September 30, 2007


The Sentence of the Month Award...

...goes to Vanity Fair's James Wolcott, from The Simple Life: White House Edition:

"Following Abu Ghraib, Katrina, the Valerie Plame scandal, his flyboy showboating on the aircraft carrier with the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner as backdrop, the ongoing evisceration of Iraq, and the shaming embarrassment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, the majority of us can't wait for Bush to drag himself back to Dodge bearing the invisible stigmata of permanent disgrace to wind down his days in the infernal glow of wildfires heralding the wrath of the global warming he did nothing as president to forestall."

Hell, I'll give Wolcott runner-up this month as well, from the same article:

"The chrome peeled off of Bush's halo as national healer in the post-Katrina tragedy of errors, the commendation 'Heckuva job, Brownie' tied like a tin can to his legacy no matter how they try to paper things over at the future Bush presidential library and car wash."

Nice work, James.

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September 29, 2007


Fall Night

Despite numerous offers (requests?) of free babysitting service, Jen and I haven't taken many opportunities to enjoy an evening diversion since our son was born in February. In fact our first night out without him came just last week when we headed out to see a locally produced play, and with the "chaos" that ensued in his mother's head from that, we decided it would be best to have him tag along tonight for an event that we'd considered attending for months.

Chattanooga has a great Friday night free concert series called Nightfall which runs from May through September. It takes place in a nice public square with fountains and multi-level brick wall/landscaped terraces. A stage is sunk down at the back of the square so the views can be decent if you get there early enough and the acoustics aren't half bad. Regardless of the act performing you can count on a steady crowd of a couple thousand, since the event blocks off the street for food and beer/wine sales. Yes, a good chunk of the folks come just to hang out.

Tonight was the final concert in the series and headlined one of the few names I recognized this season. I've had the pleasure of seeing several awesome acts at Nightfall, and now add tonight's performance by Howard Jones to the list.

Most anyone who knows me probably wouldn't think my musical tastes go toward the electronica and pop iconery that signifies the era of Jones' music, and for the most part they'd be right. I've mentioned before how I mostly took interest in such music during those college years of mine with a libidinous motive. But the classically-trained Jones is cream compared to the other crap, and besides that he came to the height of his prominence after that young man I was had gone west and was thusly expanding his horizons. So in the midst of catching nearly every Dead show in California between the autumns of 1985 and 1987, I had a cute little roommate (alas, with boyfriend) who was gaga over Howard Jones and with whom I had enough intriguing exchanges about music to respect and explore her tastes. She was one of the first people I knew who had a CD player, and she played the hell out of Jones' 1985 release Dream Into Action. Besides, when her friends came over to party at our shabby Victorian it wasn't like I was going to get any sleep - so let's dance!

Back to 2007: Jones is touring as an "acoustic duo," with just his keyboard and another fellow on guitar. I understand that he started the concept a couple of years back and was playing a grand piano, and though that would have been great to hear I can understand why he doesn't tour like that. He played some new stuff that I'm not familiar with, but of course obliged the bulk of those who came to listen and dance with his 80s strongholds New Song, Things Can Only Get Better, What Is Love? and my favorite (very Reggae-influenced) tune:


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September 27, 2007


What does this mean?

I'm not sure, but it was funny.

This very long quiz purports to have determined that I'm a History / Lit Geek.  What are you?  Who Cares?!

(Ah sswip-ed from Jefe who ah sswip-ed it furm Miz UV)

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September 25, 2007


Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!

There's been a bit of talk around Blogovia of late about protest songs (here fr'instance). Not being one to pass up the opportunity for some righteous indignation, here's one of my favorites from a quintessential American folk hero. About three minutes into this video John Prine explains his take on the current relevance of this decades-old classic. I saw him this same year (2004) and when he played it for us his comment was a bit less tongue-in-cheek. "I wish George Bush would quit making all these old anti-war songs of mine make sense again," Prine said.

There's no bouncing ball to follow but I've posted the lyrics below (courtesy of if'n yer in the mood fer a sing-along.

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

© John Prine

While digesting Reader's Digest
In the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag with gum on the back
Fell out on the floor
Well I picked it up and I ran outside
Slapped it on my window shield
And if I could see old Betsy Ross
I'd tell her how good I feel

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more

Well I went to the bank this morning
And the cashier he said to me
"If you join the Christmas club
We'll give you ten of them flags for free"
Well I didn't mess around a bit
I took him up on what he said
And I stuck them stickers all over my car
And one on my wife's forehead

(Repeat Chorus)

Well I got my window shield so filled
With flags I couldn't see
So I ran the car upside a curb
And right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead
And I'll never understand why the man
Standing in the Pearly Gates said...

