shelly, a production still from some movie called Revolution #9, with one Michael Risley. Never heard of him or the movie, but seeing her picture and thinking that maybe she’s the actress in question, it’s a strange sinking sickening feeling. It’s not about her, is it? She’s not the one, is she? Murdered?

And of course it is.

She really was.

Now, I never met the woman. I’m the first to sneer at poor dim fools who think that they somehow know or are close to actors or actresses or pop stars or whomever, based on simply seeing them on TV or hearing them on the radio. So it’s not so much a personal reaction, finding out that she’s been killed. But then it really is a personal reaction, a real tangible visceral thing, although I’ve no fucking clue why.

I call Gordon, to find out if he’s heard this news, to wonder why he didn’t tell me if he did. Turns out he just found out today, and he sent an email to my Yahoo account about an hour ago. And he was similarly stunned. So we talk about it.

Gordon thinks maybe our strong reactions have something to do with discovering independent film as young adults, especially the films of Hal Hartley, where young Adrienne Shelly starred in his two first hits, The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. How maybe Adrienne Shelly forms a part of our youth, or a part of our lives, probably gone now, through age and cynicism. Hell, I don’t even go out to movies anymore, just do the NetFlix, right? And I didn’t even much like the last Hal Hartley that Dawn and I rented, The Girl from Monday. Although of course Adrienne Shelly wasn’t even in that one. And the last thing I saw her in was this movie called Hexed, with Ayre Gross and Michael Knight and R. Lee Ermey. Saw it with Cathy and Dave and my Dad of all people, in the theater in 1993. She was very cute in it, although the movie itself was thoroughly dreadful. But not her fault. But anyway I haven’t seen her in anything in a while. Or not new, I suppose. I’m sure I’ve re-watched Unbelievable Truth and Trust in the years since. I know I owned them on VHS up until just recently.

Maybe also for me this feeling of a cruel blow has to do a lot with Abby, with whom I had a somewhat long and difficult relationship. And one of the first times I ever talked to Abby was to ask her if she knew that she looked a lot like Adrienne Shelly. And Abby had seen something with her in it on like HBO or something that very weekend, so she even knew who she was.

And I suppose our reaction may be a bit intensified by the details, the especially grisly details of the murder itself. So not just that she died, but that she was so cruelly bludgeoned and strangled. And that she leaves behind a husband and a daughter only three years old.

Just awful.