Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Life of Entilement

travel fairly light through this world, as least by American consumption frenzied standards. I have a small car, no boats, no skimobiles, no RVs, no ATVs, no airplanes, and not even the obligatory cheese head Harley. I'm no pack rat, either. Somewhere in a desk drawer are a couple things from Boy Scouts and high school, and a few, strange remnants from the 60/70s such as Exile on Main Street postcards and a photograph of myself with Sir George Martin. On my desk are a yoyo, a cheap plastic recorder (as in flute), a model hippie VW bug, a model Cooper Mini, a Rubik's Cube type of sphere (record time 1 min., 15 sec.), and a Tip a Day calendar for golf, currently set to April 17th, which was about the time my golf swing disappeared, apparently forever.

Downstairs I have built a storage shelf system about 24 feet long, floor to ceiling. Two boxes are my things. I'm not certain what's in there. Mostly useless electronic stuff, such instantly outmoded things such as a Marantz four track cassette recorder, bought for $600.00 about two years before one could get a tapeless hard disc recorder to do the same thing for about the same dough. There's an antique four track reel to reel down there, two. Not the cool TEAC stuff from the 60s, this one is from the 50s or even 40s, I don't know. I don't know why, either. To continue the digression, I own an Optimus DCC digital tape deck. DCC was an alternatative to Sony's DAT format. In a mini reversal of the VCR/Betamax outcome, DAT won and DCC, the technically superior format, lost. I still use this machine, bought for about $400.00, mainly to make exercise tapes. They sound so much better than an Ipod, trust me. Really. It's money, ... well ..., spent.

Where were we? Ah, yes, traveling light! I suppose my biggest toy is an Ovation guitar, followed up closely by a Fender Telecaster. Wait a minute, this was all supposed to segue into a discussion of memorabilia. I've completely lost the track.

Forget about all that electronics stuff. The sequence is: travel light through this world → no big toys → not much laying around → not much stored. There.

I don't have a lot of history in photos; I was never good at getting them to the developer, getting them back and putting them into albums, etc. That was true, at least, until computers came around. Now that so much of life can be organized with just a brain, a few fingers, and a good chair, I do much, much better with this and so many other such activities. Now there are folders and folders of pictures, cross referenced.

But these only go back to early digital camera days, with a few exceptions from the days of another bit of electronic trivia called a Snappy. This device The Little Hun was actually able to get rid of in a garage sale, and so does not reside in the aforementioned single bin graveyard downstairs. Probably would be worth some money on EBay someday. Oh Oh. Anyway, I hooked up this Snappy to my HIFI S-VHS camcorder and my Packard Bell Pentium I and captured stills from video. Very cool at getting the best of people, but lacking in resolution. The camcorder still sits on the closet shelf, patiently. The Pentium I still worked the last time I checked, and sits downstairs. Next to the Compaq Presario, which doesn't. Could be worth some money someday on EBay. Hmmm.

I'm a little amazed at this point there are no overpriced, underutilized scanners down there. Oh yeah, garage sale.

So you can see how precious little room there is for memorabilia on this tightly run ship. Where lies the history of my life? In the study closet, in a blue box, under the carousel DeLuxe Scrabble board, is a fully used set of official Scrabble score sheets. About 30 years worth. There are games between myself, my ex and her Maid of Honor. Games my with best man and his wife. Games with my son, The Little Hun, and her Littler Hun. Games with lovers, and their children. Games with my Dad, some of which I actually won somehow. Games from Brighton in Boston and Hollis, NH. Snipe Lake in Wisconsin. Antioch, IL. Miami, FL.

Scores kept in the hands of the people I've loved and always will. Better than photos, somehow.

Deeds, and not images.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


It's often not the things people say that tell you most about their mindsets, but the way they say them. Previously I posted how it seems to be conservatives who are always telling you, "What you need to remember is", "What's important for Americans to know is", etc. Here's another one. I've noticed a trend that Democrats refer to Republicans as Republicans, while Republicans refer to Democrats as "the Democrats". Conservatives are called conservatives. Liberals are "the liberals". I ask you, does one seem less inclusive than the other? Whenever I hear Sean Hannity say "the Democrats", a little twinge of fear creeps in. I wonder just how ancillary these people consider us.