"But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
We're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more."

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My recent viewing of the film Syriana (you know - the “Hollywood liberal elite” take on the web weaved by governments and the global oil industry) provides me with some insight to better informed reading of John Nichols’ article Blackwater, Oil and the Colonial Enterprise in last week’s edition of The Nation

Before I get to that, a word about Syriana. It is a fictional account indeed, but as George Clooney said, the players made the film from the heart as opposed to a paycheck being the prime motivator. “This is not a left v. right problem,” Clooney says in the DVD bonus footage. “This is a problem that everyone of us is going to have to come to terms with.”

Washington Post neo-con columnist Charles Krauthammer criticized the film for anti-American views, saying “Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.” As neo-cons go you could do much worse than a sharp guy like Krauthammer, but for me his indictment only seals the film as accurately portraying the mess that is oil politics.

So Nichols begins by saying that the recent revocation of private military contractor Blackwater’s license by the Iraqi government is the tip of the iceberg. The fact that Blackwater personnel are already back to guarding U.S. State Department convoys in Baghdad confirms what Nichols calls the great truth of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: “This is a colonial endeavor no different than that of the British Empire against which America’s founding generation revolted.”

Alas, even if congressional oversight finally steels up and clamps down on Blackwater, that’s one down, 140 to go as far as private firms contracting with the U.S. government for work in Iraq, and that means the misadventures of King George (the younger, not the III) continue past his reign of insane membrane. Maybe it’s time for Iraq to pass their own Patriot Act and round up these money-grubbing mercenary assholes and put them in Abu-Ghraib for terrorizing and killing innocent Iraqi civilians.

Fewer Americans are foolish enough at this point to deny that this war is about oil. In the industrialized world’s race to see who can use up the most first, it’s about a shitload of money for the power players who control the supply. Now, the people’s power lies in reducing the demand, but rest assured there are conspiracies in force to thwart that at every turn, whether in attempts to poo-poo conservation and environmental efforts or to stymie the development of alternative fuels. Greed is the only way to describe it. You can add ignorance of the plight of future generations to that, but it’s essentially the same thing.

The second half of Nichols’ article goes into some details about a shady deal in the works with Bush administration benefactor Ray Hunt, CEO of Hunt Oil Company in, you guessed it, Texas. The parallels to the fictional account in Syriana (a term used by Washington think-tanks to describe a hypothetical reshaping of the Middle East) are astounding.

Nichols writes:

The new “production sharing agreement” between Hunt Oil and the Kurdistan Regional Government puts one of the administration's favorite firms in a position to reap immeasurable profits while undermining essential efforts to assure that Iraq's oil revenues will be shared by all Iraqis. Hunt's deal upsets hopes that Iraq's mineral wealth might ultimately be a source of stability, replacing the promise of economic equity with the prospect of a black-gold rush that will only widen inequalities and heighten ethnic and regional resentments.

The Hunt deal is so sleazy - and so at odds with the stated goals of the Iraqi government and the U.S. regarding the sharing of oil revenues - that even Bush has acknowledged that U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad are deeply concerned about it. What Bush and Cheney have been slow to mention is the fact that Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, says the deal is illegal.

Ohio Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, oh so appropriately a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has asked committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) to launch an investigation into the Hunt Oil deal. Kucinich wants to determine the effect the deal will have on the oil revenue sharing plan, the role the Bush administration may have played in the Hunt-Kurdistan deal, and attempts by the White House to privatize Iraqi oil.

“The Bush Administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up control of their oil,” Kucinich declared on the floor of the House this week. “We have no right to set preconditions to Iraq which lead Iraq to giving up control of their oil. The Constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property for all Iraqi people.”

It seems the Bushies are content to have the playing field in the Middle East be as uneven as it is here. When are these elites going to realize that such a bogus, patrician attitude toward capitalism and democracy just won’t fly?

Vote for Kucinich in 2008!

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September 22, 2007


Das ist sehr gut

I gotta admire those Germans. It is a testament to their efficiency and foresight to start a beer festival called Oktoberfest in the month of September. Beer lovers from around the world will be Prost-ing for the 185th annual festival in Munich through October 7.

Oktoberfest also marks the beginning of my favorite season. The Indigo Girls do make a great case for spring (as does Mel Brooks, in a twisted sorta way), but alas the milder weather, campfires and hearty brew awaiting me in the coming weeks, never too soon on the heals of the oppressive summer, win hands down.

The forecast for autumn colors in the south is bleak, however. With rainfall deficits for the region well into the double digits there may be brief flashes of color but most all the leaves will likely turn to brown quickly just before they fall.

Pictured here is one of the gifts that my Sweet Babou procured for my birthday (Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!). Why yes, there are just two left. Better hurry - I’ll share one on the back porch with the first person who gets here.

Zum Wohl!

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September 20, 2007


The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything

Today’s episode of MTIH is brought to you by the number 42, which among other important things happens to be the number of years I have completed upon this earth as of 4:05 a.m. Chicago time today. What will today hold in store? Probably not the same fate as my so-designated "Rolling Rock" birthday nine years ago, wherein I attempted to imbibe the contents of as many as possible of the fabled “33” green bottles from Old Latrobe. That was a night to forget, and thankfully beyond knowing that fact, it is.

No, today will be spent with the boy doing all the important things we do between infant and middle-aged father. I would have to say my life’s chief goal in general terms is to live long enough for Max to make it to this age, if for no other reason than to compare notes and likely have him show me the several roads not taken that might’ve made my life a bit more satisfying in my first 4.2 decades. It is my rock-solid belief that anyone who claims to have no regrets in life is telling a bald-faced lie. Perhaps I should rephrase that – anyone who says that if they could do it all over again they wouldn’t change a thing is seriously deluded (never mind the fact that the opportunity for one to do so does not exist).

At this point the two strangest things that stand out in unison of sorts are that I do not feel 42 emotionally and that at the age I do feel (for simplicity’s sake let’s just invert the number) I looked at 42-year-olds as being some seriously old fuckers for sure. Maturity for me has come slow, and as my beloved spouse can affirm is still very much a work in progress. Ironically that has a sort comforting youthful aspect to it, which is more often than not just an excuse to misbehave I suppose. My cosmic recipe at this point is an addiction to fun and excitement mixed with an aversion to the mundane “hafta-dos.” Sprinkle in a spicy case of procrastination and you have a life full of mediocre accomplishments, anger, frustration and a mess of really great memories, I’d guess much like any man who lives in quiet desperation.

But don’t get the impression that I am unhappy, in fact far from it. Yearning to be happier, certainly, but even in that I am daily learning more patience, moderation and wisdom, the lessons of which seem to come in a concentrated form from the midst of my son’s smiles and giggles.

Enough public display of introspection, onto the celebration! A few fun facts about

It is the atomic number of molybdenum, which is an element of high end steel alloys used for things such as mountain bikes.

It is the number of teeth dogs have, so there are 84 of those in our house.

The eight digits of pi beginning from 242,422 places after the decimal point are 42424242.

The song So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, (from the original score of the film The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) was one of 42 possible nominees in the 78th Annual Academy Awards for Best Song.

42 is one of “The Numbers” on the television show Lost, along with 4, 8, 15, 16 and 23

42 is the jersey number of Jackie Robinson, and when New York Yankee Mariano Rivera retires it will become the first and only number retired by all Major League Baseball teams.

42 is the number of laws of cricket.

In the ASCII character code 42 represents the asterisk* character.
*A handy indicator to have when discussing the Ultimate Answer.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland has 42 illustrations. In Chapter XII, the king explains “the oldest rule in the book”: “Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”

42 has some interesting parallels between Judaism, Christianity and Paganism:

It is the number of generations in the Gospel of Matthew’s version of the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is the number of months the Beast will hold dominion over the Earth according to Revelation 13:5.

It is the number of youths which are mauled by bears that God sends upon them for mocking Elisha’s baldness 2 Kings 2:23 (Their God is an awesome God!)

It is the number of principles of Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian personification of physical and moral law, order, and truth.

It is the number of the “Forty-Two Lettered Name” ascribed to God in the Babylonian Talmud. A 3rd century source in the Talmud stated “The Forty-Two Lettered Name is entrusted only to him who is pious, meek, middle-aged, free from bad temper, sober, and not insistent on his rights.” (Well, one out of six is...pretty shitty)

In Japanese, 4 (shi) and 2 (ni) are together pronounced like “going to death.” Because of that they considered it a disastrous number. This happens in Hong Kong too, as 42 sounds like “easy death” in Cantonese.