Today on WPR I listened to John Podhoretz, who has written a book warning conservatives of the real threat Hillary Clinton poses to Republicans in the next presidential election. He's pushing Guliani over McCain, and more power to him. I don't care much about that, as I don't think any Republican has a chance in 2008. I think Americans, deep down, will vote their pocketbooks this time around, and I think they're onto the shill game of the Republicans. In their hearts, the median class American knows who is getting the shaft. They'll sit around in the bar and tell each other how the Dems have it all wrong on the hot button issues, but in the booth they'll be sorely inclined to try something new.

But I digress. What I want to talk about here is the title of Podhoretz's book, Can She Be Stopped?. I'm sure there are a lot of insights in the book. In general, I'm sure the book takes a fairly dry approach in analyzing the subject, though I'm unlikely to read it.

But then comes the marketing. Then comes the targeting of an audience. She is the demon. Hillary Clinton became Hillary about the time she set up in the West Wing of the White House instead of taking charge of banquet planning. And now, when it comes to the hook, even Hillary gets dropped to the subtitle. The point is primarily she.

It's the hot button of all hot buttons. She. Get ready for a lot of this.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Only Thing You Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

Things are cooking up on the political side again. There is quite a buzz that Karl Rove is to be indicted tomorrow. And then there's the ongoing power struggle between the administration and almost everybody else as to the level of secrecy and invasion of citizen's lives that should be allowed in this nation that has been for some time two buttons from annihilation but is now forever changed by 19 Arabs with box cutters.

This week we've had a double whammy on this front. First, this:

WASHINGTON, May 10 — An investigation by the Justice Department ethics office into the conduct of department lawyers who approved the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program has been closed because investigators were denied security clearances, according to a letter sent to Congress on Wednesday.

Justice was thusly trumped in America yesterday. "With Liberty and Justice for all" goes the line. One down.

And then one to go:

"We're not mining or trolling though the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," Bush said before departing Washington to give a commencement address in Mississippi. Collection of data about communications inside the U.S. is a part of efforts to prevent another terrorist attack.

Bush's made the unscheduled remarks after USA Today reported that said AT&T Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. secretly provided the phone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency. The agency, which collects and interprets electronic intelligence, has compiled a massive database with the information, the newspaper reported.

A massive database. It is sensible to many that we begin to take these steps. A small price to pay for our security, goes the mantra.

That eternal optimist, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, sums up the defense with, "... is not a warrantless wiretapping of the American people. I don't think this action is nearly as troublesome as being made out here, because they are not tapping our phones." So, what are they doing?

According to Fox News, it's just a little Social Network Analysis. Algorithms search for patterns of interactivity to pick up signs of a cell structure. Okay, but then the same Fox article goes on to say:

Then there are more creative ways of getting off the grid. The Madrid train bombings case has revealed that the plotters communicated by sharing one e-mail account and saving messages to each other as drafts that, since they were never sent, didn't traverse the Internet as regular e-mail messages would.

Hard to believe they would be caught up with by phone records, isn't it? Yet blowhards will go on about how this "revelation" by the USA Today has jeopardized national security.

This has little to do with terrorists. What the administration is up to, by executive order, is continuing the building of the infamous Total Information Awareness program, which Congress, led by my own Senator Russ Feingold, halted in 2003. This program would track your phone, internet, purchasing, toll booth activity, banking ... well, you get the picture. Congress said stop. Bush has said, "Make me."

There was a made-for-TV movie I saw a long time ago, I'm guessing in the late 70s. The plot is set in a not-to-distant future world where having a second child had been forbidden, but a couple had decided to keep theirs. The immediate problem was that the record of the pregnancy, along with all medical records, was already in the national security database. They decided to run. The problem was that this was a cashless society. The government/bank pulled their account.

Many will defend database gathering by the NSA with the assumption that since they have nothing to hide, they don't have to fear such activity. It's remarkable, this degree of trust in a government they otherwise scorn day in and day out. It's not a stretch to imagine the merger of Total Information Awareness with a cashless society, we rush headlong toward both. And if the NSA goofs? Someone's dead in the water. Your ATT/phone use/internet access/national ID/cash station/toll booth/passport/subway/air terminal/bus terminal/train station access card is going to get you nowhere

And if one sends a lawyer to straighten things out? Sorry, not without a security clearance.