Despite that last bit of superstition, my advice to myself today is


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September 19, 2007


They "report," we must cry

FauxNews keeps it "fair and balanced" as usual:


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September 18, 2007


Peanut v. Pumpkin

.'s full-page NYT ad: $70,000

Bushco's Iraq War: $500,000,000,000 (monetary cost, that is - half a trillion is just half the story)

Kool-Aid drinkers getting upset over the "attack ad":


Read more at HuffPo & (backed up with more links than you can point an AK at as well as Petraeus' own 1200-word editorial Battling for Iraq in the The Washington Post, 9/26/04)

My sincere apologies to those of you who visit Much That is Hidden for uplifting slices of life, which I realize have become more seldom in my postings of late. It's just that I fear if I don't say anything about this my head will eckspload.
Thank you for your patience and your patronage.

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There is hope for journalism yet

Back in July investigative reporter Katherine Eban had her article Rorshach and Awe, about C.I.A. torture tactics established in the early days of the Wawr on Turrr, posted on Vanity The crux of Eban’s report was the conflict created when the Bush administration shifted gears and authorized coercive techniques for the interrogation of detainees, aka "enemy combatants" for a convenient sidestepping of the Geneva Convention guidelines.

The FBI had obtained much credible information from one al-Qaeda lieutenant named Abu Zubaydah. Using time-tested methods of rapport building which assume that an interview will yield better information from a comfortable and secure-feeling subject, Zubaydah spilled the beans on a host of info regarding the planning of 9-11. All this went out the window when then-director of the C.I.A. (and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient) George Tenet blustered his interrogation teams in to institute practices established in a military training program known as SERE (for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) which trains U.S. soldiers to endure captivity at the hands of an enemy who does not follow the Geneva Conventions. Let's pause here to let the irony of that sink in.

As Eban reports, Steve Kleinman, an Air Force Reserve colonel and expert in human-intelligence operations, was astonished that the C.I.A. ended up choosing "two clinical psychologists who had no intelligence background whatsoever and who had never conducted an interrogation to do something that had never been proven in the real world."

The psychologists work, which was essentially reverse-engineering the SERE program for use by the C.I.A., was looked at askance by many of their colleagues as well as terrorism experts. Michael Rolince, former section chief of the F.B.I.'s International Terrorism Operations, told Eban the tactics were a "voodoo science."

So in this month’s print issue of VF a letter to the editor responding to the article is published. It comes from C.I.A. deputy director of public affairs Paul Gimigliano, who claims that Eban's article is "gravely flawed." He continued by maintaining that "A great deal of myth has grown up around the C.I.A.'s terrorist-detention program. That is the cost of denying al-Qaeda knowledge of the interrogation methods used so effectively against its operatives."

But with 10 months of investigation and interviews with more than 70 sources, Eban maintains the consensus is that the myth is of the effectiveness of the SERE tactics. SERE was developed during the Korean War based on Communist interrogation techniques which were never designed to get good information. Their goal, Kleinman told Eban, "was to generate propaganda by getting beaten-down American hostages to make statements against U.S. interests."

In a rebuttal to Gimigliano, Eban states, "Many experts and insiders I interviewed say that American interrogators could have stayed within the Geneva Convention guidelines and achieved equal intelligence gains, with far less stain on our reputation abroad."

In light of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's cavalier, arrogant and hypocritical attitude toward those guidelines, I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the article:
On December 2, 2002, [Rumsfeld] granted [a] request to apply coercive tactics in interrogations. The only techniques he rejected were waterboarding and death threats. Within a week, the task force had drafted a five-page, typo-ridden document entitled “JTF GTMO 'SERE' Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure.”

The document, which has never before been made public, states, “The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at US military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations” and “can be used to break real detainees.”

The document is divided into four categories: “Degradation,” “Physical Debilitation,” “Isolation and Monopoliztion [sic] of Perception,” and “Demonstrated Omnipotence.” The tactics include “slaps,” “forceful removal of detainees' clothing,” “stress positions,” “hooding,” “manhandling,” and “walling,” which entails grabbing the detainee by his shirt and hoisting him against a specially constructed wall.

“Note that all tactics are strictly non-lethal,” the memo states, adding, “it is critical that interrogators do 'cross the line' when utilizing the tactics.” The word “not” was presumably omitted by accident.

It is not clear whether the guidelines were ever formally adopted. But the instructions suggest that the military command wanted psychologists to be involved so they could lead interrogators up to the line, then stop them from crossing it.
In a bizarre mixture of solicitude and sadism, the memo details how to calibrate the infliction of harm. It dictates that the “[insult] slap will be initiated no more than 12–14 inches (or one shoulder width) from the detainee's face to preclude any tendency to wind up or uppercut.” And interrogators are advised that, when stripping off a prisoner's clothes, “tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” In short, the SERE-inspired interrogations would be violent. And therefore, psychologists were needed to help make these more dangerous interrogations safer.

Once again, Pogo's famous statement holds true.


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September 16, 2007


We knew it all along, dude

Archer, interim lordgodking of LawyerWorldLand, has come out of the wonk closet, at least for this and that post on the cost of the Iraq war. Go read them - he has promised not to jeer and throw things.

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September 11, 2007


Chutzpah on stilts

Lots of good remembrances on the blogs today. The theme I am relating to best is not so much remembering what we've lost but rather what we've given away. Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart wrote one of the best essays, copied here from HuffPo:

Six years ago three thousand Americans lost their lives. They need not have. Their deaths could have been prevented. Their lives could have been saved.

The Bush administration was warned months before 9/11 that terrorists were going to attack America. They did nothing. They have yet to be held accountable for the preventable loss of American lives. Yet the administration blames its critics for not understanding the terrorist threat.

The perpetrator of those American deaths is still at large and the war to eliminate those who harbored him threatens to drag on inconclusively for many years. Instead, administration operatives, with the approval of their masters, find it convenient to use him to create fear, and therefore justify their positions of power.

The United States has suffered more than 30,000 casualties in another war that had nothing to do with those attacks. This folly is producing more haters of America than it can ever possibly eliminate.

The backbone of domestic security, the National Guard, is deployed in that war and is thus not at home being trained, equipped, and deployed to protect America.

The consolidation of federal border protection and attack response in a single agency did not begin until at least 18 months after it was proposed and, six years later, it has proved to be woefully inadequate, in large part because those responsible for its administration possess a political philosophy that does not believe government can or should be effective. And they use every occasion to prove it.

The U.S. is currently pursuing a foreign policy in the Middle East and throughout the Arab world that is dementedly designed to promote a clash of civilizations. When this policy produces further attacks, our current policy makers will respond that this is what to expect from those who hate America and only tough-minded conservatives know how to deal with them.

Those who claim to understand terrorism and the use of force, meanwhile, have so exhausted our combat forces that our true national security is greatly at risk and our nation is weakened.

This administration stands indicted for incompetence and mendacity. That it still commands the loyalty of even a quarter of our fellow citizens is testament to the persistence of willful ignorance. Against all the facts assembled in this indictment, that the administration's operatives can still make claims on strength, security, and determination is chutzpah on stilts.

That the media still treat these operatives and spokespersons, and indeed the president himself, seriously is witness to their desire for "access" and "sources" rather than their commitment to the truth.

America is today under the steady gaze of billions of the world's citizens and even more under the examining lens of history. Nothing is more difficult than to admit that we made a tragic mistake in selecting our leaders. But that is the first step toward redemption. Absolute rejection of those who lay claim to ownership of security is the next.

We are too old to behave as adolescents any longer. That includes particularly our president. America must grow up. We must redeem ourselves in the name of those who lost their lives unnecessarily six years ago. We must reclaim our dignity and our honor from those who have neither.

And here is my annual perspective check from that watershed time (cut me some slack on my over-the-top newscaster tone).

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September 03, 2007


The Monthly Max

We all are much happier these days what with our new central air to cruise us into autumn's hopefully sooner than later mild temperatures (and humidity). Life stays busy for Mr. Mom and The Boy, whether at home or on visits to Atlanta and the former workplace in Rome. And of course there's Mama, who soaks up all she can when she gets home from work and on the weekends (to Dada's general relief). We're a happy bunch because of this little guy, and on that note, it's on to the photo chronicles:

Spoon feeding? Give me something difficult, Dad!

Hey dude, I think this applesauce has fermented a bit...

Spoon? We don't need no stinkin' spoon!

We don't need no applesauce either.

Sitting up has its merits...

...but is generally overrated IMO.

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